Why Auditions are the “Bottleneck” of the Film Industry
Bottleneck: “a hindrance to progress or production – a stage at
which progress is impeded.”
The Audition (or Casting Session) can be an intimidating
experience for both actors and directors alike because it’s the
place where both sides of the table have only a few minutes to
make bold creative choices. Choices that could affect ALL of our
For actors it takes a lot of guts to walk into a small,
windowless room and have 5 – 10 minutes to “show their stuff” in
front of complete strangers. But it’s just as tough for Directors
as well! How can we correctly decide, in less than 10 minutes,
who is right for a particular role?
Once you start casting you realize that a big part of the success
(or failure) of your film rests on the final decision of which
actor is chosen for a specific character in your story.
For directors not only is it extremely difficult to quickly judge
what personal qualities and professional skills an actor must
have to be right for a part but to make this process even more
challenging, the final decision to cast an actor is almost never
left up to you alone.
Producers, network executives, studio executives, casting
directors and even the dentist bankrolling your indie film, they
all want a say on who is right for a particular part.
During your producer concept meetings early in prep, you may have
all agreed on the specific type and look of a character you were
looking for. But when an actor enters the room and gives you an
authentic and moving performance that deviates from your original
concept, that’s when the casting “bottleneck” could begin.
“…Directors often fall into a “dream lover” approach to casting.
This means having an idea/ideal of the character in your head and
searching for the actor who matches it. This gets you into a lot
of trouble.” Judith Weston – “Directing Actors.”
Casting Based on Subconscious Emotional Perceptions
To me, a good audition means we believe the actor as the
character. But what does the word “believe” actually mean?
After an audition the director might choose one actor for a role
but the Producer will pick someone else. Or vice versa. So who is
right? Well, from each of their perspectives, they both are!
In an audition, everyone looks for different traits or qualities
in an actor based on their own creative tastes, professional
experience and personal emotional triggers!
Some of these triggers are conscious and some are unconscious
because choosing actors (like other creative choices) is an
emotional and subjective response.
Our physiological needs tend to influence our perceptions of
others and the way we make sense of the world around us has a
direct influence on how we perceive and interact with others.
This means other people’s reactions matter greatly to us and
these reactions have a huge influence on how we act towards
others in our life.
So if you are in a casting session, part of your decision on who
you like for a role will be partially based on your subconscious
personal and emotional perceptions.
How to Look for Actors “Below the Tip of the Iceberg”
If you are an experienced indie director with a few good films
under your belt, you will probably be able to attract well-known
and experienced actors to your casting sessions and hire many of
them for your projects.
But what if you are an “unknown” low budget indie director or you
just direct short films, how are you going to find the best
actors in your area for your project when you are not able to
attract (or pay) for the most experienced actors.
Well don’t fear! If you can’t attract (or afford) the most
experienced actors to your casting sessions, there are dozens of
undiscovered talented actors who would be right for a part in
your film – if you know how to look for them!
Unfortunately many of these actors are rarely given the chance to
have a good audition – which stops them from getting future
auditions – which stops them from getting experience – which
potentially stops you from casting them.
And it is primarily this situation that has created the ongoing
“casting bottleneck” for short film directors and new indie
But this dilemma can be solved once you understand how to
effectively audition the majority of actors who are “below the
tip of the iceberg.
ActionCutPrint.com Peter D. Marshall
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