15 Tips for Holding Auditions

PROMOTE
Unless you are very well known, promotion will have a huge part in the success or failure of your audition.

Social Media is probably the best/cheapest/easiest form of promotion. You can send invitations and post notices to acting, theater, modeling, stunt  groups, etc. Hit them up on Facebook, Linked In, IMDB, Stage32, etc.

 Obviously you may have friends, family or business associates, who you might consider inviting.

You can contact whatever groups are likely to have the people you’re looking for: casting agencies, theater groups, modeling agencies, etc.

You can print some fliers to hand out, which is nice if you run into someone who you think would be perfect for a certain role.

You can put a notification about your audition in the local newspaper, which is often a free service newspapers may provide.

If you really want to go the extra mile, you can print posters and put them up on street light poles, though that might come across as a little unprofessional..

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Scouting the location where you will hold your audition is actually very important.
First, you have to consider what type of location you’re looking for. Would you like to have auditions in a theater, a movie theater, or a restaurant?

You have to take several primary factors into account. How big does the space need to be, based on the number of people you’re hoping to attract? Lighting and acoustics also should be considerations.

Will this location provide a work space without disturbances/noise? Can you afford this location and if so, is it available at the right time, for long enough to accomplish all you hope to?

Also, is this location easy to find? Is it well known, so your prospective auditioners will be encouraged to come? Is the area dangerous or unprofessional?

Once inside, do they have enough space? Do they have enough chairs and tables? Where are the bathrooms? Where will smokers go out to smoke?

If possible, get a map to the location (and obviously the address) and phone number, so you can include that on all your promotional materials.

HOW TO PREPARE

This is where you separate yourself from the amateurs and ensure that you are going to have a great and successful casting!

Choose the script you’re going to use carefully, so that it demonstrates the attributes you’re looking for in your auditioners.

Create a questionnaire that covers all the information you can possibly think of that might be useful in finding what you’re looking for.

Try to find the best people to work with…cameraman, photographer, caterer. Now think of how many people you are going to be dealing with. It is very likely that you will need additional help. It’s best to have 4 or 5 attendants to man the front desk, hand out information, direct auditioners from station to station and answer basic questions.

Print all the copies of everything you need a day or two in advance and get all the materials ready to take the night before, if not earlier.

If you are looking at a truly massive audition, you may need to rent/bring a microphone & speaker or megaphone.

If you are going to host the event, write notes for your opening speech, so you remember to set the right tone for auditioners and tell them what they need to know.


WHAT TO BRING

Okay, obviously you need plenty of chairs and tables, so if the establishment isn’t providing them, you’ll need to find a way to get them there.

For the sign in table, you should have multiple sign in sheets and a bag/box of pens. Clipboards to hold the sign-in sheets are also highly recommended.

You will also bring a massive pile of scripts from which the auditioners will be reading from (unless they were given scripts to memorize previously).

Hopefully, you have a cameraman bringing a digital camera to video tape the auditions. Lighting and sound equipment are definite pluses.  If you somehow can’t afford/find a decent camera, at the very least bring a tape recorder to record audio of the auditioners’ performances.

Hopefully, you have a photographer who will bring a good camera to take head and body shots. Professional lighting and a role of background paper are definite pluses.

Hopefully, you are having a caterer deliver food. If not, perhaps the restaurant or location where you’re holding the auditions is providing food. If your plan is to bring your own food/drinks for auditioners, make sure you don’t forget it!

Now, you may shake your head and say, “This is a bare-bones venture! I don’t have money to hire a professional cameraman, photographer and caterer just for an audition!”

Well sure, if you can’t get a cameraman, see if you can buy/borrow a camera, you may not need an actual cameraman, just set it on a tripod and turn it on and off with each audition. The danger with doing it yourself is that it is one more thing to worry about and you may forget to turn the camera on or off.

See if you can get a hobby photographer to help you with your audition. Some of them are very talented and many will do it for fun, because they get lots of free models to photograph. Another benefit you can point out to photographers is that many of the actors may hire them later to do headshots. They may also want to select some of the people they photograph to model for them in the future.

If you can’t pay for food, you can just provide some water and coffee for your auditioners, even that simple gesture would be appreciated.

