Having been away for a few days on tour with our theatre show, I have come back to several inquiries, some of which prompted me to write this post.
I love to see both new and existing talent. Having "never done it before" should never be a barrier, if you wish to learn to do it now, and this is therefore a handy cut-out-and-keep guide for not only what I look for when casting one of our shows, but also summs up how I expect to behave when I audition for a casting somewhere, myself.
I do find that there are many misconceptions around what actors and independent production teams do, so hopefully, this will clear them up. Over the years people have thought we were a front for a swingers club, an ex-offenders rehabilitation team, a children's playgroup, an older-peoples drop-in club, and goodness knows what else, resulting in all sorts of strange situations. These issues may sound comedic, but when shows become disrupted, projects can be ruined, people can be distressed, and it has, in the past, had serious effects holding back our work.
The things I look for when I receive a casting inquiry:
- Enthusiasm and genuine interest in the production. Evidence that someone has read the casting call, and/or visited our website or social media, to read about us, is also good.
- Reasonable spelling and grammar. I dont expect it to always be perfect, but to at least show some degree of effort. I like to see this, because if you are cast, you will be working with printed scripts - and lots of reading and lines! A line of txt-spk, denotes, in my eyes, a lack of interest, or a lack of taking the casting seriously.
- Honesty. If you haven't done something before, but you are eager to try for it, and to learn the skills, then I respect that, and will do what I can to help. If you know now that you are interested, but for example, you are inquiring only because you are not sure if your work days will clash with rehearsals, and you want to find out more first, then that is also fine.
What I look for on audition day
- Good timekeeping (if you show up on time, this indicates that you are likely to be at rehearsals and performances/ filmshoots on time.)
- Good teamwork. Without teamwork, a production falls apart. Everyone relies on everyone else to get things done :) And it makes for a pleasant atmosphere.
- Pleasant behavior towards the other people at the audition. Good social skills are desperately important. Rudeness or inappropriate behavior will make other people feel unsafe or at least, uncomfortable, and again affect the production negatively.
- Your audition. I look at effort put into characterization, intonation, and body language. It does not have to be what I had in mind, or fit my preconceptions, as long as I see serious effort being made to express a character and interpretation. I do not expect you to have memorized lines at this point.
Reading a script as if it is nothing more than a list of words spoken in a monotone, fails the audition.
At the end of the day, only one person can get each role. If you are not cast but you have achieved all of the above things, then it simply comes down to how the casting panel felt that people fit the different roles. Even if two (or more) people gave a flawless audition, we can only go with one person for the role. Please dont then feel that we undervalue your work.
The horror stories (and good examples of how to not get cast). All of these are actual situations I have encountered when sat on a casting panel.
- Bringing badly behaved children or over excited pets into the audition room, with no previous confirmation that this is acceptable, who then run around causing disruption.
- Sexually inappropriate behaviour in the audition room, or sexually inappropriate messages to the casting director. A casting director does not need to see your photos or display of intimate areas, or to have a proposal of sexual favours if you are cast.
- Asking to be guaranteed a role before you audition. I cannot do that. The whole reason for the audition, is to see how you perform.
- Popping into auditions several hours after the announced time, "for a laugh".
- Aggressively chatting up other people waiting to audition. It is a casting, not speed dating.
- Coming in smelling of alcohol and clearly under the influence of alcohol - or something stronger and probably illegal.
- Demanding that your child/ friend is given a role completely unsuited to them and against the information given about the specific role in the casting call.
- Wanting to be cast, but not wanting to audition, or to attend regular rehearsals, or learn scripts.
- Aggressive or abusive behavior to other auditionees, or the casting director. We like a happy supportive team. If there is a genuine thing that you are upset about, please talk to us civilly and it will be sorted out.
- Blatant lies about previous experience. I am more impressed by you saying you haven't done something before, but are willing to learn. I have had people provide falsified information about being combat-trained, claiming to be stuntpeople with no such experience, falsify previous experience in film or theatre, claim to be a famous celebrity applying under a pseudonym, etc. If someone makes claims like these, we will often take time to check the facts. Do also be aware that claiming to have specialist skills in combat, stunting etc, when you do not, can also cause serious accidents to you or someone else, if somehow you slipped through the vetting. We love to hear from people with specialist skills, or impressive backgrounds, but we may ask for evidence, because of the high number of incorrect claims (especially surrounding action-based roles).
Keeping the role
Once you have got your role, we have decided that we seriously would like you in the production. It is very rare that we remove someone from a production once we have started, but there are a few people who have achieved this. The reasons we have removed people from productions, over the years, have included
- sexual, aggressive or abusive behaviour towards others in the team
- drunkenness or illegal drug taking in rehearsals/ shows
- external illegal or strongly antisocial behaviour resulting in concerns about team members well-being, or the offenders actions affecting the reputation of our team members.
- habitual lateness to rehearsals
- no-showing to rehearsals and not letting people know, on more than two occasions.
- habitual disruptive behavior in rehearsals or refusal to adhere to cues "I'll do my scene when I have finished my coffee and had a cigarette" for an actual example.
- lack of interest in learning role (refusing to learn script, etc)
I am also aware from speaking to other casting directors, especially in fringe and independent performing arts, theatre and film alike, that we are not alone in having these kinds of situations.
Some casting directors, as a result, only work with people they know, thus making it very hard for new talent. We remain open to new talent, and therefore have to problem solve in different ways.
- On audition days, we begin with a word from the show director about what the actors can expect and what the team expects. This is also open to questions.
- We have audition information packs with information about the show, roles, our expectations, information about our team, available to people applying to audition.
- Because most of our casting calls are "open", we are also very careful to include as much information as possible on all adverts.
- All selected actors, regular or new, are asked to sign an actors agreement, which outlines what they can expect from their involvement in our team, and what we require within the team to make the production a success.
- We have clearly available policies on behavior, safety, environment, social responsibility, etc, all available on our website, alongside a clear and simple disciplinary policy for if something goes wrong.
- Our production team are easily contacted on social media with any questions, day or night.
- We have a qualified safeguarding officer on our team at all times.