Episode 03 - Casting and setting off on the right foot
In Episode 3: I chat about how I managed to get a solid Cast together for the film, my unique Casting methods and the importance of this part of pre production.
The blog will precede each episode so if anyone has any questions or wants me to go into more detail on a specific part of the subject they can email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or message me via twitter @rumpunchprods or FB.
Lets jump right into this weeks blog.
Acting for Auditions - Flipping a coin and gambling.
Who would be an actor? Not me, that’s for sure. I am happy behind the camera, and because I spent near on 6 years running a Casting Studio in London I have seen and heard a lot when it comes to the casting part of the business. There are a million idea’s and opinions online about the audition/casting process and for actors this can be information overload. It’s really important that I mention right now that I personally feel the information and advice found below should be available to talent for FREE! Setting up or starting off as an actor for many is not cheap and sadly for many out there, the costs involved in pursuing their dream leads to them stretching their purse strings to the point of snapping, I hope this blog finds those very people and more importantly that they benefit from the advice below.
Know who makes the decision
So many actors simply don’t understand how the casting process works so they often go about the whole process with the wrong attitude and pick up bad habits. Firstly the Casting Director has huge clout in who gets in the door and their opinion is often considered when the decision process happens but they don’t necessarily get to choose which actor gets the part, even big named Casting Directors don’t have that much power. These decisions are made by the clients, aka those signing the cheques. It doesn’t matter if the project is a huge $200 million feature film or a commercial, whoever pays often gets to be the one who has the final say in who gets the job.
The Director, Producer, Writer and Casting Director will always fight to get the best and right people but no contracts get signed until the money heads have approved and had their say.
I really think this is a huge key factor for actors to understand. So even though the REAL decision makers are impossible to get to how can you increase your chances of winning jobs?
Never turn down an audition just because you don’t think you’re right for the role or because you don’t like the project!
Actors unfortunately get given the least amount of information and for most actors you are fighting against a numbers game. You have no idea what other projects people are working on! It doesn’t matter if you hate the project at least audition yourself and get your face out there. As an actor whether you like it or not you are a product! You are your own walking and talking business card and you need to advertise yourself constantly! If you really hate the project and you DO get the job, then politely turn it down. At least you have proven yourself and met some new or important faces.
But you must be aware of the following. Many filmmakers like to work with familiar people and not just crew. A director who is doing some cheap tacky advert might actually be about to do a huge big budget feature, or the DP might be about to work with a massive studio. These heads of departments will remember good actors for future stuff and they are KEY people to know, but just like you they too have to get paid and pay bills etc so never look down on a project, unless it goes against religious or moral beliefs.
Actions speak louder than words!
Most Casting Directors have to operate a safety zone around their work, no Casting Director wants to run the risk of sitting in a room full of clients and have a nutter turn up. Casting Directors have their own brand and company to protect, so they will tend to bring in people they trust and know will do a good job. If you book a job or get pencilled/short listed you instantly get in the Casting Directors good books. It’s great if you can build up a friendly relationship with a Casting Director but actions speak louder than words, once you begin to get pencilled or booked on jobs and you meet the brief of their next project, the chances are you will get called in! Pestering, begging or trying to convince them to give you a chance is time consuming for both parties, something Casting Directors don’t have much of.
Prove how serious you are about a job. Learn the lines.
If you are lucky enough to get script pages ahead of an audition (also known as sides) then LEARN them, get off the damn page. If you stand in the room and say “I only got these yesterday” We know it’s bullshit! The person reading in with you, might be the very person who physically emailed the script to your agent, so never lie, we will find out! Even if your agent did only send them at the last minute, you should at least learn as much as you possibly can. Otherwise you will become 1 of 5 people that day that also happens to have a broken printer or run out of ink! Clients value their work and they might spend years getting the project of the ground. Respect that fact! Most importantly I can count probably less than 20 actors I have met in my entire 6 years casting who have come in, not learnt a sausage and done a decent audition. You would not believe the amount of excuses that actors give when they turn up latching onto a script. Watching an actor physically reading words off a page is BORING! Your entire syntax is lost and any thought process gets lost and no matter how hard you try, the dialogue and structure becomes flat and the audition quickly gets painful to watch.
Turn up on time!
Oh my goodness I shouldn’t even have to list this one but it has to be one of the most common things that sends a Casting Director insane. Every minute that passes by when you are running late could be costing someone money! Hiring a studio is not cheap and sometimes this hire cost will be coming out of the Casting Directors budget for the job, you are literally making them pay for your delay! Believe me you better act your flipping socks off when you turn up late because you will have already pissed off pretty much everyone in the room.
Don’t ask for another take!
If a Casting Director asks you if you would like to have another go at a scene then of course that’s fine, reset and go by all means do the scene again. But it’s incredibly annoying when actors ask to ‘go again’ assuming we have the time for their mistakes. Think about it! You straight away put them in an awkward position by even asking, and by doing the whole thing again, this will delay the next person. It only takes 3 people to do this before you are running behind, thus making even more actors wait. Casting Directors will always give you another shot if they think it’s worth it, if not today, then they will bring you back in when THEY have the time. This is ALWAYS much better than just banging the same scene out there and then.
Well actors seldom make a decent enough improvement after messing up a take or make enough of a change to the performance to make a REAL difference. You wouldn’t do this on set, so I wouldn’t advise that you do it in an audition.
This issue is common amongst actors who DON’T learn the script!
Don’t direct yourself or ask too many questions!
