Dominic Kelly captures a casting director’s checklist
In preparation for the salon’s six-month No Filter training programme, I spoke to my old pal and casting director, Jim Arnold, Associate Casting Director for Pippa Ailion Casting, who many salon actors will have met on Casting:Shakespeare courses.
I asked him to share his top five tips for actors who enter the audition room. I hope you find them illuminating. I was very pleased to hear that what we communicate at the salon and what Jim is looking for are rather beautifully aligned.
1 – Be prepared
You would be surprised how many actors don’t do the following; read the script, understand the context of the scene, find the motivation for the characters, and most importantly…make choices.
“You can’t come in unprepared,” says Jim. “You have to spend time thinking about the character in advance, and make bold choices. The worst thing you can do is come in and not have an opinion about the character. That won’t get you the job. Every choice an actor makes affects how the audience perceives the character and the play, and we need to see that you understand that in the audition. You need to bring something to the table. Otherwise, why would the director want to work with you? And why would we give a job to someone who is totally unprepared and hasn’t thought about the character at all? Being an artist is not an excuse for not applying yourself as you would in any other industry.”
But what if you don’t have the time to prepare thoroughly? “Do the best you can, but most importantly come into the room and make informed choices”.
2 – Combat your nerves
Nerves are a huge hindrance to the audition process. “If you let your nerves get the better of you, you can make mistakes, and not do your best work in the audition,” says Jim.
Now we all know this, but they really are a huge barrier between you and the audition panel. They need to see you at your best, not your worst.
“You’re also being auditioned on how you relate to other people, and if you have the potential to be a good company member. You need to be open and friendly, to chat with the panel, to notice who is in the room and respond accordingly, so that the director will want to work with you.”
This is a good reminder for us all. That the panel are looking at all aspects of you, and nerves will not only hinder your performance, but also not reflect your personality at its best.
3 – Listen
It’s largely due to those nerves that actors’ ability to listen can be clouded under pressure.
“It’s very important to listen to what you are being asked to do in the room, so that you can apply what the director is asking you to do. We want to see whether you have the facility to respond to direction.”
Obviously, if you’re not listening properly, you might mistake what you’ve heard or assume incorrectly.
“If you can’t respond to the director, and are unable try to engage with what is being asked of you, it is unlikely you will be offered the role.”
4 – Be playful
“What’s most important to me is a truthful performance.” Jim feels that if you can achieve tips 1,2 and 3, you’ll be more able to play in the room, and be free. From his experience, freedom is often directly linked to an actor being truthful and authentic.
“If you’re listening, and have combated your nerves, you can be playful.”
Being playful in an audition “shows that you can contribute something to the director’s work. It shows that you can try things out and not block other actors, that you can bring something creative to the room.”
5 – Let go of the outcome
This one is tricky for us all!
“If you’ve done all the above … try not to second guess the audition panel.”
I said to Jim, that’s easier said than done. He replied very simply, “You can’t control what other people think of you. So don’t try. Once you’ve left the audition room, let go of the outcome. If you can’t, you’ll drive yourself mad and this probably isn’t the industry for you.”
And he’s right.
I hope this brief chat with Jim helped you all think about the audition process and your role in it. Sessions with casting directors and agents will be part of the No Filter Acting process, giving you all the information you need to be the best actor you can be outside the classroom as well as in your training.
Limited audition slots are still available (only a handful left). Book a place now for a chance to receive one of the most thorough and supportive part-time development experiences available to actors. We offer a part-time course with a full-time attitude.
Jim Arnold CDG
Jim is the Associate Casting Director for Pippa Ailion Casting, where he has worked on several West End and regional productions including: Funny Girl (Savoy & UK Tour), One Love – the Bob Marley Musical (Birmingham Rep), Wicked (Apollo Victoria, UK & International Tour), Billy Elliot (Victoria Palace & UK Tour), Bend It Like Beckham (Phoenix), The Lion King (Lyceum & UK Tour), Gypsy (Chichester & Savoy), Guys & Dolls (Chichester & Savoy), Top Hat (Aldwych & UK Tour), Charlie & The Chocolate Factory (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane), The Book of Mormon (Prince of Wales), The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (Birmingham Rep & West Yorkshire Playhouse), Oh! What a Lovely War (Theatre Royal Stratford East & UK Tour), American Psycho (Almeida), From Here To Eternity (Shaftesbury), The Sound of Music (Regent’s Park), Let It Be (Savoy), Kate Bush: Before The Dawn (Eventim Apollo), Blue Man Group (Worldwide), Cinderella, Jack & The Beanstalk, Dick Whittington & His Cat (Lyric, Hammersmith), Jack & The Beanstalk, Robin Hood (Cambridge Arts).
As Casting Director his work includes: The Rest is Silence (dreamthinkspeak), Crave, Illusions (Actors Touring Company), DNA (Hull Truck & UK Tour), Yerma (Gate & Hull Truck), Pericles: Re-imagined (Regent’s Park), Lingua Franca (Finborough Theatre & 59East59, NYC), Hortensia and the Museum of Dreams (Finborough), Fragile!, Le Mariage (Arcola), Artist Descending a Staircase (The Old Red Lion).
He was also the original casting associate on Matilda, the Musical (RSC) and is a full member of the Casting Director’s Guild of Great Britain.