You have to have a plan

So yesterday was the sprint version of auditions… we got to see 45-ish people in 4 hours. Honestly the talent level was great and we didn’t know most of these folks, which speaks to a depth of talent that I’ve been pretty skeptical of.

I do want to share some of the lessons we’ve been reminded of from the other side of the table this time out. We had a great response so these are all general (some very basic and often repeated) notes and fairly well anonymized to prevent individual calling out.

  1. If you are asked to RSVP? Do it.
  2. If you’re using an agency responder? Follow up with a real email. We got a lot of response from one agency that slurped our Craigslist ad, and not ONE of those people followed up with an email (or an audition).
  3. When you RSVP it is your first chance to tell a story. Do it. Be professional. Use complete sentences. Get a Real Name email from a free provider and use it. AngelEyez247 isn’t your name.
  4. When you RSVP with your headshot and resume? Make it in universal formats. Will and I can (and will) open whatever you throw at us, but .docx isn’t universal and less nerdy recipients will simply put you in the kill file. .PDF and .JPG. Download CutePDF and use it. Make sure your .JPG isn’t huge, we’re trying to get names and faces, not make sure your pores are clear. Hey, I know! Why don’t you put it in the same .PDF file with your resume so we can save them together? Email me if you’re not sure how. Travis at Cambiare Productions.
  5. That guy sitting at the table out front? He’s probably not just a fancy pencil cup. He MIGHT be. But you’re better off not assuming that he or she is. In our case the guy at the front desk is me, and despite my egalitarian and deferential habits, I’m the boss (is that okay Will?). It probably best you don’t blow me off or treat me as less than. I’m not judging your reading. I’m judging you as a human. If you are a dismissive [expletive] while dealing with people you don’t think you need to impress? That hurts you. It may not kill your chances, but oddly enough? Will and I talk.
    Are you REALLY nervous?
    Do you have no idea what the play is about?
    Have you read anything about us?
    Have you glanced at the blog?If not, why not? This is a job interview. We’re trying to figure out if we want to spend the next 6 weeks in a small room with you, you should be doing likewise.
  6. I don’t care if your headshot is professional, but it NEEDS to look like you. I’ll admit I poked a little fun at the performer who had sent a sloppy candid earlier in the week, but when they arrived I knew who they were and what their resume contained.
  7. Look like you when you show up. This isn’t really a direct audition note from Saturday.
    Look… I know you’re all freaks or whatever… but I need you to look like someone ELSE on demand. If you have three feet of fire engine red hair, or a mohawk? I have limited options. So tell me a happy lie about how you can be anyone.
  8. Ladies. This is sexist. I understand that. Holler at me over beers after the show, but we need to have an idea what your body looks like. You don’t need to dress sexy, you don’t need to “slut it up”, but you need to not wear a tent. Office casual is fine.
  9. This is specific to me: I put out snacks on purpose. Don’t be afraid of them. We’re a small indie group in a small indie town. Our talent pool isn’t full of professional auditioners. If you don’t have a routine around auditions, let me help you. I put out cold water – you’re getting dry mouth and you don’t need to. The (adorable baby) bananas and orange juice are light sugar and potassium. The M&M’s a heavier sugar for a quick energy boost and light protein.
    I’m trying to give you a chance. Help me help you.
  10. I am rooting for you. Hard. As I said on Twitter the other day, we have as much of a vested interest in you not sucking as you do. It is very much in my best interest to make sure that when you hit the chute you really are ready for the rodeo. You may think that my enthusiasm for you and the “Kick Ass in There” as I shoo you in are fake, they aren’t. I need this cast to be world beaters in 6 weeks, and I need you at your best to see if you’re going to be part of it.

And then of course I make Will do all the hard work.

We’ll be having callbacks over the next few days to work around schedules, and yes we understand that we need to work around schedules because the folks who are worth having are already doing something.

By next weekend we should know who’ll be our new family for the summer. Couldn’t be more excited.

EDITED TO ADD: Here is a great list of tips from DFW Theater.

  • Thanks Travis. These are great tips that apply anywhere for an audition.

    PS Love that you provide snacks. I'd audition just for the adorable baby bananas! 🙂

  • My husband is an actor and he has said one of the greatest training grounds for him was to sit on the other side of that audition table; to see auditions from that perspective. He was amazed at how many failed at the simplist of instructions, at how many were dismissive of the guy outside the room, and how quickly it was to see promise in an audition piece….

  • Mark G

    When I used to produce theatre, our audition monitor/stage manager held more sway than anyone inside the room. If he said they were a jerk, they were gone. No exceptions. Then came the talent assessment.

    But as a professional I do take a little issue with #8. If you need to see what people look like, you should stipulate that in the audition. Since I never knew what the director might want to improvise in the auditions, I always told people to “wear clothing to move in”.

    And one thing you left off I think is important. Always send a thank you note or email after the audition. I know many producers and directors that have wrestled over a choice between two people for a role, and then they get a thank you note from one of them; and that cinches the deal.

  • re: #8 That's poor writing on my part. I don't need you to wear restrictive clothing, or be 'buttoned up', I just need to be able to tell what part of that look is really you, and what is layer after layer of clothing. there were two people in particular who I couldn't tell you what body TYPE they have. Which is really my problem. I'm sorry it was muddy.

    We have an additional hurdle in Austin in that it hit °100 on Saturday and folks have to dress for that as well.

    re: the thank you notes: concur and to add? There are other roles at other times and a thank you note will help me remember you.

    On that note: thanks for dropping in Mark 😉

  • These are great tips – some fairly specific, and may vary from one situation to another. 5, 6, 7 & 10 seem pretty universal to me.

