This question is from G.C.:
“As a casting director, what do you look for when you review auditions?”
The casting director is on your team. They are rooting for each actor, hoping for them to blow their minds and be the obvious choice for a role. But it isn't often that easy.
For one thing, casting directors are not the reigning monarchs of the casting process. If the director is “President” then they would be the member of their cabinet in charge of finding the best casting choices, and presenting/pitching them for approval or veto. Some “presidents” like to be more involved in that hunt than others. Sometimes other “cabinet members” are asked for their opinions, too.
PLEASE NOTE: Much of the following will apply to live auditions as well, but will be phrased more specifically for taped submissions...which is getting more and more common anyway.
With parameters from the script, budget, and the director's vision in mind, here are some of the top things we look for:
1) Instincts & intelligence
Is the actor making bold, believable scene choices?
Do they follow an appropriate and engaging arc for the character/scene?
Are they using available space to play to the camera?
In callbacks, does the actor understand and take direction well?
2) Appropriate physicality
Does the actor's physicality (build, ethnicity/coloring, voice, mannerisms, etc.) fit the role?
Does their essence / vibe / personality add or detract to the character being portrayed?
If part of an on-screen family, or age-progressed character set, do they look related?
Do they balance and/or add texture to the ensemble, in their acting style, energy, and look?
Does the audition video have adequate lighting, sound, framing, background?
Does the talent look like their headshot, or does their photo misrepresent them?
Did the talent/agent submit the audition in a timely manner (and before the deadline)?
Did the talent/agent follow all the instructions for the submission?
4) Adequate experience
Do they have the confidence/maturity needed to pull off the role?
Do they have the practical skills needed, or can they learn them in time?
Do they have an existing affinity to a cause showcased in the film?
Will they elevate the marketability or reach of the film?
Most of the factors listed above are under some sphere of your control; others are not.
If you don't get a callback, and can think of something you can do better or work on for next time—great! Learn from the experience and carry on. If you don't get a callback, and can't think of anything you would/could change, rest in the fact that you did your best and and carry on. At least you got on their radar, right?
If you DO get a callback—congratulations! Unless instructed otherwise, keep as many of the presentation and portrayal choices you made in the initial audition. Do your thing, but remember to be flexible for unexpected direction, too.
Got a question for me? Get in touch with me here, and I'll let you know when the answer is live on the blog!