Tales from the Audition Room: Part 4

Back when I was 22 yrs old, (which was yesterday, obviously,) I cast my very first ultra low budget feature. The producer was a friend of mine and the script was an interesting psychological thriller, being directed by the writer, (who was also 22 yrs old, and fresh out of film school.) We held auditions […]

Tales from the Audition Room: Part 3

Several years ago, we were casting a pilot with well-known producers and a big name director. It was an ensemble cast, but there was a leading man role that you could assume would be offered out based on his description, (40s, male, former hero and “leader of the pack” type,) story line and the people […]

Tales from the Audition Room: Part 2

Recently, we were casting some co-stars for one of our shows. It was a long day of sessions (three and a half hours in the morning, three and a half in the afternoon,) reading 60+ actors for 5 or 6 different roles. (Side note: this is the benefit of not having producers in the room; […]

Tales from the Audition Room: Part 1

Several years ago, I was part of the casting team for a cable comedy pilot. The script was brilliant, the dialogue was fast, very intelligent and required a set of actors who could handle it, all the while having great chemistry with each other.

Enter: the greatest mix-and-match of my career.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, a mix-and-match is when Casting assembles a group of finalist actors for different roles and auditions them interchangeably to see who might have chemistry with each other. During these sessions, an actor could read with one other actor or several to see where the yummiest chemistry may lie. (This is different than a CHEMISTRY read where one actor is already set, and we’re looking to see who has the best mojo with that specific person.)

The writer had created a scene specifically for these two characters to audition with, and WELCOMED improvisation. (Not super common.) The scene was already VERY funny, so frankly, it was a little hard to imagine how improv could actually IMPROVE it.

We started the mix-and-match session, and had about four or five actors for each role. We paired them up and began reading the groups. Now, these actors had to read in a TINY casting office (typical) that was CHOCK FULL of producers. It was immediately hot and stuffy, and the scene lasted around five minutes per group, (which doesn’t sound like much, but five minutes of dialogue can feel like a lifetime if a pair doesn’t work.)

The first group read/improvised, and MAN, they were funny. The second group went, and somehow were even funnier. We went through all of the pairs, with each group proving to be even more hilarious than the last. I was running the camera for this session and convulsing with silent laughter. I’m pretty sure I shed a few laugh-tears, too. The creativity, (hilarious) vulgarity and chemistry oozing out of these actors was mind-blowing.

After going through one round of pairs, we began to mix them up. This went on for a LONG TIME. None of us had anticipated every partnership having SO much chemistry. Every new pair came in, paid no attention to how hot and noticeably sweaty they were, or how exhausted (and probably starving,) they may have felt. They came in with a new partner and somehow raised the bar on their previous reads/improv. EVERY. SINGLE. GROUP. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

I’ll always remember that mix-and-match as the hardest I’ve ever laughed during an audition process, but more than that, how unbelievably open-minded and hard-working these actors were to AUDITION (not screen test, not shoot a scene, but AUDITION,) so many times in a single morning, without a hint of complaint, and how they gave more and more with each read.

I have no memory of how we chose actors from that group who we wanted to test. But I CAN recall EVERY actor from that mix-and-match. Even though only two of them ended up booking the series roles, we found guest star roles that season for at least a few others. To this day, all ten of those actors are forever highlighted in my memory as people I want to work with, no matter the project or role.

Welcome to the Audition Room

Casting Directors are on your side (seriously.)

CASTING LOVES YOU!

I like to include this hashtag in my social media posts because there seems to be an underlying sense that Casting Directors are an enemy of the actor. Truth time: outside of your family, we are your BIGGEST supporters.

The audition room (virtual or live) can be an intimidating place. Sometimes the CD isn’t always warm and fluffy, but that does not diminish the fact that Casting wants you to succeed.

With that in mind, here are TEN things to remember about us kindly Casting folks:

1. We WANT you to be “the one.” If you are invited to read, whether it be in person or via self-tape, we are envisioning you as a real option for that role. Nothing is more satisfying to a Casting Director than an actor who absolutely nails an audition/redirect, because it validates our creative genius [brushes dust off shoulders] and it means our work on that role is done.

