How do you find and create a character?

Ok…. So you have your audition scene and now you need to create the character around the script that’s been given to you.

It has come with little direction but you can see that he/ she is middle aged and live in a small town. You can also see that you’ve got a character here that is strong and doesn’t take crap from people (pardon the French!)

So how do you fit into this?

You live in the city, never lived in a small town and you tend to let people guide you rather than you playing the ‘alpha’ role.

This is where our Creating Compelling Characters Course comes in. We give you the steps, the tools and the skills to make your characters truly multi dimensional.

Is your character 3 dimensional or is it just paint by numbers?
Creating Compelling Characters Course starts April 29.
Places are limited.

The most important thing about your role as an actor is your research. We suggest finding images that relate to your character. Look at them and think about how this character would relate to this situation in your script.

Then go and google anything and everything you can find re this character. Not forgetting who you are auditioning for.

As Ben Affleck has said in an interview for his latest film ‘Triple Frontier’ it’s all about research.

“I do a lot of research. I’m very research dependent. I like to find true details that help me and flourishes the character. I do biographic work on the character, backstory, that kind of thing. It’s a similar approach every time, but it’s really rooted in reality. That’s what’s most interesting to me about acting, finding real behaviour and making artificial behaviour seem real so that it resonates with an audience.”

Creating Compelling Characters course starts 29th April.
Click here for more details

What does a Casting Director do?

So often I hear actors, members of the public, members of our industry, relate to us as ‘Casting Agents’.

Do you have any idea how much this irks a Casting Director?

We are NOT agents. We are Consultants and Directors for placing actors (read characters) in the relevant roles.

We do not represent actors. We do not get paid by actors. We do not get paid a commission. 

So please do not relate to us as Casting Agents!

Now I understand how this confusion happens. It happens because there is a big black hole of understanding when it comes to what exactly do Casting Directors do? And what is the difference between a Casting Agent and a Casting Director?
(Ok….. we don’t mind you calling us a Casting Consultant…. it is in fact what we do. We consult on the cast.)

But back to why it happens.

It happens because up until now, we have had  little exposure in the industry as to who and what we are and where we fit in. It is still not uncommon to see no line item in a film budget for the casting. How many actors who have been around and are now producing / directing their first film and they think “Ive got a limited budget here, where can I save some $$?” The first thing to go is the CD. Why? With a computer and a little bit of knowledge anyone can call themselves a Casting Director.

But it is not the CD’s responsibility just to put names on a page because certain actors happen to be available.
Or the classic “my friend is a great actor. He/she is available. I’ll cast them!!” (Then they wonder why their film didn’t do well at the box office!) Casting counts guys! Casting bloody counts!

Now I know there are CD’s who do just see it as their job to get names on the page, as long as they are of the right age, height, etc….. but we take it a whole lot more seriously. We dissect the script- character by character, working out how each character informs the story, drives the story forward and relates to each other.
Very often we will change the age and the sex to make the story more interesting, exciting.

This is what a good Casting Director does. All the while being mindful of the budget.

OK…… rant over…..

It’s been many years now that Greg and I have been campaigning for the recognition of CD’s.

As you are possibly well aware, Greg was the inaugural President of the Casting Guild of Australia. We, along with other key Casting Directors, figured that this was our first step for CD recognition.

The thinking was, if we can get the CD’s around Australia to come together and form a guild, then we have a good chance of gaining further recognition. Hence Greg was the proud first Prez of the CGA Australia.

And now, this year, after much campaigning and help from other members from the industry, and the help of Casting Networks to sponsor the award, we have our first Casting Award category in our AACTA Awards this year! Yay! This is certainly an achievement and one we as Casting Directors collectively are immensely proud of.

If you happen to reside in Australia and care about our screen industry why not jump on board?

The 5 Things you must do to succeed in the Screen industry as an actor.

It’s been suggested many times that actors don’t need 3 years formal training. You can either act or you can’t!

We, here at The Audition Technique, tend to agree with that way of thinking, though drama schools definitely have their place in the world of actors.

After all, where else can you learn the nuances and magic of Shakespeare and Ibson for example?

But if it is a screen career you’re after, maybe it’s better to do your one off short screen courses and get yourself known in the industry.

Apart from the 5 things listed below you cannot under rate:

  1. Travel
  2. Working behind the camera
  3. Being a parent.

These are all life experiences that feed into being a truthful and emotive actor.

