In an audition – what does a Casting Director Want?

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, the casting director, want?

(I have been casting full time for 35 years. 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. Until you do, you will always do deep, meaningful, emotional, heartfelt, 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 come in and I hope and pray they understand the rhythms and the body language of the characters in my project.

The swagger of a bike 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?”

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

If you let me, I’ll show you what an audition looks like from the Casting Director’s side of the camera then you will  know what you have to deliver on your side– the actor’s side of the camera.

Audition

This is dummy copy. It is not meant to be read. It has been placed here solely to demonstrate the look and feel of finished, typeset text. Only for show. He who searches for meaning here will be sorely disappointed. These words are here to provide the reader with a basic impression of how actual text will appear in its final presentation. Think of them merely as actors on a paper stage, in a performance devoid of content yet rich in form. That being the case, there is really no point in your continuing to read them. After all, you have many other things you should be doing. Who’s paying you to waste this time, anyway?

The One Thing To Have In Every Audition

What is your goal in an audition?

To get the lines right? To be the best actor? To deliver the drama and conflict of a truly dramatic performance? Guess what? So is every actor.

That is what I expect you to aim for.

Sit in my seat for a moment. The Casting Director’s seat. I am seeing countless auditions – and these days, a growing amount of self tapes – and what pops? What do I remember? The actors who deliver the unexpected.

Picture this: I am sitting in front of my computer, clicking on links to view an actor’s audition and generally, I am bored. Why? In the vast majority of cases, I know your work. I know what you can do.

I know the scene. I know the character. I have expectations.

If you deliver what I expect, where is the impact?

The big question you have to answer is:

What memory have you left with me?

I see the same thing again and again: actors striving for the wrong thing.

Excellence. Accuracy. Perfection.

Perfection? Is that what makes any creative person stand out?

What is your goal then? Covfefe.

What is covfefe? No one knows. But when Donald Trump created it, we were fascinated, intrigued, baffled, and everyone talked about it.

It was memorable.

Isn’t that what you want for your audition? To be remembered and talked about? Of course it is.

So what is covfefe? Even the President is unsure. “Who can figure the true meaning of covfefe?” he tweeted the day after the word stormed social media.

How does this translate to your audition?

You must seek to deliver something that no one expects. Currently you want every action, every reaction, every motivation justified.

Which is a worthy goal, but not at all memorable amongst a dozen auditions. Because every actor is doing that.

Sean Spicer said of covfefe:

“ the President and a small group of people knew exactly what he meant (when he said covfefe)”

And so it is with auditions. The people who count (the audition audience) know what you are doing. We know your intentions. (Even if very few others do!)

Give your next audition ‘covfefe’. Even if it you are not 100% sure of what it is ☺

Four Ways To Approach Your Audition In The Room

“How is your meal?”

We all know the kind of restaurant. The inexperienced waiter has been told by their boss to make sure they go to every patron and ask ‘how is your meal?”

Usually it is done without interest, without forethought. Many times it is done before you have even lifted your knife and fork.

It is cursory, ill considered and without care for the answer.

After doing an audition, what is your answer to ‘are you happy with that?’ Or perhaps ‘what did you think?’. Naturally, being an actor, you have a very tenuous grip on objectivity about your own work. But you must develop this skill – especially if you are to connect to people as an intelligent reasoned person – and not a nervy, insecure actor.

And OK, we all have our insecurities and nerves. Your goal is to dress them up as something else. Here are some tips on how to come across as considered, thoughtful and in control

1. Extricate yourself from the Hot Spot.  

The first thing to do, before you say anything, is to walk away from the mark. Leave the audition space. I have often said it is the most uncomfortable spot in the room. So why would you stand there trying to deliver intelligent communication. The other benefit to this is now the people in the room can regard you as a person. Under the spotlight, we see you as an actor. Or perhaps as that character.

2. Create a relationship of equals.

By walking away you have ‘disengaged’ with the character and you are now part of the team. This is an important factor in our decision journey. It is not simply who is the best actor. We are seeking to identify who we wish to work with. If you move closer to the team, away from the space, now you have subconsciously joined THEIR side. You are sharing their thinking and concerns. You are not an island of self doubt, wondering if they liked your audition. You join them to analyse the good and the bad.

