Ariel: Diary of a Short Film - Episode 2
As a director, I always look forward to auditions. It’s like Christmas. You get to meet new and interesting people who will hopefully bring your story to life. But there is a lot of preparation that has to be made. As much as you may be auditioning the actors, in a very real sense the actors are auditioning you. It is, therefore, important to have all the details covered.
It can be deceptive how much goes into an audition. On the surface it appears that that the director, the casting director, producer and maybe one or two other people show up, have the actors fill out a form or two and then hand out scripts and then watch the show. Truly all of that does go on, but, if done right there is much that most people do not see.
In preparation for the Ariel audition on Sunday, December 8th, here is a list of things that either have been done or will be done by the time the audition doors open.
1) Audition Format and Game Plan. In the case of Ariel audition, there will be some line reading but also improv and a lot of physical acting. It also helps to have an outline of what you need to see. Here is a breakdown of the audition for Ariel that I provided to the actors:
a) Scene with Perkins, Brown and Ariel.
b) Scene with Nancy and Ariel.
c) Woman 1 and 2. For this one those who are auditioning for this part will need to walk across the room in a manner that indicates that she is not someone who would make an easy target for assault, confident, direct and aware of surroundings.
d) Dojo Students - front, back rolls and able to be thrown as one would normally be in a martial arts class.
e) Lucas - Dive roll
6) Helen, Dylan and Ryan - Simple fall to the floor. Example: you've been shot, you react and then you fall to the ground.
f) Helen, Dylan, Ryan, Lucas and Ariel/Nancy - Improv. Helen, Dylan, Ryan, Lucas corner Ariel or Nancy with the intent of having their way with her. Helen is the ring leader. There will not be any stage combat in the audition. The idea is to see how menacing you can be and how you do it.
g) Martial Arts Workshop - Dojo students and Ariel. There will be two or three martial arts techniques shown. They will likely be based on the fight choreography to be used in the film. For the dojo students, this will be to see how well you can receive the techniques. For Ariel, you will need to be able to demonstrate the techniques as a martial arts instructor would.
h) Improv - Helen, Dylan, Ryan and Lucas. You each have one minute to tell why you and your friends like to hunt down assault and rape. Is this a hobby for you? Is is a compulsion? Is yours a gang or a highly elite and sophisticated social club? When did you first do this? How does it make you feel? For inspiration you may want to look at the characters of Mickey and Mallory from "Natural Born Killers", Frank Booth from "Blue Velvet" and Hannibal Lecter from "Red Dragon".
i) Ariel - Show how Ariel can physically portray shy, non threatening and vulnerable; an easy target. This will be non-verbal.
2) Date, Time and Location. For Ariel I needed a space where tumbling and martial arts could occur. As I used to teach at the Austin Center for Martial Arts, it was fairly easy for me to secure the location. In the past I have needed to secure studio or class room space at Austin Community College where I am a student.
3) Audition Notices. As I have done a number of short films before, I had an e-mail list of actors that I used. I, of course, made the obligatory Craiglist posting. But even more than that, I made extensive use of social media. The big push was through the various acting groups on Facebook. Stage 32 is a new social media platform for filmmaking on which I individually contacted every actor in the Austin area and let them know about the audition. I as well made posting on Reddit. Much to my delight I got a huge response to the audition notices. I had expected to hear from twenty to thirty actors. What I actually got was over sixty.
4) Following Up. Once all the responses started coming in I made sure to promptly get back to each actor. I also made sure to keep all the actors appraised of any updates or changes. Lastly, I tried to make each e-mail interaction as personal as I could (with varying degrees of success).
5) Rehearsal. Yes, I said rehearsal. Even though I am the director, there is a certain amount of public speaking involved, at least the way I am doing it. When actors arrive, I need to be able to sell them on my movie so that they stay motivated. I also need to give them a clear idea of what to expect because when people know what is coming they are much more comfortable and willing to work. It is also a leadership thing. I need the actors to believe in me so they will follow my direction. To do that I must instill trust and confidence. I also have to make them feel safe to do the work that they do. Rehearsing helps all of that.
6) Logistics. A successful audition depends upon good logistics. Here is a run down of the things I am putting in place for the audition:
- Write up and print out scripts, releases, audition forms, shooting schedules, project notes, “audition here’ signs and social media notes.
- Run to Fedex Kinkos and get copies made of all the above mentioned stuff.
- Gather the office supplies. Fortunately, from previous productions, I have enough, pens, clipboards, sharpies, and tape to last me a life time.
- Get the cameras and tripods together. That includes backing up any old photos and videos, clearing the memory and either charging batteries or making sure there are spare batteries are on hand. These cameras will be used for mug shots and for video taping the audition.
- Making sure that there is a cooler of water for the actors. Actors appreciate having water on hand.
- Make sure that there are supplies to clean the audition space up. I intend to leave the audition space at least as clean if not cleaner that it was when I got there. I would like to be able to work in that space again so leaving it in good shape will help foster and maintain a good relationship with the martial arts studio.
As I learned in the Army, proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance. That definitely applies to filmmaking. With that in mind, I hope that all my efforts to get everything lined up reward me with a successful audition.