What Are Casting Directors Looking For?

I think the problem with actors in terms of success in auditions is that their goal is wrong. You want to show how good an actor you are. No.

I’m a casting director. Take it from me, I’ve seen over 120,000 auditions. I’ve seen people come in and what they want to show is how well they act. That’s not what I’m looking for.

I’m looking for a great, unique, compelling, individual version of the character. Because that’s my job, that’s my journey.

What am I looking for? I’m not looking for a great actor, I’m looking for the character. I’m looking for the person with the right combination of ability and looks and skill and individuality that creates a character that I want to put up on screen. A character that I can cast. An actor whose version of the character I can champion to the director and producer and say ‘You’ve got to give this actor a chance because they will be great in the role’.

But it all comes down to your approach, your thinking, your goal. Your goal at the moment is to be good. Be special. Be individual.

For Actor Audition Success, Prepare Nothing

Johnny Drama Cut OutIn the classic online scene from Entourage, the character Johnny Drama played by Kevin Dillon in his ‘audition’ for CSI that “Just tell me what you want. Because I can do it a million ways

What do you want? Tell me what to do, what to play, what emotion to give and I will gladly give it to you.

Actors say this to me in the audition space all the time. As if the casting director knows the exact emotion or moment to deliver.

All creative art will always be a subjective pursuit.

So it is with acting. And even more so with auditions. Because we are yet to set the character in concrete.

Think of it this way. You pick up the phone and ring your telecommunications provider. Or your bank. You are outraged. They have not provided a promised service. You plan how you are going to deal with them. You are going to be so angry. You know exactly what you are going to say.

But when you arrive at that moment, your feelings, your attitude, your relationship with them has evolved because of all the things that have gone before it. Your emotional journey and your relationship with the call center person has progressed.

If you are able to name exactly how a character feels at a given time (and this is a time is in the future, even 10 seconds in the future) the moment is fake.

The key to audition success is to be brave. Discover your character’s feelings at any time in the script ….. when you arrive at the moment.

Oh yes, it is truly scary. You can plan where you would possibly like to take your character, but the exact emotion, the exact delivery, needs to be flexible. You may be saying the dialogue accurately, but you are improvising the character. Improvising the relationship.

Does Jim Carrey plot and plan what will happen? Will Smith? Kristen Wiig. Johnny Depp?

Of course not. This is the essence of true screen performance

To decide a character’s feeling in advance, during your audition prep, is not a screen actors approach.

Focus on the journey, and the destination will take care of itself.