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.

What should Actors Prep for in their Next Audition?

A lot of drama teachers and actors will have you believe that the only criteria we use for audition success is your ability.

A lot of drama teachers will have you believe that the only way to audition success is through scene and character analysis.

In my 30+ years of casting, I would say they are right.

But only if you take out the word “only”.

To succeed as an actor in the long term – that is, to have a career – I believe you need consummate ability and intelligent analysis of character and scene. Your performance career needs these skills.

But being in the audition space, delivering a memorable experience, in an environment of zero creativity and maximum tension, requires a different skill set.

Or am I wrong?

Did you get the job every time you really nailed your audition? You didn’t, did you?

Did you not get a call back after a tragically, confidence destroying, hopeless audition? But every now and then a bad audition does get you a call back.

Your audition prep should not simply be about the performance.

What actor can say their technique or training can realistically get you more work? To book more jobs?

Frankly, I don’t know how anyone can make that claim. The criteria for making a decision to go with one actor or another ebbs and flows. In the course of casting, we may favour a different actor for a role several times before the day comes to make a decision.

One of the main reasons is that the final decision involves so many people. How many producers get a credit on successful TV shows? All of them have a say.

What an actor can strive for though, is to get more auditions.

Because the choice of who gets an audition is usually down to one person: the casting director.

And if your acting class has weaved it’s magic and you are impressive in the room, you stand a good chance of booking the job.

The trick, though, is to get into the room in the first place.

The opportunity.

Why you must Choose to Change your Choices

Show me the actor who does contempt really well and I will show you someone whose career will not rise above smaller supporting roles.

Speaking of things that can be seen as wrong, I wanted to touch on a small issue regarding your choices in auditions. Any audition. Every audition.

It came up in the scene we worked on at a recent face to face workshop. The female in the scene showed impatience with her partner. And many females, in an environment of creative freedom, found emotional territory which included contempt, disdain, and anger. They had been given a license to go anywhere. Everywhere.

So they chose power, control, contempt over the other person in the scene.

All fully justified and can be rightly played for that character in that scene.

But if you choose this path, what you have achieved, is you have created a character we do not like.

Every movie star creates characters with qualities we admire, we like, we respect. They naturally find qualities that do not scare us off.

And you can argue ‘til you are blue in the face “but that is how she was written”.

Yes, absolutely.

But does the role go to the performer who shows utter disregard for her partner? Or the one who uses her charm with her interpersonal skills to connect?

And then you will find they have remembered you, because you have stopped being another actor, and started being an individual.

The most important person to convince you CAN do it, is you.

As an actor, you prepare your audition so there is no way anything go wrong which means you know EXACTLY what you are going to say and when.

You have not prepared the character. You have prepared the delivery.

What do I want? Well, what am I looking for? And don’t say an actor. My life has no shortage of actors.

I have auditioned a couple of people who attended ny workshops. In the workshops, they were brave, imaginative and experimental. They took chances and found new territory. So they showed the bravery that is needed to do a memorable audition. Then, they gave earnestly good, reliable and nice same auditions.

The biggest problem is you.

You try too hard.

How to avoid desperation:

A quote from an article on Backstage from Secret Agent Man:

“(Did) any of you ever learn how to have a normal conversation that doesn’t reek of desperation?”

What you want to say (and in many cases do say):

  • “I am perfect for this part.”
  • “I love this role.”
  • “I need this role.”

Don’t talk about you. Talk about the character:

  • “She (the character) has a great warmth.”
  • “I love the way she deals with children.”
  • “She has an inner strength. She doesn’t need to show it.”

At The Audition Technique, we suggest the most important person in the room is not you, not the casting director or the producer.

The most important person in the room is the character.

And it is not yours. Not yet, anyway. So treat the character with respect.

—-ooOOoo—-

Your objective in an audition is to be seen again. If not for this role, then for something else.

If you were going to a dinner party, and you wanted to be invited back again, you would enter and find a moment to connect to the hostess.

With lines like:

  • “Have you lost weight?”
  • “I heard great things about the social event you staged last week.”
  • “I love the colours you have used in this room.”

To translate that into what should be said by an actor-in-an-audition-funk:

  • “I love your casting in (project x).”
  • “You are looking fabulous.”
  • “What a great project this is. Congratulations (that you are casting it).”

P.S: As I am eternally on a diet, ‘Have you lost weight’ is always good if you come into my room.

In an audition, it’s not all about you.

Me. Me. Me.

I was given a t-shirt with this written on it by my family. They mistakenly believe that I believe it is all about me.

In an audition session though, the actors enter with unblinkered focus on their audition. They have this hyped intensity about the performance they are about to deliver.

Understandable.

But my advice to you is this: if the majority of actors are entering the audition solely focused on the performance, the dialogue, then I believe the actor who enters and creates an environment that is engaging rather than self-centered will stand out.

