Tag Archives: casting call

10 Audition Tips From The Other Side of the Casting Table

Heather Wolf at the casting table for 'I And You' at the Fountain Theatre.

Heather Wolf at the casting table for ‘I And You’ at the Fountain Theatre.

What I Learned Watching Other Actors Audition 

by Heather Wolf

Ready? Show of hands: How many actors have ever wished to be the proverbial fly on the wall at an audition? Well, volunteering to be an audition reader may just contribute to that most integral tool in an actor’s arsenal: keeping your sanity.

I was given the opportunity to sit on the other side of the casting table during the Fountain Theatre’s casting of I and You, directed by Robin Larsen. It really was an invaluable experience. In preparation for the actor’s life (read constant, unavoidable rejection), there are countless articles, books and instructors all trying to drill in to our sensitive, artist brains that it is not personal. Well, let me add my voice to the throng: It is NOT PERSONAL.

How can I say such a thing? Knowing that it is, quite literally, your life? I know what makes it such a personal and consuming experience for an actor. But across that table, it really is nothing personal. In a good way. Guess what? While you walk out the door obsessing over every moment from your audition, your pic & res is already in the “Yes”, “No” or “Maybe” pile and probably not for the reasons you think.

You may have been the production team’s favorite actor and won’t even get a callback because of [insert-­character- ­stat-here]. How is that fair? How is this supposed to help with the whole staying sane thing? What you keep hearing is true: all you can be is you, all you can control is your work, let the rest go.  I am a witness.

More good news: everyone staring at you from across that casting table is on your side. They want you to be great as much as you do. They understand the courage it takes just to walk through that door. When they smile and welcome you and try to put you at ease, it is genuine. So breathe, try and calm those pesky nerves and remember why all those people are there. Putting actors first is the modus operandi of The Fountain Theatre and they actually deliver. Even if you’re just passing through on an audition. After hearing the same lines read over and over, hour after hour, day after day,  they are still rooting for you when you walk through that door; hoping that you will be the answer to their casting prayers.  It is as difficult for, and means as much to, the people on the other side of the casting table as it does to you.

The audition room at the Fountain Theatre.

The audition room at the Fountain Theatre.

As an actor, I intellectually understood these concepts. But experiencing it first-­hand from the other side of the casting table is another thing altogether. Every actor should be an audition reader at least once. If offered the opportunity, grab it. It really is a priceless and freeing experience for any actor. 

So, here are my ten audition tips taken from the other side of the table:

  1. Relax. They want you to be there. They are on your side. They want every single actor who walks in — including you —  to be the answer to their casting prayers.
  2. Be professional. Be prepared.  Be on time. Arriving early is on time and on time is late.
  3. Always bring your headshot and resume. Even if you know they already have it. At the end of the day when the headshots are spread across the casting table so they can make their callback choices, you want your lovely face shining up at them from that table reminding them who your are. Not an empty blank white sheet of paper with your name scribbled on it.
  4. Do your work. All you can really control is what you put into your audition. You may be a cold-read ninja and think you can just walk in and nail it.  But if you have actually been provided advanced notice with the sides and the script, take that gift! Give yourself every advantage. You’ll need it.
  5. You don’t have to memorize the lines. It impresses no one. I know many actors feel that having their lines memorized is part of doing the work, but that is not what matters most. This from Stephen Sachs, award-winning director and co-founder of The Fountain Theatre: “We really don’t care if the lines are memorized or not. It means nothing to us. What matters is their performance, the freedom of their work. Often, an actor will memorize the lines thinking it will “free” them and enable them to do their best work but then they are concentrating so hard on remembering the words that it completely locks them up. I see it all the time.”
  6. It is okay to make mistakes. Honestly. Skipping a line, having to start over, glancing at your sides, does not impact whether you’re cast or not. Strive for perfection, just don’t be derailed when imperfection strikes. It may be the best part of our day.
  7. Be flexible and directable. Most actors claim they love direction.  Listen and process what you are being given. Because if you go back and give the exact same read? Your goose is pretty well cooked. If you need clarification, ask!
  8. The audition room is a “no fly” zone. Walk calmly, don’t fly in and out the door. The second you have said your last line and hear “thank you” doesn’t mean you are required to turn tail and run. Gather your things, say your final “goodbye” or “have a nice day” and exit at a reasonable pace.  I promise, you have the time.
  9. Leave it in the room. However you feel you did, leave it in the room. Your job is done.  It is out of your control. Just keep on keepin’ on.
  10. Be an audition reader at least once. Volunteer, ask friends, do a show and run your own session, but find a way. The perspective it gives you as an actor, the understanding of the process, knowing first hand what the other side of the table has to deal with and what you can and cannot control, is genuinely priceless. At least it was for me.