You will instantly rub a Director the wrong way by self directing, or by asking for more notes. It’s important to note that sometimes Directors won’t want an actor to nail a performance in the Casting room, there are a lot of key people involved with the project at this point and the Dircetor may want to hold back on certain notes or ways he wants the piece to go at this point. No one wants to peak too soon or too early. Also another huge factor is that often the main heads of departments like the Casting Director, Writer or producer etc may not have all the answers at this point. No actor gets better notes than another actor. In all of my 6 years I have never seen this! So trust the information you ARE given and go with it, too many times actors who fish for too much info wobble their own performance, worse still with fresh notes in their head so many actors ‘mark’ these specific moments to try and convey that they understood the note. this puts a blatant ‘prick/spike’ in the performance, we can actually see the note’s and we dabble in an un-natural world.
Never comment on your own performance.
From my experience actors make the worst judges for what is a good audition, especially when they aren’t even looking at the screen, you don’t know what the camera is doing, so you won’t be aware of all the details getting picked up in a performance. Even if you are convinced that what you just done was absolutely rubbish, by announcing it to everyone in the room, you are quickly convincing everyone that you are no good.
Clients and Casting Directors buy into confidence and charisma, they want people who know how to handle themselves and show professionalism, theatrical outbursts are cringe worthy to watch. You might be able to do better but the 10 people before you might have been worse! By doing the above you just ranked yourself bottom of the list.
I have NEVER seen an actor who comment’s poorly about their own performance end up on a select list or get booked!
This is the BIGGEST one! You will make an enemy for life if you lie to a Casting Director just to get seen for an audition or to get an acting job. This instantly shatters any kind of future relationship you might have and you run a huge risk of driving wedges between, Agents, Casting Directors and Producers. Casting Directors despite being in competition with one another are generally a friendly bunch who look out for each other, they know each other very well and talk far more often than you can imagine, even by working together on projects. Lie on your CV or to a Casting Director and very soon others will find out. This is a serious and critical part of the pre production stage, what might seem like a harmless white lie could have massive ramifications on set and cost money or in some cases cause physical injury. Fellow actors that tell these anecdotes are talking nonsense or utter bullshit!
This COULD be the single one thing that has the potential to KILL your career! NEVER DO IT!!!!!!!!!!!
Don’t ask about the frame size.
This one is simple, as an actor if you adjust your performance according to the frame of the camera you instantly increase the odds of getting it wrong! This I can promise you. The truth is you won’t know what the clients are always after, go off of instinct NOT what you predict the camera is or isn’t picking up. What an actor perceives to go down on tape is entirely different to what actually DOES go down. Concentrate on what you are doing not what the camera man is doing.
On set when it matters you have to hit marks, time walking for crane shots blah blah blah. There are so many other annoying things an actor has to concern him/herself with, and give a natural performance etc etc. The casting studio/space allows you to be free from these things.
In an audition we rarely trouble you with these kind of distractions, so don’t start creating them for yourself.
Don’t apologise or ‘Cut’ yourself.
This is a BIG ONE! Actors forget we have the power to edit with digital technology, nowadays this is super quick and easy. If you mess up or stumble a line etc, NEVER cut yourself, apologise or make a big deal, always STAY in character. All you need to do is pause for few seconds, take a deep breathe and overlap the bad or broken section. It pains us when an actor doesn’t do this, before that mistake the work you might have been doing could have been exactly what everyone was after! If you cut yourself, or swear or snap out of it, not only do YOU RUIN that particular take but by making such a big deal out of it you will struggle to replicate it smoothly, by simply pausing and taking a moment you allow yourself to remain in the ‘ZONE’ and keep all the feelings and thought patterns intact. I cannot stress this enough, if you get into the habit of doing this you become an editor’s dream, you also give yourself more control over your performance.
Get this right and we simply edit/cut out the few seconds where you take a moment and we send the client the best performance of the day.
Don’t make it harder than it already is.
This I have seen too many times, I am bamboozled at why an actor thinks it’s a good idea to bring along to an audition their ‘Friend’ who also happens to be a ‘Great Actor’. Firstly. Congratulations you just gave yourself less chance of getting the job and at the same time you just PISSED of the Casting Director! You might as well have just said to them,
“Thanks for getting me in but I am not hugely bothered because I bought my mate along and just bypassed your system. Oh and by the way I think I can do your job better than you!”
Would you do this in a job interview scenario? Of course not!
Come in with the right attitude.
NEVER be rude to the receptionist or a casting assistants. We communicate all day with each other on skype and we talk, if you are sat in the waiting room laughing loud and generally annoying others, we get told who it is instantly. Piss off the receptionist and that message comes through too. This info MIGHT get relayed further up the line or even back to your agent, or the Casting Director. Staff are simply trying to do their job so there is no reason to be rude or obnoxious. Casting Directors will not want to put their clients with difficult talent, don’t be that person! On the plus side, be nice and a stand up person and we will go out of our way for you!
Here are a few more quick tips.
DON’T chew gum
DO bring water with you
DON’T wear a too much make-up, keep it natural - Never wear Red Lipstick unless asked.
DON’T wear bright red tops or stripey outfits - they look terrible on video, or scarves, or big earrings, or anything that could distract the viewer.
ALWAYS switch off your phone!
I could ramble on for pages and pages, but these are most obvious things that spring to my mind. As always with such a subjective & creative business these are just my opinions. Hopefully this article gives you a different and useful perspective about the auditioning process that goes on to serve you well.
As I mention often, I am love working with and watching actors work, so if anyone has any questions they would like me to answer feel free to hit up the website and get in touch.
Don’t forget to check out the YHAD podcast about the filmmaking process. This Sunday is all about Casting!