Casting Directors – The 1000 piece puzzle (almost) solved! Part 1
I’m not claiming that I have all the answers or that I know exactly how to “nail” an audition! However, over the last year I have taken to being the “other side” of the camera and played the role of Casting Director on several occasions. I cannot stress enough how invaluable this experience is for a performer! Not only do you get to see things from entirely new perspective, you also get to watch all the “classic” audition mistakes which we all fall foul to from time to time. Sometimes to witness a mistake is the only way you really understand why it is wrong. You can also flip this too; sometimes to witness someone doing it right is the only way you understand why it works. So I’ve come up with my Top Five Tips which should give you the best chance possible no matter who the Casting Director is. Some of it may seem obvious, some of it you may practice and some of it you may think sounds crazy. However, I urge you to have a read of each point and be really honest with yourself about the way you approach your career.
- It all starts before you walk in the room. How many of you out there apply for work yourself and send out a generic email to everyone that kind of fits what “they” need across the board? Well stop. Keep your emails short and to the point but make sure it is 100% tailored towards the role you are applying for. This IS time consuming. This IS boring. This IS worth more than you know. Obviously the Casting Director knows you are always actively looking for work. However, they don’t want to feel like 1 in 100 and this email has been fired out over and over for all sorts of roles. You need to get yourself through the door so being interested in the project, the role and indicating that you’ve got passion and an extra “spark” can do you no harm.
- Stop being so desperate. This is possibly the hardest one because most actors are desperate. We want to work, we want to perform and we need to earn some money. However, desperation is like fear; you can smell it. Being over-the-top polite and overly smiley and overly, “Yes Sir, no Sir” is actually doing yourself a dis-service. Firstly, you are not being yourself therefore, the Casting Director doesn’t know what it would be like to have you on set and secondly, it looks as if you never work which instantly turns off anyone before they’ve even watched your performance. I’m not saying be cocky, but be cool, calm, collected and confident. If you believe in yourself and the Casting Director can see that, they start the process expecting the audition to go well and pay extra attention to your performance.
- Don’t be lazy. If you are sent the script and sides. Read them, learn your lines, know your character. Look at the context of your scenes and know the relationship your character has with the other characters in the scene. You don’t always get the script but you often get the sides and you should try to become as familiar as possible. There is no excuse in the eyes of the Casting Director.
- Enjoy the audition. Be at ease and relax. The more relaxed you are, the more the casting director gets to relax and enjoy your audition too.
- Post-audition – don’t chase. They won’t forget about you and you sending an email just to say, “thanks for the audition”, doesn’t really serve much of a purpose. Just believe they will come to you.
Inspired by the response my last post had, I thought I share another, more hilarious audition tale with you. I like to refer to this one as, The Tale of the Exploding Man!
It was one of those castings where your agent calls you up, you look at the breakdown (character brief) and think…”Erm?! I don’t suit this at all”. It was for a commercial too which, as I explained in my previous post, isn’t always plain sailing! I went along thinking the chances of me landing it were about as thin as a model at Fashion Week and I casually chatted to the other actors around me and gave the script a quick read.
Very unusually for a commercial casting, we were actually sent the script the night before and I’d had a read to see that mainly the two male roles spoke and us ladies were…fillers! However, on the day, the script we were given was entirely different and more scenes had been added. A couple of people asked if this is what other people had been sent the night before too, which everyone replied, “no” and smiled knowingly at each other that the script had just simply been changed overnight. No one really cared about it. It is the most common “problem” for actors to be auditioning with scripts they have seen just moments before.
Then, in comes the man…there is usually always one at every casting. The really LOUD actor who wants everyone else to notice them. He made a real song and dance out of the simplest of tasks; taking off his coat, finding a seat, filling out his form, it was all very dramatic. However, his look suited the breakdown to the ground; he was every bit the nutty professor with crazy big white hair and a monocle! The rest of us fell silent and went back to reading over our scripts, smartening up our hair or applying the last of our make-up.