3. Talk about the character rather than your performance. 

In my training at The Audition Technique, I am always imploring actors to work with keywords. I believe it is easier for an actor to create a character that is clearly drawn, and easily accessible to the audience, if your goal is to deliver two or three words. Rather than reams of queries and questions about you character and their motivations. Now, instead of dissecting a line for the nuance of a characters intention, you can talk about the over arching quality of YOUR version of the character. Maybe it is warmth. Perhaps arrogance. But these simple word based goals (not question based) are the key to having a clear vision for your audition.

4. One thing to never ever say. 

The vast majority of actors have one goal in auditions. To eliminate mistakes. To create an error free zone. And of that is your goal, then you are obsessed with getting every line right. To avoid this self incrimination, never ever, ever say ‘I missed a line’. ‘Or do I get that line right?’ The essence of your character has nothing to do with getting the lines right. And similarly, the success of your audition is not driven by accuracy. Or exactitude.

In effect, what I am empowering you to do, is to be an individual. Be comfortable in your own skin.

Remember, we are not checking your ability. We are exploring your suitability.

And that is delivered by being part of the team, rather than an isolated actor striving to please. Which is what waiters do by asking – without thought – ‘is everything OK’

To practice your new skills, I suggest the next time you dine out assume you will get asked about your meal. Prepare a criticism from the start. Not an earth shattering one. Perhaps as simple as …. The potato wasn’t very hot.

To conform is to say the meal is ‘fine thank you’. You did not become an actor to conform.

From today on, your new found individuality starts with having an issue with your meal.

Please leave a comment below on how it went ☺

What Do Casting Directors Want From Your Audition?

My journey in terms of a day of auditions.. and you just deal with it entirely from your perspective don’t you? You sit in the waiting room, you’re worried, nervous. You walk in and do your best job.

What do I want? What does the casting director want? I want you to be fabulous. I want you to be absolutely wonderful.

I am on your side. Why? Because the better you look, the better I look. So yes it’s entirely selfish.

I want you to be fabulous. I’m there to help you. Don’t ignore that the casting director is there and we are working as a team. We are working as a team to make you look fabulous, trust me.

Of course some casting directors have bad days and then it’s a different approach, and ultimately different casting directors have different approaches. But the bottom line is.. the better you look, the better I look.

Talk to you soon.

7 Audition Tips from The Audition Technique Founder Greg Apps

1. Be spontaneous

When you’re in an audition, it’s not always going to go according to plan. You may be distracted by something. This can be referred to as a spontaneous moment. You may view this moment as a mistake but it’s not. That spontaneity is memorable for a casting agent and it’s what makes you unique.

Think about actors like Jim Carrey and Will Smith. In film auditions, these actors succeed with spontaneity and don’t dwell on a mistake. The concept of spontaneity in your auditions is something we explore a lot of in our self-taping courses. Because it’s the thing that’s going to help you stand out and ace your audition.

2. Express your individuality

Something you’ll need to consider is what your strengths are as an actor and what your brand is. Different casting directors will be looking for different things. Casting directors who are casting for independent or feature films will be looking for individuality. If a casting director is casting for daytime TV then they may not be looking for such a unique character.

When you’re pitching to a casting director, your pitch should be tailored to their work. If it’s a movie audition, then you need to keep that in mind.

You need not just to be a better actor but a smarter actor.
Stage acting and screen acting require very different skills, which you may have learned during acting courses. On stage, you have to show the audience how you feel. Your responses and reactions, all have to show how you feel.

This is starkly different for screen acting. The camera will see all of your emotions, so you actually need to feel the emotions you’re trying to present.

3. Be emotional

When you look at a photograph, what happens? Often you won’t remember exactly what happened at that moment when the photo was taken, but you’ll remember how you felt.

You’ll remember the emotional response. The feeling. You’ll remember the people who were around you and how that made you feel.

In an audition you want to be preparing your character’s emotional responses. The way to do that isn’t by simply looking at your script or some text; it’s also helpful to look at pictures. Looking for images on Google and sourcing photos can be a useful tool when preparing for auditions. We discuss this more at length in our self-taping boot camp.

4. Be prepared to practise in front of the camera

When do you usually get in front of a camera? Usually, if you’re an actor, it’s usually at an audition or a workshop.

It’s common for actors to actually, very rarely put themselves in front of a camera to explore or experiment with their abilities. But that exploration is crucial to your development as an actor. If you were a violinist you would spend time with your violin playing new songs, practising variations and improving their compositions. They experiment to get better.

When was the last time you got behind a camera to explore your craft? As actors you’re usually in front of the camera to achieve something tangible. A call-back or a job. Try getting in front of a camera and experimenting.

