Auditions are the process of finding the best actor to play each role in the film.
It can sometimes be complicated because as a director, you’re forced to select strangers with whom you will be working for possibly months on a project.
When a movie is finished, the believability of the story hinges on the quality of the acting, so it’s important to find actors who can convincingly play the role while working professionally on the set.
Finding an Audition Space
The goal of auditioning is to systematically meet and cast your actors from a vast pool of acting talent. Finding an audition space that is easily accessible, well laid out, and allows for the organized processing of actors will not only help the auditions run smoothly, but also let prospective actors know that the movie is being produced by professionals.
Casting facilities vary from project to project and budget to budget. In major production cities, there are spaces available for rent specifically designed for auditions. With rental rates averaging $15-$50/hour, these facilities offer a waiting area for actors and a private room to conduct the audition.
If professional""The believability of the story hinges on the quality of the acting, so it’s important to find actors who can convincingly play the role while working professionally on the set." casting facilities are not available, consider booking a school classroom on a weekend or a library conference room. Both of these facilities can be inexpensive, are centrally located, easy to find and provide a large holding and private auditioning area. Be sure to select an area that will afford you privacy. Avoid booking your auditions in a functioning business like a coffee shop or restaurant, because the influx of actors may disrupt the business’ normal clientele.
• Don’t hold auditions in your house or apartment. Not only will your home be unable to accommodate the sheer number of people who will show up to the audition, but it is also unprofessional and dangerous. Casting strangers and members of the opposite sex from your home can increase your liability. Always cast in a public facility.
• Find a large, central, easy-to-get-to location like a library, office building, school gym, or classroom to hold the auditions. It will make publicizing the audition easier and establish you as a professional. Most public buildings with meeting rooms will allow you to use them for free if your project is not-for-profit. The more recognizable and easy-to-find the audition space is, the better your turnout will be.
• When setting up the audition space, designate a large waiting room for the actors to wait in and a second room to for conducting the individual auditions. Station a production assistant in the waiting area to distribute the audition forms, collect headshots and resumes, lead the next actor into the audition area, and manage the incoming actors.
• Consider setting up a television in the waiting area to show clips from previous films you’ve worked on to excite the actors as they wait.
HOW TO CONDUCT AN AUDITION
With so many actors coming through an audition, it's important to keep organized. Always take notes on your thoughts on each actor, because it will be difficult to remember who's who afterwards.
Preparing for the Audition
It is important for you and your casting director to be clear on what will happen in the auditioning room in advance. Be prepared with everything you need for the auditions to run smoothly.
• Check-in sheet - Create a check-in sheet with a space for the actor’s name, phone number and the role for which they are auditioning. Every actor should sign in when they arrive. The casting assistant will then use this to call each actor into the audition
• Audition schedule - If you are expecting a large turnout, consider providing an audition schedule so actors can choose a one-hour time window to return to audition. This will prevent actors from having to wait for hours on end for their turn, allowing them to run errands instead of sitting in the waiting room. You can reasonably schedule 15-20 actors per hour for the first audition. Be aware that not every one will show up to the audition. I usually find that we have 60-75% turnout based on the number actors who accept the audition. In professional auditions, actors are given a specific time to audition. If they fail to show up on time, they usually lost their opportunity to audition.
• Information Sheet - Ask each actor to fill out an information sheet that contains their contact information, personal statistics, acting experience, union affiliation, representation and availability. Leave a space so the casting director can make notes about each actor during the audition. Staple this sheet to her head shot and resume.
• Sides - Sides are selected scenes from the script you want each actor to read. When choosing the sides, find three scenes of varying emotional intent and intensity. You want to see each actor’s range and ability to deliver an array of interpretations of the character. Post the sides online so actors can download the material in advance and always have extra copies in the waiting area. Remember, the more prepared the actors are, the better the performance and the better of an idea you will get of their abilities.
• Video Camera - Consider video taping the auditions so you can compare performances later. You will see a lot of actors and it’s easy to forget who is who. Be sure to have adequate lighting and a good microphone.
• Reader - Many casting directors will hire a reader to read opposite the auditioning actor. This will help you focus on the actor’s performance, and not worry about reading the other part.
• Water - Auditions can be a long and grueling process. Be sure to bring plenty of fluids and a snack. Never eat during an audition as this is extremely unprofessional and inconsiderate to the actors.
Jason J. Tomaric is an Emmy-winning director and cinematographer in Los Angeles, and produces the online filmmaking resource, FilmSkills.com. FilmSkills uses dozens of instructional videos from hundreds of working film industry experts to enhance students’ learning experience.