We recently held auditions for my upcoming web series, “how to lose a girl in one date.” The fabulously talented Becky Silverman was my casting director, and I am so thankful for the talented actors who came in to read.
As an actor who has been to my share of casting director workshops, I have heard many opinions/tips/pet peeves regarding the casting process. And I have found myself asking, “Why would an actor throw a sharpened pencil at your face?!” and other equally disturbing questions. Certainly, such a thing would never happen… Right?
In just one four-hour casting session, I witnessed firsthand just how weird/awkward/inappropriate actors can be. While there were no sharpened pencils thrown (thankfully), I feel I have some humble advice worth sharing. (Keep in mind I am not claiming to be a professional casting director by any means. This is merely a compilation of information I have gathered along the way that you may choose to take or leave.) So, here it is…
What not to do when auditioning:
- Don’t be 15 years older than your headshot… Please. For the love. They called you in because your headshot looks like the character they are trying to cast. If they are looking for a 19-year-old, and your headshot looks like you are 19, yet you walk in the room being 32 – even as I’m writing this, I am reminded of the Friends episode… anyone? Joey: “Dude, am I nineteen or what?” – No, you are not 19. And you have lost me at hello. Don’t waste everyone’s time – including yours. Embrace your age! Hollywood needs actors of every shape and size.
- Don’t touch the casting director… I repeat. Do not. At any point, at any time, for any reason. Touch the casting director. (Or anyone else in the room for that matter.) They don’t know where your hands have been. Don’t do it when you are introducing yourself. And certainly don’t do it in the middle of your audition. It will pull everyone out of your brilliant read. Remember in fourth grade when your teacher would make you sit on your hands? Mentally sit on your hands.
- Don’t change the script… especially if the writer is in the room! When you change the dialogue, essentially you are telling the writer that what you came up with in a few minutes is better than what they came up with in a few months. Often you haven’t even been given the entire script, so you can’t possibly even know the full context. So, honor the writer. Honor the script. They are the writer. You are the actor. If you want to be the writer, go home and write your own script… Then have actors come in and change all the words :)
- Don’t stalk the casting director or writer, producer, or director. Don’t track down their personal Facebook page and “message” them 32 seconds after the breakdown has been posted. Don’t send them an email longer than Great Expectations with your life story, hopes and dreams, list of high school theater credits, and an offer of your firstborn if they will only call you in to audition. Unless someone has asked you to “friend” them on Facebook or given you their personal email, respect their private lives. Less stalker. More professional.
- Don’t say offensive things… religious or otherwise. You never know who is in the room. You never know what beliefs/background/etc these people have. Don’t cuss. Don’t say the Lord’s name in vain. Keep it PG. Keep it clean. Keep it professional. Remember: this a job interview. You are a business. Treat yourself as such.
- Don’t act rude or condescending to the main character… unless you are auditioning to play their arch nemesis/ex-lover/imminent killer (or sometimes all three wrapped into one!) If you are reading for the role of the lead actor’s best friend, taking a negative or derogatory spin on the dialogue makes that main character look bad in the scene. Which, in turn, makes you look bad in your audition. So find a way to keep it positive.
Speaking of positive, here are a few tips on what to do when auditioning:
- Be a human being! Call me crazy, I know. But when you come into the room like a human being, it makes all the difference in the world! No need to be super awkward and nervous. Remember, they want you to get the part! Show the casting director/writer/producer/director your charming self. Let them see a glimpse of your fabulous personality in those thirty seconds of small talk. (Notice I said thirty seconds – be sure you don’t ramble on. These people have families to see, lives to be lived, and a long list of actors coming in after you). Leave them wanting more… Just like in dating.
- Be confident in your choices. Don’t ask them how they want you to do the scene. Do the scene how you would do the scene. Bring yourself to the character. Let your essence shine through. They called you in for a reason. If you make a strong choice, even if it’s the wrong choice, they will recognize your talent and potential and often give you a chance to do the scene again with some redirection. So check your timidity at the door, come in with a choice, and execute it confidently!
- Stay in the scene! The actress that booked the role of my roommate actually “messed up” more than any of the other actresses. But she stayed in the scene, allowing the awkwardness of the moment shine through as the character. It was endearing to watch and honestly put me at ease as writer/producer/lead actress knowing that when we are on set, she will do the same thing. And keep in mind… you never know what magic might result from “messing up.”
Remember: every “no,” every closed door is an opportunity for God to point you in the direction of another door, to the right door, to the “yes” that will make this all worth it. All the best to all my actor friends (and strangers) alike. Your passion, pursuit, and perseverance are inspiring.
“Success is sweet and sweeter if long delayed and gotten through many struggles and defeats.” – Amos Bronson Alcott