5 Ways to Make the Most of Auditions, Advice for Movie Directors
Casting Done Right
Check Out This Insider's Advice for Actors!
Tips from a Casting Director
“Time is Money,” says every businessman in the world, and it’s doubly true in the film industry. Having one event cover several purposes helps to save time, and thus, money. When casting, the less money you have to throw around, the more important it is to use every opportunity with actors wisely. But let’s make sure we’re on the same page before we delve into auditioning advice.
Why Host an Audition?
Very simply, auditions are held to see a selection of actors perform your script on film or video. Some auditions do not require reading from the script for which they are auditioning. In such cases, the actor prepares a monologue, often the preference at open auditions. Open auditions can be more tedious, but give a director greater variety. Closed auditions, which are by invite only, may take more time before the audition, but it also helps to eliminate excess time spent on unlikely candidates. The following is a casting director’s advice to film directors, producers, and fellow casting directors.
It is paramount that you record your actors because, in film, all that matters is how they look on screen.
Get It On Camera!
It is paramount that you record your actors because, in film, all that matters is how they look on screen. Make sure to get close up shots, to see how well actors captivate an audience. If your actor is at a distance, then a video audition can be negotiated. Actors can record themselves reading from your script, and send it in for consideration. Depending on how popular your preferred actor is, all you may get is a meeting. Many experienced actors don’t like to read, especially if they know you need their reputation to help sell the film. In such cases, best to come to an audition prepared, knowing their previous work and using it as the basis for such a meeting. No matter the situation, make sure you get a recording!
That’s it, right? There’s no other reason to conduct auditions. Actually, there are many more, but the following are examples of how you can make your casting session into a multi-purpose meet ‘n greet.
This is the perfect opportunity for a director training session. I often recommend that directors come prepared with three versions of how they want a reading to be performed, using specific and descriptive words. This preliminary interaction with actors allows the director to get into a groove before principle photography, which is almost mandatory in situations where there is no time for rehearsals. While preparation is key, so is instinct and authority. Auditions are the best time to make tweaks in communication to see if you can elicit the performance you are looking for. Use this time to see if you can mold your actors. Just make sure someone is watching the clock. Molding can take time, so better that you invite them back for another round than run late.
Be considerate and wait until the playback to take notes so you can reserve your attention for the delicate ego of your actor.
Want More Advice as a Director?
Show the Actors How You Work
During casting, a director will usually have a camera operator, a producer, and a casting director present in the room, and ideally a greeter stationed outside the room. After the casting director introduces everyone in the room, the director takes over. During the audition, the director will show the actors how you communicate with your crew, and how you run the show. Are you a Hitchcock and see your actors as meat puppets, or do you relinquish control by getting to know the actor instead like Lee Daniels? These directorial choices all indicate to the actor what your set will be like. And, trust me, the last thing you want is an actor who refuses to work with you because they felt uncomfortable during auditions. Your best case scenario is when an actor is not the right fit for the part, but is so in love with you that they will happily work with you again (think Nathan Fillion and Joss Whedon before Firefly).
Explore Ideas for the Script Not Previously Considered
If you’ve written the script you are now directing, sometimes it becomes apparent that the lines aren’t crap because of the actors; they are crap because the dialogue is lackluster. Time to improvise! Try setting up a situation for the actor to work within and see what lines naturally come out of it. Some of the most memorable lines in cinematic history were improvised. For the sake of time, however, don’t worry about asking an actor’s analysis of the character. That’s best saved for after they’ve earned the role.
Ultimately, your job as Casting Director is to…
Make the Director Look Good
It has happened, more often than I care to admit, where the director will ask an actor to do something, they roll camera, the actor starts, and the director is looking down at the script or looks away to take notes. This is when, as the casting director, you must keep your attention on your actors. Then, make sure the director doesn’t do it again. Be considerate and wait until the playback to take notes so you can reserve your attention for the delicate ego of your actor.
Speaking of ego, you may want to pull the director aside to remind him of this courtesy. Saying it in front of an actor would only be embarrassing for everyone.
Discovered other tricks to the auditioning process? Share the love in the comments! No one likes auditioning, but we can all help each other through the process. Happy casting!