5. Be proactive, not reactive

As an actor, you’re bound to have most, if not all, of the following: a great photo, a resume, an agent. You might even go to workshops to get better. These practices are important, but they’re also reactive.

Most actors are waiting for an opportunity. Waiting for a callback. Waiting to hear from their agent. Waiting for a job. Waiting for something to happen. These are all reactive practices, and they’re holding you back.

If you’re proactive, you want to be placing yourself in front of the people who are making the important decisions. You should be trying to put the right content in front of them which makes them think about you and remember you. At our self taping boot camps, we teach you how to be a proactive actor rather than a reactive actor. At the moment, your agent is likely dictating your direction and your opportunities. We want to give the power to you.

6. Be aware of what the casting director wants

When you’re waiting for your audition, you’re feeling nervous. You want to do your best, of course.

So what does a casting director want?

The casting director wants you to be great. They’re actually on your side because the better you do, the better they look. You are there to work with the casting director, as a team.

Of course, some casting directors have different ways of doing things, but there’s one important thing to remember. The better you look, the better they look. So they should always be on your side at the audition stage.

7. Don’t be afraid of mistakes

Of course, you’re going to want to get everything right when you’re auditioning. You want to nail the character. The lines. The responses. But there is nothing wrong with making mistakes. Every actor who’s booked high-profile jobs has made them. That’s how they learn.

You need to celebrate your mistakes because little flaws in things like your rhythm actually make you memorable.

If you’re seeking perfection, you’re like the person who just left the room or the one who’s just about to walk in. Your mistakes or nuances might just set you apart and get you a call-back or book you a job.

What Are Auditions Really About?

I want to try and take you into a new territory at the moment in terms of everything you may have learned/been taught in terms of drama. And that is auditions are not about acting.

Auditions are not about showing what a good actor you are. Auditions are about a relationship. Two relationships in fact.

Every audition scene is about a relationship. Every audition scene is about the characters relationship to the others in the scene. That’s what we’re exploring.

You’re good enough. You don’t have to show you can play the part, we know you can play the part. What we’re wondering is; who is the character in your hands? What is the relationship with the other character in the script, in this sequence, in the scene, if we choose your version of the character.

There’s a second relationship, and probably just as important in terms of delivering relationships in the audition room. And that is the relationship with the people who are making the decision.

Do they want to spend 6 weeks with you? Do they want to see more of your work? Do you leave the room and they are intrigued and want to see more? Or do you leave the room and they go ‘Well, that’s what they do. That’s what he does, that’s what she does.’

Relationships are the most important thing you can deliver in an audition. Certainly drama teachers don’t teach you that.

We teach you that. We teach you that at The Self Taping School because that’s what it’s all about. All the Self Taping School is about is the relationship between an actor and the casting director. And the more you understand that, the more you can embrace that, the more opportunities you’ll get.

Wouldn’t It Be Great To Play A Role In This Series?

The fifth season of the critically acclaimed Australian series ‘Wentworth’ begins airing on April 4th.

The prison drama has been highly lauded since its initial release in 2013.

With well-written scripts and fantastic casting, the show is a terrifically tense affair.

Now that we are only a few weeks away from release, it’s safe to say that any auditions for a role in the series were long long ago.

Damn. Wouldn’t it be great to play a role in this series?

The good news is with all compelling television, people want to see more.

Just like US counterpart ‘Orange Is The New Black’, the show made it to a fifth series. With any renewed series comes new episodes, fresh scripts, and more characters.

Which means more audition opportunities for actors.

We all know that when the opportunity comes, it’s important to deliver our own version of the audition character. A character unique to us.

As an actor, it’s also important to take the time to do a little research into the the kind of projects being cast around you (and not just the one you’re auditioning for).

What’s airing at the moment? What’s being produced regularly? What are people liking? What do the critics love? What is popular?

When the time comes – it pays to be prepared.

One of an actors’ greatest tools is having the knowledge of the market around them.

Knowing the archetypal roles that come around time and again is beneficial of course, but understanding the community and world in which they live, as well as the overall tone of the piece, are just as important.

Take ‘Wentworth’ and ‘Orange Is The New Black’ as examples. Both prison dramas, but different in style and tone.

How does your version of the character sit in the casting director’s world? What is the relationship between your character and the character opposite? What are the audition audience looking for?

If you are asking these questions and building your character on a blend of research and intuition, you are on the right track.