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Old June 7th, 2004, 10:41 AM   #1
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Whats it like doing Casting Auditions? Have you done 1?

Hi There, thanks for checking this thread out,
i would like to know please if anyone has done casting auditions for their film, it will be interesting to know thanks,

Cheers,
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Old June 7th, 2004, 12:04 PM   #2
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Sure - I have. It was a great experience and I got to know a lot of new actors in town. What kind of information are you looking for specifically?
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Old June 7th, 2004, 12:39 PM   #3
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I still have some notes and supplementary audition materials on my .Mac site at this writing. Perhaps it will give you some ideas.
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Old June 7th, 2004, 12:41 PM   #4
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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.

Additional Tips
Script Sides:
- 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.
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Old June 7th, 2004, 01:38 PM   #5
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Ken,
Thanks for that summary! Very helpful indeed. I plan to make use of your templates in the near future as well.
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Old June 7th, 2004, 03:41 PM   #6
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Hi Ken, thanks for the info and templates, gives me some good thinking,

Hi Imran, what can you describe, anything would be of some help as every little detail is usful,

Many Thanks
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Old June 9th, 2004, 01:34 PM   #7
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Here are some random thoughts I have on the subject. Not as organized as Ken's, but here you go...

For your casting call, be sure to specify if it's paid or not. Union or not.

I prefer to collect headshots and resumes before the actual auditions - which I don't do as open auditions - I prefer to schedule them beforehand with all the folks who seem to have the most promise off the bat. It's a little more work, but it can lead to a much more productive audition.

I found much more success in receiving headshots and resumes through email rather than snail mail. Most seem to submit that way anyway, though I did get some via snail mail. But try to push for email - it's easier to keep track of what your communications are that way, plus you get more response and faster submissions.

Be sure to spell out 'types' of people that you are looking for, but don't be offensive or too race-conscious. Often times a role do-able by one ethnicity can be done perfectly well by another ethnicity. Make your film a race rainbow - it will be much more interesting and original, and it can add new depths to an otherwise 'normal' character.

I found great success posting free casting calls in various actor sites and local filmmaking sites around town.

It's also helpful to find out about any 'working actor' emailing lists out there in your area that go out weekly with casting notices and such, and subscribe to them. That way you can ask them to post your casting call as well.

Pick a good, professional location for your casting calls. For my stuff, I'm lucky enough to have a good friend who works at a headshot reproduction facility, and most of the actors have been at the location before anyway. But shoot for offices of some sort at least if you can. Nobody, especially not a lady, wants to come to some strange man's basement to to try out for their "movie".

Be courteous and respond to everybody if you can. I know this is not industry norm, but it's a polite thing to do, and if you're just a beginning filmmaker trying to make a name for yourself locally first, then it will help you get a good reputation. Even if you know there's no way you will cast them, it can never hurt to have a form response ready to send to someone that thanks them for submitting their info, and if there's a fit, your casting director will contact them, etc. It's just a nice thing to do - and if you can get someone to help you do this, great.

Also, for those people that did audition for you, if you cast someone else, be sure to let them know in very positive language that the role is cast, it was a tough decision, thanks for your time, etc. If they really were a strong candidate and you want to use them possibly in the future, tell them this, and make it personable. They will love you for this and will work with you any day because of your good nature.

Try to avoid cold reading. I did much research on the subject, and there was nobody, whether actor or casting director or director, who liked the concept of cold readings. They're mostly for large scale advertising-type productions that are not line heavy, and usually have tons of applicants that they need to move fast. It is not a good way to cast a narrative film at all. Provide your candidates with 'sides' beforehand. You will get a much more productive audition out of them.

That's all I can think off off-hand... Also, Ken's notes are great and my experiences with casting concur with his notes completely.


Oh, and be professionable, personable, and downright friendly. Independent filmmakers such as ourselves can't afford to pay our actors very well, if at all, so the least we can do is make the experience a fun one for your talent. Establish cameraderie with everyone on the cast if you can with a casual table reading, let everybody feel like they are helping build a final film that everyone can be proud of together, and most of all, enjoy what you're doing and everyone will see that joy in your eyes and have fun with you.

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Old June 9th, 2004, 02:09 PM   #8
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<<<-- Be sure to spell out 'types' of people that you are looking for, but don't be offensive or too race-conscious. Often times a role do-able by one ethnicity can be done perfectly well by another ethnicity. Make your film a race rainbow - it will be much more interesting and original, and it can add new depths to an otherwise 'normal' character. -->>>

Hmmm, I don't know. I'm not saying you do this Irman, but sometimes movie makers go in trying to have a 'rainbow' cast, and then they end up giving certain racial groups the demeaning and stereotypical parts. This can be offesnive to an entire group of people, so be careful. It might be cool to have an Asian actor in your movie, but is he the Kung Fu master in it? Or is that Black guy the car jacker? Know what I mean? Personally, I don't have a problem with all White movies, all Black movies, mixed movies, or all whatever movies.
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Old June 9th, 2004, 02:31 PM   #9
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I'm just trying to circumvent the most common local filmmaker problem - casting for all white cast because they don't tend to see beyond the color block. It's very common here in Orlando, and I imagine in many other cities and suburban towns around the states. Not being white myself, I notice this more than, say, a white person would.

