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Educate Yourself Before Your Audition

By: Holly Powell
 
Thinking back over the thousands of actors who stood in front of me before they began their audition, the one’s I remember most are the one’s who walked in and said “Hi Holly!” I know that seems obvious and simplistic, but it always surprised me when an actor would walk into the audition room looking like a deer in the headlights and say “Hi”, and I knew they didn’t have a clue as to who I was. Or worse they would say, “Nice to meet you”, and I had auditioned them ten times before.
 
Casting Directors are people too (I know…hard to fathom), and it goes a long way when you call them by name and have educated yourself as to what they have previously cast. All too often actors put Casting Directors on this huge unreachable pedestal and when confronted with this “gate keeper”, actors can come off as scared, insincere or aloof. The genuine “human to human” contact of knowing the name of the person you are auditioning for helps defuse the discomfort of the moment, even when the Casting Director is in a nasty mood.
 
The actor almost always will get a “breakdown” of the script they are auditioning for that lists all the characters and a synopsis of the script. The breakdown also lists the Producers, Writers, Director and Casting Director and it is the actors job to make sure they know who they are going in to audition for.
 
Today actors live in the wonderful world of IMDB and all this information is at their fingertips. If you have never met this Casting Director before, type their name into IMDB and check out their previous work. I was always impressed when an actor would comment on something I had cast before…they had done their homework on ME!
 
I found Hillary Swank in a pre-read for a pilot I was casting many years ago and immediately knew there was something special from the moment she walked into the audition room and said, “Hi Holly, nice to meet you!” She looked directly into my eyes and what I remember most was her complete presence in the moment. It seemed as if we had a job to do together, that we were a team, that I needed her as much as she needed me. This was all accomplished by walking the fine line of being genuine, ambitious and confident in her talent all at the same time. Isn’t it human behavior to want to help and root for someone who calls you by name and who has educated themselves as to where you fit in this casting process? And isn’t it human behavior to maybe feel a little dissed when you have met someone before and they come in and say, “Nice to meet you?”. I’m just sayin’…
 
It is also imperative that the actor knows the “tone” of the show. Is this audition for television and if so what Network is it on? Is this a comedy, drama or dramady? If this audition is for an episodic show currently on television, then the actor MUST watch an episode of this series. Again, actors today have the advantage of Hulu and other sites to watch “on-demand” television. So, the old excuse that you have never seen an episode of this show is lame. They will know that you have not done your homework…and interpret that to be that you are not serious about your career.
 
If you are auditioning for a Pilot and the “tone” of the script is confusing, check out the writer on IMDB and see what other shows the writer has written on. One of my students told me that he had an audition for the pilot of “Desperate Housewives”. On the breakdown it said: Hour Drama ABC. Taking this information at face value into the audition room with him, he read the scene as a straight drama, no humor at all. He said it was the worst audition he ever had. Knowing what we all know now about “Desperate Housewives”…that it is an hour “dramady” with lots of tongue and cheek humor…the mental image of this actors audition is truly painful. In hindsight, I told him if he had IMDB’d Marc Cherry, the Creator and Writer of the show, he would have seen that Marc had previously written mainly comedies… “The Golden Girls”, “The Crew” and  “The 5 Mrs Buchanans”. Therefore…probably some humor in it!
 
 So, please actors, use all the resources available to you so you never walk into an audition room again without being completely educated as to who, what, when and where.

Casting Director Jason La Padura

Casting Director Jason La Padura: Audition Advice & Tips – Part 3

Jason La Padura has been a Casting Director for 30 years and his long list of Television, Film & Theatre credits include casting all three films of High School Musical, Heros, and Touch to name a few. He also had the privilege and fun of being a judge for The Miss America Pageant. Jason started out casting theatre in New York and eventually moved to Los Angeles forming La Padura/Hart Casting.

I met Jason in New York when I had my first job as a Casting Director at an Off-Off Broadway Theatre Company called Manhattan Punch Line. Jason’s partner, Gary Murphy, was the PR person for MPL and we had cubicles next to each other. Jason was quickly establishing himself as a theatre Casting Director and with his casting partner, Stanley Soble, transitioned with ease into casting television. He eventually moved to Los Angeles and with Natalie Hart, formed La Padura/Hart Casting.

Jason came to speak to my students in one of my Audition Workshops at Holly Powell Studios, and we taped his visit for my Master Talent Teachers Video Series on “Auditioning”. He gave the students so much incredible advice that I have made it into a 3 Part Video Series for MTT.

