by John Swanbeck
Attention filmmakers. Along the way to becoming A-list directors, with whom all actors want to work, you will be asking actors to work for little to no money; you will be casting actors who have little to no experience; you will have little to no time to rehearse actors before shooting. Here are ten tips that will guarantee you will find the best actors for your films.
1. Live auditions versus self-tape submissions. The downside to self-tape submissions is that you never know how many times an actor taped a scene before deciding to send you the one you’re watching. Many directors are learning, only after they cast actors from self-tape submissions, that some actors can only be good after a lot of work and a lot of takes, if at all.
2. Be organized. It’s the first impression you make on an actor and whether or not an actor wants to work for you – for free – will often depend on how organized you are during the audition process.
3. Be polite. Not only because it’s nice to be polite but because the more polite you are the more you project ease at being in charge. Ease at being in charge is the number one, most important quality actors say a director should possess.
4. Be mysterious, just a little. It makes actors think you’re smart and have a vision, even if you aren’t and don’t.
5. Have a boring reader read opposite the actor. It’s a test. You’re looking for actors, who can be interesting on film, no matter who is off camera reading the other lines.
6. Cast characters not actors. You’re looking for actors who create and play characters, not actors who play scenes well. That way, whenever you’re ready to turn on the camera and start shooting, the actors will be ready to be filmed.
7. The misdirect. It’s a classic director move. In the audition, give the actor a redirect that is completely different from the way the actor played the scene the first time. You’re doing this to see if the actor can put aside one idea to play another. The less the actor is able to put aside one idea and play another, the harder it will be to direct the actor.
8. Look for actors who know how to deliver. The more actors take pauses, the more they play moments before delivering their lines, the less professional they are. The less professional they are, the longer it will take to get good, usable footage to take with you into editing.
9. The continuity test. Want to know if actors are going to create continuity issues for you in editing? Give them three simple questions to answer and a simple action to deliver, while they are uranswering the three simple questions. Repeat the process. See how much, or little, they can repeat the action in the same way on the same words.
10. And what are you looking for when looking at an actor’s work on camera? Simplicity, specificity, and effortlessness.
You can find additional famous actors’ video auditions here.
John Swanbeck is an author, columnist, speaker, creator and publisher of CleverActorTips, Chief Creative Officer of BlueSwanFilms and Producing Director of The Character Factory. He is a renowned director and teacher of actors, directed the existential comedy The Big Kahuna, starring Kevin Spacey and Danny DeVito, and has packaged his best original directing tools, tips, techniques and tricks into the much acclaimed ebook for actors and directors John Swanbeck’s How To Steal The Scene & End Up Playing The Lead. For more on John, to read a sample technique from the ebook, or to interact with John via social media visit BlueSwanFilms.com.