Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Reflections on Holding Auditions for Locked in a Garage Band

We held auditions in Vancouver this past weekend, for our first feature film, Locked in a Garage Band.  I thought I should write down a few reflections about the process before I forget.

Here goes:
  • Casting Directors rock.  Seriously, I don't know what we would have done without Kristina Agosti, our incredibly positive, happy & hilarious casting director.  Kristina knows my sister, Jen, the writer-director in our team, from Jen's Praxis screenwriting win last year.  She was one of the actors hired on as a reader for Jen's Christmas script.   When she saw our casting call, she gave us a buzz to discuss the film & we hired her on the spot.  Kristina's well connected in the Vancouver acting community, as an experienced actor herself.  Plus, she's funny & ridiculously easy to work with.  Score!
  • Being organized is key.  When Yukari (our line producer) and I sat down to work out the audition schedule last week, we really focused on having room to catch up on any missed time, just in case we needed it.  This made it so we were never more than 10 minutes behind schedule, which the actors really appreciated.
  • Being frugal doesn't mean being dodgey.  We managed to get our audition budget down from $850 to $440 by simply looking at all our options.  At first we looked to acting schools like Shoreline & VADA in Vancouver but their prices (while reduced) were still too high for us.  So, we then looked to community centres but they were mostly booked by the time we contacted them. Finally we looked to hotels.  In the middle of a meltdown about budgeting, I remembered that I have lots of airmiles from all my travels and credit card purchases, so I was able to use my points to book us a hotel room for free.  We then chatted up the Westin Conference booking person and convinced her to cut us a deal for the actor's waiting room. Ba-da-boom!  Instant savings.  But that's just the money stuff. The interesting point here is that we heard so many of our actors saying that it was such a relief to be in a nice hotel for a change.  A few of the women said they were used to going to dodgey back-alley type auditions.
  • Being positive makes for a positive experience for all.  Quite a few actors sent us emails or gave us thanks at the audition for being so enthusiastic and positive with them.  They said that they're used to going to auditions where the producers don't even speak to them and it's all business all the time.  Our film is a comedy, so we laughed quite a bit during their auditions and I imagine that's what they were referring to.  I also made sure to say "Have fun!" when I brought them to their first auditions, and thanked them for returning to the call-backs. Some of the women even said that it was refreshing to go into an audition run by women for a change.  Weird - I'm always shocked to see how few women are in our positions, but I guess that must be true.
  • Videos are essential. We used Jen's Nikon D90 to record the auditions and review them all again, some even 5 times!  Watching them audition in person is cool, but we had heard that it was really important to see them on camera as well and I'm relieved we followed that advice.  It really helped us to remember their performance a few hours later, and to see what they'd look like on the TV screen.
  • Snacks rock.  'Nuff said.
  • Skype auditions are always an option.  We had more than 250 submissions just from British Columbia actors alone.  I didn't count how many out-of-province submissions, because I had to just delete them all - but I think it was probably at least 500.  All the way from Ireland and England to all across the USA, we had actors that we thought would be perfect in the roles, until we saw their locations.  In the end, we gave 2 auditions via skype, but only to 2 actors - a guy from Austin who I met at AFF and a girl from London who I met in Alaska this summer.  Both are experienced actors, and fit the roles perfectly.  My sister resisted the skype auditions and felt like we were wasting their time, until she met them online.  They both nailed their auditions & were hired within a few hours.  Even though we had seen 7 actors per character in Vancouver, 2 of those characters ended up being cast by skype.
  • Follow your gutt. It's always right.  I relate auditions to dating - if I go on a date with a guy and feel iffy afterwards about whether I want to see him again, then I know it's a no.  I do the same thing in my day-job where I interview teachers to work abroad.  I have to trust my gutt.  It's always right. So when we were unsure of an actor for a specific character, we ended up just not casting the role.  On the other hand, Jen is creating a character for one actor that wasn't right for the part he came in for, but showed such enthusiasm and talent that she just had to hire him.  That was a gutt-decision.
Any questions? Comments? Suggestions? Ramblings?

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