FROM A PAST STUDENT (asking for advice)

On another note, when I was in your class, I felt like the first scene I did was the best, and it was the only scene that I didn't have to hold an audition for... The second scene (American Psycho) was pretty good, and I didn't have to hold auditions, but the third scene I really bit the bullet. I held an audition and chose amateur actors... Perhaps I am completely missing what I'm supposed to notice in the auditions? Any thought or insight as to where I'm going wrong? (this is so much easier with better actors, haha)


Hi C., You hit upon a big issue (for me as a teacher – as well as for the students) and one that was my concern they are going to totally miss out on this term. (In addition to all the extra work for me to supply all those actors for the first scene – along with the greatly reduced demand on the students.)

If you get given good actors, they may end up doing things for you and you’re totally unprepared for the place in the market that you will be entering (i.e. non-paid, non-union actors.) I always figure that the odds will be that everyone will have at least one scene where they have to cast, get less than great actors and have to figure out how to work with them, and that they’ll probably have at least one scene where they just asked actors they saw in class who are good and just bring so much.

Ok, now to give you the answer you’re looking for – yes, there will be other thigns to look for in auditioning – a lot of which we went over in class, but Iknow it’s just hard to retain all the information flying around in there. I can tell a lot just by seeing the resume – that tells me experience, but not necessarily talent. I usually know withing a minute the acting level of the actor (which, of course, will adjust depending on the role they’re reading for and if they are ‘right’ for it.)

Just like listening to a musician, how do they attack the first note? Does the actor have a ‘moment before’? Do you believe them? How do they make you feel – on an energy level? Are they listening to the dialouge or responding to the situation – or only acting on their lines? Always give them some kind of direction, maybe even int he opposite direction, just to see their versitility aas well as directibility.

But your sense of what to look for will grow and change for the rest of your career – and it will depend on circumstances (& script.). I think your casting was ok – and I don’t know what your options were, but I think you know good acting when you see it. Your objectivity may have been off in the pretty girl but that happens to evryone welcome to Hollywood and/or she may have been the best you saw. We can always talk more about what you were looking for, what you saw, what you picked & why – and then I can offer my take, for what it’s worth, but otherwise, considering what I kow to be an audition market for you, you did fine. Also, I thought you cast the guys pretty much in the vein of the spots running, so your take was pretty good type-wise.

(Don’t forget I saw it with no sound first – which may or may not exentuate not-stellar acting – and that was my first response. Turn down the sound and look at it yourself. (Which, by the way, is a good way to get a perspective, just like artists step back & squint their eyes at it.

And please also factor in that I’m always going to suggest getting hot actors, because I’m an actress, and because great actors will always bring things you never thought of – which is what makes the collaborative process so fun.

But I think your ‘ah ha’ of the first paragraph above is really the key in this case. I think it was you doubting your vision and/or not seeing that it wasn’t manifest and/or not knowing how to implement it - is what was missing (and is especially essential with less-experienced actors. )

Ok. Now HOW do you get good actors? Connections, referrals, casting directors. You can hold auditions, but it’s like playing poker, don’t expect to win every hand. In the non-union world. Every actor you’ve ever worked with is worth potentially 3 actors – they have friends and can always refer someone. You keep their name & current contact number. Keep your own file. (I know I said this in class, but it bears repeateing.) If you think they’re really good, just shoot em an email every 3 months saying you’re thinking of a project to use them in. They’ll be yours for life. Good work comes from that. OR you could shoot them an email and ask if they have any new pics because you’re updating your file. You cannot do your craft without actors (for the most part) – and thus it’s worth cultivating relaitonships (until you have casting directors doing all that for you.)

Long answer, I know.
Hope it’s helpful.