The perks of virtual auditions: a casting director’s take

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, casting professionals had no choice but to say goodbye to in-person auditioning and turn to self-tapes and remote sessions using video conferencing apps to share talent with their creative teams, studios, and networks. For the months that turned into years, we were constantly asked how that was going and how long it might last. Did we like casting remotely? Was it as effective? Do actors mind? When would we go back to in-person auditions? 

Now that we’re a couple years into the fully remote casting game, I think many casting directors like me would say there’s a strong case for continuing with this method (at least in some capacity) for years to come. Here’s why: 

1. Accessibility

Remote casting and self-tapes allow us to see a much wider range of actors for a given role. In addition to the obvious “we can be anywhere” and “they can be anywhere,” we can also now open the door to actors who might not have otherwise had a shot because they didn’t have a car, couldn’t afford to move to NY or LA (or were forced to leave a larger city because of the pandemic), or have a disability that makes attending in-person auditions challenging (though this is of course our problem, not theirs). This also goes for actors who are already working steadily but are looking ahead to the next project, as they can be on set in one city and taping auditions for jobs that are casting elsewhere. 

2. Quality of life

In the past, actors have been hesitant to leave town (or otherwise take a break from their daily grind) out of fear that the second they hit pause or head off on an adventure, the phones will start ringing - but now, they can have their cake and eat it too! Same goes for casting directors, producers, and studio execs who once felt chained to their desks and audition rooms but are now able to do a huge part of their job from pretty much anywhere.

3. Life experience

I’ve always encouraged actors who are feeling discouraged or down on their luck to go out and live their lives. Instead of overanalyzing and obsessing about what they should or shouldn’t be doing differently to get a leg up (rehearsing, acting classes, sending postcards to casting offices that an intern would toss immediately into the recycling, etc.), they should step back and engage in things that make them more interesting, more human, more relatable. Taking time to travel, care for a loved one, or perfect an off-the-beaten-path sport or hobby can breathe a whole new life into an actor’s approach to their craft. In some cases, when an actor hasn’t had much luck in a large market, they might even consider moving to a smaller city and trying to build up some credits there first.

4. Time and money

Seeing actors virtually saves time. First off, conducting auditions over a platform like Evercast eliminates the commute for both the actor and the casting team, and in a city like Los Angeles, that’s a good hour of time right off the bat. Add to that the need for a member of the casting team to arrive early to set up the taping and waiting rooms before the auditions can begin. Once we’re ready to start the session, actors are brought in one-by-one to do their scenes. They’ve worked hard on the material, and while we are certainly excited to see their work, it’s often evident before they even get through the first scene that the actor just isn’t right for the role. Out of respect for their time and talent, most casting directors will have them finish the remainder of the scenes anyway and sometimes even give them a redirect - there goes more time. With self-tapes, we can hit stop and move to the next tape as needed, allowing us to view significantly more auditions in the same amount of time. We also save money because we don’t have to rent an office space or taping room to conduct auditions. 

5. Actor-friendly

By now, most actors have a routine in place for self-taping. They feel confident in their setup and enjoy being able to do a few more takes than we’d have time for in the room and only send the best versions along for review. And when it comes to live virtual auditions in a video conferencing room, there’s still more in their control, as they’ve been able to rehearse the material in the same location they’ll be performing it and have the flexibility to use their own reader instead of reading with a casting director they don’t know. 

6. It’s not that different

Of course there are perks to being able to interact with actors in person and feel their energy live, but we’re able to achieve more of that virtually than we thought. We can still have actors wait in a virtual waiting room while we sideline with our team (though now we can send messages to communicate with each other in real time instead of having to wait til they leave the room - another added bonus). We can still interrupt them to give adjustments, and we can still chat with them after they finish their scenes to get a sense of their personality. Ultimately, it’s the way an actor’s energy is able to come through a screen that matters most anyway.

Sure, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows - someone’s Wi-Fi gives out, or the lighting in their home is terrible, or their dog won’t stop barking - but there are just as many different variables with in-person auditioning. Ultimately, the time, money, and energy that technology saves us continues to make the audition process and our jobs easier, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Once it feels safe to do so, there will certainly be times where we want to see folks in person, but having the flexibility of the remote routine in place is certainly a benefit to creatives on both sides of the camera.

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