Sunday, 19 February 2012


Oh, I know, it seems simple. Learn your lines, turn up (on time), be good and go home. List of things not to do: be late, argue, insult anyone, be bad, overstay your welcome. I know this and yet...

All the tricks your psyche plays to help prop up your fragile ego, manifest when an audition looms. Think they're looking for a sexy girl for the part and don't believe you're up to it? Put on a big jumper and feign outrage at any suggestion to remove it. Think the part requires too little of your intelligence? Do some research and tell the director the script is historically inaccurate. Worried you might get the part and not be able to do it well? Sabotage the entire meeting with a character assassination of the producer's best friend. All this I have done and more. So many meetings, so few callbacks.

Of course, a lot of the time, you might not be right for the part and there is not much you can do about that. But quite often, with all the preparation involved in casting, the actors auditioning are both physically suitable and perfectly capable of doing the part. It is that something extra that the director is looking for and the process can be odd. You might have to improvise with the assistant director. Or perform the most intimate moments with an actor already cast. Or learn a two-page speech and sit outside the casting room while all the other actors perform it ahead of you, audibly. You might be shouted at for over preparation or under preparation. You might get the casting director on a bad day when she cries through the meeting, or pets her many cats, or takes a phone call and indicates you should carry on with the deathbed scene. The director might want your life story or they might not shake hands with you for fear of germs. They might mouth all your dialogue as they watch you through the monitor or put their head on the table and offer a running commentary. You just never know what is going to happen after you have rung that doorbell.

It is a trailer for coming attractions; a small slice of what life would be on set or stage with any of the above. If they're not shaking hands with you before you even start working together, it's unlikely you'll be on speaking terms by lunch on the first day. This may not matter to you, the project might be more important than the niceties of human connection and some of the best films come from the angriest sets. But it's worth bearing in mind at a casting, especially when you leave empty-handed. As long as the bastards weren't nice to you; that's no comfort at all.