Casting for a Contrast Creative production begins weeks before we bring in any actors to read for roles. Even in the early stages of scriptwriting, we often have a good idea of the character we’re seeking: how old we want them to be; how we want them to look and sound, and personality traits we’d like for them have.
Contrast Creative’s clients, as you might expect, are a key part of the decision making process. Decisions are often based on demographics since we want all of our projects to represent the world around us. So age can be a factor. Ethnicity can be a factor too. Ultimately, finding the right mix of talent that appeals to the entire decision-making team, including the client, producer and director, is like piecing together a 10,000 piece puzzle. Some of our productions require over 20 primary actors, and during auditions, we may see as many as 15 actors per role. That’s a lot of tough decisions to make in one day!
Auditions can be strenuous not just for the casting team doing the hiring, but also for the actors who are trying out for a part. So how do you, as an actor, make sure that you become a vital piece of a Contrast Creative production puzzle? First, you wouldn’t be auditioning if we didn’t think you were physically suited for the role, but that’s only a small part of why an actor is hired. While there are certain factors that you can’t control, there are others that you can. I’m going to give you a few tips that will help make your audition memorable:
Treat each audition as if it were the first
Even if you auditioned for us last week, always bring a resume and headshot. Your picture is the first piece of the puzzle we use to start developing our cast. Resumes are equally important. Make sure your most up-to-date resume is attached to your headshot. We also enjoy learning about your special skills, such as you can ride a unicycle, speak Mandarin, or were eaten by a piranha in Piranha 3DD! It is another tool that helps you to stand out, not only for this audition but for future projects.
Dress the part
If you’re auditioning for a soccer mom, don’t come dressed in corporate attire. Your hair and clothing choices should match the character. It can be difficult for us to look past an image that is so contrary to what we are casting for. Make us see you in this role.
Always try to arrive 15 minutes before your call time to help us maintain our schedule. Remember that an audition is a job interview. Don’t skip an audition without calling or e-mailing your agent and the production company. We realize that kids get sick and cars break down, but we need to know when they do. It’s unprofessional when no one hears from you. It’s like getting stood up for a blind date. It makes us feel unloved.
Be honest about conflicts
If you have a time restriction or conflict on a shoot day, now is the time to ‘fess up.’ We are much more likely to work around known conflicts when casting, and much more likely to let you go if we find out about them after the casting process is complete.
Be realistic about travel needs
If you see in an audition notice that there is no budget for travel, then there is no budget for travel. Should you decide to audition and have special travel considerations, let us know before you audition. Many an agent or actor waits to ask for hotel or travel stipends until after they’ve been cast. (“By the way, I know I said I’d work local, but I actually live in Botswana and will need airfare and hotel.”) Wrong strategy! Budgets have already long been set and rarely are we able to make last minute arrangements. If we knew to account for an extra expense early in the casting process, it doesn’t necessarily rule you out of consideration, but we can allow ourselves to plan for it with our other casting and location decisions.
Slate enthusiastically and clearly. It’s our first impression of you.
Know your lines
This is going to sound like a no-brainer, but it’s really essential to the casting process. It’s difficult for us to cast someone when all we see during your audition is the top of your head. It’s painfully obvious to our casting team when you looked over your lines on the drive over. We can tell the difference between a nervous actor who stumbles or forgets some dialogue and one who just simply hasn’t taken the time to prepare. Be off-book if possible. It allows you to do so much more with a role, and puts you in a better position to be cast as a lead.
Be present and engage with other characters in the audition scene
Really listen and react naturally to what they are saying. We want to hear and see the range of your talents. Often an actor’s face will go ‘blank’ between lines of dialogue while they anticipate their next line. There can be a lot of great unspoken moments by simple virtue of your facial reactions that can help you get cast in a part.
If you are asked to do the lines more than once, and feedback is given, really think about and make the changes
This isn’t the time for subtle differences. We saw something we liked, and often we are looking to see how you respond to direction. If you’re unsure of how big or small the change should be then ask us, and we will tell you.
Don’t sweat the cold read
What if you’ve prepared for one role, and are asked to stay and read for another? That’s a compliment! You had something in your delivery that had our wheels turning and thinking about ways we can best use you for this production. Ask for a few minutes to go over the material. We can usually audition another actor while you are reviewing the new lines, and weave you back into the rotation.
So what if you do all of this and you still aren’t hired? Don’t get discouraged. Final decisions are made not only on acting ability, but sometimes there are determining factors that you can’t control. If you came close this go around, we WILL remember you the next time. Also, we always try to offer our Extra roles to the actors who took the time to audition for a primary part. Don’t view this as a negative, but as a golden opportunity to work with Contrast Creative and our client. Great impressions can lead to a primary role. It goes without saying that you should always make the most out of every chance you get in front of a casting director. If you treat that moment with the respect it deserves, it could turn into your next acting gig!