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.