LLL d 31_5418.NEFCasting directors in a scene from “La La Land” / Lionsgate

On Monday, June 5th, I had the honor and privilege of being a reader for a prominent casting director who was casting various roles for a feature film. As the reader, I brought each scheduled actor into the room and read the other characters in the scene they were auditioning for. A reader gives the casting director the opportunity to focus on the actor who’s auditioning, to take notes on them and give re-directs if necessary.

This was my third time being on the other side of the casting desk. The first time was when I was a reader for an AFI short film that was being cast by another prominent casting director. The second time was when I was casting for my own TV pilot. With this project, I read the entire script for context and I rehearsed the scenes I was in so that I could impinge and affect the actors when they read with me.

Being a reader this past Monday was a great confirmation and reminder of things I already understood about the casting process and I wanted to share it with you all:

1) Don’t take it personal if you don’t get the job. There are so many reasons why you don’t get the job. Reasons that are out of your control. This particular casting director (and the director of the feature film) was looking for something very specific with certain roles. So either the actors had it when they walked in the room or they didn’t. In some cases, several of the actors had one dynamic of the character, but lacked another dynamic of the character. All good and talented actors that came into the room. But again, nothing personal. The people behind the scenes are putting together a complicated puzzle and have to make sure the pieces fit looks-wise, age-wise, type-wise. One actor was too tall. Another was too short. One didn’t look high school enough. One didn’t look nerdy enough. Our job as actors is to deliver a strong product and book the audition rooms so that we can be brought back for other projects in the future. Remember, casting directors are not just casting that one project…they are casting other projects down the line.

2) Don’t take it personal if the casting director seems “unfriendly” or “cold”. This particular casting director was literally juggling 10 different things in between each audition session. It’s not that they were cold. This casting director loves actors. It’s just that they were dealing with a myriad of things regarding the project. In between actors coming into the room, this casting director was calling one particular agency to see if they could resolve a scheduling conflict with an actor they already cast in the feature; or they were working out a deal memo; or they were calling Breakdown Services to re-release a breakdown for another character; or they were on the phone with the director and producer of the feature film to let them know that they might be losing one of the lead actors due to a scheduling conflict.

3) Make strong choices. The actors that booked the room made strong choices and delivered a product. One actor asked me before we entered the room, “What do you guys want to see from me?” I answered, “Do what you prepared and they’ll give you a re-direct if necessary.” Don’t ask or figure out what the casting director wants to see from you. Create your product and deliver it. Show us what you created and how you brought this character to life. Give us the answer. Believe in what you created.

4) Don’t apologize. Apologizing before you start your audition, apologizing during your audition or apologizing after your audition doesn’t serve you. Apologizing leaves something in the room that doesn’t need to be in there. Apologizing leaves this icky feeling/energy in the room. Once you apologize, it gives us an “out” to not root for you. Once you apologize, you’re shaping our viewpoint of what you’re about to present to us or what you just presented to us. Don’t apologize. Do your best and let us have our own opinion and viewpoint about your audition. Don’t apologize for us and leave us with an apology.

5) Casting directors are rooting for you. They want you to be the answer!

This was a great experience and I hope to do it again!

An Audition I Did

Our teacher, Richard Lawson, recently assigned us to find audition sides, do a self-tape and then submit it to the casting director of that particular project.

I found sides from a TV series and quickly began using Richard’s technique
for audition preparation called The Subtees Process. I spent a total of five hours on The Subtees Process to create the product I wanted.

I did the audition in class and delivered my product. I delivered exactly what I had worked on during The Subtees Process. After the class watched my audition, our teacher that morning, the amazing Kelly Tighe, gave me my assessment. She started off with what worked about it and what I could fix in the second take. Here at the studio, the philosophy is “Find The Good And Praise It”. Find what works about it first, praise it, and then present the adjustments and fixes.

Kelly thought I did a great job. That I allowed myself to be seen. That I am a leading man. That I had no judgement on the character or on myself. I had no walls up and I wasn’t hiding: What you see is what you get. She clearly got my apparent event (what we think is going on in the scene) and the actual event (what is really going on in the scene) The actual event is where the character’s subtext and inner life occurs.

I identified and carved out the following apparent event:

I’m showing off my new restaurant space to a friend.

I identified and carved out the following actual event:

I’m actually in love with her.

Kelly gave me the following notes to work on for the second take:

  • In your moment before, what are you looking at? Be more specific with what you’re looking at and let it impinge you. What you were looking at in the first take was a little general. (I was looking at the restaurant space during my moment before, but it was general. I didn’t really see anything in particular.)
  • How does Jorge react when someone critiques him? (I ask the girl what she thinks of the new space and she uses general, uninspired words like “Very nice” and “Fantastic” I reacted well to her comments in the first take, but how do I really react?) What’s the sting for Jorge? In this way, the other character’s words land on me in a more personal way.

I repeated the take in five minutes and nailed the notes. My audition elevated to another level. In those five minutes, I kept what worked and added the new notes Kelly gave me. In my moment before, I looked at a cable that ran along the wall and I actually became interested in the yellow velcro ribbon tied around it. I also became interested in the screw that held the cable up against the wall. I really looked at these things and became interested. On camera, I looked like I was beaming with pride over my new restaurant space, but I was actually in love with the cord on the wall. That specificity helped me to create a stronger moment before. My eyes focused on something specific. It helped me to pull in the environment even more into the audition and to be more connected to it throughout the audition. The specifics of the environment enhanced my storytelling, my belief and my pride in the restaurant on camera.

When the character gave her reaction to the new space, I reacted as I would. So, it became more personal to me. In the five minutes I had to apply the notes, I looked at how I respond to critiques and how I respond when I expect a certain answer and I don’t receive it.

After the second take, fellow friend and classmate, Lindsay Hopper, said, “You were able to still be flirty with her…even though you were clearly affected by what she was saying, you had good-humored inflexibility in what you wanted to hear from her. But you didn’t make her feel bad about it because you clearly like her. So that was a subtlety you brought in the second take that I don’t remember you doing so much in
the first take.”

So, for your viewing pleasure, here is the second take of the audition I sent to casting: