This past week, after spending my days at the CCW Expo, I spent my evenings in Sunset Park Brooklyn at my friend’s studio casting my next short film memorama.
Here’s some tips I gained from the experience.
1. Preparation is Key
So my first night, which is my first time ever at this industrial building, the power is out when I get there. Just went out 3 hours earlier, on the whole block. Auditions were scheduled from 4 pm – 7 pm, and by 5:30 pm it was pitch black. My phone was dead, as I was expecting to be able to charge it at the studio. Needless to say, it was chaos.
However, because of my prep, I was able to manage. I relocated at a Dunkin Donuts down the block, secretly charging my phone behind their atm. I then redirected everyone I could there who was scheduled in the day by locating their emails I had organized in the mail client.
The end result: I only missed about 4 auditions, 3 which were rescheduled. The other was a woman who I don’t blame for running away. She called me from downstairs in the building and said, ‘um, it’s really dark, are you here?’ I said, ‘yes, I know the power is out, but I’m here. Come on up.’ She agreed and we hung up. Needless to say, I never saw her, as she must have said, screw this, I’m outta here!
2. Video a Must
It is essential to video tape your auditions. The reason I know this is because I had a much different impression during the audition, to some of the tape I reviewed later. I attribute this to the setting. You are alone in a room with someone you do not know and asking them to audition for a role they are not familiar with. Some of the actors handle this situation much better then others.
However, when you get down to just reviewing the readings, and forget all the other stuff, you have a much clearer view of the talent level. It’s almost as if I wanted the personable, nice people to read better then they did.
3. Take Advantage of the Situation
I have a scene in Memorama that takes place in a ‘dream-like’ situation. While completely scripted, I still was a little unsure of the blocking for the scene. I was also hesitant to ask actresses auditioning for the role in that scene to perform, as it is a bit challenging. However, one of the actresses convinced me she wanted to try it and so I did.
Boy, was I glad. I used my ipad as the camera and had multiple actresses play out the scene. In doing so, I learned exactly how I wanted to shoot it, and what needed to be adjusted in the script. I would say this is similar to rehearsals, but with multiple people contributing to the outcome. One actress plays it one way, then another adds to it, and so on and so on. It was quite rewarding and gave me a chance to work on my direction with multiple potential cast members.
4. Take your Time
According to the people I met with, there was one thing I did very different then most auditions they had been on. I took the time to explain the script, and get to know them briefly before the audition. This worked to my advantage in a few ways.
First, I got to know them as a person, and immediately developed an impression on what it would be like to work together.
Two, I made them feel a little more comfortable with me, and my concept. Instead of them blindly reading what they interpreted from a side, I directed them on what I was going for, and even gave them back story to digest before the reading.
Three, I got a feel for who really liked the idea, and who just wanted to get the role.
This really helped clarify who understood the concept, and had the talent/passion/drive to execute it. While certainly a little more time consuming, I think strictly hearing a reading from someone severely limits your ability to understand their capabilities. While they may not be right for this film, they may be right for something in the future. If you are taking the time to meet them, might as well make the most of it in my opinion.
5. Leverage Technology
The last tip is great for saving time, and increasing the number of auditions. Use technology that allows for video chats. I scheduled, and even re-scheduled live auditions that were missed, for online auditions. I already found one actress for a role from this process. While a little bit limiting, they still give you a better idea then a resume and headshot.
In fact, if I was doing it again, this would be my process. I would schedule as many auditions as possible over skype, ichat, facetime, google+, etc., as a weeding out process. From there, the people I really liked, I would invite to a live audition. This saves time for everyone, as the person auditioning doesn’t have to waste time if the role is not for them, and you don’t have to waste time with someone who is not right.