The trick is to not make the audition all about you!

If you can create a moment in a packed audition day for the Casting Director; where you can give them a special unexpected moment, you will be remembered.

From my experience in the room, there are many actors who enter the casting space with the sole purpose of delivering their audition.

Their expectation being the depth of their performance, the quality of their audition will win the day.

Maybe. Many times– maybe not!

There are so many good actors. In my experience, there are very few people we reject on the basis of “they are not good enough, they cannot do the role”.

Which means, that if you are in the casting session, we know you CAN do the role. What we are deciding is ‘what can you bring to the role?’

In this case, the thing that makes you memorable is your individuality. Your uniqueness.

As an actor your job is to understand what makes you memorable, how to execute your uniqueness and indicate it (not show it!) to the Casting Director.

There are many ways to do this– some work and some fail miserably!  It’s about understanding the process and giving the Casting Director what he is looking for at the right time.

P.S: The Me Me Me t-shirt? Of course it is all about me. I am a Casting Director after all 🙂

If you know what is happening next, so does your audience

I have this theory about acting and auditions. For movies. For the big screen. (More about TV later).

With great dancers, performing with effortless grace, we can imagine they did not get choreographed. They seem to do it without thought or concentration: naturally, without planning or thought.

For el supremo musicians, singers, and painters it is the same. The great ones deliver their creative skill as a natural extension of their natural self.

It is self expression.

When you sit in the cinema, the joy of great acting, from great actors, is that we have no idea what is about to happen. Indeed, the very special film actors make us think that there was never a script in the first place!

What I am suggesting is not easy. In your next audition, I urge you to find a rhythm in your delivery, in your character, that is unique to you. Only then are you able to deliver something that is unexpected. You have made us sit up and take notice– in a crowded days of auditions, when most actors deliver the rhythm of the page.

The metronome like beat of an actor who has developed their technique to be fool proof. They know exactly what to deliver.

They have prepared the delivery,
rather than preparing the character.

They know what they are going to say, and how they are going to say it well before the moment arrives. And usually it is a version that obeys the page.

Yes, obeys.

If you prepare the delivery, your audition is doomed from the start. Prepare the character and only then master the lines. Now when you speak, what you say and how you say it, will be in character.

How to audition for Daytime TV

When you watch daytime TV do you think “OMG I could do a much better job than that actor!” Well, of course you could.

Why? Because the main considerations that casting directors use to cast soaps and daytime, do not necessarily include ‘are they a good actor?͛

Indeed, acting skills are preferred rather than mandatory.

Watching daytime TV, or soap operas, takes a special skill. Ridiculous things happen to characters and the audience is asked to go along with it. Because the audience welcomes the outrageous events. They celebrate them.

But these unexpected events, are seldom unexpected.

And this is the clue to what you need to deliver in an audition for soap opera.

I have seen top actors perform in soap opera and in that format, that genre, their skill, and expertise is washed away by the simplicity of the dialogue and the relationships. They are homogenised.

Here is how you must calibrate your performance:

  1. Look your best. Soap operas (like TV Commercials) make their casting decisions on the look of the person. The first decision on actor’s suitability is how they look.
  2. In soaps, the good guys are the good guys and the bad guys are the bad guys. Performances are not subtle, complex, or multi layered. They are direct and uncomplicated. The opposite is true for high end drama (cable series and feature films).
  3. One of the significant factors in casting soaps is to find an actor who is a team player. The show is bigger than the individual actor. So you need to find common ground with all the people in the room. Use your charm. Win them over.

In short, you are going to deliver a performance that is accessible, and likeable with a liberal dose of energy. Intensity and internalisation are not advised.

The key to succeed with auditions for daytime TV is to deliver appeal. How you do that, is up to the individual. But your main goal is to be liked, rather than multi dimensional or

Is Self Taping a fad or here to stay?

Six Reasons why your next acting workshop should be ONLINE

If you could do an audition anyway you liked, in any place, at any time, where would you choose?

Let’s face it, a visual artist chooses where to paint and a composer chooses where to compose. They choose creative environments.

But an actor must ‘create’ in the Casting Directors studio.

Until now. (Could you choose to do a selfie and not a CD test?)

But you baulk at self tests because:

You don’t know what they want and you think they’ll tell you.
You are scared of the technology
You don’t know what take to choose
You think if you meet the casting director, it is much better.

What if I could take away all those fears? What if I could empower you to take control of your audition. If I could do that, now answer the question:

Where is the best place to Audition?

And of course the answer is: in your own home. Where you have control of the time the place the everything!

And that is why you MUST start your journey of being excited about self taping

Yes, you heard me correctly …. Excited! That is what the members of the January course have discovered.

