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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.

Nothing but Proper Prep Work Will Ready You for the Audition Room’s Curveballs

I know, I know. It’s been quite awhile since I’ve blogged! But, I’m back!

If you’re in Los Angeles in June, I’m teaching my 3-night Audition Bootcamp classes. Click here for more info. Class is almost full so be sure to take advantage of the 10% offer if you sign up before 5/20/19.

In the meantime – here’s my latest blog.

One question I’m consistently asked as a casting director is “What is your biggest pet peeve with actors and auditions?” My answer is in line with most of my colleagues: lack of preparation.

What exactly is preparation? What do casting directors and the filmmakers consider good, solid preparation? Let me break it down for you by telling you a story about a coaching client of mine.

My client got a big break to go in and audition for a role in a television series that was being recast. He was so excited for the opportunity, only to be cut off at the knees because his manager let it slip that none of the producers wanted to see him for the role. The casting director strongly believed in him and made it her mission to give him the opportunity to at least read. The script was great—the kind where the dialogue just rolls off your tongue.

You’ve just got to get out of your own way, know the material inside and out, and make some solid character choices.

Since my client was not in Los Angeles, we worked on the scene using Skype for a solid week. We’d work for about two hours each day, discussing his character, the story, and how he fit into it. The scene was meaty, so there was a lot of good stuff to dig into. Throughout the week, we’d read through the entire script, even scenes he wasn’t in so that he could become immersed in that world.

Audition day finally came, and he was pumped. He read on tape for the casting director, and she was truly impressed—then she brought out a second scene. My client gulped; his agent had only given him the one. “There are two scenes,” the CD clarified. “And the second one is even better! How about you take a look at it in the hallway and we’ll just try it anyway?” My client didn’t miss a beat. He didn’t even leave the room; he looked over the “new” second scene (which we had gone over at least a dozen times over the course of the week) and was ready. “Let’s do it.” He read the second scene in the room and wowed yet again. He walked out, head held high, and called his agent to chew him out for not adequately preparing him. Turned out it had been a miscommunication between offices.

But then he called me. “Marci,” he said, “when she handed me the new scene, I started to panic, but then I remembered that we had gone over this so many times. I was totally ready for this.”

And here’s why I’m using this story to illustrate what preparation can cover. Next, he said, “Here’s the thing: I’m in the best shape of my life right now; I’m on a daytime talk show; I’m in a Broadway show eight times a week. My brain will never be sharper than it is now. My body is engaged and worked out like an athlete because of all that I’m doing every day. I truly amazed myself at how easily I slipped into this second scene and didn’t freak out.”

Your work and your preparation is not just for a specific audition or job. It’s daily. You wouldn’t run a marathon without training months to get there, and it’s truly the same with acting. You need to be in acting class as your foundation and build from there. You can’t just take camera and audition classes. You’ve got to watch lots of movies and television so that you can study the work. Read, research, go to the gym. Most importantly, you must live a rich life so you can have something to draw from in your acting. My client didn’t get the job, but the producer and director fell in love with him and wrote him a recurring role in the series. They continue to work together to this day. Now that’s what I call preparation!

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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