Part 1

  • The difference in casting for TV, Film and Theatre
  • Chatting with the Casting Director before starting the audition
  • Props or miming in an audition
  • Is there ever a time when it is Ok for an actor to start the audition over?
  • What’s your opinion about when an actor gets through the entire audition and asks if they can do it again?
  • Stage directions
  • What an actor should wear to the audition

Part 2

  • What does a Casting Director expect from an actor in the “callback”?
  • Memorization
  • Non-Represented Actors
  • Non-Union Actors
  • Best way to keep in touch with a Casting Director

Part 3

  • Testing at the Network
  • Going on tape for Executives
  • Do you have any questions?
  • Self taping
  • When do you advocate for an actor?
  • Pet Peeves
Casting Director Jason La Padura

Jason La Padura: Audition Advice & Tips Part 2

I first met Jason La Padura in New York almost 30 years ago. I had my first job as a Casting Director at an Off-Off Broadway Theatre Company called Manhattan Punch Line. Jason’s partner, Gary Murphy, was the PR person for MPL and we had cubicles next to each other. Jason was quickly establishing himself as a theatre Casting Director and with his casting partner, Stanley Soble, transitioned with ease into casting television. He eventually moved to Los Angeles and with Natalie Hart formed La Padura/Hart Casting. Read more

Don’t Ever Walk Into The Audition Room In Character

By: Holly Powell

There are many theories and opinions out there about whether an actor should walk into the audition room in character or not. Some actors have told me that a coach they worked with had been adamant that they should walk into the room in character, and another coach had advised them against that. Confusion about this seemed to dominate their whole audition process, and they were defeated about their audition before they could even walk into the Casting Directors office fearing they were making the wrong choice.

From my point of view as a Casting Director for 23 years, I can tell you…don’t walk into the audition room in character. Walk in focused and ready to go, say “Hello” or “Nice to see you”, looking the Casting Director, Director or Producers in the eyes. This could be the only moment during your audition where a little bit of your personality comes through. And just that, “Hi, how are you”, can speak volumes about who you are as a person…are you an asshole, arrogant, unprepared, nervous or confident.

When I started teaching my Audition Workshops and coaching actors, a Manager I had worked with for many years called me and said he was going to send me one of his clients for a private session. The Manager was concerned because this actor had been working steadily for several years working on great projects, but for the last year the actor had not booked anything. He wasn’t even getting many callbacks. The Manager asked me to work with him and see if it was something he was doing in the audition room that was causing this booking draught.

At the beginning of our session together, I chatted with the actor asking him how he felt in the audition room and asked him what kinds of parts was he mostly called in for. He told me he was usually called in to play ass-holes, terrorists, jerks or the bad guy. I took a beat and said, “Do you walk into the room in character?” He answered, “Well, I never did until about a year ago when a coach told me I should always walk into the room in character”. “When you chat with the Casting Director and Producers after the audition is over, do you chat with them in character?” I said. He took a beat, “Yes”. “That’s why you haven’t worked in a year”, I told him.

I explained that when the Casting Director, Director or Producers chat with an actor after the audition is over, they are trying to get to know a little more about the actor and get a better ‘feel’ for who they are. This actor was coming across as an asshole, arrogant jerk and these Producers didn’t want him anywhere near their set. The relief the actor felt when he realized he was allowed to be “himself” when chatting with the auditors, was transformational. He was so excited, and I watched his whole body relax as he realized he didn’t have to carry on an “act” the whole time he was in the audition room. That same day the actor went to an audition, and he called me later to tell me he had gotten an immediate callback! He was back to his “old-self”…a working professional actor.

The Chair: Taking Control of the Audition Space

By: Holly Powell

I always say that part of the fear an actor experiences while waiting in the lobby of the audition room before the audition is, “the fear of the unknown”. They become anxious because they don’t know what lies beyond the audition door. What does the room look like? How many people are in the room? Is there a camera in the room? Are the powerful people behind that door in good moods or bad?

A chair is the one familiar object that carries over from your living room, where you were rehearsing the audition, to the actual audition room itself. The auditors usually have a chair in the audition space in case the actor would like to use it during their audition. While rehearsing the scene at home, the actor decides whether to use a chair or not. They’ve visualized the “place” in the scene and it either involves the need to sit in the scene or stand. Either way, the actor knows that most times they will walk into the audition room and there will be that chair…their choice to use or not. This is the “make-it-or-break-it-taking-control-of-the-audition-space-moment” for the actor. There will be two options.

