I attended every audition for Red Skies at Night and watched every audition tape a few times. We have a great casting director, Yumi Takada, so our auditions went smoothly. One interesting thing Yumi does as a casting director is she “slates” at the end of an audition instead of the beginning (this is when the actor stands still for the camera, says their name and role etc.). I am told casting directors traditionally do this first, to begin the audition.
Our producers asked why Yumi why she reversed this process. Her reasoning was simple and brilliant.
When an actor enters the room, they are ‘in the role.’ If you slate first, by definition, it momentarily takes the actor out of that role, and they they must get back into the role to perform. Yumi’s theory is we get the best performance if we allow the actor to audition upon entering the room, like they are coming out onto the stage. I think the theory is genius, and I’m taking it with me to every future movie.
So, now — our audition process goes like this –
1. The actors come in and perform the “sides” (scenes) immediately, with no direction or guidance whatsoever.
2. I give them direction, try to get the character as close as possible to the character we envisioned.
AND — If the actor is unique in some way — has an unusual accent or look that was not what we envisioned for the role — instead of just moving on, I sometimes use the audition to take a fresh look at the character. “Let me hear the character in your natural accent” is I direction I gave more than once. What if Alexandra in from London? What if Woody was from the South? One of these outside-the-box auditions was so captivating, I am about 90% certain to change the gender of a role just for the actor (true story).
3. The actor performs again, and we evaluate (i) the performance; and (ii) whether or not the actor can take direction.
4. I review every audition tape again. Rock-n-Roll.
There it is! 🙂