Auditions: from both sides of the table

Posted: January 25, 2013 in Filming, Industry, Pre-production

It’s been a while since we’ve run auditions, but I thought it might be worth writing about the subject. What follows is meant for both low-budget indie filmmakers/producers and also those kind prospective cast members who come along to audition.

Sod it, let’s turn this into a game of advice-tennis.

Producers: Hire someone pleasant and professional to hold auditions, or at least as close to pleasant and professional as you can afford. Don’t invite people to audition ‘at your house’ because it not only sounds massively dodgy but also suggests you have no organisational skills whatsoever. A room above a pub will do at a push, and you can probably get that for free if you ask arouund and get it during the day when nobody else is using it. Better than a room above a pub would be one of the business or function rooms in a hotel. If you go this route, though, for Christ’s sake you make sure that you specify ‘Function Room 1’ or whatever on the directions to your prospective cast. Asking them to audition ‘at your hotel room’ sounds even dodgier than ‘at your house’.

Cast: Turn up on time. If you’re not going to turn up on time, send a polite message as soon as you can letting the producers know. If you’re not going to turn up AT ALL, let them know at least a day in advance. Weirdly enough, I can still remember the names of pretty much every actor who has completely failed to turn up for an audition and just left us sitting there, and not in a good way. A special note for one guy who failed to show in Summer 2007: if you’re going to fail to turn up for an audition, and you’re going to fail to notify the people sitting in the room waiting for you, please do NOT then send an excited email a couple of days later trying to plug the project that you decided to work on rather than attend the audition. For fuck’s sake.

Producers: Be absolutely upfront about everything. You might feel awkward telling people what crappy money you’ll be paying them, but you need to do this BEFORE you expect people to drag themselves across town (or further) to attend an audition. If you’re explaining how little you’re going to pay when you’re sitting face to face YOU HAVE LEFT IT TOO LATE. Likewise, if your script requires nudity, or being held underwater or licking live rats or whatever, (and there’s no possibility of dropping these elements if your actor isn’t up for them), then if you’re telling them face to face YOU HAVE LEFT IT TOO LATE. If there’s something that might absolutely rule out an actor’s participation other than them being simply wrong for the role, you have a duty to try everything in your power to find that out before asking them to travel anywhere. That’s your bare minimum.

Cast: If you’ve been given a script extract in advance, read it in advance. I know, I know. There ain’t enough hours in the day for any of us. Personally, I wouldn’t expect you to know an extract by heart, necessarily, (although some might), but I won’t be expecting you to say ‘I haven’t had a chance to look at this, sorry’ either. Oh, and if you’re too hungover to audition properly I’m not sure it particularly matters whether you announce this fact or not. I suspect you won’t get the role regardless.

Producers: Telling people they haven’t got the role after they’ve auditioned sucks. Just because it sucks doesn’t mean you don’t have to do it. A prompt, courteous email is the bare minimum for people you’ve face-to-faced. A phone call can more problematic on both sides but is probably the better option for someone you’ve seen more than once (or led to believe they were a front-runner). Professionalism, courtesy and respect, folks.

Cast: once you’ve had that email or call, that’s the bit where you go away, I’m afraid. Sending endless emails at this point isn’t a good look for anyone. Try not to over-analyse why you didn’t get the part, either; odds are it was something someone else did incredibly right rather than anything you did wrong.

Everyone: Be nice. Be kind and friendly and professional. Remember that people’s feelings are at stake as well as the movie. Being professional but pleasant is possibly almost as important as being right for the role. I can remember thinking “this person seems very talented, but seems like they might be a nightmare” quite often, and that factor has probably swung my decision more times than I care to admit. A set only works when everyone is pulling in the same direction; if you’re openly rude to hotel staff at an audition, the odds are that you won’t be much more considerate to those around you on a set.

Usual disclaimer: I’m not saying any of this stuff putting myself forward as some kind of guru or role model. Shit, I know I’ve failed to follow my own advice on a few occasions (as anyone who has auditioned at my house will attest) but I put these ideas forward in the hope that we can keep the experience of auditioning as painless as possible for everyone concerned.

See you in Function Room 1, guys.

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