Tips for Talent: In the Casting Room

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To follow up on my previous article, “My Tips for Talent: The Inside Skinny of Casting,” I wanted to talk about being “in the room” — the casting room, that is.

Now that you have been called in the room for your audition, there is usually someone from production, the casting director, a camera person and possibly a reader in there. Listen to whoever is speaking, as this room is for direction. They not only want to see, hear and experience you as the role, but know if you can be directed.

For example, if you do a great read in the audition, someone might say, “Can you try it like this?” It does not mean they didn’t like what you did. Quite the contrary, most likely they are seeing if you can take direction.

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Remembering in the last article, I mentioned that when you are called in for an audition, the casting director wants you to get the role. I once had a casting call where it was myself and the writer/director in the room. The talent read the part and did a great job, but afterward said in a certain tone that they weren’t sure why we called them in since they felt the role was for someone much older. The tone left the writer/director uncomfortable, so I couldn’t bring that person in for callbacks. Everything you do impacts how those in the casting room perceive you.

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For a different film I was casting, one scene called for a woman riding on the back of a motorcycle topless. I was in the room with the two young male directors, and a woman came in and auditioned — top on, of course. When talk of nudity in the film came up, she was shy and we could tell she was uncomfortable with it. So, the directors booked her and had her in a bikini top. Don’t be afraid to be candid about your limits so everyone is on the same page. People in the business value transparency.

Once the audition process has happened, I generally ask the director for their top three choices for each role. So many things can happen by the time you book someone and/or up to the first day of principal photography. This way I easily have an immediate backup to call.

On this one film, I got the list of the director’s top three choices, but was asked if I could “throw my net out a little wider.” This time, a talent whose work we both knew and loved submitted for a role, so I called for an audition. The manager said talent was flying in on the day of our auditions. My office was right above a restaurant, so the manager, director and I waited patiently in the restaurant for her to arrive. Even though she hadn’t read the script and didn’t have time to prepare or change, she arrived, took a moment to read the sides and read the scene to the camera. It was so good, and we booked her on the spot.

The takeaway is: Be prepared, show up, leave life’s drama at the door and trust that we want you to get the role. Be true to who you are.

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