Actors and amateur auditions

Hi there! How are you? You’re looking dashing next to your shmancy keyboard. For those who just randomly found this blog and don’t know who I am, I’m Jack! I’m an actor, comedian, writer and general whatever I can do to avoid a 9-5job-er. So, with that in mind, I’m going to take a moment to talk about student and independent films, feature, short or otherwise.

First off, this is going to be a blog about all the professional things I do, so if I’ve auditioned for you, you can be almost certain that I’m not talking about you specifically (unless you were a real jerk, in which case, kudos to you for recognizing it, now go away). I’m talking in general terms.

Also, I swear. So, you know. Be prepared for that.

I’ve been a professional actor since 2009. By this I mean that I have been paid for jobs. Everyone’s definition of this is going to be different. Some will state you’re not professional until you’re with a certain agency or a TV series of note. Personally, I live in Australia where professional jobs go to the same 5 people and our idea of a film industry is laughable at best. So, quite frankly if you’re making ANY kind of scratch, you’re a pro in my books.

Sadly, having to be a part of student and Indie films is a part of life. It’s incredibly frustrating, because it feels like you are making no progress as an artist, but the sad fact is that if we didn’t do free gigs we would be doing nothing for months at a time. Free gigs fill your portfolio, and a large portfolio makes you more desirable. It’s a metaphorical dick and you better limber up yer jaw.

Student and indie film makers meanwhile have the less than glorifying task of having to create these projects and make them as awesome as they picture it in their heads on a tiny budget. Sometimes the films you work on as an actor are the first ones these folks have ever done, and it’s not a great end result. Not only that, but they have to fund this gorram picture somehow. Yes even the students. Do you ever wonder why there are kickstarter campaigns for student films? It’s because universities offer the equipment and nothing else. Zippo. All the production design you see in beautiful student films often comes from students own pockets.

I get that, I understand that. I’ve made a few flicks myself on a shoestring budget, and they’re hard to make. There’s a reason Hollywood flicks costs as much as they do. We’re all in this together in this boat filled with holes.

So is it too much to ask for you to maybe have your shit together in your audition? Let’s create a scenario, shall we?

It’s 9 AM. You’re a tired student and you’ve got your first audition of the day. Your director is not all there and your actor arrives. It turns out your director hasn’t given one bit of thought on how they want to direct the actor, and so your actor tries his best to act to a vision they cannot possibly be as aware of as you, the production team. More than likely, the actor doesn’t get the gig. But let me ask you. Is the actor really to blame there?

Let’s try another one. An actor shows up and you are the director. You know what you want, but you can’t communicate it. The actor does his best with the material, but he doesn’t do what you want him to do. Another pass.

One more. An actor shows up and you want him to attempt his scene with different energy, or an accent, or with stooped posture. But you don’t tell him this.

A variation of all of these has happened to me in indie and student productions, and let me tell you, it isn’t just infuriating, it’s incredibly sad.

Here are the facts:

You are film makers.
They are actors.
They have traveled, possibly a great distance to audition for you, if not for free than for a promise of money IF the film is successful.
They have (if they are worth their salt) taken many hours to memorize your script, make artistic choices on who the character is, some even meticulously plan how they’re going to sit, whether to bring props, etc.
You want a successful film.
They want a successful film.

So why is it so hard for you to have your shit together?

You are the face of your film, and reputation is everything. Actors want just as badly as you to make something amazing? Are you kidding? Imagine the awesome that could be created with you two at your creative peaks? Freaking rainbows of awesome fly off the monitor, man. WE WANT THIS SO BADLY. Why do you think we’re there? We can see the potential in you! We wouldn’t show up otherwise! No one likes having their time wasted. Actors are literally the best dumpees in the world. We will keep coming back to you with a mug of hot cocoa and a DVD of The Notebook if we think you’re worth it.

So please, make us want to want you. Just follow this basic structure in the audition.

Have all the scripts you’re going to need.
If the director isn’t a good communicator (I would ask why he wanted to be a director but anyway) get someone to communicate for him.
Know what you’re looking for, be organized.
Finally, for the love of god, bring your A game. Actors are typically insecure people and they will not appreciate a unorganized crew, this will make them lose confidence, and someone who could have been perfect for you will be unable to deliver the goods.

I know this seems like simple stuff. And here’s the dirty, dirty secret. It is. We all want the same thing, to be recognized by our peers as the best at what we do, and ideally make money out of it. It’s the easiest thing in the world to get actors to trust you, if you know what you’re doing.

Hell, even if you don’t, just have your scripts in order, a solid idea, a keen eye and constructive criticism and we’ll never know.

Oh, and compliment us. We dig that shit.


PS: Actors are kind of like “nice guys” in that we’re quick to jump on the “I’M NOT LIKE THAT” train. If you can handle what I’ve written above, bully for you. That’s why I used the word “typically.” Everybody is different. Constructive comments however, are welcome.

PPS: Students and indie film makers, I love you. Without you I would literally have nothing but maybe 10 items in my portfolio. You are amazing and you can do amazing things. ROCK IT!