An Open Letter to anyone holding auditions.

  • User Deleted

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    This is a piece I've been meaning to write for a while, but today had an infuriating experience at an audition which prompted me to go ahead with it.

    Namely, the sheer amount of auditions that are badly organised (if at all), not at all punctual, unfair or just seem to be worked out according to bizzaro-logic.

    I'll mention no names and want to stress that this is in the spirit of information and improvement rather than a simple tirade, so here's the gist of today:

    I was called down to Deptford (an hours travel) for a 4:45pm audition. I arrived early, and was given a number (I was well over 200th) and told to wait. I worked on the script, which had a spelling or grammatical error in every single line, the word 'farther' (meaning father) was used 3 times. At 5:45pm I was getting short on time before needing to head to work. I was told I'd have to wait at least half an hour/ forty five minutes yet, even though it was already an hour late. I left, without having auditioned. A whole afternoon wasted.

    This isn't even that rare an occurrence. Other lowlights include:

    - having a highly emotional audition in a corridor, and being shushed by the director midway through.

    - Being told at the end of an audition that the shoot would be tomorrow and I'd need to be free all day (I wasn't).

    - Being asked which role I'd like to play, then being told a "name" was being line up for that role and immediately thrown out (literally. physically.)

    - Being invited along with EVERYONE who applied for the film (over 500 people showed up) queuing for three hours in order to be asked three questions and discover that no one actually auditioned, it was to see who they wanted to audition for real.

    - Panels texting, smoking, answering phones and leaving me acting to nothing.

    I'm sure everyone else here could add their own stories to the list.

    But these have largely become accepted pitfalls of the auditioning process, and we, the actors who suffer from it all, just have to go along with it. This seems to tie into the implication that actors have no power and are simply at the mercy of the whims of the decision makers, a belief system the other side of the desk usually also run on, and I really don't think it has to be this way.

    As actors, we have made a commitment to our chosen profession. We have spend thousands of pounds and given years of our lives to training, to say nothing of the photo's, showreels and other demands on our lives and wallets. Yet people holding auditions often seem to be making it up as they go along. A friend of mine with no formal experience recently wanted to hold auditions for a film, and decided to get all his potentials into a room for a whole day, and have them stand in a circle and watch each other read a three line scene until they were all done, with an hour set aside for telling them about the film and setup. He could have held ten minute slots and included the details in an email (what I would call the Professional way) and got the same results while inconveniencing people a lot less.

    Actors spend hours learning and perfecting audition technique. It is not fair that they spend that on people who don't even know what auditions really are. The people put in the positions of power are the ones with no training or experience. Now fair enough, I've never come across a course on 'How to Hold an Audition', or advice for the other side of the desk. I've been on audition panels and been forced to go one what I know, which is quite a lot after all these years, but a lot of independent film makers or students have no such training to draw from. So I hope the tips posted here can go some way to rectifying that. So here are all the tips I can think of, after many auditions, both good and bad, and from both sides of the table.

    • 16th Jul 2010
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  • Guy Press

    Actor

    Jamie sounds like you went through a nightmare.

    I'll be honest if it's a poorly organised audition it normally says the shoot will be poorly put together too. Given the numbers of other auditionees I'd of left it sounded as if the overall affect was to generate publicity not cast!!

    It's a two way street don't go or stay at poor castings / auditions !! Rate yourself and don't let your time and money be wasted!!

    • 13th Jul 2010
    • 1
  • Gennifer Becouarn

    Actor

    Spelling and grammatical errors on a script say so much about the ENTIRE project...

    And Guy is right, if the audition is that badly organised, just imagine the state the shoot will be in -!

    Try to get them to send you the script before you go to the audition, at least you can then get a heads-up!

    Good luck x

    • 13th Jul 2010
    • 2
  • Tammy Heath nee Wakefield

    Actor

    You poor thing it sounds like a terrible day for you, Put it down to experience and lets hope that you don't go though that again! lets hope some lessons are learned from the casting side of things.

    • 13th Jul 2010
    • 3
  • User Deleted

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    Thanks guys. You're right, the audition is a taster of things to come, you audition them as much as they audition you. But surely no one WANTS to come across as an amateur? So here I'm going to post a list of most frequent missteps that I come across, not individual mistakes or quirks, but things that inexplicably occur time and again.

    I don't want to come across as arrogant or dictatorial, and I'm not going to preach about how an audition "should" be done. There are many different ways of working and directors look for many different qualities, so almost everything has a place. Anything I list here will be something I just can't think of a way to justify.