    I have similar items in my own audition checklist:
    http://dfwtheater.com/Auditions/AuditionTips/ta

  • Great post! It's amazing how many of these observations after holding auditions-I'm always chock full of them myself after I hold an audition. But what's even more amazing are some of the bad habits I invariably see at auditions. I actually had someone show up for a musical audition and was offended they had to sing!! Yes, we theater types can be a little off-kilter in the “real” world, but you would think we would all be better prepared to step through the doorway to “our” world- the audition. I guess we should never take for granted that all performers have their act together so posts like this never go out of style! Now if we could just figure out a way to get more men to show up for auditions we'd really be on to something!

  • Yo know, I have to say – we had terrible turnout for men for our production of The Nina Variations last fall, but GREAT turn out on Saturday. I'm not sure what the difference in draw was for them… I need to remember to ask some of the callbackees.

  • THAT is a great list. Thanks for that.

  • “If you are a dismissive [expletive] while dealing with people you don’t think you need to impress? That hurts you. It may not kill your chances, but oddly enough? Will and I talk.”

    For me that usually is a deal breaker. There's so many talented folks all over there's no need to intentionally spend 3 months with an asshole. I usually double check with whoever is kind enough to monitor the auditions how people I don't know acted outside of the room before calling actors back.

    Good luck with callbacks.

  • A director friend of mine uses “Would I like to have dinner with this person?” as a guideline.

    And absolutely always be nice to the person outside the room. Where do actors think these people come from? The audition monitor temp agency? 90% of the time, they're friends of the director, doing them a favour.

    I once watched an actor hang himself by being very rude with the monitor, not knowing that he was the director's husband. Funny, didn't see him at rehearsal.

  • michael devlin

    All excellent tips.

    And thanks for the food. Although I was reluctant to eat any, I did make a comment about the extinction of bananas. As an actor, I am always cautious about eating minutes before an audition, so I hope nobody takes it as a personal. I will be glad to share a bowl of M&Ms another time though. 🙂 Seriously, I can eat a whole bowl!

    And as a side note, loved the audition location. Mainly the art outside the room. As I was preparing, I kept looking at pieces of art that communicated what was happening in the scene. It was a great source of inspiration. I ended up doing several laps around to get the feeling. I would encourage other actors to take advantage of visuals in the room to get you connected and inspired.

  • You had m&m's?! Damn, I should have been there.

  • Nothing personal at all. 🙂

    And of the 45-ish folks who showed you were the only one who did what I would have done, which would have been to separate and focus. (though I also would have taken some OJ) I tend to be over-energized at auditions and need to sand that off a little.

    The next time I have 3 pounds of M&M's to polish off I'll give you a holler 😉

  • We only had three pounds. But NOOOO you have to be in Touch the Frog Prince Faster.

  • So often I am the one sitting out in the hall taking names and numbers and like so many others have commented, I am amazed at the responses I get from people. But I do love that you have food *steals idea for personal use*.

  • Travis, thanks. In a whopping oversight, I had nothing about having a headshot that looks like you, and didn't tell them not to wear tents! I've updated. Thanks!

  • Derek Kolluri

    Thanks to you all for the audition. I had a good time getting to work with you… I really appreciate this post. Here are some things I've always kept close to the chest about auditions, hope they offer you the same insight they have for me.

    ONE: You're always auditioning. Always. The on stage audition is a far more shallow impression than the hour you would potentially spend in the company of THE COMPANY. In most cases, if you're at an audition either you have a strong desire to be an actor or someone has told you you have a propensity for acting… or both. Either way, the point is that auditors are rarely surprised by talent. What hey are more surprised by is your personality and likability. If you walk into auditions like an asshole – you had better be the best damn actor anyone has EVER seen. And even then you may not get the part.

    TWO: Headshots are a still frame that should offer the same amount of intrigue that an entire performance might. One should be able to look at a headshot and say, “This person can act.” This isn't the venue for artistic poses. The only art on the page should be behind your eyes.

    THREE: Resumes are a direct reflection of your attention to detail. If it's easy to read, you're probably easy to work with. If it's complete, then you are a confident performer. Any indication of laziness or apathy even on the resume speaks volumes to your auditors.

    As far as headshots and resumes go, I know they can be expensive. But we're artists with artist friends. Surely you can opt out of $500 headshots nd have you friend with the nice camera take them. Hey, if you need headshots, I take them, and I layout resumes. Both for $100. But I don't mean to use this as an ad for my talents, just a helpful suggestion. Thanks again.

  • Derek Kolluri

    Thanks to you all for the audition. I had a good time getting to work with you… I really appreciate this post. Here are some things I've always kept close to the chest about auditions, hope they offer you the same insight they have for me.

    ONE: You're always auditioning. Always. The on stage audition is a far more shallow impression than the hour you would potentially spend in the company of THE COMPANY. In most cases, if you're at an audition either you have a strong desire to be an actor or someone has told you you have a propensity for acting… or both. Either way, the point is that auditors are rarely surprised by talent. What hey are more surprised by is your personality and likability. If you walk into auditions like an asshole – you had better be the best damn actor anyone has EVER seen. And even then you may not get the part.

    TWO: Headshots are a still frame that should offer the same amount of intrigue that an entire performance might. One should be able to look at a headshot and say, “This person can act.” This isn't the venue for artistic poses. The only art on the page should be behind your eyes.

    THREE: Resumes are a direct reflection of your attention to detail. If it's easy to read, you're probably easy to work with. If it's complete, then you are a confident performer. Any indication of laziness or apathy even on the resume speaks volumes to your auditors.

    As far as headshots and resumes go, I know they can be expensive. But we're artists with artist friends. Surely you can opt out of $500 headshots nd have you friend with the nice camera take them. Hey, if you need headshots, I take them, and I layout resumes. Both for $100. But I don't mean to use this as an ad for my talents, just a helpful suggestion. Thanks again.

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