Things I Wish I Had Been Told in Theatre School

Callam Rodya 2

by Callam Rodya

Theatre school was great. It is great. But it can omit some of the more fundamental and important career lessons. School is, after all, a bubble. It’s not a natural professional environment.

So, with what little wisdom I have regarding a career as an actor, here’s a list of some things I wish somebody had told me in theatre school. Some of these lessons, I had to learn the hard way. Others simply would have saved me a bit of time.

  1. “Stealing the show” is not a compliment. The ensemble is more important than your “moments”.
  2. You’d be surprised how few people are willing to pay for theatre tickets when they aren’t your friends and family and have no personal connection to you whatsoever.
  3. No, you can’t actually play forty and fifty-year-olds in your twenties. At least, no one will pay you to do it.
  4. By the same token, there are very few roles in the theatre for twenty-year-olds.
  5. The stage manager always works much harder than you. And technically, you work for him/her, not the other way around.
  6. Most people don’t get drunk on Opening Night…because they have a show the next day…idiot. Oh, and cast parties are more likely to be cast dinners.
  7. Developing and producing your own work is the single MOST important thing you can do after you graduate.
  8. Background film roles don’t do shit for your career.
  9. Unions are awesome and the worst at the same time.
  10. When people said you would be poor thanks to your brilliant career choice, what they really meant was “completely fucking destitute.” And that’s okay.
  11. Auditions are on one level. Knowing the right people is a completely different level altogether.
  12. Directors, casting agents, and producers care as much about how easy you will be to work with as they do about how good you are for the role. If not more so.
  13. Remember how you used to have five weeks to get off book? NOPE. Get off book NOW.
  14. Save up a certifiable shit-ton of money if you’re going to move to Toronto. Like, a ridiculous amount. Student-loan worthy. That is, if you want to actually be able to go for auditions, take classes, network, and you know, any of those other career-building essentials.
  15. Don’t do everything. Seriously. Know when to turn something down. And believe me, you’ll know.
  16. It’s not unreasonable to expect to be paid for your work. And you should be. But you won’t always be. So when you do work for free, which will be a lot, make sure it’s work that you’re passionate about or will really be a career booster. And honestly, it should be both.
  17. Ninety percent of casting decisions have nothing to do with how you perform in your audition.
  18. Most of the time, when you don’t get the part, it’s not because you suck, but because of some other (probably superficial) reason altogether. Unless you suck.
  19. Energy is more important than appearance. So get more sleep instead of wasting your time making yourself look good. After all, there’s always a hair and makeup person on set. There’s rarely a person to spoon-feed you caffeine and cocaine.
  20. Take your “me” time. And cherish it. Because the pursuit of an acting career will totally consume your life.
  21. Don’t hide your “physical flaws.” Embrace them. And learn how to look at yourself objectively.
  22. Your “hit” is no joke. It’s what you’re selling. Either be okay with it, or figure out a way to change it and still look like a real human being.
  23. No matter how big of a star you were in school, out here, you are just a part of a team. So act like it. And give credit where credit is due at every opportunity.
  24. Acting is actually easier than you want to believe it is. And more people can actually do it than you want to believe. And most people behind the scenes work harder than you do. So don’t be a diva.
  25. You are replaceable.
  26. The camera really does add ten pounds. No shit.
  27. Stage and screen are completely different worlds requiring completely different approaches and are cast in completely different ways.
  28. You thought there was “technique” to acting on stage? Just wait till you get some serious face time with the camera.
  29. Rehearsals are a luxury. Don’t waste them.
  30. It is not okay to be drunk, stoned, high, or any other kind of intoxicated while you work. Not for “professionalism” reasons. But because you are, in fact, worse.
  31. Try not to get discouraged/cynical/jaded/resentful too early. This is a tough business. That’s just the way it is, and it’s not going to change any time soon. So be tough. Or get out.
  32. And finally, don’t go down this path just because you’re “good enough” to be a professional actor. For the love of God, do it ONLY because you cannot do anything else.

