It’s been a very long time since I was an actor and I am constantly amazed at how different auditions are today. I often find myself envious at how easy it is for actors to audition. Yes, easy! The reason being that the majority of auditions are now video auditions. I asked an actor recently how many of his auditions were in person and he gauged it at 5%. Another replied zero in the past year!
I began acting in 1987 in Dallas and moved to LA in 1990. This was before the internet, smart phones, email and gps! Once in LA, whenever actors got a call from their agent about an audition, it meant that they had to first drive somewhere to pick up the sides. Fax machines were a definite plus but not all casting directors or agents would fax sides. LA traffic was horrendous at that time and I know it has only gotten worse. Actors had to actually use an actual map if they weren’t familiar with the location of the audition! Once obtained, actors would drive home, prepare for the audition, drive back to the location the next day, and should they get a callback, they would be required to drive to that location again, and possibly a third or fourth time if they received additional callbacks. This routine could actually be for one line!
Another downside is that during live auditions, there are other actors in auditioning before and after other actors, thus, the waiting actors are usually sitting in a room surrounded by a half dozen or more other actors who look exactly like them. If the audition requires the auditioning actor to be loud, the actors on deck often got to hear everything they did and said. If they made completely different choices, they will question themselves and possibly try to make quick adjustments. When the auditioning actor leaves the room, there are a few minutes before the next actor is invited in and greeted by
anywhere from just one person, the casting director, to perhaps a dozen or more other creative people whose names and jobs are complete unknowns.
It would become quite unnerving if the actor who is auditioning is in the room for a long time. We can only assume the producer or director loved them and gave them the opportunity to make needed adjustments and perform the scene(s) multiple times. If one is in an out quickly, we often assumed they are just not what they are looking for.
The few live auditions held today still have all of these elements for actors to deal with but anymore, a live audition is not the norm. At the studio, we audition actors who want to attend the studio for class placement and even these are held via Zoom
The other disadvantage of a live audition is giving a performance that the actor just knows is not good, and desperately wanting another chance to do it again but knowing, it is best to not ask. And, of course, should an actor have multiple auditions that day, this scenario will be repeated a few times.
Today, most actors requested to audition will be asked to do a video audition. Technology has made this possible, Covid showed everyone it was a viable option, and producers no longer have to rent a space to hold auditions.
The preparation consists of setting up lights and camera, many actors use their phones, they print off the sides from email and get a friend or family member to be their reader. Perhaps they will do the audition with a coach who will direct them. They will have the opportunity to do as many takes as they like, download it, and send it to their agent or directly to the casting director in a matter of minutes.
While this is so incredibly convenient, like most things, there is a downside to video auditions and this one is enormous. The downside is that instead of a casting director looking through a couple hundred submitted headshots, which had to be sent via courier, they now have literally thousands to go through. It will start with the headshot and if the actor has the right look, a video audition will be requested.
Years ago, I made a short film and put out a casting call for one of the leads. In less than 24 hours, I had over 2100 headshot submissions. This was for a short film that paid $100/day! From the headshots, I was able to narrow it to 25 actors that I wanted to see actual video auditions.
While live auditions are much more time-consuming and tedious for all parties involved, the benefits are worth noting.
Again, the biggest benefit is that casting directors are very limited in terms of time and how many actors they can audition for any given part. This narrows the competition significantly.
In addition, for actors who are able to do a live audition and are good at taking direction, are charming and personable, a video audition is a poor substitution for a live one. It’s such a great platform for actors to really show all that they can do.
I can’t imagine this trend changing any time soon. Knowing this, I encourage all actors to get really good at their video auditions and make sure your set up shows you in the best light and background possible!
I cannot stress this enough; a great setup is essential! Many casting directors won’t even watch a video audition if the lighting and sound
are poor or if the framing is wrong. There is truly no excuse for actors to not have great lighting and a good reader.
To learn more about the studio, go to www.tbellactorsstudio.co