The moment an actor receives a Casting Call notice, he/she skims the details, when, where, time, place, looking for the key elements that spell out ‘This job is for you’. Casting Directors take their time in drawing up these notices, often times complete with character descriptions detailed with the complexion, age, weight, height and more to give the actor a good idea of what’s needed. The Casting Director has probably thrown in some of his/her own stipulations based on the interpretation of the script and characters written, but bear in mind that most of the details given are the wishes of the Director and/or Producer.
With that in mind, keep in mind the below the next time you see an Open Casting Call:
Physical Details: It’s important that an auditionee pays attention to even the most minute of details included in the casting call. These include asking yourself:
- Am I the gender, age, complexion, height, weight (estimate if they’ve given it) that’s requested? One of the most annoying things a casting director has to deal with is a man showing up for a casting call specifically designed for women, and vice versa. The same holds true for a big boned person showing up to audition for a role that the director wants a slim or petite actor to fill, and vice versa. An integral part of delivering ‘believable’ characters on stage or on camera is ‘looking’ the part. A five feet three inches tall, skinny male would be hard to sell as a ‘Bouncer’ in a club scene for instance, while a ‘Steve Urkel’ clone would not be quite fitting as a ‘playa’ or ‘smooth talking loverboy’. When you receive a casting notice, pay attention to the physical details requested. If you fit at least 3 of the 5 elements requested, you may want to take that chance. On the other hand, if you are the total opposite of what the casting director is looking for, it’s not wise for you to waste his/her time.
Character Profile: If you’ve paid attention to the Physical Details listed, you should double the devotion to the Character Profile described. In our most recent Casting Call, for the Bahamian feature film “Ava”, we listed for one of the roles that we needed a 30’s-40’s attractive, artistic, with a sense of fashion female.
- Special Ability – Sometimes a production needs an actor be physically fit, and/or able to swim, do karate, dance, sing (well), carry a certain accent, jet ski, do gymnastics, etc. Sad to say, I have actually had the experience of an actor telling me that she can perform a certain ability with confidence, and then the opposite was true on shooting day. Needless to say, I resolved never to work with her again. Such inconveniences can give the wrong impression of the casting director, but worse, waste precious production time that in worse case scenarios, cannot be redeemed. On the other hand, I greatly respected an actress who had the look, voice, body and personality that the Director of a commercial was looking for, but she did not have the special physical ability required. She notified us that she was grateful for the opportunity but was not the best person for the job. We respected her, and moreover, would be glad to entertain her for another job.
- Firstly, correctly interpreted, 30’s-40’s does not necessarily mean that the actor has to be 30-40. This means that the character falls within this age range, and the production is likely looking for a female that can at least look 30 years old, at most, 40. While the age ranges over 10 years, any actor interested in auditioning for this role should be grateful that the age stipulation can vary. Secondly, ‘attractive, artistic and with a sense of fashion’ is of course the description of the character, however, an actor who auditions for this role should portray a sense of artistry and fashion sense from she walks into the door. It would be non-sense to show up at the casting call for this position dressed tacky or just generally appearing as though you did not make a special effort to look your best.
Personal Conviction: Finally, we come to perhaps the greatest factor in deciding if an acting gig is right for you. Before you audition for any role, you would do yourself an injustice by not considering the following:
- Is It For You? Also consider, when analyzing the little details a notice has provided, that while you may look the part, sound the part and think you can believably portray the part, you may still not be the part. You should ask yourself some realistic questions and deliver some realistic answers, bearing in mind that your answers may not suggest a straight yes or no, but may enlighten you to your strengths and weaknesses; personal character or personality flaws that may either help or hinder the production. ‘Have I played this type of character before?’ ‘Do I have anything in common with this character?’ ‘Do I like/hate/don’t care about this character?’ ‘Do I want to play this character?’ are all questions you may want to throw at yourself before you audition. Your answers to these and more will directly manifest in your audition and of course, if you get the part. Even if you are not the strongest actor, you can be well ahead of the game by adding to that list ‘What can I uniquely bring to the character that will separate me from the others?’ Your personal life experiences, lessons, observations on the job, at school, at home and general day to day moments may assist you in effectively answering this question. What is it about you that the director will remember as it relates to playing that particular role? If the director switches the audition up a bit, doesn’t ask you to read lines but simply asks, ‘Why should I choose you?’, what would be your answer? Hopefully, it’s not just ‘Because I’m a great actor’. You will more than likely end up at the end of the rejection line. In at least 80% of the productions I’ve casted for, directors chose their actors because of their personality, and because of their natural ability to ‘be’ the character. Does this mean that your years of dramatic training at Yale meant nothing? No. This means that you must learn the skill of incorporating great acting with personal conviction/belief (from personal experience or other) of character to make you stand out.
- Are you opposed to the thoughts, beliefs, lifestyles and convictions of the character you’re playing? If you are, that of course does not mean that you shouldn’t play the role. It means that if you are, you should know why you are and more so, you should be able to answer anyone who questions your interest in the character despite your obvious differences. How many times have we seen exceptional actors playing the roles of a drunkard, drug addict, prostitute, thief, etc when they never lived those lifestyles themselves? In order to play those roles, they must have found some kind of common ground with the character, but moreover, saw some greater good in auditioning for and accepting the part. Is there a greater good to your playing a thief, a drunkard, a drug addict, a rapist, a murderer, etc? For some, the greater good may be the salary they’re getting, or the message they’re sending. What is it for you? You must ask yourself that.
- To be fair, you must also ask yourself the same thing when a ‘clean’ role appears. One should easily or suddenly jump for the role of a ‘priest’, a ‘saint’ or a ‘nun’ without asking oneself what is one’s personal convictions and beliefs regarding this role. To be true to the character, you should not audition for a role that at the end of the day you will under play because of various reasons. Again, bearing this mind, I say look at whatever greater good you’re going after, hopefully it’s more than ‘the money’, and has to do with your passion for the art and craft and your personal belief that the part you’re playing can make a great difference in someone’s life.
Hopefully this article has served you well. In our next edition, we’ll be covering “Projecting the Right Image” – in that we will cover what a casting director sees the moment you step in, and how you can enhance that image. Do e-mail any comments you have:
. Thanks for reading!
Copyright ©2009 Radel Parks / Sharma Entertainment. Reprinted by permission.