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Old February 16th, 2006, 02:25 AM   #1
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How do you run auditions?

Hi, I was wondering if anyone has advice for how to run auditions. I'm holding auditions for my new movie "After the Beep" next weekend, and I'm not quite sure how I should do it.

I've already aquired a room at the Theatre Department here on campus to hold the auditions in, and I've already sent out notices to the various Student Drama Associations. But I only have a tentative plan of how I want to run the event.

Basically, I plan to have the actors gather in one room, where there will be refreshments provided. They will fill out forms regarding background in film and theatre, reasons for auditioning, times available for shooting, etc. (The film has no budget, so we can't pay actors, therefore we'll have to fit shooting times to volunteers' schedules.) When I call them in, they will bring their form and state which part they would like to audition for. I will give them a script and ask them to do a cold reading.

The thing I'm unsure about is whether the actors should go back out to the room with the other potentials and wait, since it's only a two-hour audition, or if they should just leave and I should contact them later. I'm thinking that they should just leave after I've seen them, but I can see some advantages to calling cast members back in to do readings with each other so I can look for synergy as well. Would it be too rude to do it this way?
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Old February 16th, 2006, 04:11 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matthew Jones
Basically, I plan to have the actors gather in one room, where there will be refreshments provided. They will fill out forms regarding background in film and theatre, reasons for auditioning, times available for shooting, etc. (The film has no budget, so we can't pay actors, therefore we'll have to fit shooting times to volunteers' schedules.) When I call them in, they will bring their form and state which part they would like to audition for. I will give them a script and ask them to do a cold reading.
Hi Matthew, there are a number of threads in this forum regarding this just type auditions into the search.

http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthrea...ight=auditions

http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthrea...ight=auditions

What you have to remember is that even though the auditions are important to you ,as actors they will go to hundreds of auditions as part of their job meaning you are not obligated to make them all comfortable with snacks etc.

I understand that because the part is unpaid you feel that the actors are doing YOU a favour which is not the case. Actors need YOU as much as you need them.Just make sure they know it's unpaid before they come and whoever turns up you treat them as any director would treat his/her actors.

IMO by providing refreshments and letting them pick what roles they want and fitting your shoot to their schedule etc etc you are impowering them making them feel they have control over you because the part is unpaid and that can make them difficult to work with.

My advice is run your film the way YOU want it to be run....set a date for production and tell the actors this is when it is being shot ....can you make it?. Forget about refreshments at the audition and making them feel comfortable because as it was explained in another thread they will not expect it.

As for the auditions them selves I would have a waiting area for them to sit in and another room for the auditions, in the audition room i would have my standard three point lights and a camera set up to review them later. In the waiting room i would forget the snacks and drinks and if you really wanted put a couple of magazines. When they are done with their audition tell them you will contact them shortly and send them away. You will also need an actor for them to read off of.

As I said before make sure they know its unpaid and from then on treat it like a normal shoot. And orginise your own dates for production because you'll find apart from hiring equipment and preping locations etc the actors probably won't all be available at the same time unless you set a date.

Hope This helps and good luck. oh BTW i shot a feature and the actors were unpaid thats how i know if you give them an inch they take a mile (in my experience that is)