If you do an ONLINE workshop:

  1. You deliver a self test every week. You tape at home, when you want, where you want.
  2. On our member only password protected page, you upload your self tape. You see other members who have done the same. You see various actors auditioning for the same part. With the same self tape format.
  3. Effectively, you sit in my seat, the casting director’s seat. Seeing self tapes of actors doing the same dialogue. How is each one different?
  4. By doing this you develop objectivity. You quickly understand that the difference between a good self tape and a VERY good self tape is not the ability of the actor. It is their imagination. Their individuality. what works. And what does not. You see how little moments communicate a character far more effectively than the perfected delivery of lines of dialogue.
  5. You receive personal feedback from me on every one of your tests. Note: this is private, delivered to your inbox. It is not shared with anyone else. So I can be honest and objective about your work. I will make observations about your strengths and your weaknesses.
  6. As we have members from all over the world, you will develop the understanding that self taping is a universal language, spoken only by actors. And it is the most powerful communications tool an actor has ever been granted.

 

Self taping is here to stay.

Self taping will become the only way an actor can ‘introduce’ themselves to a casting director.

Self taping is the surest way to convince your agent, you have the chops to do the best roles, on the biggest productions.

Self taping is a process that YOU control, and not the other way around.

Audition Mentoring and Self Taping School April 2018 starts Monday 16th April. Numbers are strictly limited to ensure everyone gets individual attention. We are more than 50% booked out.

Act now and book your place. Tomorrow we may be booked out.

Where is the best place to audition?

And you will probably say on the right location, with the director, and a sympathetic crew, and your choice of actor opposite you, and the time to do multiple takes.

If that is the best way to do an audition, then it certainly is not going to happen in a casting director’s studio.

By the way, it may seem I am being hard on Casting directors. Not true. I have been a full time casting director for 35 years. I am president of the Casting Guild of Australia.

I love casting directors.

What I do not love is the process of auditions. A process of screen testing where we must subject actors to conformity, every time we are casting a film

If you have the confidence and knowledge to audition with a self tape, then you have empowered your self in the following ways:

You can do as many takes as you like, whereas in the CDs room you can do one. One only.
The qualities of the character are the ones THEY choose.
You do not have to sit in the waiting room of other actors, dressed like you.
You create an audition space that HELPS you create the character, rather than a Casting Director audition room that is a creatively suffocating environment
You choose the reader. The perfect person to help you deliver YOUR creative vision of the character (not the casting directors)

So, if you agree that there are real, tangible benefits from delivering a self tape, if you agree that you have the power to deliver YOUR version of the character more effectively, then now you are saying do I achieve that?

By doing your next acting workshop online. (What is an online workshop?)

Does your agent always send your Self Tape on to the Casting Director?

Many casting directors provide the full details of the upload when requesting self tapes. The details will include file size, the website to upload to, the conventions that they want you to follow for naming the file.

They will also instruct you on what to have, do and say on your tape.

But when your agent sends you the information, they give you everything but then they say ‘Send your file to us’

Why? Because they are checking if it is good enough. They do not want bad self tapes being sent to the casting director. It makes them look bad.

So they will receive them, review them and if not good enough they will say to the casting director, ‘Oh that actor is not available, or unable to do a selfie, or ….. any number of excuses’

So no, they do not always send it on.

Now think of the reverse situation. Which is:

You do cracking, top-shelf, impressive self tapes. If you do that, not only does the agent not check them first, but now the agent is actively trying to get you more self tap opportunities.

They hope they can get you a self tape every day – because you make them look good.

These days, a self tape is not simply an audition for a role. It is the opportunity to deliver a brand. Sure your brand (is he a good actor?) and more importantly, the brand of your agent.

If you are not getting self tape opportunities, is it because your agent does not want their name, on your self test.

Because no matter how good an actor you are, if your self tape is poor, is unwatchable, then we don’t care how good an actor you are. There are too many other actors delivering good self tapes to spend time agonizing over yours.

Self taping. It is here to stay. And you must see it as an opportunity, rather than an obstacle course.

Because when you do, so does your agent. And they will shout your name from the roof tops.

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 ☺

How Memorable Are You?

I had an actress in for a go-see recently, gorgeous, blonde, 20s, caucasian. She was having issues because the last role she played was ‘Party Girl 3’ and prior to that ‘Danny’s Girlfriend’. She was playing all these nondescript roles.

The point I’m trying to make is – how memorable are you? Memorable you say? Well I’m a really good actor!

Yeah so are a lot of people. A lot of people are really good actors. What is your point of individuality?

That’s what you have to deliver in your self tests. Your self tests when they are a specific test for a specific role. Or just your self tests when you’re trying to attract the attention of a casting director or an agent.

What is your individuality? What makes you memorable? That is what you have to deliver.

Not your ability, your individuality. Be memorable.