On Sunday we held auditions for our new upcoming short film. This was our first time holding auditions here at Lift, and it was really a great learning experience, so I decided to share what we learned about the whole process!
Make sure you know who is coming so you can create a solid schedule for the day. If you are doing a short film like us, we found about 15 minutes to be a good amount of time to give each person individually, however if you are casting for a feature, you may want more time.
It is crucial that you have everyone’s contact info, and that they have yours. This will help avoid anyone missing out because they were lost, or something happened. This will also assure that if something changes with the scheduling, everyone will be on the same page.
3. Get help!
If you are an independent operation, you most likely won’t have the luxury of having a casting director do the work for you. This means the director, producer, writer, AD etc. will have to do the work themselves. If this is the case, you want to be able to sit back and focus on the performances, not be running back and forth calling people in. Get someone to work the door for you, and take down everyone’s info. This will save you time, and stress.
4. Be Prepared
If the audition area is hard to find, have signs everywhere to direct people to it. Make sure there is sufficient seating in the waiting area to accommodate everyone that will be there. Have extra copies of the script ready in case an actor comes unprepared. Make sure you know everything you want to ask, and everything you are looking for in the actors ahead of time to save the guess work.
5. Record Everything
Roll the camera as soon as the actor walks in. You obviously want the performance recorded to go back to later, but it is also helpful to record their overall demeanor, so you know if this person will be hard to work with, or if you think they will be a great fit.
6. Make Them Feel Comfortable
An actor can only perform their best if they are comfortable. When they walk in, be open and friendly. Remind them that this is only an audition, they don’t need to have all the lines memorized. Take time to introduce yourself and learn more about them. After all, if they are selected you will be spending a lot of time together on set, so make sure you can get along.
7. Have Them Read Multiple Times
Reading through the lines multiple times in different ways will show whether or not they can take direction. Have them read it first in the way they interpreted it on their own. Even if they nailed it on their own, switch it up and give them a different direction to go in. This will prove if they can take direction or not, because what good is an actor if they can’t follow directions?
8. Be Direct, But Positive
Don’t beat around the bush. If they gave a performance you didn’t like for some reason, let them know what they need to change. This is your movie and you want everything to fit your vision perfectly. At the same time, don’t be a jerk just for the sake of it. Constructive criticism goes a long way, but straight up negativity never helps. Give them a few positive things they did before you start picking out the bad. If they don’t fit what you’re looking for in this certain role, but you notice they have talent, let them know that even if it doesn’t work out you may still have opportunities for them in the future.
9. Give Everyone A Chance
Even if you’re almost positive you’ve found what you’re looking for, everyone deserves a chance. Just because you’re burned out from listening to auditions all day doesn’t mean the last person should receive any less attention than the first. Go in with positivity and an open mind, and you could be surprised by what you find.
10. Pick Backups
Auditions are over and you know who you want to fill the roles. Figure out a backup for each of them, and a backup for the backup. If an actor doesn’t show up on shooting day, have someone on deck to fill their place. If you are on a tight schedule, you can’t afford to wait for anyone. Things like locations and rental equipment can be very time specific and you don’t want to miss out or waste money because the actor decided to sleep in that day. There is no room for that in this industry, especially when you have tight deadlines and a budget (usually other people’s money) to stick to.
Follow all these rules and you should have a success auditioning. Remember first and foremost, this is YOUR movie. Carefully select the actors to fit your vision, and don’t settle. Films can easily be ruined by bad acting, so make sure you pick not only the best performers, but the most professional, reliable people. You don’t want your image as a director to be ruined because your actors were out of line. Remember though, the same goes for you. Don’t be an egotistic know it all, don’t put people down, and don’t burn bridges. You may need these people some day, so make sure you leave them on a friendly note, and they will do the same. In this competitive industry, the last thing you want is a bad reputation.