Now lets unpack the 5 things that you MUST do if you want to be an actor without doing the 3 year formal training:

  1. Read Read Read and Study Study Study
    There is so much to learn in this industry.

    Read books on the various masters of acting technique. You’ll find they are all different, and they all offer various techniques which will either resonate with you or will not. Toss those out that don’t and learn and extrapolate from those that do. Books we suggest:
    The art of Acting by Stella Adler
    An Actor Prepares by Stanislavski.
    To the Actor by Michael Chekov

    These are well worn acting teachers that have supported many actors through the years. Me included.

    Read a play or script a week. Become well versed in what makes a great play and script. Learn about characterization.

    Agents – what makes them tick? How to choose which is the right agent for you. How to get an agent?. How to prepare for your first meeting with an agent. Part of our Actors Handbook series goes into getting your first agent and how to prepare for that all important meeting in detail.

    Casting Directors – What exactly does a CD do? How important are they in the scheme of things? Who are they in your city and what type of productions do they cast? Are they suitable for your particular talents? Again in our Actors Handbook Series we investigate the best way of finding out and understanding who these illusive people are and how they can help you and vice versa. And yes…. It’s abut learning how YOU can help them!

    Learn about characterization and script analysis. Do workshops, acting short courses, screen courses, seminars and network, network, network.

  2. Don’t rush in too early. Be prepared. So many times we see young keen (and not so young and not so hungry) actors come in to our studio not having the first clue about the industry. They get themselves a low tier agent and call themselves ‘actors’. Don’t fall into this trap. You are your reputation and your aim is to be remembered at all times favourably. Whether that be at an actors networking event, a theatre foyer, a meeting or an audition. The more you know about the industry, the more you will be remembered. Remember – being memorable is your aim of the game!Again our Actors Handbook video courses are great guides here and
  3. What makes you different? What are your unique skills? Are you a trained nurse? School teacher/ horse rider? Musician? Whatever your skills are, be sure to highlight them. These are all the attributes that make you ‘special’. Concentrate on these special skills when selling yourself to your agent. Research the type of shows the CD does and do they fit your skill base?

    Our Creating Compelling Characters course provides you with the tools to create characters that leave an indelible memory to Casting Directors.

  4. Don’t take short cuts. When you see all those drama teachers online saying ‘Your deserve the red carpet’ and ‘Become a rockstar actor’, understand these are marketing ways to get you to click and buy. There are no short cuts in this industry! Yes there is luck but not too many actors have become successful through luck and luck alone. You must work and keep learning and training. The best actors are constant students.
  5. Last but certainly not least –MARKETING: You must learn what makes you unique and how to market yourself in todays social media world. There is much to learn about promoting yourself on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. All offer different ways to promote yourself and you must become well versed in all of them. There are ways to do it and there are NOT ways to do it. It is a fine line and a line that all actors must learn. In todays world it is vital you have a website and a Social Media profile.

    Some actors with no formal training:
    – Tom Cruise
    – Robert Downey Junior
    – Matthew McConaughey
    – Johnny Depp
    – Steve Martin
    – Jennifer Lawrence
    – Channing Tatum
    – Michala Banas
    – Rebecca Gibney
    – Claudia Karvan
    – Michael Caton and many many more……..

What lights up a Casting Directors Day?

There are many drama teachers and acting tutors imploring you to take control of your audition. It is your time! It is your chance to impress!

OK. That is what you want.

What do I want? The casting director. (I have been casting full time for 38years. Prior to that I was an actor for eight years. So I know BOTH sides of this argument!)

Actors (and their teachers) do not understand the casting journey. And until you do, you will always do deep, meaningful, emotional, heart felt, passionate screen tests –and self tests –that do not connect to casting directors.

Why? Because you have not delivered what they want.

I am trying to populate a community. That goal is what every casting director is doing. And sure, if I am casting a Broadway drama, I need a stellar group of actors. All highly experienced.

But is it the same if I am casting Sons of Anarchy? Or Sex in the City? Or Orange is the New Black?

I watch the actors some in and I hope and pray they understand the rhythms and the body language of the characters in my project.

The swagger of a bikie in Sons of Anarchy, the slouch of a female prisoner in Orange is the New Black, the slink of a duplicitous teen in True Blood, or the swish of a New York female fashion follower.

