We just held a casting call for our short film "The Farm" which I am working on with Ghost Walk Productions, LLC. This was the first time any of us have conducted an audition session and it went very well. We also received compliments from the actors on how we went about doing it, and I am going to share that with you.
Most of our advertisment was word of mouth through Facebook. We had made some connections with local actors (Cleveland, Ohio area) and once we started posting the casting call on FB the news spread through the local actor network. Actors who know and work with other actors keep in touch to let each other know about casting calls and projects as they learn of them. We also advertised on the company websites and a few other places but I believe by far the word of mouth on Facebook was our biggest benefit. We had responses from up to a couple hundred miles away.
We were calling for only experienced actors and it was stated right up front "No Pay." Any funds made from this film will be to fund other projects. We will promote the actors as much as possible through several websites and Facebook accounts, references, and the film will be exhibited in Film Festivals. It is another credit for the actors, another clip they can show for reference for new jobs, and more experience for growth. We even had a SAG (Screen Actor's Guild) actor who auditioned. Her reasoning was looking for something that is really creative and refreshing to add to her "reel" and she said Independent films offer this. This is something other than what she had been getting in television and corporate film, according to her. At the time of her audition she was even preparing for a New York stage performance of a play.
We had to ask at a number of locations but we found a hotel that offered the use of a conference room for an advertisement banner on our company website. This is where having 50,000 followers and over 10,000 hits a day comes in handy. They even provided a pitcher of ice water and cups.
At the auditions were 4 of us. This was comprised of myself (Director), Casting Director, Art Director, and a Production Assistant. The Production Assistant sent in the next actor when it was time, answered some of the actors questions, timed our audition durations and notified us by text that we had 3 minutes left, and entertained the actors with her fun personality while they waited. She engaged them in conversation as she was just as enamoured to be in their presence and learn about them. This really helped the time to go by for the actors as they waited.
There are a hundred different ways to conduct an audition with different schools of thought as to why it should be done a certain way. Our principles were based on our perception of what we were looking for. Your's may be different and just as correct. Go with what makes the most sense for you.
We wanted to see what kind of performance the actors were capable of. When actors are filmed they have received the script, have memorized the lines, practiced with an acting buddy, and rehearsed with their co-actors. They are familiar with the part and are prepared to perform this character. As such, we wanted our actors to perform a monologue which they were already comfortable with and felt enabled them to exhibit their abilities.
At many auditions the actors are handed a page of a character they have never heard of and know nothing about and are told "Ok, go," and they have to make quick judgments about the character they are portraying and snap into a performance that is more of a test than an exhibition of how well they can act, as opposed to when they are cast in a roll, have had time with a script, and know what they are doing. We feel if we were casting people for an improv type film this typical type of auditioning would be fine, but we are not there to give them a test. We are there to see what kind of actors they are, and what they are like with familiar material, like they will be performing in our film.
We sat down with each actor and took about 5 to 7 minutes just talking with them. We explained why we are doing auditions this way and what we were looking for. This notion was well received and our conversations helped to relax the actors too. It was also fun to talk with them and learn a little something about them.
Then it was time to record their performance. I had marked an "X" on the floor at the opposite end of the room with masking tape for them to stand, or place a chair, on. I had a shotgun mic mounted on a tripod near them and aimed well. A 160 LED light on top of my camera helped to fill in their face, even though the lighting in the room was pretty good. Their monologue was to be between 1 and 3 minutes.
After their performance I might ask them how they came to choose this piece to perform. Those can be very interesting stories and are quite varied. Remember, beyond getting the info you are looking for people like to talk most about themselves. That makes them very comfortable and the additional information may be very valuable, and more than if you had asked specific questions. This was also the time we got compliments on what we were doing. Of course some actors will try to butter up the casting staff, but you can tell when that is happening. It was nice to get some sincere appreciation for our method. The last thing the actors wanted to know was when they could expect to hear back from us. We told them when and that it would either be by a phone call, an email, or both.
After the first 3 actors we developed a pattern. The next day we had it finely tuned. The pace went well with scheduled auditions and we also had room for walk-ins. We also had a couple people stop by just to drop off their information and headshots to be an extra, which we also called for. The first day we ran over 2 hours from the time we were expecting to finish. Part of that was because of learning that time goes fast during enjoyable conversation, and also because of the number of walk-ins we had the first day.
So that is how we conducted our first ever auditions. We all feel it went well and we were able to record what we were looking for. I hope this helps you out with your auditions. Remember, the most "right way" is the way that makes the most sense to you. Once you figure out what that is look into ways of accomplishing that process, ask others who may have been there already, and of course do a little research on the internet. There are also plenty of books with chapters on how to conduct auditions. Read them too and borrow from several methods. Just make sure when the audition is over that you have all the info about the actor that you want to pick them out of a crowd.
- Steve Olander
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