2. We’ve selected you out of THOUSANDS of submissions. If you’ve made it in to the audition room, we already like you. (See #1.) We’ve culled down our choices from hundreds or thousands down to very few. We have to be a fan to give you one of those coveted spots. Walk into the room (or tape) with the confidence of knowing that Casting digs your work.

3. We have bad days, too. There are many aspects to a Casting Director’s job, and (shockingly) not all of them are fun. Beyond being creative and engaging with actors in the audition room, we are also up against crazy deadlines, we have producers/directors/executives all of whom might have a differing opinion on a character, we are constantly needing information from or in tough negotiations with reps, and on top of that, we are human beings with our own personal shit. Forgive us if we aren’t overly friendly when you walk into the room. We’ve got a lot on our plates.

4. If we request a self-tape instead of a live audition, it doesn’t make us any less interested in you. There are only so many hours in the day to read people and watch tapes. As such, we don’t throw out self-tape requests willy-nilly. If your rep doesn’t get you in live, but DOES get you a self-tape request, it means that we are interested to see your take on the role. Take it as a good sign (see #2.)

5. We all enjoy and appreciate actors. There is no way you can get into casting without loving actors. We love what you are capable of, and we love that you are fearless in pursuit of truth and beauty. We may not always be able to match your abundant energy, but that doesn’t mean we dislike being around you.

6. If we’re passionate about an actor for a role, we will work our BUTTS off until everyone else sees it, too. I’ve edited reels, spent hours looking for and ripping additional footage, put together photo collages, re-read actors multiple times to get an EXACT take… And I’m sure every Casting Director you meet will have similar stories of the hurdles they’ve jumped to get an actor hired.

7. If we aren’t in the room for your read, assume there’s a good reason. Casting Directors are constantly being pulled in 18 different directions at once. We’ve got conference calls, and emails, and deals in process, and self-tapes coming in, and oh yeah, sometimes we need to use the restroom. Also, occasionally, we just need a break from the audition room. If it’s your turn to read and the CD steps out and has a member of their staff read you instead, it is by no means a sign of disrespect or disinterest. We do this because we trust our staff to guide you, and we trust you to be make strong choices, and to be open-minded and professional. We will gladly watch your tape after the session.

8. If you only get one take, don’t assume it’s because we hated what you did. Hey, guess what? Sometimes you nail it on the first take. Sometimes we find you very interesting, but just not right. Both of these are reasons why we might not have you read a scene again.

9. When you are in our audition room, Casting is not your parents/therapists/spouses/acting coaches. We may adore you and even be real/social friends, but when you come to audition, we want to see you work. We are there to guide you through the material, not coach you on career obstacles or coddle you when you mess up. Remember, we have crazy deadlines and likely a waiting room full of people. We care about you, but when you’re in our room, we want to keep things (warmly) professional.

10. Do good work, and we will find you. These days, because there are so many mediums (TV, film, shorts, web series, theatre, etc.) actors are always seem concerned that they will never be seen or discovered. If you are doing strong, exciting work, then somehow, someway, we will see it. If you build it, we will come. Every time.

Pilot Season - What Does it Mean When Casting Says or Does...

Pilot Season Anxiety: What Does It Mean When…?

As you all know by now (either from experience, or because I’ve said it a million times,) pilot season is wild.

Things move SO quickly, and sometimes Casting will say or do something that makes zero sense to you, but because you have five other auditions to prep, you roll with it without ever getting clarification.

Here are a (very) few of the weirder terms and experiences you might encounter this pilot season, and what they could mean for you:

1. You’re “Going on tape with Casting, for prods,” or “On tape for prods,” or “With Casting, on tape,” et al.

Each office has a different way of describing this kind of session, but generally speaking, it means that you will be in the room with at least one member of the Casting team and you will be taped. Unless otherwise mentioned, assume neither producers nor director will be present. This often corresponds to…

2. “We’re doing everything off tape.”

