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Video Auditions: What, Why, and How?

July 2, 2012

Happy Monday again!

My apologies for those of you who may be stopping by for another movie musical recap.  As I mentioned last week, I have been in rehearsal for the past month for a rep season, in which I am featured in three of the five mainstage productions.  We opened late last week, and between tech-dress rehearsals leading up to opening and the start of the season’s run itself, I have not had time to watch a movie and write.  So, like last week, I thought I would take some time to reflect on an aspect of my current state of employment.  Today I’ll discuss how I got the job in the first place, through a method that is becoming more and more regular in the casting process.  I’m talking about the video audition.

Within the past few years you may have noticed that more and more theatre companies are offering actors the option of video auditions in lieu of an in-person audition slot.  Formerly reserved solely for special circumstances (such as prospective college students who are unable to make a trip across several states to audition in person), the video audition is now becoming an accepted part of the casting process.  This is particularly true of shows not being produced in/around the BIG FOUR (the four cities in America probably best known for theatre: New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles).

I was initially suspect of the whole prospect of the video audition.  How could that possibly be on par with actually being in the room?  How would my theatrical acting appear on film–even Olivier had trouble with that change, so how would fair?  And seriously, who even watches those things?  The whole thing seemed like a ridiculous ruse.  But, having nothing to lose, I went ahead and submitted one anyway.  And: RESULT!  I received an email from the Artistic Director of the theatre company to send on an additional monologue and song–the equivalent of a callback, but via video.  I sent that off too, and again: RESULT!  I am now working at my first paying job in the theatre ever. (**Takes copious bows, accepts bouquets, holds back tears of false humility.**)

So how can you too make a successful video audition?  First things first, you will need the following:

  1. Yourself
  2. Appropriate material for the audition
  3. A camera
  4. Some kind of video editing equipment
  5. A YouTube or Vimeo account–or access to a DVD burner
  6. Appropriate audition attire
  7. A friend (Not required, but recommended.)

You start the process by finding an audition that requests a video submission.  Brilliant.  If a company is asking for video submissions, they are willing to put the time in to watch them.  Otherwise, they would not ask.  That being said, like a mailed submission, getting your work to a producing body as soon as possible is smart.  They may become so inundated with submissions that they cut off at the first 100.  And you don’t want to be #101.  Get it?

Once you find this audition, read the material you are auditioning for.  This is one of those points that gets told to us over and over again, but it bears repeating.  If you know precisely what you are auditioning for, it will up your chances of finding material that is most appropriate for the roles that you would fit well in.  If you are auditioning for a season of shows, read/listen to everything that is being produced and find the roles that are similar in tone.  Try to choose material that display aspects of that character type.  For more specific advice on finding great material for auditions, I recommend checking out this post from our guest blogger Rhonda Musak at her site here.

Now that you have your brilliant material, and you’ve memorized it, you may want to consider getting coached.  Some people feel this is unnecessary, but I think an outside eye is always helpful.  If you can’t afford a coaching, you can always find a sympathetic friend whose artistic opinion you trust and ask for their assistance.  They will probably do it because not only will they be flattered you asked for their help, they may also request the favor in return later on.  If you don’t feel like you need/want any advice on your text, I would recommend to at least practice speaking the monologues to someone before shooting, or even having someone stand off camera to deliver the speech to while you are filming.  It will help your work be more present and active.  It’s also nice to not be acting all alone.

You’ve gathered and prepared your material, and are now ready to shoot the audition.  If you are working on your own, you may use a web cam or a camera built into your PC.  You may also opt to have someone else film you.  There are companies who do this sort of thing, like Skytown Entertainment.  Alternatively, you could have a friend with a largess of FinalCut Pro knowledge do you the favor of filming and editing together your footage (which is what I did).  Whatever works for you is fine, but if you are using someone else, make sure you trust their photography skills.  If you opt for a built-in camera, make sure you trust your equipment and your own prowess to record and cut together the footage you plan on using.

A nice structure (but not required) for a video audition is to introduce yourself and your pieces before cutting to any monologue or song.  Think of how you would normally audition in the room and try to capture that feeling again.  That being said, you may want to make distinctive cuts between each piece, instead of finishing one and then going immediately into another–one of the benefits of the video audition is that you can do multiple takes.  So take time with each piece to record something you know is as you want it before moving on to the next part of the audition.  Alternatively, you can introduce the pieces with a frame of text that lists your name and your selections at the start of the submission and between each piece.

Once you’ve shot and edited together your video submission, load it onto an online video database, such as YouTube or Vimeo.  I prefer doing this to mailing a DVD copy because it reaches the companies faster, is more convenient for them to pull up, and won’t get lost in the mail.  I’ll also be able to see where/when someone has watched the video.  If you do post a video submission online, I highly recommend making the video private so that only the auditors can see it.  No need to leave yourself open to the fickle ridicule of the Internet, where the masses think they can do everything better than you.

And now you wait and see.

Things I would not recommend when shooting a video audition:

  1. Cutting between lines in a monologue: It just comes off that you cannot remember a whole monologue and say it at once.  Ouch.
  2. Shooting outside: You don’t know if the weather will hold, and the elements themselves may upstage your otherwise brilliant delivery.  Clear a space in your home, or up the ante by renting a rehearsal room for an hour.
  3. Not showing your whole body: The producing company is hiring all of you, not just a close up of your face.  Be sure to have at least one piece showing your whole body and how you use your physicality–it will help give them a greater sense of how you are on stage.
  4. Shooting alone: Again, a hard thing to do, and probably not ideal in terms of staying present.  I myself attempted to shoot my second submission for the job I have now all by my lonesome, and ended up with about six hours of unusable footage.  For your enjoyment, below is a short display of some of that footage…and my descent into madness.

Have you or someone you’ve known gotten cast via a video audition?  Do you work for a company that accepts and casts from video auditions?  Tell us about it!

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. July 2, 2012 9:17 pm

    Well, I’ll be that friend that stands off camera anytime! xoxo

  2. July 3, 2012 3:19 am

    The video is wonderful. Yes.

  3. California Triple-Threat permalink
    July 5, 2012 6:46 pm

    Hilarious! and also so helpful. I’m working on a video audition right now for a musical… the accompaniment track is proving to be a bit of a challenge. But seriously, how awesome is the world we live in, that we can email an audition to a casting director? I’m a fan.

    • July 10, 2012 5:52 pm

      Please share how you dealt with the accompaniment track. That proved to be the most challenging thing on my end–finally broke down and sang acapella. Would love to hear how you tackled it!

      • California Triple-Threat permalink
        July 17, 2012 1:10 pm

        I had the music track playing on my laptop and I recorded my video with my iphone. I think next time I would put the track on my phone and use surround sound speakers to amplify it, and then record the video with my laptop video camera. Also I should have cut the track before I started recording because it made for much more editing after. Next time will take wayyy less time hopefully!

  4. July 5, 2012 10:18 pm

    That video made me laugh so hard. No wonder you got the job.

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