An Open Letter to anyone holding auditions.

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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.

  • 11 years ago
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Way to look on the bright side, Sam, I'd be smashing things by now. It's all part of the fast moving process of TV, but just goes to back up what I said about professionalism being in no way tied to funding.

From the sound of it, this 'You Me Bum... thing' is closer to one of those oddball 'artistic' projects than a play in its own right, the kind of thing that usually gets all the funding. but seriously, what good would such a project be to an actor. you can't exactly use it to showcase your talents, I doubt it'll do much to scratch your artistic itch to act and you're hardly likely to stand out in a 100-plus cast. Maybe it's a good thing that these projects do a lot to siphon off some of the hordes of new graduates and wannabes from anything resembling an actual project. It sure doesn't sound like there's anything there that a professional actor is missing out on, excapt the possibility of a small fee, but if money is your main motivator then frankly, you've chosen the wrong career path.

Say YMBBT had fully paid their actors and you'd got pulled into it. Then you'd just be doing something I sincerely doubt was the kind of thing you were passionate about when you started on this career path, and the fact that you've been pushed out of it is a blessing in a (thin) disguise. I met an awful lot of actors who do childrens thetre because paid=good, then spend years lamenting how their careers have come to nothing more than childrens theatre.

My advice- follow the love, not the money!

  • 11 years ago
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Bearing in mind that the Arts Council are right now looking at where they can cut funding to the Arts, maybe we should be petitioning for them to cut ONLY where the artists are not paid? Would that givbe them their 25% savings, I wonder?

  • 11 years ago
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Mark Kempner

Jamie...and all. I am delighted to see someone else plus a few other newer members getting steamed up about this subject.

The regulars on here will well recall my battle cries about all this a year or so back, and our little chat with the Equity heads at the AGM (Hi Charles...give me a call sometime mate!) ...Sharon's great letter and highlighting the issue in the stage etc.

What I would say is Jamie, you say "you are preaching to the converted on here" No you ain't mate...I wish that were the case!!

It's a sad fact, this thread will be read by countless actors who will do loads of unpaid work on a regular basis in the hope of it launching or furthering their careers! When in reality, it's doing the opposite them for the whole industry.

I love a bit of collaboration here and there, that can be very fulfilling.... might not put it on my CV as such, and I know it wont have affected the industry....but what the hell. The sorts of auditions and hell stories you are highlighting are all too common, and all we can do get wise and NOT ATTEND such castings. It's that simple!!

Going to Ireland to a casting, to be told the role had been cut???? I take it you and your agent are pressing for expenses to be paid?! I'd want that following a £10 rail fare!! No other workers in any other industry, or union would tolerate such shoddy practice. Yet...actors do?!

I am a bit of a critic of the Union at times I admit that....but the Union is only as strong as its members. I am told Equity received just a 13% turnout at the recent candidate elections. Now that is where changes could have started to take place....the right people on the council board would have at least started the ball rolling. It's not to be....and to any Equity members who may be reading this now, and who feel we should be paid for our work: if you cannot even bother to fill a form in and vote....well it's no good moaning about it on here!

Good luck Jamie....I felt like I was banging my head against a brick wall, and gave up as I was too busy to champion the cause, but the cause is a good one. How you stop it....or at least get people to see sense....I have no clue?! You have my full respect for trying!

  • 11 years ago
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