It is time to deliver better auditions for the camera, people. Myself included.
Let’s talk about preparation, the sides (script material), callbacks, and competition, shall we?
Recently, in a thread on my Facebook Group for Seattle Filmmakers and Actors, a local talent agent reported that actors in the northwest were basically embarrassing themselves (and, quite possibly, the casting director who called them in and their team – agent, manager) by looking like amateurs when compared to Los Angeles talent.
So, what is the problem? Are LA actors just in a different league than their northwest counterparts? Possibly. LA talent surely have more chances to practice their craft, seeing as there are more opportunities for actors in that region. Fine. They get to exercise their skill set more often via auditions. But, what also seems to be at issue is general preparedness (or, lack thereof). And, perhaps, how we, as actors, approach the callback/producer session.
From the feedback given from people I trust in the industry – Melissa Baldauf, Talent Agent, Seattle; Lana Veenker, Casting Director, Cast Iron Studios, Portland, OR; and Marci Liroff, Casting Director, Los Angeles, CA – I have come to the conclusion that we (northwest actors), generally speaking, need to attack auditions and callbacks with more precision.
Here is what industry leaders are saying:
From Melissa Baldauf:
“Here is a note from one of our NW casting directors that is really important for actors in our area to read. Something similar was just noted by another cd in our market: ‘Just fyi – some of these roles are being cast for in both Portland and Los Angeles. I don’t know if overall Portland just needs to massively improve it’s cold-reading skills, or if our talent just needs to make better use of their waiting time in the lobby, but I do know that we are going to lose out every time if our talent is constantly coming into interviews and callbacks with only a cursory knowledge of the sides. There was not a single person on tape out of LA that was standing there with the sides in their hands, referring back to them throughout their read. We received a note from the producers regarding the difference between LA auditions and Portland auditions, and it was not especially kind.'”
From Lana Veenker:
“It boggles the mind, but somehow the LA actors DO have all their pages perfectly memorized that they only got the night before. Have your small, folded sides in hand in case of an emergency, but arrive as polished as possible, because the LA actors are killing us in terms of preparation. If an actor can’t get off book for a callback, how can we reassure our producers that he or she will be off book for the shoot, when script pages sometimes come in the night before or morning of? The TV producers are terrified of NW actors having meltdowns on set.”
– Source: https://www.facebook.com/groups/336252909744682/
Here is the (not so magical, but quite practical) formula:
1. Get the sides.
2. Get the script (if possible).
3. Prepare the heck out the material – read it OVER AND OVER again, practice with a partner (or a recording), and pick a scene objective.
4. Keep preparing and reading and interpreting and experimenting and reading and getting comfortable. So you will be confident.
5. Nail the audition.
6. At the callback you are completely off book – yes, you can hold your sides, but keep your nose out of the paper so you can connect with your partner, pursue your actions (which are verbs and are informed by your scene objective), and navigate past obstacles.
7. Listen and respond.
8. Be a pro.
In the very near future, I will be offering Auditioning Workouts for Seattle actors. Stay posted.
And, as always, I encourage your feedback.