Andy.
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Last edited by Andy Graham; February 16th, 2006 at 05:29 AM.
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Old February 16th, 2006, 06:35 AM   #3
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Matthew, I don't know if I quite go for Andy's "Treat 'em Mean" approach (but then he is from Scotland after all! :-) ) but a lot of what he says makes sense. I would say snacks food are unnecessary, maybe just a kettle and coffee/tea, and a packet of biscuits. Sopmeone to hand out forms and make them coffee and get some informal background would also help.
  • Don't let the actors "Gather" in one place and wait. Don't make it like an open casting call like Hollywood does where people just queue up for hours. You don't have that clout. Make appointments, but on your terms, you've booked a room after all. Allow, say 15 minutes per audition, 10 minutes for each auditionee plus time to discuss with your "audition buddy". Add a couple of 15 minute breaks for you to discuss more, stretch your legs or to allow catch ups if you're running late.
  • The form is a good, but ask them how flexible their schedule is, i.e. do they have full time work/family commitments they can't get around or are they willing to take holiday time to do they role. You can discuss these in the audition. Later you can decide whether the actor is worth you making scheduling compromises for.
  • Andy's right, don't ask them what part they want to play: You decide, they'll always want to play the lead. You should put out specific calls for specific roles.
  • Give them the sides when they're outside (if they're serious they'll arrive early) so they have some indication of the part they're playing.
  • tape each audition: Mid shot, gives them a little freedom to move, but you can still see their faces, but don't watch the camera viewfinder, watch THEM. Take your own photo of each actor (their resume headshots will be very glossy, they'll be well lit and made up, you need to see what raw material you're starting with.)
  • Be VERY wary of actors who, straight up ask "Can I change my lines?". Either they can't be bothered to learn scripts and cover by "improvising", b) they're trying to take artistic control, or c) they don't like the script and don't take you seriously. If you are genuinely interested in improvisation or developing the script with the actor, YOU should be the one to mention this.
  • Let them perform a short monolgue, suitable to the genre of the film (Comedy/Drama/Horror/etc. is enough). Tell them Before hand it shouldn't be more than two or three minutes. This gives them the chance to act with something they're prepared rather than something totally unfamiliar. If they run over 3 minutes Stop 'em. Some actors come in with improvisations (again, they don't want to learn lines) and get stuck in a loop that they can't improvise out of, and will go on for half an hour of you let them.
  • Let them read the lines a couple of ways, giving a bit of direction, though don't be silly and throw pointlessly silly direction. The sides should only be one or two pages of dialogue.
  • IMO Don't bother with three point lighting. Maybe one heavily diffused 800w 3/4 key just to see how they react to being lit, but three lights will probably make the room hot and uncomfortable, you could be in there all day remember.
  • If you want to pair them up and do something more in depth, schedule another audition - Call Backs they're called, telling them you'll pair them with another candidate (for a different role, so they don't feel in competition). But don't do this till you had a chance to mull it over, later in the day; watch the tapes back and discuss with other crew emmbers (certainly the producer, also the cinematographer, who has to light and shot these faces)
  • Let the actors leave after they've auditioned. When you've made a decision, then CALL each one (next day would be good). No emails, letters, postcards, faxes or text messages: Phone them. Tell all the rejected ones they were great despite not being chosen, and that you'd be happy to audition them for other parts in future projects.
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Old February 16th, 2006, 06:50 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dylan Pank
Matthew, I don't know if I quite go for Andy's "Treat 'em Mean" approach (but then he is from Scotland after all! :-) ) but a lot of what he says makes sense.[/list]

LOL Yeah were a hard bunch ;). I supose i've adopted the "treat em' mean" attitude cause the last lot I used were a pain in the neck!. I agree with the scrip thing you mentioned Dylan..if they mess with the scrip that's not a good thing. And when I used three lights I was in a very large room and I only turned them on for the takes so Dylan may be right if your in a smaller room one key is probably enough.

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Old February 16th, 2006, 05:14 PM   #5
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Thanks for the tips. I was planning on having a camera there to tape the auditions for later review, but I hadn't thought about lighting the audition. That makes a lot of sense, though. All of my lighting equipment for this movie is being checked out on a day-by-day basis from the University Library, so I'll have to make sure I reserve the equipment for the day of the audition.

Not having snacks will make this slightly more affordable, so that's good.

By the way, on a not-related-to-auditions-at-all note, I'm planning on running this production more like a theatre production than a typical movie shoot. My shooting schedule is actually adapted around my own class schedule, so plans are to work on the production on Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays each week between March 4th and April 29th. This should give me enough time to capture the whole movie. I want to spend the first weekend just doing table readings. The next week I want to get the actors up and moving. We'll rehearse each of the scenes all the way through, then work on some trouble spots. The following week actual filming will commence, and we'll try to do one scene on Thursday, and another scene on Saturday and Sunday. The movie consists of eight scenes, all totaled, so a schedule of two scenes per week will leave us about two weeks on the end for pickups and what-not. Does this sound like a good idea, or would you be hesitant to shoot a movie this way?
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Old February 17th, 2006, 01:57 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matthew Jones
Does this sound like a good idea, or would you be hesitant to shoot a movie this way?
This is one of those questions where YOU are the best person to answer it, You know all the facts.....the script, the equipment hire patterns at uni, your class schedule etc. As long as you feel comfortable with the way you have orginised it then that is the main thing.

