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Being Right for the Role

Posted Date: 22 June 2011 at 05:09:32PM

What does being right for the role mean to the casting director and what does it mean to the actor?


You may be the most talented actor and give brilliant and memorable auditions, but you aren't getting cast in the roles you want. Why is it that you can do your best work and then not land the part? Who decides your fate?


Casting directors are usually the first to consider you for a role and there is a decision process that takes place between the time you're invited to audition and the time the role is booked that you, as an actor, may not be privy to.


The casting director's responsibility is to present the best actors for the project based on a brief from the director. Your job, as the actor, is to create a character that is as close to the director's vision of the text as possible or, better, surpass what their expectations are of the character. Casting directors are always looking to be surprised. It is always a great moment when the right actor walks into the studio, has done the homework, is prepared to work and is right for the role. It is the closest thing to magic we can experience on the other side of the camera.


There are many factors involved in being right for the role. The actor needs to be in the right place at the right time, needs to enhance and compliment the overall cast, needs to understand how the character informs the other characters and the overall story, plus many other variables specific to any given brief. Sometimes multiple professionals need to all agree and this can be a challenge. Ultimately, it will be the director and other major decision makers who will provide the approval and give you the job.


Recently I hosted a series of weekend audition workshops and the theme was Being Right for the Role. During each workshop the class was split into two groups and completed the process of auditioning their fellow actors. As the decision makers they were given a mock project to cast and three notes to consider. In every case, the decision makers saw brilliant auditions and liked the energy and look of most of the actors, but had to reject all but two because there were only two roles. It was constantly surprising to the decision makers to see who would be rejected and who would be shortlisted based on the three notes they had been given. In-depth, passionate discussions ensued and they strived to stay true to their notes and the overall message of the mock project.


Deciding the short list was uncomfortable because they did not want to issue the rejections to their fellow actors. Being actors themselves they understood, only too well, what that felt like. However, they eventually agreed on a shortlist, selected their favorites for callbacks and worked with the shortlisted actors until they had found their perfect cast.


During the process, not only did the decision makers identify with the actors who had not been successful, but they understood the responsibility they had to their mock project and how staying truthful was paramount to the success of their story. They had become the director and producer. They had the pleasure of auditioning an array of wonderful actors, but at the conclusion of the casting, they only had two roles and they needed to place the right actors in those roles.


They came to realize that it is impossible to anticipate what the outcome of an audition will be when based purely on performance. An actor can only commit to the work prior to and during the audition and, if he or she is not called back, they must trust that the decision makers are staying true to the integrity of the project by not choosing them. Keeping in mind that if one provides a memorable audition, even if they are not right for the role, the casting director may consider them for upcoming projects and perhaps he or she will be right for the next role that comes along.


What became clear to the class of decision makers, with regard to auditioning, is the importance of relinquishing attachment to the outcome, being open to the experience, doing the work that is requested and trusting that the outcome is as it should be. When an actor is in the right place at the right time and is truly right for the role is when they experience the magic of success.


Actors must also remember that auditioning is where the work is. The audition studio is the space where you can do what you love to do. Of course, you want to get booked so you can feel validated, pay the rent, work with other fabulous creative artists and the list goes on. Whatever your reason for the audition, the key objective to the audition process is to work, grow, evolve, experience, learn and develop a professional relationship with the casting director. If you do all of that AND get a's icing.


Continually I see great actors who are working in the Australian market, yet they are not right for this market. They cannot find a way to be noticed. They wonder: "Is it my look, my size, my hair color, my accent, my age...?" etcetera, etcetera. It is important for an actor to look at the market he or she is targeting and discover what his or her strengths are. You cannot be everything, but you can have a strategy and a marketing plan. You must think of yourself as a commodity and a business. You might be one person, but you can think outside the box and desire big outcomes. Like any small business you need to work out your business and marketing plan. It isn't called show business by coincidence.


I know an actress who recently moved from Sydney to Melbourne because she felt she wasn't finding the kinds of roles she desired. Since she relocated she hasn't stopped working. She is in the right place and is attracting the right roles for her. It took a move to the right market to attract those roles.


I am always asked to give actors advice and my stock standard answer is always: "Just keep doing it". It doesn't matter if you are in a low budget film, short film, community theatre or anything performance driven, just keep doing it. By doing you are growing, by growing you are evolving and by evolving you are human and that is what the acting experience is. It is about exploring being human. Last, but not least - have FUN! Fun is why you got into it in the first place so make sure you keep the ‘play' in your play...especially in your auditions.




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