Still super exciting.
As a long time screenwriting instructor/story analyst but first-time feature director, what has struck me as fascinating about this audition process is really how much it overlaps with screenwriting: two different interim crafts stepping towards the ultimate art of film.
The first impressions of an actor auditioning (whether walking in the room, their head shots, reel or their first moments in character or delivering lines) is analogous to opening up a screenplay and reading those first few lines: you want the screenplay/actor to be great! You are literally rooting for each and every artist to knock it out of the park. That’s what we’re all here for: to find the jewels.
In both situations, you can tell instantly when you’re in competent hands: when you can relax, lose time and get lost in the moment and see the potential. Conversely, when you’re not under the spell of a master: it makes everyone uncomfortable, antsy and challenges faith in the material.
You can tell immediately if an actor is prepared, wants the role and is professional. You can tell quickly who might be a great actor someday but just won’t be developed in time for you to take a risk on them with your project (but you’re curious to see them again in the future) versus those that’re coachable/directable that you might be willing to bank on right now ’cause you have faith they’ll be able to bring that character to life. So far, it’s really been black and white obvious. There’ve been a handful I’ve turned to my casting director for her invaluable advice, but by and large there’s not a lot of gray area.
The second an actor walks in the room (or you see their website or audition tape), you can’t help but think if they fit how you envisioned the character in your head. But what’s wonderful is when somebody wildly different presents themselves as an interesting variation from what you had pictured. I’ve tried to be really open to any and all races, ages – even swapping genders if it would make for unique casting and really bring a richness and depth to the visual and auditory storytelling.
I’ve been struck by how much is communicated before the actor begins. I respect that we all have different processes and I honor that but I also really appreciate common courtesy: when an actor makes eye contact and shakes my hand, listens and is in relationship with their Reader, thanks the cameraman on the way out – all those little details give me a glimpse into what this person might be like to work with as opposed to if they are Narcissistically-focused, which is fine, too, I guess – if they are amazing!
I’ve found myself really intrigued by VOICES and ENERGY as much as by appearance. Sometimes, I’ll toss out an adjustment or twist the objective just to see if they’ll play with me, take a risk. I mean, it’s an audition, afterall, not a performance. Our actor-director relationship begins right then. Those that are willing to at least TRY, I know will push themselves to help us mine the character and the material and get some engaging options in the can. Those who don’t implement the changes I request and deliver identical takes or have no variation in their delivery don’t give me the confidence we’ll ever be able to work together to get what we need up on that screen.
Wednesday is our last audition in LA then I’m off to Australia to teach a screenwriting retreat then straight to North Carolina for local auditions. I just can’t wait! This truly is the most fun I’ve ever had in my career!
I am so blessed and grateful!