    • 13th Jul 2010
    • 4
  • User Deleted

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    WHEN POSTING JOBS

    -Be clear. Many posts for plays have no details on the story, run time, venue, or characters. How are we supposed to know if the project is right for us? If it's something we want to do? The only people that would apply to this are people simply looking for work. Ask yourself, do you want actors who are excited to work with you, be part of your project, and know that they can really give to what you have going on, or just desperate people who'll go for anything? If you answered the former, give them details to get excited about, let them know how great your project will be.

    -Similarly with characters. Nothing is less inspiring that a post for just 'actors'. Where's the role we can fall in love with, or the hook that makes us realise how well suited we are for the part? Of course, sometimes (I.e devised pieces, ensembles ect) this IS appropriate.

    -A common one. Please use correct, legible English. If English isn't your first language, try to find someone to help.

    AT THE AUDITION

    -Try to have it somewhere private. I mentioned the corridor audition. I also had some people years ago want to audition me in the corner of a Starbucks. If you can't find an audition venue of some description (even a house or flat is fine at a pinch), don't hold auditions. You're not ready.

    -Naturally- be punctual. If you say a specific time, try to keep to it. Overrunning by 10-15 min is an acceptable difficulty of auditioning, akin to an actor fluffing a line, but understand that actors have lives and commitments. Too many people think that actors should simply wait indefinitely for the auditors. More than 20 mins is a problem. At yesterdays audition there weren't even any apologies given, it was just assumed that over running was fine.

    -Another seemingly obvious one. Actually audition people for the role! A lot of people just ask for any old monologue, which may or may not be relevant to the part. (assuming there is a specific part, this is fine for devised or open pieces) I was once give a script to prepare for a short film, turned up, and was told to put the script down and sightread a tongue twister from a Victorian novel. They learned absolutely nothing about me as an actor or person. At a GOOD stage audition I was given three excerpts to work on, then told to choose two to perform. The saw me act fully, got to know me, and saw which pieces I would choose given a choice. I felt I'd be allowed to do my job, and felt good about them even thought I ultimately didn't get the role.

    -There is a difference between acting and auditioning. On set or stage you have usually had a script for some time, learned it and worked on it. You can't get a finished performance the moment you put a script in our hands. Film students especially take note- This is not how actors work! Watching a first read is fine, but don't use that as a basis for a whole audition.This may be more appropriate for TV, where sides are being written and re-written constantly, but if it's not then don't do it! Send out excerpts before hand. You must've had actors ask for them.

    -I may sound like I'm imposing high standards. That's because I am. Which leads to the most important tip- you should too! Expect no less that the same from actors. You've given them your time too. If actors show up really late you are well within your rights to turn them away. If they aren't giving it in the audition, don't bother to read the script ect. -don't waste YOUR time on them. If you run your auditions to a high standard you can reasonably expect the same for your actors, and you can quickly whittle out those that don't meet them. I'm sure auditors everywhere could write similar lists as this for actors, and I would welcome it.

    Those are the first things that come to mind. I hope that I'm not committing career suicide for daring to speak out, but playing along is getting me face stomped so I'll risk it. If anyone else has any such experiences or wants to add anything, actors or auditors, please post them!

    Thanks for reading.

    • 13th Jul 2010
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  • Brigitte Millar

    Actor

    I totally agree with all of the above! Anyone, who's ever attended a professional audition knows what you are talking about..

    Cheers,

    Brigitte Millar

    • 13th Jul 2010
    • 6
  • Tammy Heath nee Wakefield

    Actor

    Asking people to treat actors with a bit of respect for auditions is not career suicide it is just good manners! at the very least as you say it works both ways, they want actors who will be professional then so must they be, if they are and we are not then as you say they are within there right to be annoyed but the whole process is and has to be a two way street. we are not just actors we are profession people with needs and commitments just like you! so well said that man!

    • 13th Jul 2010
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  • Charles Delaney

    Actor

    ....I'll put up with all that crap throughout the entire process if the script works,the crew work & I get paid (on time!)

    It tends to all come down to 'your gut feel'with each prospective project.

    • 13th Jul 2010
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  • Sam Lucas Smith

    Actor

    I'm of the opinion that you can tell through brief email conversation, or even purely through the casting call and breakdown whether you should anticipate a professional setup.

    If you aren't sure, or if you aren't auditioning in front of a vaguely reputable company / casting director then I'd say a "nightmare scenario" is a risk which goes part and parcel with the profession.

