Friday, September 30, 2011

Film Auditions - Interview

Some actors are amazing performers. Yet, either they are the most unself-confident people during auditions, or they simply approach it the wrong way, following a logic that is not so obvious.
Although 80% of the time auditioning means doing a cold reading, interviews are also very common. Interviews are usually camera recorded. The interviewer will ask you to stand on your mark, look directly in the camera, and slate (i.e. say your name and the name of your agent, if you have one); after that, there is not a single rule to know what the casting director is going to ask you. Logic seems to tell us: "You're there because you're an actor, so they'll ask you about acting". Maybe, but most probably it's not what they want to know. Or, maybe, it's not all that they want to know. Most probably they will ask you about yourself, about your life, about your hobbies and interests, about your likes and dislikes; they might ask you to tell an anecdote, or a story about yourself. We cannot predict what the casting director will ask during the interview. Yet, there are some simple rules we can follow to give the best of ourselves in a situation that might seem discouraging at first sight.

1) Whenever you're asked to talk about yourself, don't talk about being an actor. Everybody knows you're an actor, or you wouldn't be there. What the casting director wants is to know you. So, the best thing you can do is talk about yourself and link your personal experiences with your acting career. The casting director, in that moment, is extremely interested in your qualities, and you must be able to showcase them as best and as genuinely as you can. A casting director thinks it is compelling to hear about the person, not just about the actor.

2) Always have something to talk about.
Have at least three talking points that best describe yourself as a person. The casting director needs to understand who you are. To help him through, you need to be able to describe yourself. Choose three things about yourself. You like photography? Talk about that. You love Tango? Talk about that too. Why do you enjoy these activities? What do they give you? What do they mean to you?
Have a number of topics and exercise yourself in becoming fluent when describing yourself through these points.

3) Maintain eye contact with the person you're interacting with. Even if your interview is being recorded, look at the interviewer, not into the camera. After all, acting means interacting with other characters and you never look into the camera (unless specifically required to do so, that is).
Keeping eye contact with the interviewers also helps you better understand their reactions. Do they look bored? Then switch to a different point. Try to understand what they are most interested in.

4) The questions you are asked can be interpreted. There is not a wrong or right answer. The answer you give tells something important about yourself. You don't want to give the casting director "too much", though. Casting directors don't like to be confused just as they don't want choice. If it happens, they might end up saying: "You have so many qualities. I don't know where to put you."
Bottom line: know how to filter. Give the best of yourself without being "too much".

5) Show your passion when describing yourself, your interests, and your goals. Show how committed you are. Reluctance is never a good choice; you need instead to convey self-confidence - not arrogance - when you speak, even when it comes to something you have never done before.

6) Don't talk about things you wouldn't do. You might be unfortunate enough and find out later on - or you'll most probably never find out; you simply won't get the part - that one of the things you said you would never do is actually one of the things you were supposed to do in the movie.

7) If you're asked to tell a story, be smart and know what you can venture into and what you cannot. In other words, be careful: steer away from politics and shun religion! Don't be critical over categories; the casting director or the people beside him/her might belong to that category, and they might take in what you say with a different filter. And, needless to say - mind the praeteritio - if it's not wise to be critical, it's even less to be derogatory against certain categories of people.

A brief summary:
Your qualities are what you get cast on and what you base the rest of your future career as an actor on. The casting director - or whoever it is interviewing you - wants to know about yourself, about your qualities. They want to know the person before they know the actor.
Whatever they ask you, you must have something to say; what you say must reveal something about yourself.
When you are yourself, when you wear your own qualities, then it will be easier for the casting director to give you directions, or to cast you for the role that best suits you.

*Most of these tips come from my audition classes notes in New York.
**A truly enlightening read on the matter is Michael Shurtleff 's Auditions.

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