I've come to notice, that in the above type of film, when color does enter the picture, THAT is when the stereotypes come out - like as if the filmmaker is looking to the non-white actor when they need a caricature or a 'character actor'. But when you look at a regular joe character, one that is just a human character, more often than not it really doesn't matter what the heck color they are. They could be white, asian, south asian, arab, french, swahili - it doesn't matter, as long as the choice doesn't make it a race thing - where the character is wearing their race on their sleeve, thus changing the nature of the written bit.

It's like the old controversial topic - how come when you say Steven Soderbergh, he's just a filmmaker, but then when you say Spike Lee, he's a black filmmaker. This is sure to spark controversy, but it just goes to illustrate my point - etchnicity is a controversial thing in film, and the sooner we stop looking at colors, the sooner we get past the controversy.

That's where the indie filmmaker comes in - we get to pick folks ourselves, with no studio head telling us what to do. We just go for talent - so what my advice is, short story long, go with talent, not color. And don't just resort to 'token' placement.
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Old June 11th, 2004, 09:30 PM   #10
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Another thing that might help in the process is having comeone you really trust (or even yourself) do the sign in, as you'll be able to see how the actors truly interact with one another.

Personally I'd rather be sitting out with the actors talking to them and seeing how they interact (without them knowing I was a director or producer) and let my AD give them some slight direction in the audition room. Then after I've met everyone I can see how they look on tape and how they take direction. I don't think this way works for everyone, but it's really worked well for me.

As far as the racial thing goes, I believe that if someone knocks your socks off you'll really won't even see their color at all, butI also think you should just cast someone because they are of some certain ethnicity.
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Old June 11th, 2004, 09:38 PM   #11
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"Another thing that might help in the process is having comeone you really trust (or even yourself) do the sign in, as you'll be able to see how the actors truly interact with one another."

Nick: That is a very significant remark. At what turned out to be a 2-day session auditioning 80 people my wife and a very close friend worked the sign-in table. Their impressions of people were invaluable in making final casting selections.
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Old June 12th, 2004, 05:44 PM   #12
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I definitely agree. I had a friend taking care of that as well, and it is very interesting what else you learn about a person in this first impressions stage...
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Old June 12th, 2004, 11:29 PM   #13
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Casting...actor's POV

You've already gotten a lot of good feedback. Here' mine:

Be specific in your character breakdowns. If age, race, physicality, etc. is important say so. You'll still get plenty of submissions from people who aren't remotely right for the project, but you can help limit the time factor on your end and the wasted photos on the actor's end if you will be as specific as is reasonable for the role/project.

SAG project? Which contract? Low budget, modified low budget, limited exhibition, ect. (check www.sagindie.org ) If it's a SAG shoot make sure you have a SAG sign in sheet.

How long is your shooting schedule? Is is to take place over a number of weekends and/or consecutive days? In town or overnight location? If on location, is housing and transportation provided (assuming non-union project)? If this information is not provided on the casting breakdown, it should be available, posted, discussed, etc. at the casting session. No use casting someone who can't go out of town for a week if that's what you need.

Give the actors a short synopsis on the breakdown so they can know if yours is a story they'd be interested in helping tell. Some people won't want to do Teenage Catgirls in Heat...some people will.

Don't ask for multiple copies of their headshots unless there is a good reason for it. Pictures cost the actor money.

Try to schedule your readings at reasonable intervals...every 10 to 15 minutes, for instance...and do your best to stay on schedule. You won't...but do your best. Don't forget to schedule a lunch/dinner break for yourself and your crew. But PLEASE, try not to eat during the auditions.

Always video your auditions.

Give the actors an information card or paper to fill out when they sign in. You'll need contact numbers, home address, union affiliations...if any, sizes, willingness to work as an extra, transportation, etc. This is all information that can be given to a PA or AD or wardrobe person to facilitate post casting necessities.

If you're doing a SAG audition, you pay the actors after they've been sitting for an hour, so keep that in mind...though I don't suspect you're talking about a SAG audition.

Have someone GOOD read with the actors. Don't hamstring your actors and your audition process by making them read with your kid brother or you Aunt Susie who use to do community theater. Unless they're good, of course.

If you have time, let the actor read the part twice. Give some direction after the first time and suggest different approach...especially if their initial choices are not what you are looking for... to see if the actor can take direction and make an adjustment on the spot.

If there is nudity or anything else that you think might make an actor uncomfortable or unwilling to do the role, (sorry about your allergies, didn't we mention the 12 cats you're working with?) state that up front in your breakdown. No use having the actor waste a photo and you waste your time culling through pix and resumes of people who don't want to go down the same road as you.

As for observing actors in the waiting room...if could have a place, certainly. But most actors, if they are experienced, do not chat excessively or interact much at all while waiting to read. Most actors will be visualizing their scene(s), trying to nail the lines, etc. and will be courteous enough to keep the chatter down so that their fellow actors can do the same.

Hope this helps.


Good luck!


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Old June 13th, 2004, 02:33 PM   #14
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So how do find someone for them to read against? That can be
a hard thing to do if you don't know any or much actors.
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Old June 13th, 2004, 07:09 PM   #15
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In my auditions one of the crew read against each auditioner.
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