An actor on the other side of the casting process – part 2

I have lost count of the number of auditions I have had. It’s quite rare for me to be nervous now. It’s just part of the job.

For this audition, I was bricking it.

It’s only the fourth time I’ve ever held auditions for other actors with the most recent being 2012, so it’s not something I have very much experience with. I wanted the actors to feel at ease, have a positive experience, and most importantly I wanted to find someone for the part.

So my first mistakes came in the introductions. Because I knew everyone’s names and what they looked like, I initially forgot to tell people who I was.

Whoops.

There were certainly a lot of things I could have done better, so this isn’t me pretending that I’m perfect and never do anything wrong in auditions or otherwise. I’m aware that some of the women I’m about to talk about will read this, so I would like to make it clear that I am not having a go at anyone and nobody is about to be publically shamed. This is just a few observations from the other side of the table.

The vibe I got from a couple of the women was the feeling of unworthiness. I felt like they’d happily shoot their Gran as long as I’d give them the job. The most important thing that some actors haven’t seemed to realise yet, is that an audition is as much an opportunity for you to decide whether YOU like US. It’s not about you proving that you’re good enough. The fact that you have made it into an audition room is a pretty good indication that you can act, and for the record I did not see any bad performances at all. I was very impressed with the level of preparation and thought that had been given from all of the candidates.

But as I have read in many an article, the decision will be made within 10 seconds of you walking in the room. This always struck me as unfair and ridiculous. If they don’t want to cast you based on what you look like, why did they invite you to audition?

When auditioning myself I realised why. Because a headshot only tells you so much. It doesn’t tell you the way people move, the way they speak, the aura (for want of a better word) that you only get when you meet a person face to face. And most disappointingly, some actors look nothing like their headshot.

It does seem like a strange thing to say – how can a photo of you, not look like you? Maybe you’ve lost weight recently, or maybe your hair is thinner or shorter or longer than when you had the pictures taken. Sometimes it’s just the angle that makes you look older or younger, or slimmer or larger. But if you have been invited to an audition on the basis of your headshot, and that is not a true reflection of you, all you are going to be is a disappointment. This is not the way anybody wants to start an audition. There was one candidate who if she hadn’t tweeted me a strange pouting selfie that morning (tweet, fine – weird cheek-sucking selfie, not a good move) I would not have recognised her at all. She looked about 10 years younger than she does on her headshot and I think she had lost some weight. I knew in an instant I was not going to cast her and it had nothing to do with her acting.

The other part where you can easily let yourself down is the inevitable “what have you been up to recently?” question. Now, when you’ve not had any acting work recently, I understand that it can be quite a difficult question to answer, I’ve been there. But honestly, the answer is not important. Your attitude is.

Two of the women I saw had both been working backstage and front of house for major producing theatres. One of them gave off a sense of embarrassment, not in what she said, but how she said it. Ok, backstage might not be what you set out to do, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable or interesting. I learned more about how a theatre functions by spending one week as a stage manager than I did in three years at drama school. The woman who I offered the part to was the one who told me all about helping the actors to learn lines and the rehearsals that she’d seen and the actors’ reactions coming offstage.

“What have you been up to recently” isn’t a test, it’s a chance for us to get to know you a little bit. If you’ve had loads of acting work recently, great. If you’ve taken a career break to have kids, tell us about that. If you’ve been doing a horrible call centre job that you hate – don’t talk about work, talk about the stuff you do outside of work.

But the thing to remember about auditions is just do that best that you can do. The first woman we saw gave the perfect audition. She looked exactly like her photo, she was off book and gave a considered performance, she was confident and enthusiastic and I would have quite happily given her the job…

If somebody even more perfect hadn’t walked in a few hours later.

And that is just the way it goes sometimes.

So actors, whenever you walk into an audition, remember that YOU DESERVE TO BE THERE. The question you need to answer, is do the people you are auditioning for deserve you.

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