    • 13th Jul 2010
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  • Lee Ravitz

    Actor

    To (sort of) second Sam's point, I would agree that there is a lot of information you can rightfully derive from the auditioners once you have been offered an audition (they may keep their cards close to their chest before this, and that, I suppose, is their prerogative to some extent before they cast you - although I agree there should be a good, intelligible breakdown available at the application stage!). At this point, finding out where they are planning on holding the audition, how effective they are in guaranteeing you a time slot, how interested they are in addressing your enquiries as an individual (for instance, I will never attend any audition where a specific personal application sent by myself has been acknowledged with an offer of audition that begins 'dear actor' - it guarantees that no actual attention has been paid to the details, and there is no dedicated casting team in place), how flexible their scheduling is (i.e. whether they can work around your own needs or not), what the audition will comprise (at the very least, whether you are expected to prepare, to cold read, etc. etc. - even if no explicit detail is given), who you will be seeing on the panel at the audition etc. etc. All of these are of bona fide interest to you as a working actor, and most reputable auditions will automatically give you most of this information as part of the process that works towards bringing you in for the audition. That you actually have to ask for it in the first place is a bad sign to a certain extent - but sometimes even good companies aren't thinking about these details because they have so much to do. And it *is* within your remit to ask. If you can't get satisfactory replies from the company at this point, then it is a sure sign that the whole setup is hokey, and the audition should be declined!

    Once there, of course, there are always additional problems that may intervene, but I have to say even some of my worst auditions (e.g. standing on a ship attempting to project lines to the quay in the middle of extensive on-ship repair work) did not come as a total surprise to me - I knew what was expected before I agreed to attend (in this case, the project interested me, although the audition was very hard work). And I only knew these things because I had made detailed enquiries beforehand.

    • 13th Jul 2010
    • 10
  • User Deleted

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    It's definitely true that you have to take notice of what info you can get beforehand, but it's getting to the point where even worthwile looking posts result in botched messe of auditions, and it might me just me, but it seems to be getting worse. 'Gut feelings' regarding CCP posts are fast becoming a protracted session of nausea.

    Since posting this, people have messaged me privately relating terrible stories of incompetence and rudeness. I won't relate other peoples stories but have encouraged them to post them here.

    A big part of the reason for all this is I truly beleive a lot of people holding auditions truly mean well and are trying to be creative (of course, some are complete cu- uh, idiots) and just don't know the basics. Film schools, for example, seem to almost entirely neglect teaching would-be directors about acting methods or how to direct actors, leaning almost entirely on technical details. I can only hope any such people can find helpful tips on here, which can only improve their experience and ultimately, their work.

    • 13th Jul 2010
    • 11
  • User Deleted

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    Hi Jamie, very good of you to post this highly important topic for all of us, not just those of us subscribed to starnow but within the entire industry itself.

    First of all, I am very, very sorry to hear of your 'horrific' horror story-style auditions. Totally unacceptable. I have experienced two rubbishy interviews in my whole life regarding 'acting' and that was enough. However, the majority I have experienced - I am pleased to say were very pleasant and well organised.

    I am now clear in mind why they were so well organised and a pleasure to attend: because, in short,they were all well paid jobs!!! End of story.

    We all have a responsibility to start protecting ourselves much, much better than we have been by not accepting unpaid jobs anymore and starnow, castincall pro and even PCR should do the same, otherwise Jamie's description of those kind of terrifying auditons will continue. 1) Everyone needs to join Equity. That is - everyone who wants to be in this industry for the long haul sot hat we can get better protection as a unified group of professionals and in the long run more paid work! 2. We all - and myself included now, have to stop accepting no-paid jobs or deferred payment jobs. Then we will see the difference. Two things will happen - the actors and actresses who are not really in it for the long haul will quickly give up and secondly so too will those who dare to call themsleves casting directors, directors or film-companies with no idea on how to treat the people whom they invite to audition with no prospect of real remuneration.

    Obviously, this is not going to be easy in this climate to say no but, what have we got to lose if we are not being paid anyway??? I will give one example here of a paid I job I was offered this year through starnow and the pay was absolutely s*** but I was desperate and took it..and bearing in mind the job was described as 'Fully Paid'. The director kept wanting me to do more and more and I realised I was not getting paid enough to do 'more and more'and he knew it too! That didn't stop him asking though. At first I was nervous about speaking up and retaliating but somehow I found the courage and told him so. I also said, after they asked if I would be willing to work with them again, that they offer me the Equity minimum. By saying yes to unpaid work and/or deferred payment work in this industry -not only are we setting ourselves up to potential abuse, malpractise and manipulation but we will see really unprofessional attitudes displayed towards us, as Jamie very well described. It is our right to ask the casting director or producer and/or director - whoever is involved in the auditioning process as many questions as we need to - prior to attending - in order to ascertain if making that trip to the interview will, indeed, be worthwhile. Considering there is no money involved, we have even more rights but for some reason we often act as thoguh we don't - we seem to think; "Oh!..if I get this unpaid job it can go towards my showreel" - well yes it can, but at what cost? Join Equity and protect yourselves by saying no to unpaid jobs and yes to maintaining both your own dignity and self respect. Christian.