The advice Dylan and I posted is from our own personal experience which isn't to say it is the right or wrong way to to make a film rather than it was the right way for us at the time. Every shoot is gonna be diffirent in many ways...the only thing we can do is try to know all the angles to cover and orginise as best we can. Go with your gut feeling....it's usualy right.


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Old February 17th, 2006, 07:51 AM   #7
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While I do agree with Andrew that it's your decision the only caveat that I would offer up is that your proposed schedule sounds like a very big time committment for those involved.

I'm guessing you're not paying people and it sounds like a short. (All of which is fine) but it may be a tough sell for the actors especially. Just make sure they know the schedule and time committment ahead of time and ask if there are any conflicts.
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Old February 22nd, 2006, 10:46 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dylan Pank

...Be VERY wary of actors who, straight up ask "Can I change my lines?". Either they can't be bothered to learn scripts and cover by "improvising", b) they're trying to take artistic control, or c) they don't like the script and don't take you seriously. If you are genuinely interested in improvisation or developing the script with the actor, YOU should be the one to mention this....
I actually just recieved an e-mail from a man we auditioned and were having him come to a call-back, this is what he wrote:

Is it okay if I copy these [scripts] and modify slightly some of the
lines for purposes of readability and delivery? l'll send
you a copy of any revisions I make before setting them in
stone. Also I need the scripts for any other scenes I
would be in, such as the scene where I "go off" on Alex,
which was only given to me in hard copy at the audition.

~ Jeff

Out of curosity, how would you all respond?
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Old February 23rd, 2006, 04:30 AM   #9
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If I didn't want him changing anything I would just say the writer is touchy about requests to change the final draft.

If I was going to consider it, I would say as long as it doesn't alter the story or character in any way.

At least he has asked your permission instead of taking initiative at the call back.


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Old February 23rd, 2006, 04:51 AM   #10
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If the changes are just for readability, then personally (For me, anyway) it's not an issue, if it's just changing "Somebody" to "someone", "it is" to "it's" or "I don't want to look like a lonely hopeless person" to "I don't want to look lonely and hopeless" then fine. On set though such changes should be monitored for continuity. I dare say once you hear the dialogue coming out of real actors' mouths you'll want adjustments made here and there.

I say accept it for the moment (after all he's worth calling back).

Like Andy said, if it changes the meaning and structure of the script or the character, or is likely to throw the person he's reading with, then yes, warning bells should ring.
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Old February 23rd, 2006, 09:16 AM   #11
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I'm in with Andy and Dylan. Some words or phrases just don't sound right coming from certain people.

If the guy trashes the script, then you can either pass or just say, this is the script we're working with, if you're not comfortable with the material etc...

At least you know he's looking at the script though.
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Old February 23rd, 2006, 02:12 PM   #12
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Thanks for your help. This is how I replied:

...As for the script it is okay as long as it doesn't alter the story or character in any way[...]We are not giving out other parts of the script until we have made our final decision for each character.

~Matt Sawyers
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Old February 28th, 2006, 07:04 PM   #13
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Well, I had the audition on Sunday, and only two people showed up. One of them was great and I cast him as the lead, but the other was not so great and I had to turn her down.

Fortunately, the movie is still going to get made. My co-producer went in to an acting class today and found an actress who will work as the female lead, and one of the professors has volunteered to play a minor character. I'm lucky enough to have two decent actors for friends, and both of them have also accepted minor roles. It's exciting getting everything together for a movie, even if it's only a 15 minute short like this.
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Old February 28th, 2006, 07:06 PM   #14
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I find it common for amateur actors not to show up. I double book 'em.

Good luck!
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Old March 1st, 2006, 03:11 AM   #15
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Interesting comments here regarding actors and changing lines. I find that most actors want to change lines because there working with a screenplay that has unplayable/unrealistic dialog. Think of what they're doing as the same thing that you do as a director; when you read a screenplay you havent written, your very much inclined to change things to suit your liking. I (usually) welcome actors that bring some of there own ideas, especially around dialog. Actors (like DP's, Editors and other folks) arent robots and deserve some creative freedom in exchange for their expertise.
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