Auditions and What to Expect
by Anthony Smith
Auditioning is a funny thing. You don't always know what the casting director is thinking or looking for. Here are some observations and experiences.
Auditioning is a funny thing. It's difficult to understand and figure out what a casting director is thinking, what he/she is looking for and why really you have been chosen or why not. The fact is that 99% of the time you never find out, especially the why not. Here are some interesting thoughts, observations and experiences from me.
Once in an all-day workshop on the subject of industrials, we were afforded the opportunity to audition for a casting director who normally casts for corporate videos. It was a mock audition situation and she told us that she would do something in this acting class that we are almost never fortunate enough to experience in the real world of auditioning. She said that she would tell us all after we auditioned, who would have gotten the job and why.
There were eight of us altogether and she told us that one of the women in the class would have gotten the job. She told us that the imaginary customer wanted to make an in-store video that spoke to women. She said that the customer made this change at the last minute. While in the beginning it could have been the right part for a woman or a man, they now decided that they only wanted a woman. The customer also made a request that the woman be a brunette, as she didn't want a blond, because probably she was reminded of someone with blond hair with whom she had a bad experience in the past on a video.
Lastly she said that if there had been no restrictions and if she, the casting director had to present the best candidate for that job, then she would have chosen...me! Once again I was flattered and it made me feel good.
Now all I have to say is, this is all great stuff in acting and audition class, but show me the money!!! When I look at my results, I have gotten the best feedback on those types of auditions, which I think is fine, since I'm really just starting out. I have absolutely nothing against being cast for what I am most suited for or because of what I look like or for my experience. Some actors say they want to have the possibility to play roles that are different from what they are really like. Ultimately, that could be what I want to, but I'm not sure yet. What I am sure about, however, is that I want to work! So if the easiest way for me to get work is to get cast in roles that are most like me, then great! I'm not going to complain. I'll continue studying and hopefully one day I'll be cast in other types of roles, if that's what I want.
One More Tidbit
Something else I remember was a piece of advice that a noted casting director gave us in a seminar. She told us that when you leave an audition, take the copy and throw it in the trash. She herself said that she probably shouldn't be telling us that, but she said that the chances that you will get the part are often times so slim, that you should just forget about it until they call you back, if they ever do. So don't call to see if you got the part, don't pester the casting director, as they hate that, just move on with your life and if they want you, they will let you know.
What's Working and What's Not
After about twelve auditions and castings and not getting one callback, I realized I should probably take an on-camera commercial class. While some actors tell me that twelve auditions without a callback is common, I still began to wonder if there was something I could do to better my chances.
To analyze your situation, it is necessary to keep good records. I used Leslie Becker's book faithfully The Organized Actor to keep track of all my auditions. In her book are audition pages in which you can log everything about an audition, such as role, location, name of CD's office, time, wardrobe necessary, materials to prepare, comments, among several other things. I used this tool faithfully and periodically go back and analyze my situation.
One of the things I looked at, were the roles for which my agent submitted me. I looked at this because sometimes at auditions I felt out of place or not right for the part they were casting. I also thought about my ability to improvise and decided I needed to work on that. However, I was already enrolled in other classes and had many other things going on, so I opted not to take an improv class right away. Instead I looked at other things I could improve on.
One day I talked to another actor friend of mine, whom I had met about a month prior and run into again at a voice-over audition. (You often see the same faces at auditions!) I was feeling down that day, and fortunately I ran into him. Even though we had met before, we never really talked much. We spoke for a half hour, and he gave me a pep talk, telling me that when he started out, it was the same for him and that one day things will just start to click. "You'll see," he said.
Things begin to change!
That very same day, after having made some adjustments over the last couple of weeks, things began to change. That very same week was the best week of the summer and from that day on, the results I started to get were much better. That week I booked two jobs, and from them came two others. In addition, I was called back three times for commercials and put on hold for twice as well. Unfortunately I didn't book the commercials, but I knew I was getting closer.
Also, the casting directors for whom I auditioned, after being put on hold, began to call me directly, bypassing my agent, because they also believed that sooner or later I would book something. Just a side note, although they called me directly without going through my agent, I always involved my agent anyway. She has been good to me and I don't want to ruin that relationship. It's not worth it. For other things that I submit myself for, however, I keep all the pay.
Notions from a Casting Director
Rob Decina: Once I took a workshop with a noted soap casting director named Rob Decina. He was telling us about the audition process. He told us that for contract roles, which to my understanding are the regular main characters that you see each and every day, he sees 350 actors in NY and then flies to LA to see 350 more. Only a few are chosen to audition again and from them, just two or three are chosen to do a screen test with one of the real actors and after all that, only one actor is chosen! His point was to go audition and then move on with your acting career and your life. If they want you, they will call you. If not, they won't. The chances are very slim, especially for roles such as those.
He also told us something that I alluded to earlier, which is that the reason an actor doesn't get the job might not have anything to do with his/her performance on that day during the audition. It could be because she's just a couple of inches too short or because of the hair color or a certain look. For a male actor it could be because he is too short and maybe his girlfriend on the program would be too much taller than him. There are so many reasons why an actor may or may not be chosen and they will never tell you. So, again his point was just audition and then walk away. Don't worry. Don't call to see if you got the part. Just go on with your life.
I've been in a few situations and when you get down to the wire, it's not always easy to just walk away and not think about it, which leads me to something else that you need to be aware of that could happen.
I went in to audition for a big national commercial. I felt good, got there early, learned the copy and felt confident. I had to audition together with a female actor and we had to pretend we were a couple and act as though we were on the red carpet of a Hollywood awards ceremony. I was dressed to a T and felt good.
They called me back! I was excited, because it was one of the first call-backs I had gotten. It was great! I wore exactly the same thing, which was what I was told to do for a call-back audition. The reason to wear the same thing is that, the reason they called you back is because they like what they saw, so don't change it if it ain't broke! Anyway, I auditioned again, this time with another woman and a slightly different situation. This time we had to act like we were getting out of a limousine and pose for pictures.
They called me again! This time they asked me to block some dates, three to be exact. This is called, being put on hold. One was a Friday for the fitting of the clothes we were to wear and the Monday and Tuesday for the actual shoot! It was a national commercial with residuals and everything! I was psyched!
It was Tuesday of the week of the fitting. I waited for someone to call.
Then Wednesday came. No one called.
Thursday came and again. No one called. I called my agent to see if she had heard anything. She had not.
Thursday evening came. No one called.
Friday morning... No one called. I called my agent again. She told me how sorry she was. She had also tried to call to see what the deal was, but she didn't get an answer. At that point, she told me that it was probably safe to say that I had been released. She also told me that this is normal, unfortunately and that I should get used to it. In this industry, things are done in this way. It's not right, she said, but that's the way some folks are.
So there you have it. Sometimes you don't even get a courtesy call! They ask you to be courteous enough and professional and block a date and then they don't even call to tell you they don't need you. The bad thing is that sometimes, as I had to do during that particular period, I had to juggle some other commitments and jobs and on-holds around the dates for that commercial. I told the truth to the others and maybe for that, I missed out on some other opportunities. You live and you learn. That's part of what auditioning is all about.