Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Recording for the Role - Part One

Looking for an edge when it comes to getting acting work? This month we're diving into the subject of taped auditions.

The digital landscape has changed the landscape of film in a variety of ways. The use of digital cameras has made it possible for movie-makers to create an entire universe and even allow tornadoes full of sharks to attack all over the gobe. But it is not just the post-production phase that technology has reinvented in the industry.

During the casting process, more and more filmmakers are using taped auditions and Eco casts to allow them to look at talent outside their own backyard. In fact, in recent years the in-person audition is much more common for a callback situation than it is for a first-round audition. As a result, it is important for actors to not only keep up with technology but also to avoid some common mistakes that can cost them the role.

Casting directors are incredibly busy people. When an audition goes out it is not uncommon for there to be hundreds, or in some cases thousands, of submissions for a single role. Digital auditions have made these numbers even larger.  So, when you submit to an audition to a casting director one of the first things you want to make sure of is that it is actually looked at and taken seriously.  That can be as simple as making sure that you follow the directions given in the submissions on the breakdown. Sounds obvious, right? Yet far too many people seem to overlook this.

One thing all actors want to do is try to sell themselves to casting and to do that they will often go to extreme lengths to become the character. This can be something that works in your favor, but it can also work against you.

You may have noticed that most taped auditions ask you to record your sides in front of a plain, solid background. The reasoning behind this is that you don't want things to distract from your performance. However, having worked in casting on several indie films, we can tell you the horror stories of tapes that we've received that did not follow this one simple instruction.

One actor decided to create the entire scene. He went so far as to bring in his own production company, find his own location for the scene, and create his own mini-film. He bragged about this in the submission notes! The problem with that is that what he created was nothing like what the production had in mind and a large part of the tape was spent with the camera focused on the back of his head.

Another actress chose her location because the sides mentioned that the scene was outside and the character was sitting under a tree. Kudos to this young lady for reading the sides carefully, but the shot was so wide that we could not see her face. And unfortunately, there was also a bird playing in that tree and our attention was drawn more to that than this poor actress's audition.

It is not just the backdrop that matters. In another audition, the actor had not learned his lines and so he was holding his sides. Rather than keeping the pages low and out of frame as much as possible, he used them as a "prop". Paper flying around draws the attention away from the actor. When he started using the paper as a weapon and looked to be attacking the camera with it he became less interesting and more than a little bit frightening.

Other actors have been upstaged by heir children or pets frolicking in the background, audible television sets, and a host of other "real life" distractions that are not part of the scene. Basically, anything that is not the actor auditioning and steals the focus away from the actor on the recording is a fairly good way to guarantee that the casting director is going to pass on you.

 This also includes the use of costumes. It is perfectly acceptable to suggest the part. For instance, if you are auditioning for a detective, a business suit will work. For a doctor role, a simple polo shirt will do the trick.

But if you are auditioning for the villain in a slasher movie, dressing up like Freddy Krueger for your audition might get some laughs but it probably won't get you the part.

And if you're actually wearing the Freddy Krueger fingers (suffice to say that we did see this!) you really come off as being just a little bit creepy and even horror filmmakers want to make sure that their actors are at least mentally stable. Creep them out with your take on a character, not with your ability to cosplay.
So the takeaway from this first in a series on taped auditions is to follow directions and keep it simple. Tape your auditions inside and up against a plain wall, sheet, curtain, or neutral photography backdrop with good lighting. Minimize all other noises and distractions in the room and let YOUR take on the character be what casting remembers. And happy auditioning!

Have a topic you'd like us to cover? Or a question? Or even a criticism? Feel free to let us know by commenting below!