*Note Make sure you order the food early, so that it arrives at the time you actually want it. For example, you don’t want to say, “Well, everyone’s starving, let’s order food!” Because at that point, you are probably looking at a couple hours before anything arrives and that might make for some pretty unhappy workers/auditioners.

HOST’S RESPONSABILITIES

The Host should kick everything off with a speech that will explain what the process will be, what auditioners can expect and what is expected of them.

The host should strongly stress the importance of filling out all the information on the forms and making it legible. You would be surprised!

The host should point out the different stations auditioners will need to visit and they should publicly thank the venue if the venue is donating its space.

Hosts should give auditioners a chance to ask questions.

After that, the Host can help with prioritizing auditioners if the most likely candidates are going to be skipped ahead.  The Host can then watch the auditions in order to try to give auditioners a better idea of what they are looking for and give feedback.

*This may seem obvious, but remember what you are looking for from auditioners is NOT a secret. You are better off giving them some tips as a group, than hoping someone will naturally do the read exactly how you want it. You don’t want to over-coach them on every nuance, but saying something like, “If you’re playing the part of Nancy, we’re looking for chronic shyness and then real terror with a solid pop on the last line,” might go a long way toward helping you find what you want.

SIGN IN

There should be a table in front where everyone signs in at the time of arrival. Now you may ask, why should they sign in, if we are going to have them fill out detailed forms about themselves?

There are several benefits to having them sign in. First, the Sign In sheet is a fair and authoritative record of who came to the audition first, so if you want to take people in order, that is your best reference with which to work from.

Secondly, it makes it easy for you to count how many people came. Also, if an auditioner either doesn’t fill out an auditioner form (it happens more than you would expect), or their handwriting is illegible, the sign in sheet can help to clarify name spellings, etc.

Finally, you can get a clue as to which auditioners are most reliable by checking who showed up first and who barely made it.

FORMS

Some people will only have basic information on their audition forms. This is a perfect waste of an opportunity to easily get all the information you could ever want on prospective auditioners.

Of course, the most important pieces of information are the email and phone numbers of all the auditioners. In addition, you may want additional information like age, racial background, body-type, height, weight, etc.

But beyond that, you can ask about auditioners’ acting history, what languages they speak, hidden talents, etc.

You may find out an actor is a Bruce Lee-caliber martial artist and it wouldn’t have come up any other way. Now suddenly you’ve discovered a double-threat talent, just because you added an additional question on your audition form.

It is very important to be organized and pay attention, otherwise it will be very challenging for whoever attempts to match the videos and photos with the auditioner information sheets. This is why it’s always important at the start of video-taping to have the auditioners say their names loudly and clearly. This is a simple, but very important tip!

AUDITION

What works very well is to position two auditioners together and have them read from a script. If it is a long script, you might want to have them seated, if it is a short one, you could have them stand.

Remember to have them say their names loudly and clearly at the start of each audition. This will not only help you tell who’s who on the audition videos, it will also help you match photos with the forms they filled out later, if need be.

You may be thinking, “but they won’t be able to give their best acting effort if they’re reading the script!” Well, that’s true, but unless you were able to give all of your auditioners the script in advance, most of them clearly aren’t going to have time to memorize the whole script while they’re waiting for their turn. The goal here is just to see what they’re capable of and how they come across. They can memorize the script for Call Backs, when you know you’re interested in them and they have more time with the words.

You may be tempted to think, you can just kick back and watch the videos later to try to find who you’re looking for and evaluate, but it’s highly recommended you watch and be involved with as many of the auditions while they’re happening as you can. This way, you can push for what you’re looking for, help give feedback and keep the auditioners fresh in your memory.

PHOTOS


Try to get a quality photographer to take professional quality pictures during the auditions. You may want to notify the auditioners that they will be getting their pictures taken in the promotional materials, so they can dress and prepare accordingly.

Make sure your photographer takes both head-shots and body shots, so you can not only assess the auditioner’s face, but assess their body-type for the part as well.

You may say, “Why do I need photos if we have them on video?” Well, the main reason is that if you have your auditioners sitting down during their script read, then you don’t have a good idea about what their body-type is. These photos will fill that potential gap.