Always be brave and bold.

Callam Rodya is an actor, electronic music producer, graphic designer, writer, and filmmaker based in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.

Intern Journal: My Peek into the World of Casting

by Jessica Broutt

Now a few weeks into interning at The Fountain, I have been able to do some very diverse tasks. This happens every few days when someone, usually Stephen,  announces that they have a “project” for me.  I have learned that project can mean a lot of things. Sometimes it is prefaced with, “this project is a really horrible boring job” and can be as mundane as organizing check stubs. Other times,  like last week, it can mean something really exciting like working in our casting department. This was one project I was dying to be a part of.  I would be scheduling times for actresses to audition for a role in our upcoming play, the US Premiere of Athol Fugard’s The Blue Iris.

When thinking about working in the entertainment industry, obviously casting is a big part of it, but it is also a facet of running a theatre in which I have had no experience.  I soon learned that it really is a world unto itself, populated with agents, assistants, and actresses, complete with its own language with which I was all together unfamiliar.  Despite some brief coaching from Stephen, I felt a little unsure about how I could survive in this world .  But, armed with my new-found knowledge of “sides” and “breakdowns”  I put on my most confident voice and  called agencies and actresses alike.

Sometimes it was easy.  I got to speak to the actress herself, we picked a time, she said she would be there and it was done.  Other actresses were not so easy to track down or I found myself talking to the second assistant of their agent. It was quite nerve-wracking to remember who was represented by Lisa from Momentum or who would be out of the country through the week. It definitely gave me a new-found respect for anyone who has ever worked in casting.

Still, one thing that really amazed me was how nice everyone was when I called. Every agent and assistant seemed more than happy to speak with me, e-mailed me back right away, and much to my amazement, seemed to believe I knew what I was doing. And the same was true with the actresses, each one was more polite than the next. I was surprised at how easy it all seemed.  It was then I realized that I had a little bit of power.  These actresses were grateful for my call. They wanted this role. And by being nice to me, their chances of obtaining it remained intact.  I was so worried about them calling my bluff as a casting director, that I failed to realize that they wanted this audition even more than  I wanted to not embarrass myself scheduling it.

The Audition Process.

If I thought calling everyone to arrange the auditions was exciting, it was nothing compared to having all the actresses come in the day of the audition. My job sounded fairly simple:  have the actresses sign in, take a copy of their resume and headshot, and escort them into the audition room.  But then there are the things that no one tells you.  Like how some actresses will come a mere moment before they are expected while others will come one hour before and size up the competition.  I also had no idea that Calvin Klein jeans were the unspoken uniform for auditions. Or how different every actress’s method of preparation is.  Some remained very calm as if waiting for a doctor’s appointment and sat patiently in the waiting area until they were called.  And then there were others, like the actress Julanne Chidi Hill, who would rather not sit just outside the audition room and feel the tension.  Instead, she went elsewhere and practiced. And not just outside the theatre but a block away, to truly distance herself from the competition.  So far away in fact, that I was afraid she had left all together. Yet, her unorthodox method obviously paid off, because she walked away as the newest addition to our Fountain Family, and with the role of Reita.

Julanne Chidi Hill

When auditions were over and the role had been cast I thought my job was done.  I commended myself on everything going without a hitch, and considered my venture into the world of casting over.  But I forgot something very crucial:  I had to call all the other actresses  and inform them that they did not get the part.  The thought of making those calls seemed awful but in practice, it wasn’t really that bad.  The few actresses who I spoke to were painfully nice about it, and thanked me for the call. The agents seemed to take the news as nothing out of the ordinary. And I was blessed with speaking to many voicemail boxes, who all seemed to take the news extremely well.

After the last “the role has been filled” phone call, I was actually done with this project. Instead of breathing a sigh of relief, as I did when I filed away the last check stub, I felt a little sad.  While it might have been a bit scary to arrange auditions, it was also very exciting.  Now when I get to see The Blue Iris next month in August, I will know that I helped to make it happen in some way.

Just as my many other projects have taught me, there are so many different jobs in running a theatre and countless people who work behind the scenes to make it run smoothly.

This was definitely one of my favorite projects thus far. I look forward to my next!

Jessica Broutt is our summer intern from UC San Diego.