Below are some notes that I posted in a project area (for last year's Lady X Films series) that accompany the notes, above.
I've finally gotten around to assembling the various audition materials we used on Episode 20. Very sorry it took so long. You can find the files in thee "auditions" folder on my .Mac home page
To make sense of them, however, some explanatory notes are needed.
Our Audition Process
We wanted to conduct a highly structured audition process that ran professionally, efficiently, and treated the actors with respect for their time.
1. We rented space in a park field house to conduct the auditions. This particular location is frequently used for auditions (I've no idea why) and is well known to the local actors.
2. We ran an ad in a local theatrical newspaper calling for auditioners for four roles in our episode. The ad instructed interested parties to call a phone number between certain hours to register for a specific audition time-slot. We allotted each auditioner 5 minutes and allotted 4 hours for auditions. When actors phoned, we collected some basic information from them and used the "Audition-Schedule.xls"
workbook to log the schedule.
3. We constructed a brief questionnaire that auditioners would complete when they arrrived ("Questionnaires.doc"
). This Microsoft Word document was designed to draw data ("merge") directly from the "Audition-Schedule.xls" worksheet. On the audition day we simply merged the auditioners' names and times into the Questionnaires.doc file to produce a pre-sorted set of personalized questionnaires.
4. As actors arrived they signed-in at the reception table (on a printed copy of "Check-In-Sheet.xls"
). They were given their personalized questionnaire to complete and were then given the side for whichever part they were reading. (I've provided one sample of a side in the file "ScriptSegmentSample.pdf
".) Note that we wanted everyone to read their sides 'cold', with only a short time to review the dialog. (The "Registration-Table-Sign.xls"
was just that: it was printed and used as directional signage at the registration table.)
5. As the actors were called into the audition room individually, they brought their questionnaire with them, along with their resume and head-shot. We attached the questionnaire to the resume and head shot, and then used the questionnaire to slate the video of the audition. (That's why the name on the questionnaire is in such large type.) This was an absolutely invaluable techique, particularly since we auditioned so many people over two evenings. I captured the audition tapes into FCP and then used FCP's auto start-stop detection to break the footage into sub-clips (for each auditioner). I then named each sub-clip to enable instant access to each audition during review.
6. As a matter of respect for the actors we notified everyone of their status via email. I was told that actors are almost never given such notifications unless they are selected or are called for a re-read. I thought that just letting people dangle would be in extremely bad taste and would not be done in most other endeavors. The actors seemed extremely appreciative of the follow-up, and several have continued to keep in touch with me as a result.
- It's helpful to provide actors with a paragraph or two of back-story for the character they are reading, even if the back-story never enters the actual film. It helps them get into their part.
- It's also imperative that you HIGHLIGHT the lines of the script they are to read, particularly at a cold reading. This is a stressful process for actors and such little guides are comforting to them.
- Be sure to give actors a script segment long enough for them to get into and representative of the key aspects of the character. This may mean writing a segment specifically for the audition.
The Actual Audition
- There should be two or three people in the room, but don't bring a crowd. One person should just run the camera, making sure to get a variety of wide, medium close-up, and extreme close-up shots during each reading. One person should read against the auditioner. Actors do best when they have someone to read against. A third person could be taking notes. We used only two people.
- Light the auditioners. This serves three purposes. First, it will, of course, give you better footage. Second, it will let you see how the actor looks under basic lighting. Third, it helps to show how comfortable the actor is with lighting. We used a Lowell Caselight 4 to provide basic soft light on the actors.
Overall, this proceedure took quite a bit of detailed planning and organizational work. But it was worth it, as the process worked extremely well. Incredibly, we had very few no-shows, despite some horrific summer storms on the first evening. The phone-in registration scheduling process was very valuable for helping to ensure that time was used well. I would certainly repeat this process for such a future venture.
I hope this is helpful to you.