In March 2020, the Casting Society of America (CSA) president Russell Boast sent out a statement discouraging in-person auditions in the face of the emerging public health crisis. Instead, he recommended that all auditioning take place virtually.
Since then, most auditions are still held remotely in the United States and all over the world, not just because they help maintain social distancing but because they also allow casting directors to pull from a wider pool of talent they might not otherwise have had access to. For aspiring talent, it’s a way to launch their acting career without making a major physical move first.
If you’re gearing up to run a remote casting call for your latest production, there are some tips and tricks that can help both you and your talent get the most out of the experience.
Tip #1: Provide talent with a comprehensive breakdown
When auditioning talent remotely, it is especially crucial to ensure that they have comprehensive information about the acting role, the script, and the larger project. Not only will this information entice people to audition, but it also helps your talent understand the role they’re auditioning for and its context within the larger project.
The more information you give the talent auditioning, especially when auditioning remotely, the better their auditions will be. You can use the breakdown to clue them into the basics of the project and provide essential character details that you want to see actors and actresses incorporate into their auditions.
Tip #2: Send technical instructions ahead of the audition
We’ve all experienced Zoom mishaps and other hangups in the past couple of years. To ease the tension created by technical fumbles and save tons of wasted time, it’s vitally important that you send your talent and other audition attendees instructions for how to access your virtual audition room or send in their self-tape auditions.
This should cover system requirements and login information as well as tips on how to get the best light and sound for the audition. This will ensure that all of your performers can put their best foot forward from the first minute of the audition to the last.
For online video auditions, you should also provide guidance to help talent show themselves in a positive light, taking the quality of their submission to the next level. Outline simple steps for them to follow.
For example, encourage them to use a high-quality microphone and record in a quiet space with lots of light so you can see and hear every detail in their performance clearly. Recording a great self tape may be more difficult for singers or dancers, where sound and choreography become even more vital, making guidance critical.
Tip #3: Take some time to get to know the talent at the start of the audition
Auditions can often be very stressful situations, which means that not everyone who is auditioning may feel at ease enough to give their best performance from the moment they step into the room. This can be amplified when your talent is dialing in from a remote location and getting to know you and your team through a screen.
It can also be difficult for casting directors to get a “feel” for your talent through a screen if all they do is log in and deliver their monologue. You often lose the sense you get of a person from their body language and presence when they walk into a room.
A great way to break this tension and get a better perspective on the talent as a whole person is to have a quick chat with them at the beginning of the audition. Ask them about where they’re auditioning from and what headspace they’re in that day. This can help significantly ease tension and allow the talent to show their personality.
Create together remotely, in real time
Tip #4: Give people opportunities to refine their self tape auditions
Many casting directors prefer to hold virtual auditions live through video conferencing platforms, but not all productions have the time or resources to audition all of their talent this way. Because of this, self-tape auditions are becoming a fixture in the audition process.
Self-tapes are a great way to give performers an opportunity to send in their best work because it’s a rehearsal that they can self-edit until they have a take that they love. However, that doesn’t mean that self-tape auditions should be devoid of notes.
If you see something in a performer that you find compelling, but their audition is lacking something, don’t be afraid to send them notes and have them resubmit with adjustments. This can be everything from performance notes to technical refinements like better lighting or sound.
This allows performers to demonstrate their ability to take notes even if it’s not a live audition and also allows you to submit the best possible representation of the performer's skills to other stakeholders and professionals involved in the project.
Tip #5: Use a live collaboration/video conferencing platform that minimizes lag
If you want to get the most out of your remote auditions, it’s vitally important that you use software that won’t get in the way of your conversations with the talent.
Make sure to check the latency of whatever platform you’ll be conducting auditions on and try to opt for the one with the least delay. This will make conversations feel more natural and ensure that you don’t have to ask performers to do a scene multiple times to compensate for signal delays.
We mentioned sending out technical instructions to your talent. You should also emphasize the need for them to connect to the audition room through the strongest internet connection they have available. By using a strong connection through a platform with minimal lag, you’ll be able to have the most “natural” audition experience.
The benefits of remote casting calls
While many people remain divided on whether or not remote casting calls are the best way to conduct auditions, they do provide some clear benefits. These include:
- Being able to draw from a larger talent pool by allowing people to audition from anywhere, not just major hubs and popular audition locations like New York, Boston, or L.A.
- Being able to see more auditions in less time through self-tape auditions.
- Allowing performers to refine their performance before submitting their audition, so you get to see them at their “best” versus what they do at a live shoot.
- Saving money by eliminating the need to rent audition rooms and provide compensation to support staff.
- Allowing directors and producers to watch auditions from anywhere, even on set, shortening the time to choosing talent and expediting progress towards production dates.
With all of these benefits available, it’s no wonder why so many casting agencies have no plans to return to in-person auditions anytime soon, especially for “first round” casting calls, whether it’s for short films, pilots, or full-length features.
With that being said, it’s important to develop a workflow and invest in high-quality collaboration software that will make your remote audition process as seamless, productive, and enjoyable as possible for everyone involved.
Hopefully, these tips will help you run your next remote casting call like a pro and allow you to find the perfect talent for your next project, no matter where in the world they may be.