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What a Casting Director Says in an Audition vs. What They Mean

By Marci Liroff

Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon

Do casting directors speak in code? Have you been kept up at night trying to decipher what they mean when they say something innocuous like “Thanks for coming in”? I’ve been trained to be both honest and inspiring at the same time, and I want to help you in your craft, not rain on your parade. With that in mind, here are a few of the responses you may hear in the audition room, and what I actually mean when I say them.

“Thank you very much.” Means just that: Thank you for coming. I’m not sure if I’m calling you back.

“That was good.” Again, just that. I don’t mince words, so if I say your audition was good, I mean it! For other CDs out there, they may not know what to say and they’ll just resort to this one, too.

“Interesting take.” This can mean one of two things: It was interesting, or I’m being kind. “Interesting” could mean it was actually in the wrong direction from what the role is calling for, and I’m getting the impression you don’t have a good grasp on who the character is.

“Good adjustment.” If I like what you’re doing, I’ll give you direction or some adjustments. I want to see if you can take direction, or if you’re locked into the performance you’ve planned. Sometimes, I’ll give you the wrong direction just to see what you’ll do with it. Directors will also do this to see if you’re listening to them and if they can work with you.

“Thanks for your preparation.” I see a great number of actors each day for meetings and auditions, and it always blows my mind when an actor comes in and isn’t prepared and full of excuses as to why he’s not ready to be in front of me. When an actor comes in off-book with strong choices for the character, I like to thank them for how thoroughly they prepared. I know it seems odd to thank someone for what should be a given, but I like to give praise and encouragement whenever possible.

“Let’s try it again like this.” You’ve probably heard “Make strong choices.” What this means is that you have to bring something to the audition, not just recite the lines.

If you make strong choices for the character but they’re going off in the wrong direction from what we’re looking for, I’ll work with you to get it right because I can see you’re a smart actor and I want to help refine your performance.

“Thanks for your audition, but you’re not right for this.” If I like your work but you’re clearly not right for the role (you don’t look like the family I’ve already put together, or you don’t match with the woman I have cast opposite you), I want to praise you for your work and let you know, from the horse’s mouth, that you’re not going any further in this process. It’s not because you did something wrong, but because you’re just not right for the role. That said, remember that casting directors have amazing memories and take copious notes when casting a project—we will bring you back for the next project if we see a good fit! 

“I’m going to call you back to read for my producers and director.” This means I like what you did in our preread and you’re ready to go on to the next step. You may have brought in the performance we want and I want you to come back and do the same thing, exactly. Or we worked together to bring your performance to what I know the team is looking for. It’s at this point that many actors make a mistake. They get coached between the two auditions and completely change the performance. I’m not saying don’t get coached; I think you should always get coached for your auditions! Just make sure to clue your coach into the notes that the casting director gave you in the audition so that you can replicate it for the callback.

“Don’t quit your day job.” For the record, I would never, ever say this. Anyone who does is a dream killer and shouldn’t be working in casting.

Make sure to check out my online course “How To Audition For Film and Television: Audition Bootcamp”. You can view it on your laptop or your mobile device and your subscription gives you lifetime viewing privileges for this course. I’ll be adding lectures throughout the year.

Warning: I grant permission to share my blog as written with no additions or deletions. Posting my blog is in no way an endorsement of another site unless you obtain my written consent.

The Red Flags to Look For Before Signing on to an Indie Project

Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon

In light of the pandemic, I am offering special pricing for my private coaching (remotely of course!) Check out the info here.

Having cast and produced many, many film projects over the years, I’ve had a lot of experience—and I’ve seen everything from the good to the bad to the ugly. From the audition process all the way through your on-set experience, you’ve got to keep your eyes open for red flags that risk derailing the project or even yourself.

I was casting a big-budget studio film years ago, and the director proposed a scene in which he wanted me to cast two very young children. Once he explained the parameters of the scene, which included shooting late at night, explosions going off near the kids, and them being shot at, I immediately said no and attempted to explain why he wouldn’t be able to hire children for this scene: He’d never get a work permit in these conditions. His team then told me that they wouldn’t get a work permit or pay them through payroll—they’d pay them out of petty cash. I alerted the producer, who said he’d take care of it. The next thing I heard was that the kids and the lead actor had been killed while shooting the scene. A helicopter that was part of the scene came down on top of them after a Quonset hut was blown up and fragments of it flew into the tail rotor of the ’copter.

It’s an extreme example, but it shows that no one can afford to cut corners. And yet, I’ve noticed a lot of that on some of the films I’ve worked on. It’s especially prevalent in the indie film space. They lovingly call it “guerilla filmmaking.”