TAKING YOUR POWER OPTION:
The actor walks confidently through the audition door, saying “hi” to the people in the room looking each of them directly in the eye…and then they spy the chair. That’s the grounding moment. Touching base with the chair, the one familiar object from your living room to the audition room, helps the actor claim their power and the audition space. It’s now “your room, not theirs”. If chit-chat happens and then it’s time to “start”, the actor turns to the chair and moves it exactly where they want it. They can move it away out of the audition space, because they are not going to use it. Or they can leave it in the exact location it is in. But, it’s the actor’s choice and decision. The auditors can see that the actor is prepared, having made a choice. On the auditor’s side of the table, we relax a little and look forward to seeing what the actor prepared. And this is all before the first line of the audition scene.

GIVING YOUR POWER AWAY OPTION:
The actor walks tentatively through the audition room door, looking down and occasionaly glancing up shyly at the people in the audition room, apologetically eyeing the audition space for invading the auditor’s territory. “Would you like for me to stand or sit?” they ask, making sure they don’t make a wrong choice or offend. In response, they get an answer back: “Ahhh, just sit.” Instant power give-away. As the actor sits in the chair they are thinking, “Why did I ask that? I had rehearsed it standing when I was in my living room!” The auditors jump to the conclusion that the actor has not prepared properly and needs to be told what to do or that they are green and trying to please too hard. Even before the first line of the scene, they are a bit anxious thinking the actor will give an audition that feels more like winging it than an audition with prepared choices.

Of course there will be times when the actor’s best laid plans and preparation will not always go the way they want. They may have made the decision to sit in the scene and when they walk into the audition room the Casting Director is putting them on tape for Producers and asks them to stand and not move much. Always try to find out ahead of the audition if you are being put on tape. This will often make a difference as to your standing or sitting and the Casting Director may have a strong opinion about how things should go. But, usually, if you are auditioning “live” for the Casting Director, Director or Producers, you have more freedom of choice as to sitting, standing and how much you can move during the audition.

Touching base with the chair in the audition room, whether visually or actually, is the building block that helps ground an actor in the audition room. The actor has now made it “their room”. It’s their 3 minutes. And, “You Can Do Anything For 3 Minutes”.

Casting Director Jason La Padura: Audition Advice & Tips – Part 1

Jason La Padura has been a Casting Director for almost 30 years. His long list of Television, Film & Theatre credits include High School Musical, Heros and Touch to name a few. Jason started out casting theatre in New York and eventually moved to Los Angeles forming La Padura/Hart Casting. Read more

Chatting With The Casting Director…Do You Have Any Questions?

by: Holly Powell

You made it into the audition room successfully without tripping and are focused and ready to go with your choices. And then…(a) the Casting Director decides to chat a bit; (b) no one looks up at you; (c) they ask, “Do you have any questions?”

So many actors in my classes tell me how focused they are when walking into the audition room, sure of their choices, and then the whole thing unravels because of something the Casting Director, Director or Producer say or do. First, if the Casting Director, Director or Producer starts to chat with you, this is a good thing! But a lot of actors get unfocused while chatting is going on and when the Casting Director decides chat time is over and says, “Are you ready to start?”…looking at their watch… the actor feels rushed with the need to hurry up and begin.

When chat time is deemed over, make sure you take 5 to 10 seconds to get back into your mental focus and remind yourself of your choices. Don’t ASK if you can have a moment to adjust (they could say, “No, let’s go we’re late”)…just take it! The asking gives your power away. YOU take control of the room, it’s YOUR audition time, it’s YOUR 3 minutes.

If you walk into the audition room and no one is making eye contact with you, just make sure you are trying to make eye contact with them. In that moment when they do finally glance up, they want to see an actor who is focused and ready to go. But, the biggest thing that can rattle an actor after walking into the audition room is that age-old habit the Casting Director says automatically… “Do you have any questions?”

My best advice to the asking of this question is: “No, I’m good, thanks!” See, you’ve already made your choices, right? And if you think you SHOULD ask a question and the answer you get back completely contradicts your choices, you will spend the entire audition trying to make the adjustment on the spot. Honestly, Casting Directors would rather see what unique choices you have made and how prepared you are…and THEN give you direction. They would rather see an audition where the choices might be “wrong” in their opinion, than watch an audition where the actor is struggling to adjust.

So, skip the asking of questions unless you really have no idea what the relationship is in the scene or have no idea what is going on in the scene. Those are probably OK questions!