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Film Auditions in a Small Market

July 26, 2013

When I get a call from my agent about an audition – well, actually, it’s an email – the place I usually go to do that audition is my agent’s office. I know, those of you in larger markets, that just blew your mind. Let’s take a look at the process we, in “the boonies,” go through to book work for film projects.

The agent gets a call from the client. The client might be a production company, a casting director, an advertising executive, or some combination thereof. The agent gets the information about the shoot, the breakdown, the pay, etc – all those details. Then my agent compiles all this info into a project on the backside of the agency website and selects talent to submit for it. The selected talent are then sent an email. Talent opens the email, reads the details, and decides if the job is one she can do, based upon availability and/or pay rate.

The talent then goes about the task of preparing for the audition:

  • choosing the wardrobe (is this a lawyer? business suit! nurse? mom? stripper? vampire? coal miner? country club lady who lunches?),
  • learning her lines ( if a script is sent to you, you need to be off book; it’s amazing how many actors haven’t even read the script before coming in to audition).

The audition is usually the day following the email. The talent arrives in the agent’s office and signs in, then sits and waits quietly until the audition coordinator is ready for her. The sign-in sheet is important because the audition coordinator has a blue-jillion things she is juggling behind the scenes, don’t make her remember how to spell your name or for what project you auditioned. Waiting quietly is important because the audition room is not sound proof, ergo the phone conversation you are having at FULL volume is being picked up on camera for the actor preceding you. The audition coordinator may be uploading some auditions off the memory card, or editing an audition that is due earlier in the day, she’ll call you when she’s ready for you.

The talent goes into the audition room, which is a small room with a gray or blue backdrop covering one wall and acoustical foam on the other walls and doors. There are lights and a camera, a modest set-up. The talent can check her hair in the mirror, maybe straighten her shirt, but the talent is ready to film when she walks in that room. The talent slates, then recieves instructions about how to film the audition.

Often, we are provided storyboards for the spot and have to make do with pantomiming or suggesting certain parts of what the client will be shooting on the day of the job. Sometimes there is a lot of pantomiming and suggesting, sometimes the spot is a very straightforward scene – it all just depends, and it varies widely.

The talent follows the instructions given by the audition coordinator and shoots one take. Sometimes one or two more takes are done, but if you need more than three takes, you probably aren’t prepared adequately. Either that, or that is a ton of copy that is a beast to get through. Or, of course, you could just be having an off day. But if you regularly need 3+ takes to get it right, maybe it is time to check in with your preparation strategies.

The talent then thanks the audition coordinator and goes on with the rest of her day. She might hear back about a callback or a booking, or she may never hear about that job again.

Sometimes, the client hosts the audition. In that case, it is often a casting director who has rented a meeting room at a hotel and has a similar set-up. The upside, of course, is getting to know the casting director and being able to make an impression on him or her. Of course, that is assuming the impression you are making is a good one!

The thing that most frustrates me about usually auditioning not-with-the-client is that it is doubly hard to get traction. It has taken me years of auditioning regularly to become known by the usual suspects in my region because I do not have the benefit of seeing them face-to-face and doing the networking thing. It is also hard to guage whether an audition went well. The talent and audition coordinator may think the read was right-on, but who knows if it is what the client ultimately is going for with the character? There is no feedback from the person who does the hiring, unless you move on to the callback. However, this is the reality of booking work in my markets, the Midwest and Southeast, outside Chicago and Atlanta.


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