But if you’re asked to do a stunt and they don’t have a stunt coordinator to meet the required safety regulations, you must refuse.

Sometimes, the filmmakers request a voluminous amount of research and training when there is no offer. Within reason, some of these requests are valid. If you’re doing a baseball movie, we need to see you play. That said, if you find yourself in weeks of training for a part you don’t actually have yet, you might want to rethink these requests and get your rep involved.

So, use your “spidey-sense”; everyone has one. If you’re sent an audition with a request to meet after hours at the director’s home, request a daytime interview in an office setting. Remember, you have the right to bring a peer with you if you aren’t comfortable going alone. Or if a filmmaker says to you, “You know, it would be easier just to make the deal with you,” or “Ugh, reps are such a nuisance,” an actor should not engage. This is exactly why you have representation.

These issues can also come up with nudity riders. If you ask about one and the director’s response is, “You’re cool, right?,” that’s your sign to walk away. The SAG-AFTRA Basic Contract requires a nudity rider to specifically outline the nudity that is agreed upon along with any intimate contact. Make sure you’ve agreed to all of the terms together before you arrive on set. The production is not allowed to ask you to do anything that you haven’t agreed to in your rider.

Not all indies are bad, of course; just keep in mind what we all learned long ago from our parents: If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is! Listen to your instincts.

Make sure to check out my online course “How To Audition For Film and Television: Audition Bootcamp”. You can view it on your laptop or your mobile device and your subscription gives you lifetime viewing privileges for this course. I’ll be adding lectures throughout the year.

Warning: I grant permission to share my blog as written with no additions or deletions. Posting my blog is in no way an endorsement of another site unless you obtain my written consent.)

Find Inspiration During Covid-19

By Marci Liroff

Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon

Boy, time has certainly flown by. It’s been SO long since I’ve written. I hope you’re all staying safe, wearing a mask when you go out, and are social distancing.

In light of the pandemic, I am offering special pricing for my private coaching (remotely of course!) Check out the info here.

A few months ago, we couldn’t have imagined we’d be sequestered in our homes for a prolonged period of time due to a global pandemic. This quiet time has forced us to slow down and be reflective.

Working from home has its own complications. For creatives, it is exponentially harder to find inspiration for your creativity. It’s hard to concentrate when there are so many distractions. Kids need to be homeschooled, the washer and dryer are constantly running—even our pets are more demanding, because they’re not used to us being home 24/7. There’s only so much Netflix you can watch before you have to finally get down to business and do your work, if only for lack of options!

As I’m writing this article, I’ve gotten up no less than four times since I started my first sentence. I see spiderwebs gathered in the corner of the skylight in the kitchen and simply have to climb up on the ladder to clean them away—something I’ve never done in the 19 years I’ve lived here. Apparently, I’ll do anything to not have to sit down and do my work.

With numerous distractions and a lack of stimulation from the outside world, it’s hard to maintain a sense of creativity. So I began searching. I looked to my favorite artists for a clue. Tom Hanks said, “You’re a dope if you don’t steal from everyone you’ve ever worked with.”

Even Pablo Picasso had a take on this, saying, “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.”

This is not to say that you can be authentically creative by stealing others’ work. No one wants to see a carbon copy of someone else; however, there are elements within their work that you can use to spark your imagination and form your inspiration.

I did a deep dive on cable the other night and watched a movie I hadn’t seen since it was released in 1993. “Benny & Joon” is a dark romantic comedy. An unlikely pair, Mary Stuart Masterson plays a young woman with schizophrenia and Johnny Depp plays a magical sprite of a character. Depp “borrows” liberally from Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and Harold Lloyd to create a captivating character that’s part boy, part man, part unearthly being. You can see that he’s not just boldly stealing their moves, but using their singular flair to inspire his performance.

Think about how many actors have been inspired by James Dean and Marilyn Monroe. Are they just copying their moves or are they using their essence to create a fully fleshed-out character? You’ll see some fail miserably at their attempt, but others manage to reach new heights as a performer.

I suggest you use this time to find an actor or two who has informed your work today. Go back and watch their early films, and you can see that they most likely “stole” from other actors themselves. When acting, you have a great opportunity to learn from those around you. So, keep your eyes and heart open.

Make sure to check out my online course “How To Audition For Film and Television: Audition Bootcamp”. You can view it on your laptop or your mobile device and your subscription gives you lifetime viewing privileges for this course. I’ll be adding lectures throughout the year.

Warning: I grant permission to share my blog as written with no additions or deletions. Posting my blog is in no way an endorsement of another site unless you obtain my written consent.)

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