Two important lessons about running auditions and castings for a film

Actors are extraordinary and courageous.

I just spent a day casting a film we are making in a few weeks time and saw scores of for several parts. I will be posting more on this next week but I wanted to share two insights that struck me, one about writing and directing, the second about the trial of being an actor and why we can learn from their courage.

Why Casting Will Improve Your Script

I like to improvise in castings, not just read lines from the script.

This gives me a sense of who the actor really is and how they can reflect the written part.

For me, it’s not about slavishly making the actor perform my supposedly great writing, it’s about freeing them to interpret it, to bring the most creative, authentic and courageous self, and allowing them to find it.

Of course this makes for oftentimes electrifying auditions.

What I have found is that actors will more often than not ‘lean in’ to that proposition, embrace and play with it. They love it. And then then the magic of creativity flows. They will discover detail, subtext, honesty, moments, interpretations… all manner of good stuff.

Alongside my notes of who resonates with the parts more than others, are copious notes about individual performances that I will literally write into the script that night. Sometimes it’s a small detail, sometimes it’s a huge emotional moment that isn’t on the page yet.

In the search for the right cast, you may well experience a hundred outstanding performers interpreting your words. That experience is like finding creative fairy dust that will improve the magic in your story. They will fix plot problems you didn’t know you had. They will find ways to tell your story without dialogue. They will improve your script, so long as you listen with an open heart and mind.

To my second point.

The experience of auditioning is both humbling and exhilarating.

Seeing hundreds of actors, all ages and background, come in and give 100% in the face of terrifying statistical odds… well it reminds us all that we can all toughen our skin a little.

These guys EXPECT rejection and still give it their all. And they do it by being more vulnerable than most writers or filmmakers will ever experience. That is really something to behold and celebrate.

So let’s not EVER be assholes in auditions. Let’s work hard to acknowledge people by looking them in the eye. Let’s ask how far they have come. Let’s  shake hands and thank them. These are strangers who want to collaborate with you, and to prove it, right now and in front of you, with very little prep, they will share their heart, mind and soul for a few minutes, and then leave with a smile and the expectation of rejection.

These people are fucking warriors.

These people are the epicentre of our stories.

These people are actors.

Onwards and upwards!

Chris Jones
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