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Do You Know the 4 Levels of Auditions?

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By Marci Liroff

When I was teaching my Audition Bootcamp class last week I was stunned when one of my students asked, “What’s a pre-read?” There are so many different levels of meetings and unfamiliar verbiage when you’re starting out. Here’s a guide so you’ll be familiar with the process.

When you go to an audition or meeting you’ve got to know what level of audition it is before you set foot in that room so that you’ll know what’s expected of you.

The General. This is where I want to get to know you. It’s simply an informal interview. I may know your work, but I want to see what you are really like. Be yourself. It’s a huge opportunity for us to get to know each other on a completely different level than will occur in an audition with possibly 5 other people in the room. Do your homework. Check out the CD to see what work they’ve done in the past and what they’re working on currently.

When we ask you what you’ve been up to lately we don’t want to hear, “Nothing…just stuff.” Tell me what jobs you just did or have upcoming, or how great your new class is, or anything related to your craft. Plus, tell me something about yourself. “I just got a new dog, or I’m moving in with my boyfriend” – tell me a story to give me an idea of your life. Part of this meeting is for me to see another side of you. If you’ve done your homework you can say, “Hey, I just loved so and so film you cast, or I love that series you worked on. How did you find that little girl?”

Unfortunately, these days the “general meeting” has been usurped by CD workshops. Few CDs do generals anymore claiming they don’t have the time.

Pre-read. I just HATE that word “pre-read”. It already sets you up to hate me because I have to pre-screen you before you can go on to the next step. Please don’t think of it that way. The reason we’re doing it is because I’m unfamiliar with your work, or there wasn’t a decent demo reel for me to see. Perhaps I don’t quite see you for the role and want to see what you’d do with it before bringing you to my creative team. Think of it as a work session not a hurdle.

You are prepared and have done your research on the role and the project. You are as off-book as possible but still holding the sides and turning the pages as you go along in the scene.

Remember folks, this is your job! If you were an architect would you come in and do a half-ass job on your first consultation meeting with a new client?

Feel free to ask (brief) specific questions about the character or script. You’ve got to gauge how busy the casting office is in terms of small talk. Due to the fast paced schedule, sometimes the CD needs to do the scene and you’re outta there. So, clip the small talk and get into the scene.

Don’t ask the CD if you are getting a call back. Tell the CD if you are committed to dates that would make you unavailable. Nothing is worse than me bringing in an actor for producers who is unavailable for the project. I will usually tell you then and there if you’re coming back, along with specific directions.

If you don’t get a callback, know that just because you didn’t get the role you came in for, I notice you. If you’re good I will bring you back for my next gig. I always say, “Make a fan of the CD and don’t just focus on booking the job because if you aren’t right for it, you always want the CD to say, “But I like him/her, I’ll keep them in mind in the future”. And we do and it pays off again and again.

The callback or Producer/director session:

At this audition you’ve been selected to read not only for the CD again, but for the creative team. Sometimes the director and producers will be in the room, and sometimes we’ll be re-taping your audition without anyone else in attendance. You’ve got to take in all the info and direction you’ve received from the CD at your pre-read audition and make sure you “bring it” to this audition. Again, you’re off book and connecting with your reader. You can hold the sides. Make sure you don’t make any major changes to your reading at this point. Consistency is important.

The network and studio test.

In my article, “The Four Phases of Pilot Testing” I explain the rigorous and somewhat grueling process you must go through to get a role in a series.

In the old days, we’d do a screen test shot on film with hair, makeup and wardrobe on a studio set. These days we do a screen test shot simply on our video camera in our offices – much more efficient and economical. Sometimes we’ll shoot with 2-3 cameras to get different angles. We might pair you up in a mix and match situation with different actors to see who has the right chemistry. When I cast E.T. we had all our final choices of kids come to the writer’s house and play Dungeons and Dragons to see their chemistry. It became clear that one of them didn’t quite fit with the others. You can watch the full story here.

At this point you are as ready as you’ll ever be to book the job. No sides this time – you are “in the skin” of your character. This is no time to let nerves get to you. Remember that you deserve to be here and you’ve earned your place in this room.

In all these auditions you’ve got to have a good mixture of patience, tenacity, consistency along with being able to listen. Keeping your heart open along the way will take you far.

 Make sure to check out my new 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.

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