by Khara Hanlon
Ever had an audition you knew
you aced? The one that was a sure thing? All you had to do was wait for
the call from the casting director confirming the booking. But the call
never came and you were left wondering what the heck the casting director
was looking for. I mean, you're a fantastic actor! Rather than leave you
wondering what these crazy casting directors want, we picked the brains of
a few on-camera auditioning experts: Meredith Jacobson Marciano, founder
of Amerifilm Casting; Peter Kelley, long-time casting director and coach;
and Breanna Benjamin, a director, industry veteran, and President of the
Creative Talent Company. Here are the top ten things they think you should
remember for your next on-camera audition!
Don't worry about the
Forget memorizing lines. Casting directors don't care about that. Meredith
Jacobson Marciano of Amerifilm Casting says, "If it's a first
audition, we're surprised if you come in off book." What is expected
is that you show the personality and bones of the character. "We know
that the actor isn't going to be able to memorize the lines for an
audition. We aren't worried," says Breanna Benjamin. "What we're
looking for is the character. Encompass those things rather than being
intent on the lines."
Ask questions -- but only
if you really need to
"When we ask if you have any questions, it's only to help you get
clarity if there's something in the sides that's confusing," says
Peter Kelley. "Very often the best auditions come from actors who
just say 'nope' and dive right in." It is your job to show up knowing
all that you can possibly know about the part you are reading for.
"I'm not crazy about someone who comes in and asks a million
questions because often they could get the answers from their manager or
agent," says Meredith Jacobson Marciano. If you're only given sides
-- that should be enough. "Find out what you can ahead of time -- be
prepared," says Marciano. "You don't know how many people are
Listen and react
"The camera loves to watch you listen," says Peter Kelley.
"Make the audition about the other person, even if the reader isn't
giving you much. Don't check out or wait to act when it's not your
line." Don't be afraid to let what is happening sink in a little.
"In real life you internalize things," says Breanna Benjamin.
"We like to see the actor think and respond. It isn't a matter of
clipping off the lines."
Get it right the first
You're not coming to an on-camera audition to get coached. You are there
to blow them away the first time. Come prepared (know who your character
is, what you want, etc.) and blow them away. "Someone who just nails
it is impressive," says Meredith Jacobson Marciano. "Be on
it." The guys in charge might not think you deserve a second chance.
"They will think that they just saw your best the first time you did
it," says Peter Kelley. "I've seen many theatre actors walk in,
fire through a read and be shocked when the only response is: 'Great!
Thanks.' That, in my experience, is common. Don't be a second take
If you do get a second chance make the most of it. Casting directors love
an actor that can take direction well. They are going to throw things at
you to see how skilled you are. "If you can tell an actor to tweak
something and they change it to what you want," says Meredith
Jacboson Marciano, "it's great." If you don't get any direction
-- don't read into it. On-camera casting takes more time than a typical
theatre audition. They might be renting the equipment and paying by the
hour, or they might have to change tapes, etc. There's a chance they just
might be running late.
Know what you look like on
A skill that always impresses Marciano is when an actor instinctively (or
by training) knows how to work the camera. "It's important to see
someone who is aware of the camera and knows how to do what they need to
do with the camera on them," says Meredith Jacobson Marciano,
"Learn how to position your body and face so the best parts are seen
in the right way and at the most important times." One actor (who
wishes to remain anonymous due to extreme embarrassment) remembers being
told by a casting director that she looked like a bobble head doll. In
person, her subtle movements were fine, but on film the camera magnified
them. She had to learn through practice that some natural movements were
too much on tape. Borrow a camcorder and find out what everyone else sees.
Just don't be overly critical.
Know where to look
"When you are watching a television show actors are not looking into
a camera," says Marciano. You want to connect with something -- but
often people in the room with you are walking around or looking at papers.
You also don't want to maintain constant eye contact with your scene
partner or reader. Let your eyes wander -- a little bit. "Practice
finding a focus point just above your eyeline (when you look straight
ahead) to drift off to," says Peter Kelly. "You needn't keep an
eye-lock on the reader. We often look away while processing things in
life, and a second focus, to allow us to watch you think, can be nice
during an audition. Just don't look down. Lots of us look down to
They are paying attention
If you think you're going unnoticed, you are wrong. "When I'm
watching an audition I tend to watch the monitor. I'm looking to see how
the actor looks on-camera," says Marciano. No matter what happens --
never assume they're ignoring you. Sometimes auditions are filmed and the
person who is ultimately responsible for making the final casting call
isn't there. What they see might be a tape of your audition. So don't
count yourself out if it seems like no one cares about your performance.
Keep the moment going
The casting director wants to see what you look like when you aren't
talking. They want to know that you "can stay with it until it's
over," says Meredith Jacobson Marciano. When you get on a television
show you won't have the option of yelling "cut" -- out loud or
internally -- so start practicing now. Stopping the action before you're
told annoys everyone. "Often the reader will have the last line and
the director is watching your reaction and wants to see how you move on
with life at the end of the scene," says Peter Kelley. "It's a
real buzz-kill when the actor just kind of stops as soon as they get to
the end of their last line."
You're a person first,
"People don't hire actors," says Peter Kelley. "They hire
people who can act. When it's close -- and it often is -- sometimes hiring
decisions have to do with the person as much as the performance." So
what does that mean? "Personality. Personality. Personality,"
says Breanna Benjamin.
Tiny tidbits of truth from
be surprised if there isn't a camera -- even if it is for TV!
nice to everyone -- the receptionist might be the casting director's
sister. The director might look like an intern.
complain -- we are in the same air conditioning that you are in.
apologize -- we don't care if you're sorry you did a bad read.
blame -- the person that didn't give you the script ahead of time
might be the person hiring you.
schmooze -- we hate that!
look at us like we're about to perform a root canal -- we're nice
professional -- after all, it is a job interview.
Meredith Jacobson Marciano
has cast extras, day players, and background actors for shows like
"Sex and the City" and "Ed." Her casting company,
Amerifilm Casting, has cast films, commercials, industrials, videos -- you
name it. She has seen more auditions than she remembers.
Peter Kelley is a former
casting director turned director. He is the founder of the acting school,
C.P. Casting, in Boston and is a faculty member at Boston University.
Kelley has also coached several uber-successful actors including Eliza
Dushku and Chris O'Donnell. He's available for private coaching and holds
classes in Manhattan, LA, and Boston.
Breanna Benjamin has about
30 years of industry experience. She's credited with launching the careers
of Ally Sheedy, Peter Reckell, and Tom Sizemore. President of NY's
Creative Talent Company, Breanna has extensive experience working with
actors, casting new talent, and producing pilots for ABC.