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Advice from a Casting Director

Posted on: September 7th, 2013 by wmapother No Comments

Risa Bramon Garcia didn’t start casting projects yesterday.  Her first IMDb credit is 1985’s somewhat cult classic, Desperately Seeking Susan (starring Madonna, for the unindoctrinated among you). How’s that for starting a career?  On a personal note, I’m still grateful that she cast me in the 2007 pilot Skip Tracer, directed by Stephen Frears (I trust that he needs no introduction.).

She’s written a terrific piece with advice for actors on how to behave in the casting room.  It’s below, and you can alsofind it on her website or on Backstage.


21 Things You Can Do to Make A Casting Director Happy in the Audition Room

Casting directors are your advocates and your champions.  Your work reflects on us. Your wonderful work makes us look good and gets that role cast.  Your disconnected, tentative, muddled work does nothing for anyone.  We need you to be great. We’re here to host your experience and shepherd you in, not hold you back.  We want to share in your excellent work.

Casting directors await you on the other side of that door. The door to which you delegate so much power. The door that you can choose to see as a gateway or a barricade.  While you are tempted to turn the entrance into that room into a horror movie, know that it’s actually your stage, not a torture chamber. Whether it’s a pre-read for an associate or a full-blown director/producer callback session, this is your time, your experience. This is your opportunity to do exceptional work.  Enter the space and do the work for yourself, for the gratification of the work itself, and yes, to collaborate with the other creative people waiting to figure it out with you.  Truth: They can’t do it without you.

Here are some choices (and they are choices) to make any Casting Director truly happy in the room:

1. Accept the invitation with grace and enthusiasm; you were requested to be here as our guest.
2. Come in to work and not to please anyone or get our approval.
3. Enter with certainty. Don’t give up your power as soon as the door opens.
4. Play on a level playing field. We’re all figuring it out. Together.
5. Make no excuses whatsoever. Leave your baggage outside. Better yet, in the trunk.
6. Make the room your own. It will make us so much more comfortable.
7. Ask questions only when you truly need answers. “Do you have any questions?” is usually another way of saying: “Are you ready?” You aren’t required to have one.
8. Know your words and understand what you’re talking about. You don’t have to be totally off-book, but if you’ve spent quality time with the material, you’re going to know it. (More on quality time another day!)
9. Do your homework on the project; this includes knowing all the players, the show or film’s tone & style. Read all the material you can get your hands on.
10. Make choices; take responsibility for the choices you make.
11. Don’t apologize. Ever. For anything.
12. Know what you want to do and do it. Then leave yourself available to make discoveries. Know that your homework is done. Now let your preparation meet the moments.
13. Don’t mime or busy yourself with props, activity, or blocking. Keep it simple.
14. Don’t expect to be directed but if you are, take the direction, no matter what it is. Understand how to translate result-oriented direction into action.
15. Don’t blame the reader; “make the reader the star of your audition” (I quote my teaching partner, Steve.) Engage fully no matter who’s reading those lines. Likely your reader, a living, breathing human being, will engage (at least somewhat) if you show up.
16. Make specific, personal, bold choices. We want your unique voice to bring the script to life.
17. Stillness is powerful. Understand how to move and work in front of the camera; eliminate running in and out, getting up and down.
18. Require no stroking, coddling or love. We’re there to work. Don’t take it personally when we’re not touchy-feely. Know that we love actors and that’s truly why we’re here.
19. Understand that you’re there to collaborate. You’re being evaluated in terms of how you serve the role and the material. Any decision is not a verdict on your personhood.  Judgment is something you can control.
20. What you bring in reflects how you’re received so bring in joy, conviction, and ease, and our hearts will open.
21. Share your artistry above all else.
Remember that we’re all human in those rooms and you can affect us on an emotional level. It’s what we all really want. Being fully present, truthful, personal, and vulnerable is going to give us the ammunition we need to champion you with all our hearts.

Believe that we all desperately want you to do great work. We’re rooting for that every time you walk into the room. You show up and do your fullest, deepest work and we’ll slay dragons for you (other than Daenerys’ – Game of Thrones), and follow you anywhere. And man, we’ll be so happy doing it. You have the power to make that happen. For you, for us, for the work. Hallelujah! 

– Risa Bramon Garica

Posted in Acting Tips & Info, Film, TV

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