Pilot season moves QUICKLY. If a pilot was picked up later, or if it shoots out of town, or there’s script work to be done, or a seven-hour location scout, or… there could be a million reasons why the producers would prefer to watch all of the auditions off of tape. (I haven’t had a true “producer session” since 2014!) If that’s the case, there will be no such thing as pre-reads or producer sessions, everything will just be with Casting and a camera. (Gives all of you self-tapers an equal chance!) It is possible that either the director and/or producers will want to be in the room with some of the final selections at the end, but assume that if you want to be in the mix, you’ll be going in to read with just Casting.

3. “He/She/They have been sent to producers.”

This simply means that your tape(s) have been sent in a link to our producers/director for them to view, and we are awaiting their feedback. It also means that out of a gazillion reads, the Casting team is highlighting your audition. Thumbs up.

4. You’ve been “Pinned.”

Casting and/or prods saw you and LOVED you. But it’s too early for them to do anything about this particular role, so Casting “pins” you. All this means is that Casting wants to keep tabs on you. They don’t want to lose you to another show/production without knowing when a potential conflict comes up.

  • A pin is not necessarily the final step before a test or offer. You could be pinned after your first audition, but then have to go in again for a callback (or two), or chemistry read. A pin is a good thing, but it is by no means a guarantee of a booking.

5. Casting wants to read you, again… for the third time.

Are there new sides? Are there different people in the room? Is there a particular note? Sometimes these variables change, and sometimes Casting is just championing the hell out of you so that the producers will agree to put you in the mix. Which leads us to…

6. You’re in “the mix.”

Casting loves you, producers and/or director dig you, but they are not ready to start a test deal, so you are in the mix. This essentially means that you are on a short list of favorites for that particular role. At any point, you can fall out of the mix, but being in it is a big positive. (This could also refer to being considered, as in, “if they want to be in the mix, they need to make their appointment today, otherwise we’re out of time.”)

7. You’re testing against three other people.

This means that there are four actors who the creatives (producers/director/Casting) have selected to make deals with, to show to the studio/network, as their final choices for that particular role. Way to go! However, it is possible that the studio/network choose none of you, so don’t start calculating your odds based on the number of people you’re testing against.

8. It’s noon and Casting wants to read you today at 3pm.

We’re out of time, and we’re hoping you’re our Hail Mary. We don’t expect you to be totally memorized, but we do expect you to make it in and have a good attitude.

9. You’re a comedy person, and Casting wants to read you for a drama.

We know you’re funny. We don’t want you to turn that totally off. Your timing and humor is what makes you interesting and different for this role. It might not always work, but if Casting is game to try, show up with confidence.

10. We’re out of time for immigration.

If you are a non-American actor, you will know what this means. The show is shooting in the US and we need a certain amount of time to get a visa for foreign actors. If you are non-American and don’t already have a greencard or a valid 01 visa, because we have to sponsor your work papers, we will only be able to consider you up to a certain date before that role shoots.

11. Casting is just making lists for that character.

The role is likely to be offered out. That said, there have been many times where the plan was to make an offer, but after seeing a few auditions, Casting/the producers find someone who just NAILED the read. If you get called in for a role that you’ve been told is “probably going to be offered out,” don’t assume it’s a waste of time. Casting wants to see you because they believe you have a strong shot of winning it in the room.

Are there other terms or scenarios that have you like:

Tweet at me, and I’ll address your questions.

Pilot Season Anxiety - Where are my auditions?

Pilot Season Anxiety: Where Are My Auditions??

Pilot season is in full swing.

You’re reading the trades every day, seeing what’s been picked up and drooling over the auditions that are surely coming your way ANY SECOND. Or maybe they’ll come tomorrow. Or you know, it’s Friday at 6pm, so they will probably call on Monday. Ok, it’s Monday at noon, and you’re refreshing your email every five seconds, waiting for word of an audition, ANY audition… WHERE ARE MY AUDITIONS?!?!

You get the picture.

It’s easy to go a little bananas during pilot season. You know that this is the time of year that auditions rain down like manna from heaven. And you hear about your fellow actors and how they’re getting three auditions per day, (and complaining about it, to be sure.) You also know that you’re good enough to compete against any of them, so why aren’t you getting out?