Further, the photos provide a better idea what the auditioners look like and a quicker and more convenient reference.

In addition, if you have your photographer keep a list and have auditioners sign up before they have their pictures taken, it gives you another excellent way to match a face with a name and match materials.

Head-shots can also be a great way to give back to auditioners for their time and effort. 

CASTING ORDER

Before your event, determine how you want to handle the casting order.
Some would say, “first come first serve,” since that is only fair, but this is not McDonalds and this is not a customer service issue and “first come first serve” really is not the best way to accomplish your goals of finding who you need.

Even if you want to be entirely fair, there’s a very good chance that one or more auditioners will show up and say they have to leave soon for another prior engagement. If you don’t skip them ahead of some auditioners who were there first, they won’t have time to audition. Will you refuse to audition them, just to maintain absolute fairness and order? After all they did take time out of their busy schedule to come as well. What if someone does this and seems perfect for the part?

So, as you can see, regardless of which side of the fence you want to sit on regarding this issue, you should make a decision beforehand, so you’re not forced to make decisions on the spot, when you have many other things that require your attention. 

FOLLOW-UP

Decide how you’ll follow-up with auditioners before-hand, so the Host can let them know at the start of the audition and auditioners will know what to expect.

It is advised to do your follow-up after the conclusion of the audition. Telling auditioners “yes” or “no” at the actual audition has the potential for complication and ugliness.

CALL BACKS

Usually you will want to net a lot of potential actors and then have Call Backs, so that you can only invite the most suitable actors for the parts you’re looking for.

You can choose to invite auditioners to Call Backs by phone or email. It is suggested you do both, to avoid the possibility that the actor doesn’t see the email in time, or the invitation accidentally went to their junk folder, etc.

It is suggested that you tell auditioners if they made it to Call Backs or not a day or two after the initial audition has ended. This gives you time to really consider your choices and scrutinize the materials and will help avoid a scene where auditioners are angry  or have hurt fillings at the event.



GIVING BACK


It’s great if you can find ways to give back to all the people who generously take their time to audition for your projects for free.

The first, though probably not the most obvious way to give back, is to make sure you expedite their auditioning experience, keep it organized and make sure it is a positive experience for those who participate.

Offering complimentary food and drinks is an easy way to make auditioners happy!

Now here are some ways you can go above and beyond when giving back…

Critique your auditioners and give them useful feedback, to the best of your ability, while going out of your way to try not to hurt anyone’s feelings or discourage anyone from their goals. Also be patient with people who may call afterward for information on how they did, or requests for help with their career and be generous with whatever helpful knowledge you can give.

Offer to make materials you collected during the audition available to the auditioners themselves, for example, many auditioners would love to get the head shots your photographer takes of them and/or the video of their audition. By making these available to auditioners you make your auditions evern more valuable and worthwhile to them.

You can even consider a small fee for auditioners to purchase these materials. That is not unreasonable, especially if you have recruited a professional photographer for the event. Such fees can help pay for the photographer and cameraman you’ve brought to help with your event.

ORGANIZING MATERIALS

After you’ve concluded, even if you’re really busy, try to make a real effort to sort through all the materials over the next couple days. The reason is, the longer you wait, the more you will forget which names go with which faces. It’s better to get a bunch of manila folders and consolidate all the information while it is fresh in your mind. There’s nothing worse than having a stack of information you can’t use, because you don’t know what profile goes with what photo!

Entering all the information into a computer data-base is also highly recommended, though it is always nice to keep back-ups on paper, just in case of an emergency.

USES

Some of you might say, why go to all this work for a simple audition? Well, for a couple reasons…

First, with the database you can create by doing auditions like this and doing them well, you will be well suited to cast for just about anything and after a few months. After a little while, you won’t even need to cast for most roles, because your database will be big enough that you can find someone in a few minutes for almost any role, or simply invite a group of hopefuls in for Call Backs.

Reason #2, if you choose to, having a database like this is a valuable commodity. You can actually make a business out of letting directors , producers and casting agents use your database of actors. Or you could use a similar database to start a modeling agency. There is at least one company charging $300 per customer for this simple service.



By: Evan Marquisee
January 30, 2015

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