Are you wondering how to find actors for a short film? Unsure about how to organise casting sessions? Curious about how to run callback auditions? Then this is the article for you!
In the last week or two we have been casting for a new actor to play Ren, our title character. This has inspired us to put down a few tips about how to run auditions, to make it pleasant for the actors and most useful for you the filmmaker.
1. Get self-tapes
In this day and age, it’s relatively easy for an actor to record an audition reading at home and send you an unlisted YouTube link. This is incredibly useful, because CVs and headshots don’t tell you much. (In fact, many actors look nothing like their headshots!) Just allow plenty of time to watch them all ahead of the auditions.
2. Have a waiting room
Pick a venue with an ante-room so that each actor has somewhere comfortable to wait while their predecessor is auditioning. A chair in a corridor can work, but you’re not exactly helping your prospective cast get into character if they’re forced to perch in a busy thoroughfare.
3. Reduce the preamble
Once your actor has come in, it can be tempting to sit them down and give them a lengthy spiel about your production – after all, it is your baby. But the longer you delay the actual reading, the more nervous the actor is likely to get. There will be time for a relaxed chat afterwards.
4. Choose the right sides
When selecting scenes to audition talent with, try to encompass a range of emotions. Sometimes, especially when casting a short, there may not be a long enough dialogue scene in the script to really judge an actor by, so don’t be afraid to extend a scene or even write a completely new one.
5. Ask for variations
Even if you love the actor’s first reading, ask them to do it again with a different intention or emphasis. This allows you gauge their ability to take direction. You might even want to try a little improvisation, as this can reveal a different side to the actor. It never hurts to see how someone performs outside of their comfort zone.
6. Capture it on camera
By all means film the auditions so that you can review them later, but don’t spend the whole session with your eye glued to a viewfinder. Bring a separate camera operator, or leave the camera on a tripod so that you can give the actor your full attention. And never release audition footage publicly without the actor’s permission.
7. Acting is reacting
Actors are used to performing auditions against non-actors woodenly reading in lines. But if you can, try to have another actor play opposite your candidates, because you’ll always get better results.
8. Keep an open mind
If an actor isn’t right for the part they’re reading, consider whether they might suit one of the other roles in your film. If so, give them a chance to read for that. For example, Nick Cornwall originally auditioned for the role of the Kah’Nath Commander, but Kate felt that he was better suited to the more sympathetic role of Ren’s father, Dagron.
Don’t be afraid to do callbacks. When casting Ren and Hunter for Season One, we called back several actors for each role and tried them out in different pairings to test the chemistry between them.
10. Follow up
If someone has made the effort to travel to your casting at their own expense, having learnt the lines and perhaps produced a self-tape before that, then the very least you can do is to email them and let them know that they didn’t get the part. It’s just good manners.