Directors Respond to Actors' Questions
Bethany & Mary Lou: We both prefer to meet actors in person, especially when it is a pivotal role and time and schedule allows. Casting from a taped session is not our favorite way to cast. It doesn't allow us to give adjustments to what could be the perfect actor who just needs tweaking for us to feel confident in casting him/her. Also, we don't have a sense of how they enter and leave a room, which is a HUGE tell about an actor's confidence, sanity, humor and disposition.
Question: How important are the moments when an actor is listening during an audition scene? In other words, do the moments an actor is listening reveal more to you about their character than when they are speaking?
Bethany & Mary Lou: YES....GREAT QUESTION. There are always moments in a scene when an actor's reaction to what they have heard, or how an actor transitions between beats, brings their performance to life. These listening/thinking/reacting moments are as important as the dialogue. Sometimes they are more important because they are the portal through which a director will see their subtext and inner life. Think of it this way. When actors audition for a role, they are using the same dialogue as all of the other actors competing for that same role. What actors bring to a character beyond the dialogue is their best chance to make unique, individual contributions to building that character. Those contributions, or rather, those choices actors make, can't be duplicated by their competition. More often than not, making the wrong choice is better than making no choice at all. Also, it is important that during a moment such as this, an actor is NOT retrieving his next line from the page or sides. It's not just about the words, it's about bringing life to this character and making the director believe that you are not acting but being; that you ARE the character!
Question: Do you care if actors have their lines memorized for the audition? What difference do you notice about an actor who has their lines down cold as opposed to one who doesn't?
Bethany & Mary Lou: We prefer when actors have their lines down cold for any audition, but especially the callback. When actors know their lines, they usually know the scene better so they're living and breathing as the character, listening in the moment. The actor is open for that "in the room" moment that can happen because it is NOT about the lines, it's about the life of the character. However, if an actor has memorized the lines, it's important they don't "lock" their performance and remain open to any acting adjustments we may give them in the room.
Question: Do you keep a file of actors you want to work with who you suggest to the casting director? And how do actors make it into that file?
Bethany & Mary Lou: Yes, both of us keep files or lists of actors whose work we admire. Our files contain strong actors who may have studied or coached with us, have previously worked for us or whose work we have enjoyed in showcases, theatre or other film/tv projects. Mary Lou likes hard copies NOT electronic copies so she can personally hand them to the casting director with a post-it note containing her personal comments.
Question: Does it make a difference for you if an actor comes up to you on set and thanks you for casting them?
Bethany & Mary Lou: Always a welcome moment! But be aware of all that is going on at the time and don't interrupt a director while working.
Question: What are some tips you could give an actor who is auditioning on tape, for example, things that stand out positively or that you don't like when watching taped auditions?
Bethany & Mary Lou: Don't bob and weave. Stay on or close to mark...lateral moves are better than forward and back (focus!!!). Do not look into camera unless instructed to do so. If there are more than two people in the scene, choose the casting person with whom you are reading for the largest role and eyeline... and choose other eyelines for the other characters. Make sure that your other eyelines are forward, not profile.
Question: What do you find are the major differences between directing for film and directing for TV?
Bethany & Mary Lou: Same job. In TV, you just have to do it faster and for less money.
Question: How do you look for new talent, other than what you find through agents/managers and casting directors?
Bethany & Mary Lou: Mary Lou watches a lot of TV... paying special attention to the credits when she has particularly enjoyed an actor's performance in the piece. She also attends LA and NY theatre regularly.
Question: If you really like an actor for a role, and the producer(s) aren't that convinced, to what extent do you go to win them over to book the actor?
Bethany & Mary Lou: Generally, we both will fight for an actor we like if it is a battle that can be won. And a wise director knows the difference. It helps if the director can reference other work they have done and if that work is readily available to view online. So actors with websites often find themselves with a significant advantage!
Question: How do you feel about actors following up with you after working for you? And what is an appropriate manner of doing so?
Bethany & Mary Lou: Mary Lou loves emails from actors who know her and to whom she has personally given her email address. Otherwise, hand written notes addressed to us and sent to the production address listed on your call sheet are also appropriate. Even if we are guest directing on the show, the production office will forward the note to us. But the best and most appreciated acknowledgement is a social media shout out to us on our Facebook fan page:http://www.facebook.com/DirectorsTellTheStory
Question: Do you remember actors who come in and give a great audition but didn't book the job for future projects?
Bethany & Mary Lou: ABSOLUTELY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Good work is always remembered. And that goes for experienced actors willing to do smaller parts (co-stars). We are always grateful for a great actor in a small role. We feel like you helped us out, and we're inclined to help you out next time around. Also actors should never turn down auditions. Let's see what you do with each and every role you are given, whether you think you're right for it or not. Even if you feel the role is too small. If you give a great audition for a co-star, we may end up casting you in a larger role.
Question: I often wonder about audition wardrobe. I'm not talking about uniforms just dressing for the role and how important is that? If you're a businessman, CEO, DR. Judge, etc..should you always wear suits?
Bethany & Mary Lou: For auditions, actors should always dress in the essence of the character they are playing. However, to your point, actors should avoid any kind of uniform. Not only do uniforms suggest that actor is trying too hard, the audition becomes more about their uniform and less about their performance. Also, it seems to suggest that actor feels the production team in the room lacks the vision to see that actor as the character without the help of scrubs, a judge robe, dress blues, etc. On the other side, an actor who shows up in shorts and flip flops to read for a CEO is telling the production team they're not committed to the role and therefore, not committed to their performance. And more often than not, it could come off as disrespectful. Most casting professionals and directors can tell how an audition will go seconds after an actor walks into the room. This means your first impression is vital to winning the role. Take that into consideration while choosing what you'll wear to the audition. And if you get a callback, it's a good idea to wear what you wore to your first audition.
By Bethany Rooney and Mary Lou Belli
Article printed with permission from iActingStudios.com and Rick La Fond. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved. - iActing Studios is a premiere provider of Online Acting Classes. They feature hundreds of hours of in-depth classes; hosted by professional instructors and coaches who've taugh some of Hollywood's most famous A-listers.
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