After a few moments the man asks the group if there are any other copies of the script? I show him mine and he studied it for a moment, looked back at me and said, “No, the one they sent last night was different. That is what I am auditioning for.” I smiled and said, “Yes, I think they’ve changed it overnight. This is the new script.” – He blankly stared at me. – A few seconds went by. -
Then, out of no where, this man screams…and I mean SCREAMS! Everyone’s jaws were on the floor as we listened to him begin to rant and rave! He went on for a good few minutes, swearing every second or third word about the fact that he had stayed up all night learning his lines! He had cancelled work, cancelled a doctor’s appointment, and changed “everything” in order to be off script and word perfect…
When he stopped finally, the casting director came out of the audition room and politely asked if we could keep the noise down as every word could be heard. His face went very red and I thought to myself, you might as well go home now. A male actor offered up, “Never prepare too hard for commercial castings mate, they always change stuff” but it came out more sarcastic than reassuring.
Looking back, I feel quite sorry for him. Every now and then we all have that moment where the industry just chucks that final straw at us and we break. His look suited the job so perfectly, he had probably laid a lot of hopes on getting the part and done as much preparation as possible so that it would happen. Sadly, at a casting in earshot of the people you are about to audition in front of is absolutely the worst place for you to show your frustration.
I got lucky though and landed the job! I think the exploding man made me realise I could stand more of a chance than I thought…
Well holy moly it has been a long time since I’ve blogged anything more than a few words and a photo. I must apologise for my tardiness! The time has now come however, to turn my attentions back to MyLittlePonderings and share my thoughts, feelings and musings with you all once again.
Today I am going to share the simple tale of The Commercial Casting Fail and I share it with you as I’m pretty sure I’m not alone and many actors out there have experienced the unforgiving nature of these auditions!
The magical call from your agent saying you have a commercial audition that you perfectly suit the breakdown for is one most actors can’t fail to get excited by. Sure, we all might have a grumble…”It’s not really acting, is it?!”, “Ooo my big break” or “How embarrassing” are phrases that have passed my lips when telling friends or family. However, the truth is, it’s work! These days, it often means travelling abroad, good exposure and a lot of fun! Plus, commercials are usually really, REALLY well paid work too. So why wouldn’t we get excited?!
Well, because quite honestly the “Commercial Casting” can be closely compared to a “Meat Market”. You line up, have your photo taken, look at the sides (script/direction), wait with a room full of people who all sort of look like you but then also who look nothing like you and then…PERFORM!
I always try to “dress for the part” as much as reasonably possible but for my casting on Monday, I was given very strict instructions by my agent to dress as beautifully as possible, as if I were attending a wedding. And in fairness to them, on the forwarded emails from the casting company, these were the guidelines given.
I had nothing appropriate with me as I’d just been on a weekend trip to the Lake District where I’d lived in muddy riding boots and my North Face Gilet! So I went out and bought a dress, shoes, the whole she-bang-bang. However, when I arrived at the casting, all the other “meats” were dressed in jeans, t-shirts, leather leggings and generally looking pretty trendy and chilled. I felt like a complete idiot (to say the least) and probably looked like an even bigger one! To add insult to injury, the casting director asked me, “what were you told to dress as?”, I meekly replied to which she laughed and said, “oh right, that’s weird, well you do look nice”…..!
I then had to act alongside a guy wearing Hawaiian shorts (NO I am not joking) and a VEST (it hadn’t stopped raining at this point for 3 weeks!) who’s role was to propose and I cry tears of happiness and accept, he then runs around with joy. Well! This guys idea of extremely happy was to say “woo” and then high five me…. WOULD THAT REALLY BE YOUR REACTION?! Two minutes later, I’m on my way home.
Needless to say, I didn’t manage to summon up tears of happiness (although tears of humiliation were close by) and I’ve not heard back from the Casting Director. Sigh.I managed to return the dress though…Every cloud!