There could be a few reasons, but first, I guarantee that it’s not because your reps aren’t submitting or pitching you. They’re submitting and pitching their brains out. (Remember, if you don’t make money, they don’t. Pilot season is just as important for them as it is for you.) They often call and email to pitch, even when casting specifically tells them not to, and at all hours of the day. All. Hours. Of. The. Day. I promise you, they are trying their damnedest to get you an opportunity on as many pilots as possible.

So here are a few other road blocks that may be keeping you from getting a series regular audition:

1. Your materials just aren’t up to par:

Your reel is old and/or doesn’t show you off that well. You have 20 headshots up on your profile, and we can’t tell which of them are current, (and maybe none of them truly portray who you are.) Your website is impossible for us to navigate through to find what we need. You’re using a self-tape in place of a reel, and unfortunately, it’s just not compelling material. If we are unfamiliar with you and none of these things are working in your favor, the audition gods will not smile upon you.

2. Casting doesn’t think you’re right for the character or world:

Based on the breakdown, you believe that you are clearly SO RIGHT for this particular role, and somehow you still can’t get an audition. Remember, trust Casting. We know this project intimately. We are also serving this script, these producers’ collective vision, and this network’s commercial and artistic desires. We have a VERY good idea of who and what we need. We may adore you, but if you’re not right for whatever reason, we’re not going to waste your time or ours. (Mind you, things change quickly during pilot season. So while you could be “not right” on Monday, by Friday, you’re exactly what we need. Or vice versa. See #5 for more on this.)

3. Timing:

Your rep may have called and/or emailed to pitch you RIGHT when we got caught up in a session/conference call/meeting/bathroom break/other deadline, and their pitch got lost in an avalanche of message slips or a deluge of emails that we can’t bring ourselves to look at until the next morning, when inevitably, something else pulls our attention and another day goes by without us seeing their pitch. It’s not because we don’t like you or your rep, it’s because there are literally 8,000 other things that have to happen at that exact moment. (Don’t worry: your reps will continue to call and email until we look at their pitches.)

4. Timing again:

We’ve actually already selected you as someone we want to read, but we can only see so many people in a day, and your appointment will go out when our uber-talented, but overworked/underpaid staff can find a slot for you. Be patient.

5. Casting SAID they would read you, but the role you are most right for is being offered out/is changing/is no longer a regular:

If an offer is out for a role, we try not to read people simultaneously (particularly if it looks like the offer person is engaging.) We will only audition that role if we are in a time crunch (or the offer person is unlikely to be interested,) and we need to have another great option. If a character is changing or sides are about to change or the prods have MENTIONED that they THINK they MIGHT want to change the character or sides, then we put a pause on that role and focus our attention on everything else. This will put people in a bit of limbo, but I promise that Casting is working their butts off to get clarity as quickly as possible. If a role changes from a regular to a guest star, then it’s priority is down graded. We will pick up reading people for it after some of our regs are set.

6. You think and feel that you are truly ready to be a series regular, but… :

This may not be your year to book a pilot. Plain and simple.

Now, to overcome some of these things:

1. Don’t compare your career to anyone else’s, ever: everyone succeeds in different ways, at different times. When your friend (who is not unlike you, type-wise,) tells you about their 10 pilot auditions, do not assume you should have the same. You are unique people, individual actors with dissimilar backgrounds and likely different reps. You are apples and oranges. Take a breath and try to be excited for your friend.

2. Update your materials: it may be too late for this pilot season, but if your reps give you that feedback, make that your priority number one.

3. Practice patience: do yoga, meditate, breathe, nap. This is a life skill that most of us don’t have. Now is a good time to work on it.

4. Change your focus: sitting around, pining for an audition will almost never result in one. Get your butt to class, pick up that script you’ve been writing, read a book, take your dog for a walk. Do ANYTHING other than twiddling your thumbs, waiting for an audition notice to come in.

5. Remember that other projects are casting right now: there are a gazillion series still in production, movies, shorts, web series, theatre… make yourself (emotionally and physically) available to those projects. Booking them can be just as rewarding.

Focus on being a good, professional actor, and do everything in your power to achieve THAT goal. (Go to class, read, do theatre, etc.)

If you do, the auditions (and bookings) will come, guaranteed.