By Mark Anthony
The adventures of a teen actor and his driver/dad...in Hollywood.
Sunday, January 18, 2015
Are You Ready For Your Pilot Season Auditions???
I drove Zach to an audition on Santa Monica Boulevard last week. It's a casting studio that is always crowded and we've never been there less than an hour.
We got to the casting office and I dropped Zach off at the front door. I needed to find a parking spot and he had to wait for his turn to audition.
I parked and made my way to the studio. I walked in and found.....Nobody in the lobby.
It was the first time I haven't seen a single person waiting their turn to audition at this office.
I found Zach waiting for me outside (I have no idea how we missed each other entering and leaving the building). He told me it was a super quick audition. Three minutes at the most for each person before him and three minutes (if that much) for his audition.
There are different types of auditions faced by actors. With the start of pilot season upon us, it seems like a good time to take a look at the various types of auditions:
1. The Cattle Call/Open Call
This type of audition takes place at an advertised location where actors can be seen without making an appointment. A fantastic way to book extras as well as promote your film to the public and gather community support. These cattle calls can generate media buzz and win people over to backing your film.
Be prepared to stand in line for a long time!
2. Appointment Audition
This is the preferred way to audition. It's easy on the actor because you know what time to arrive for your turn (and always arrive early!!!). It's easy on the casting directors because you know who is reading for the role in your film/show. It doesn't guarantee you will get the role if the producers/casting people want to see you at a certain time. It does give you a boost of confidence to be asked to read for a role!
3. Cold Reading
This type of audition is a great test for the skills of an actor. A cold reading involves getting the script either when you sign in at the audition or when you enter the room with the casting directors. Either way, there is very little time to prepare for the scene.
4. On-Tape Audition
Sometimes you are auditioning for someone who can't be at the audition with you. They might have a prior commitment, they might live in another city or there might be a group of people who can't change their schedules to be in the room at the same time.
A on-tape audition can be recorded in a variety of locations. Many actors stand in front of a white/generic colored wall and record their tape. Others will go to a manager's office or a business that specializes in recording auditions for actors who don't have access to professional recording equipment.
Many casting offices like to conduct auditions this way to minimize the carbon footprint of actors who have to drive/ride the bus/take an Uber to a casting office.
5. The best audition of all....A Callback!
Once the folks in charge of the project have a chance to review the auditions, they decide to call some of the actors back for a second look. The second audition will (more than likely) be in front of people who are higher up in the project decision making process. The callback usually involves the actor doing the same scene as the first audition. This is also when the decision makers will ask for changes in the performance based on what they saw in the first audition. They might love everything you did the first time but just want to see how good you are at taking directions and making changes "in the moment".
Good luck/Break a leg/Kick some butt in your auditions this pilot season! Make each audition the best one possible!
""""One of the most mortifying moments I experienced in my theatrical career was when I was asked to bring the entirely African-American cast of a new musical we were workshopping, a new piece by an African-American librettist and composer, across the street to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and up into the plush boardroom so they could perform a song or two for the board of directors. I wanted to say something, but I didn't. For one thing, it would take an invaluable 45 minutes to an hour out of the creative team's limited time together. But... every year we had to do the same old song and dance for the board to remind them that yes, we did do new plays and musicals, so yes, it was sometimes a good idea to expose the board to new voices, to the vibrancy of an exciting work in progress.
You all know where this is going, don't you? I led the team in. The talent in that team! The writer/composer himself and the cast, lauded veterans of the stage and the most promising members of the next generation of acting giants. And there was our board. White, as white as can be, white white white white. And very comfortable. They'd just been served lunch, I believe. My theater spared no expense in pleasing our board and catering to their demands (oh my god, I'm feeling such rage right now! I'm pretty sure we had a staff member who was mostly dedicated to help our richest board members get house seats to shows on Broadway and the West End. But I digress...)
The only black face in the audience seated at the conference table? The only person of color? The head of our education department, of course. My heart went out to her.
The cast sang a song from the show. They did it. And they brought it. Because they were and are professionals. And the very pillars of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion reverberated down to the parking lot. It was breathtaking.
And I had just been complicit in the remaking of a scene for the millionth time: black bodies and voices entertaining white audiences, an institution raising money on the backs and voices of black bodies.
I was too mortified to apologize to our writer and to our cast, none of whom, I should add, expressed even an iota of discomfort. They were professionals, and they shone. And come to think of it, they'd probably all become accustomed to this scene. "It's just how theater works," they might have thought with a shrug of their shoulders. Or maybe they seethed inside, for the millionth time, when all they were trying to do is workshop a new musical.
Well, I apologize sincerely now to our writer and those actors. I wish I had had the courage to put my foot down. It is not how theater should work.
I quit the American theater on Valentine's Day 2016, so I've been out more than four years now. And honestly I don't plan to return, which is why I can write with such candor.
The heart of the problem, my friends, is with the non-profit structure, which is capitalism on steroids. Who are the bosses ultimately in an American institutional theater? The board of directors. Who are the board of directors? For the most part, those members of the community not with the strongest attachment to the art form but those with the deepest pockets. Often they're really not members of the community. They often just drop in. They are sometimes mere tourists.
It's no wonder that that board meeting was held in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The theater, like most American theaters, had built its board of directors on the old opera model: You get the richest folks together, offer them galas and house seats and receptions and private recitals and showings (for which artists often don't get paid extra, mind you), you pamper them and make them feel more special and entitled than they already do, and then they'll write you big checks to support the kind of art they like, the kind of art they can bring their kids and grandkids to. AND they--not the artists, not the community--get to hire the institution's leadership.
It is a rotten model. Rotten to the core. How can any artistic institution claim to be working for and in the community with that model?
It's got to be torn down. It's got to be reinvented. And I have no idea what the next model will be. I really don't. And no, honestly I don't think government is the solution frankly. Some of the most bloated, self-satisfied, decadent theater I've ever seen was in Germany, where it was almost fully government-funded. Lots of bells and whistles and provocations and completely soul-dead.
I see amazing and galvanizing lists of demands recently being made and posted by theater artists of color. These are vital demands. But they don't address the central issue. As long as the ultimate bosses of an artistic institution remain the community's deepest pockets, nothing will change. Nothing. You'll be putting band-aids on a gaping wound. Sorry, but it's true.
So please figure something else out. Maybe for a few years you just avoid the institutions. You've already started. In the pandemic, so many of you are making amazing art without an institution. Find those who truly adore your work and ask them to fund it. Screw non-profit. Form a corporation and value your art art-making as a resource that profits you, your viewers/audience and your community. I have no idea.
But please don't return to a new version of the old. After the virus, after he's out of office, after police reform and nationwide conversations about race, after, after, after, begin something new. I can't wait to see what it is!”
Words: Pier Carlo Talenti
Video: Griffin Matthews
April Yvette Thompson