The Audition: A director’s POV

After yesterday’s announcement of Beach Casting and Brendan McNamara joining The Fitzroy, I thought it would be nice to share some of my thoughts on casting and what I look for in an audition.

I should say up front this is just my way of doing an audition and what I look for. I’m sure each director has a different method and it’s going to be a great learning curve working with Brendan.

I have the highest respect for Actors, it’s a tough job, sure the perks are great but the reality is it’s hard graft. Full of ups and downs, long hours and they get asked to do some hideous things. ‘Just sit in this cold wet lake and make it look like it’s the middle of the summer’. Not to mention the thick skin they must have to develop from auditions. No it’s not a job for me, and anyone who is or wants to be an actor you have my admiration.

So what am I looking for in an actor when they walk into an audition?

Three things:

  1. They are friendly and I get on with them as a person.
  2. They can take direction and listen.
  3. They have thought about the character and story.

Now these might sound simple and glib and they are designed to be.  You see so many people during an audition it becomes pretty repetitive pretty quickly.  If you are lucky you might find someone who just stands out and is the obvious choice but that isn’t always the case the truth is there are often a handful of people all good and then I fall back on this list.

I’ll go in to the three in a bit more details.

1. They are friendly and I get on with them.

It’s the old adage first impressions count: And they do. Auditions can be very quick but it’s incredibly important for me to get on with an actor. If there’s a moodiness or indifference in an audition then what will it be like after 11 hours of work on a cold wet set.

We don’t have to be friends and over friendless is just as off putting. We should be fostering a working relationship, with mutual respect.

2. They can take direction.

Often an actor will have an idea of how to play a character, scene, or line but often for whatever reason you will want them to play it differently. Being open to taking direction is really important.

In the audition this is generally how I play it.

The actor walks in we greet, make a little small chat and then I ask them to run the scene. I might give a little direction by describing the scene, where it comes in the piece and what the character is trying to achieve. But that’s it, sometimes not even that.

The actor will perform the scene.

Then I will tweak something specific with some simple direction (even if it was performed perfect), play it faster, slower, more energy, less, etc. Something like that.

The actor will perform the scene again.

And that is it.

From my (admittedly limited) experience it is surprising how often an actor won’t listen and will either play the scene exactly the same again or completely differently to how I asked.

3. They have thought about the character and story.

This might come up at anytime during the audition and normally just in conversation. I want to see signs that the actor has thought about the character, worked through why they are doing something and are not just reading the words on the page.

One of the other things I really like is when actors make brave unconventional choices even if they aren’t right it’s always great to see a creative imagination at play. I look for this in all cast and crew. There is no such thing as a bad idea. It’s just a case of making sure we run with the best option.

So that’s how I run an audition and what I look for. Like I say I think everyone probably approaches it slightly differently and if you have and suggestions or tips I would love to hear them, especially from an actors point of view on what they are looking for.

Like I say I can’t wait to get working with Brendan and start the casting process. We’ll be putting out a few open calls as we go along.

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