This lights up my day. Not your technique. Not your ability. Not your perfectly manufactured tears on cue.

Be daring. Be bold. But above all, ask the question “what does the casting director want?”

Because if you do, you will be seen again by this decision maker.

If you let me show you what an audition looks like from the Casting Director’s side of the camera. Because then you will then know what you have to deliver on your side. The actors side of the camera.

Our next Self Taping School starts March 11th.
Learn more about Self Taping School

How do you make a casting director smile?

Casting Directors are funny types. Not funny ha ha. Funny strange.

For many actors, the fear and trepidation they experience in front of Casting directors –especially in auditions -is akin to facing off against Cerberus –a three headed dog from hell who guarded the entrance of the underworld.

Maybe that is an overstatement?

I am entitled to say things like this because I have been casting for 38 years. And because I was an actor before that, I have dealt with the actor-casting director relationship on both sides of the divide.

No we are not like that. Despite what is said about us at every actor gathering.

There is an important understanding to take into every casting. And that is:

Like all actors, the casting director is also trying to deliver their creative vision. Their creative input. That is why they were employed. And they explore and deliver that vision, in the audition space.

So all that actor empowerment talk about it being YOUR audition is only half right. It is also the casting directors audition.

We are exploring the qualities of the character. And the qualities of the character should be (MUST BE) unique to you. Meaning:

If you regard the sides as the definitive version of the character, and therefore obediently and faithfully follow every word and punctuation of the writer, then you deliver a dull version of the character.

Why? Because the actor immediately before delivered the same. And the next actor is also preparing to deliver the same.

And so you make the casting directors life dull, boring.

That is not why you became an actor in the first place. To be dull. To be a copy of someone else.

So for you next audition, make a casting director smile by being an individual.

And by finding YOUR version of the character.

Our next Self Taping School starts March 11th.
Learn more about Self Taping School

What do Casting Directors want to see in your audition?

What makes a good song? Or good art?

That is what an actor strives for: I want to do a good audition.

SELF TAPING SCHOOL starts March 11

Like a song or a piece of art, ‘good’ is not quantifiable. It is different things to different people. It’s impossible to second guess, because an audition that is good to one casting director, is over the top to another.

I have a better question: what makes a memorable song? Because ‘good’ is transient. Whereas I think memorable is tangible. Is definable.

Think of this. You walk into an art gallery and there are twenty or thirty pieces on display and every canvass is a depiction of a bowl of fruit. The same bowl of fruit.

So, thirty paintings of the same thing. Like thirty versions of the same scene – which is what I see on audition day.

A number of those paintings may be good, and we may love a certain painter’s colour palate, or their brush work. But these are technical considerations. These are the things that are learned in art school. In the same way your presence, your delivery is learned in drama school.

But does that impress us? Intrigue us? In short, is it memorable? After you leave that art gallery, which version of that bowl of fruit lingers in your memory? And similarly, at the end of a full day of casting, whose audition still remains in our thoughts?

That is what you must strive for. Memorability. And you achieve that by approaching your character – YOUR bowl of fruit – with how can I achieve my version of this scene? How do I create a difference? How do I deliver a perceptible difference to the page?

I think actor’s must develop a singular style. You need to start to identify your strengths – on screen – and use those strengths to leave a memory in the room.

Oh, and note to self, a ‘strength’ is not your ability.

Like an artist’s brushwork, strength is a technical skill. That is replaceable. Many actors have ability. But individuality Is a rare and celebrated quality.

And that is what you need.

How do you develop uniqueness?

You get in front of camera. Not just often, but regularly, religiously. And not simply to do a self test audition, or a workshop.

Get in front of camera to simply explore. Experiment.

That is why SELF TAPING SCHOOL works. It makes you try things. It makes you experiment. It makes you a disciple of difference rather than a slave to technical perfection.

And coupled with feedback that targets the moments of genuine distinctiveness, you can focus on your special, memorable qualities.

Think of those artists in that gallery of fruit bowls. The ones who strived to be good, they delivered the technical perfection of a good artist. That was their approach. Their goal.

The artist who experimented with noncompliance left a lasting memory. And now, we think of them regularly.

Which must be your aim, if actor success is your goal.

Our next Self Taping School starts March 11th.

Learn more about Self Taping School