By: Jess Canty
Imagine yourself sitting in a small room. Maybe there is a desk, or table. A couple of chairs. The room is blank - mostly to avoid any distractions, but because you have to sit in it all day long, you would welcome a distraction.
Most of the time there are a couple of other people with you, but they sit next to you on the same side of the desk or table - so you rarely look at them.
And often times there is a camera.
And then for hours and hours on end, the door opens and closes and people come in and out of that door and they do the same thing.
They stand in front of you and say the same words. And the person sitting next to you says the same words back to them.
Hello. Camera on. Words. Camera Off. Thank you. Hello. Camera on. Words. Camera Off. Thank you. Hello. Camera on. Words. Camera Off. Thank you. Hello. Camera on. Words. Camera Off. Thank you. Hello. Camera on. Words. Camera Off. Thank you. Hello. Camera on. Words. Camera Off. Thank you. Hello. Camera on. Words. Camera Off. Thank you. Hello. Camera on. Words. Camera Off. Thank you. Hello. Camera on. Words. Camera Off. Thank you.
Sounds like a pretty insane existence to me.
Oh! And these people that are coming in over and over and over again. They're NERVOUS. So now, on top of the fact that you have to see the same thing over and over again - the monotony of that - you have to make them FEEL better about being there (or not depending on if your lunch agreed with you today).
And then... just when you think it can't get worse. Just when you are sure you can't watch this again... Hello. Camera on. Words. Thank you. Camera Off.
Someone walks into the room. And they're happy to be there. Years of sitting behind that desk, watching human behavior has taught you to pick up on this in a nanosecond. Before you even know consciously that you've picked up on a change, something in the amygdala - that back primal part of your brain knows, hopes, that this might be different. You sit up a bit in your uncomfortable chair.
HELLO. Sorry I just have one question about the scene?
YES OF COURSE - Discussion. Mind if I use a chair? SURE, GREAT, yeah - are you going to be sitting? No I thought I would lean on it. Interesting. Camera On. wORdS. Camera Off. THANK YOU SO MUCH.
CASTING. IS. ON. YOUR. SIDE.
What they are looking for is someone that stands out from the monotony in the RIGHT WAY. Someone who is prepared. Someone who doesn't view them as an adversary. Someone who isn't nervous, because why would you be nervous to perform for someone who is on your side? Who is DESPERATE to find the right person for the job.
Think about that. Every day, they know that they are going to have to sit though 25+ auditions or hundreds of tapes to find, what? Maybe 3-4 people who could be right for the job. God forbid they have a picky director who keeps making them re-release the roles over and over for months.
If you are not booking you have to ask yourself - is it because I am part of the monotony? What can I bring to the scene that is uniquely ME? That is wOrdS instead of Words.
I have had the experience recently where some of you have been up for the same role from an open call or due to Cinterra and your agents getting you the audition (don't worry we still only pitch one person per large role from our side). So I have had a mini version of what casting experiences. Because I am watching multiple tapes for the same role.
And I have to say - what I have seen in this very small microcosm is unfortunately closer to "Hello. Camera on. Words. Camera Off. Thank you." than not.
There is nothing wrong with any of these performances. The tapes are professional. You have chosen appropriate attire. You memorized the sides.
And so did everyone else. What is "wrong" with these performances is there is nothing that sets you apart. Nothing different - but still correct for the role - from the way that the next actor is performing it.
So next time you go in remember: All those people in the waiting room are going to give the same performances as each other - and possibly the same performance as you.
Casting is bored - entertain them.
It is your room. Don't be rude of course - but do what you NEED to do, ask for what you need so that you CAN entertain them. YOU are the expert. They don't know HOW to entertain - otherwise they would be actors.
What they know is how to recognize an entertainer. I don't think there is any greater argument than that for understanding they are on your team. YOU ostensibly know how to entertain, and be an actor.
YOU know how you best look on camera. YOU know that you can't make them feel like this is a dinner scene without a table and chair in front of you.
YOU know that your body is your instrument and it evokes something different when you are sitting vs. standing vs. leaning. It is YOUR STAGE.
Two of the best examples of this I have ever seen are Emma Stone’s and Tom Cruise’s Lip Sync Battles on the Tonight Show. Both of them own the stage. It is JIMMY’S stage – it has his name on it. But when they are performing it is theirs.
In Emma’s performance – 96 MILLION VIEWS – she is smarter than the average bear in both of her song choices. First she picks a song that is supremely difficult to sing let alone lip sync. It is clear that she has studied for this. Then she picks a song that is “unexpected” for a girl in a dress and heals to perform. Both very smart, very competitive choices under the guise of the “scene” which is – lip sync two songs. She picked the two best songs to show off her skills and she nailed it both times. She says it in the second song – she came to win no matter what.
Tom, one of the biggest movie stars in the world, in his performance, has taken the time to rehearse. He, has clearly planned much of this ahead of time with the producers and show’s director. How do I know this? Because he has made lighting choices. Because there are camera moves that WOULD NOT BE POSSIBLE in a live-to-tape situation unless they were meticulously planned and rehearsed ahead of time.
Also, he is SUPER competitive. It’s Jimmy’s stage right? But Tom asks him to hold his jacket. He threatens to re-create his iconic performance of Old Time Rock and Role – then acknowledging that it “wouldn’t be fair.” HE CAME TO WIN. You have to stand out against the Jimmy Fallon that is coming in after you. Because he is coming after you - just watch how Jimmy ends the battle with Tom.
He’s also good. He’s also prepared. He’s got more credits and experience than you. He has done Lip Sync battle 25 times with 25 other celebrities.
When you put yourself on tape. When you go in that room. You have to come to win.
You have to make choices that are smart and unique to you and your skills.
hELLO. CAmerA ON. WORds. cAMera OFF. thanK YoU.