Yesterday was our first day of auditions. I was talking to a filmmaker friend of mine about this part of the process. I told him I hate this part of the process; he’s working on a feature with his brother so he gets it. The auditions are samples of what actors can do – but I feel like it’s anywhere from 40% – 70% of their true talent. So I’ll see what they can do in the room, without much preparation…and since this is an indie short most of the actors are raw or a few years deep in it, I would surmise.
There were a few missteps on my part I will admit, I’ll get into that later. I was pleased with the people I saw. We did have a few cancellations and several no-shows. The cancellations were fine, at least those actors gave us the courtesy of saying they couldn’t make it. The no-shows are red flags. Would this happen on a Coen Brothers casting call? Hell naw! There are two things at work with that: 1.) it’s prestigious to work with them as an actor and 2.) you’re getting paid well. On our indie short, it’s not much pay for a lot of actors – they look at it as a way to expand their range, it may be another clip in their reel or it’s a way to start their career. Whatever the reason on indie shorts, not just ours but on anyone’s indie short or feature the actor has to be all in. They have to come on time and if not on time, let people know when to expect you. This is like the basement of film production, there’s nothing Hollywood about this film, we’re putting together people that we hope will mesh well over the few days of production. So it’s important to the filmmaker that the actor takes the film seriously. I can’t work with an actor that doesn’t respect the story I’m trying to tell, because if they don’t they’re not going to give their best effort when the camera is rolling. I want to know that the actor respects what I’m trying to do and will help me make this film be the best it can be. As an actor, if you’re all in it will show on screen… and the film will be successful. I feel like the camera work can be average to mediocre, audio has to be good, but the acting is what sells the story.
The actors that came in for the auditions were all good, they came in and did their thing. I was pleased, but this is what I hate about auditions: I want everyone that comes to have a part. I know that can’t happen and it makes me feel disheartened to leave any actor without a part. The worst part is that the actors are good but they just aren’t what you’re looking for. You can’t cast everyone, and there are things that all of the actors don’t check off. They may have the lines and the feeling down, but maybe they don’t look the part or vice versa. This is what frustrates me about the process and this is what my team and I have to work through.
The whole process of the auditions is not fun for me. That’s why I’m so glad I got Kat Blade to help with this. She organized the audition schedule and found the place to hold auditions. It’s a blessing to be able to work with her, she’s a Chicago actress and she knows a lot of the actors. My lovely wife helped with signing people in and my step-son recorded the performances. It takes a team to do this so it helps if you’re not a dick. If you’re not a dick you can get people that will help you make this happen, remember they’re doing this for no pay. If you can get them to help you with no pay, imagine what you can do once you get some money. It’s crazy that making indie films you’ll either have people volunteering their time or paying them very little.
As the filmmaker, it’s crucial to make sure what the actors see is a professional. I offered people snacks and water if they had to wait. You want the actor to be comfortable so they’re able to give you their best. Have their sides ready, have someone greet them when they come in and thank them for coming out. Remember they have shit to do and you’re not the only production in town. Give them respect, I had one actor come from a funeral to audition. There’s a lot of things going on in people’s lives that’s why I’m so appreciative when people come out to my auditions.
WHAT I LEARNED
• Triple up the scheduled auditions, so if there are some no-shows you still have people coming in and there won’t be long gaps in the flow of actors.
• Expect people to not show up whether it’s crew or actors, for me, it doesn’t matter the reason as long as they notify me it’s all good. If they don’t it’ll be hard to bring them on, they’ve already shown that the project isn’t a priority for them.
• Chicago always has something going on on the weekend. There was an art walk going on near the studio so parking was a bit hard.
Vagabond School: This place is great for auditions and table reads, they have huge rooms so I think it makes the actors more comfortable.
Backstage: My favorite place to post auditions it’s only $25 and they have a place where you can write notes about the actors for your team, divide them by who you want to see. It’s so helpful.
Craigslist: It’s ain’t Backstage but it’s cheaper, and it’s good for finding the people that are constantly looking for work. It’s only $7, if you can’t afford that then just have your family and friends act in your film.