    • 14th Jul 2010
    • 12
  • User Deleted

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    Please forgive my poor spelling in that last message - I was in a bit of a rush to get it out so apologies to everyone there and especially to you Jmaie as you started this highly important topic.

    I just want to add that I agree with Jamie that the film schools and drama schools can go a long way to incorporating into their training do's and don't's when it comes to casting/auditioning from both sides of the casting couch and Jamie - your list of your recommendations were excellent too and maybe CCP and Starnow could put something based on what you've written as a main feature or main link as an integral part of the website - which anyone wishing to cast a project must read perhaps?

    • 14th Jul 2010
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  • User Deleted

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    Oh God I did it again! :(

    • 14th Jul 2010
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  • Charles Delaney

    Actor

    ...Totally agree on Christian's point about only accepting paid work.(NMW being a long running debate on this forum)

    I was approached yesterday by a self styled 'employer' who had seen my profile on here & wanted me to attend a casting.They had already sent me the script which was good although had too much text in places. I said I'll be happy to attend the casting but what fee was on offer?

    'Oh,no fee we're students'! I replied I'd be willing to accept student film Equity rate & I got a condescending 'No thanks...we understand..best of luck'resonse

    so I replied again by giving them Equity's phone number & told them to phone & get the daily rates for PROFESSIONAL actor's.

    Trouble is,some 'wannabe' actor will eventually agree to do the role for nothing & de-value the whole profession.

    I 'm not wanting to re-open the saga on unpaid work but I agree with Christian in that if it's paid work that's offered,(even student Equity),the audition process will be more organised & there will exist a mutual sense of commitment right from the get go!

    • 14th Jul 2010
    • 15
  • Sally Beaumont

    Actor

    I've just got back from a film casting and I'm livid!

    It turns out that it was an open call, not an audition at all.

    Plus the "director" wouldn't give me the script beforehand, or even at the audition (where there was a two hour wait), so I have no idea if it was worth all the fuss- I'm guessing not.

    Reader, I left.

    I've written an email to him about this, but judging by the number of people who stayed he'll be fine for performers. Unfortunately it seems some casting is like the wild west- they don't have to answer to anyone.

    Oddly, there was a film crew at the door filming an actor who was explaining very clearly why he was leaving and why the situation was unacceptable. Good for him.

    I knew I should have turned it down when I was refused the script. Rats.

    • 14th Jul 2010
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  • Rob Talbot

    Actor

    Sally - painful lesson indeed (I only got caught like that once). Now it's simple - no script no audition (though I might accept "sides" if everything else sounds good.)

    • 14th Jul 2010
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  • User Deleted

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    See, stories like Sally's are exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about, and the kind of thing that's becoming all too frequent and accepted. It used to be a case of spotting the bad apples, but it's getting to the point where finding the good stuff is like picking hay out of a stack of needles.

    I'm not, and never have been, against unpaid work. There are many brilliant creatives out there with the talent but not the cash, and many uninspired types who think securing funding was the hardest part of the artistic process. In fact, a lot of the least professional jobs I've ever had have been the paid ones, be they weird 'artsy' projects funded by some organisation or other (on one such job, the first thing the director told me was "I don't know what I'm doing", then I spent three days in a freezing warehouse being given directions it was impossible to follow, before being told later the footage was all useless and we were starting over. I made a ton of cash from it all, but...). A friend of mind is a very succesful professional who regularly does unpaid work simply because he does too many projects to pay them all, but almost all get packed houses and often star studded audiences.

    "Paid" work on CCP is usually a dull stream of commercials and oddballs.

    What I'm getting at is, the status of pay has little or no effect, in my experience, on the professionalism of the production, and suggesting it does is likey to encourage the "we're not paying the actors, so we don't have to bother" school of thought. All the best jobs I've ever had, and a lot of the best artists I know, work unpaid a lot, and I'd do a project with them way before jumping into online commercial #580000000000000.

    To sum up, professionalism and respect should be universal, not decided by the budget. After all, the best actors out there aren't always the ones on movie posters...

    PS- someone else at the same audition I mentioned at the start contacted me, and told me that they hadn't even looked at her profile when she got in the room. TIP- know who you are dealing with! You're seeing people because you want to see them, not just because they were sucker enough to turn up!

    • 14th Jul 2010
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  • Fiz Marcus

    Actor

    I know that students at the Central Film School are now having classes on how to audition actors and these are being taught by a casting director. It will be interesting to know if anyone who auditions for them notices a difference!

    • 14th Jul 2010
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