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The Audition Process

For anyone who has ever stepped into the film industry and desired to be an actor they understand that the audition process is one of the cornerstones of making your way onto the silver screen. But, the fact of the matter is, the audition process is completely misunderstood or perhaps better put not understood and, in fact, it is more of a place of power-tripping and dominance than of finding the right person for a role.

Let me explain… Though there are certainly methods for new actors and actresses to find their way to an audition via means like self-submitting to projects that they find on-line. Just like, back in the day, there were weekly newspapers devoted to the independent industry that came out where filmmakers, myself include, would post casting notices. But, many of the projects, at that level, were and are fake. But, I’ll get to that in a moment.

This being said, the dream of all actors is to get an agent. But, how do agents make their money? Sure, they get ten percent of all that their clients makes when they are acting in a verified production. But, if you look to the client list of most agents, their clients are not working. Then what?

For you actors out there, have you ever wondered why when you get a new agent they demand you get new headshot from a photographer they recommend? Answer, they get a kick back. Do you ever question why they want you to take acting classes at a specific acting school? Kick back.

After this, the process gets even more convoluted. What an agent does is to try to get his or her clients an audition. How do they do this? By submitting their actor's headshots to the casting director of a project and maybe even giving them a call. If their client does get an audition, again there is a secret exchange of money. A small fee is paid. That is why agents get so upset with their clients if they blow off an audition. They make no money. It is all an intermingled spider web that most people, even those actors in the game, never come to understand.

Post this point, the audition process becomes even more tangled…

As I have long warned any new actor or actress in the industry, and you can read this in many of my writings on the subject, if the project you are auditioning for is not a union project you need to be very-very careful. First of all, there are many would-be filmmakers out there who hope to make a movie, and maybe even believe that they can and will make that film, but so many of these independent projects fall apart. It’s just the nature of the beast.

In some cases, people who are claiming to make a film are simply looking for girlfriends, boyfriends, or just hook-ups and they use the audition process to do just that. So again, you need to be very-very careful.

Even in the A-market, as we have all now heard, there are some extremely bad deeds done by filmmakers to actors and actresses. Some of these people, like Harvey Weinstein, were behind some truly great films. Yet, they have turned out to be predatory monsters. Though people like Weinstein were at the top, the list goes on and on and downwards from there. There are the actors who hope to be in films and there are the predatory people who use that desire to meet their own whims. How do those predators meet their prey? Auditions.

But, it is really more than that. The audition process is a labyrinth of power-tripping and deceitful actions that most people, even those in the middle of the game, do not understand.

I can tell you about a couple of my own experiences that you may find amusing. Early in my acting career, I went to an audition over on the Warner Bothers lot. Whenever an actor, including myself, got an audition on one of the major film lots it was and is a big deal. Anyway, I do the audition and that was that. I didn’t know what film is was for. Maybe a year or so later I’m at the movie Speed with one of my friends and there is was, the scene I had auditioned for. I couldn’t believe it. Why would they audition a nobody like me for a role that was obviously going to a star name? They would never have given me that role, though, of course, I wish they would have. Why did they do that? Answer: It’s just part of the game. In many cases they audition people just to make it look like they are doing their job. It pumps the dreams of the actor up but it equals very little. Again, another sad truth of the audition process.

In another case, around this same period of time, I auditioned for a commercial. I was called by my agent, a little bit down the road, and I had apparently booked it. Great! I was very happy. I go to the set and the first thing this very-very gay director, (and I’m not throwing shots here, I am just describing the situation), comes up and puts his hands on my face, pulls me close to him, looks me over and demeaningly says, “I’ve got someone so much better than you.” What!

Anyway… This other actor was apparently late or indecisive about being there or something? Maybe an hour later, after I’ve gone through makeup and everything, the guy walks through the door. Good looking guy and all but nothing special. The director runs up and kisses him on the lips. The 1st AD comes over and send me home. Okay… I guess I was the second choice.

Now, this was a union gig. What they did was totally against union policies. If they bring you on a set, even if they don’t use you, they have to pay you. Me, I got nothing except a little upset. I told my agent what happened, she did nothing. I guess I could have filed a complaint with SAG but I had already learned they don’t stand behind their actors so what would be the point? Thus, what did that audition equal? Nothing but a big waste of my time. And remember, I’m not the only one. This kind of stuff goes on all the time. Again, the truth of the audition process…

As a filmmaker, I used to do the audition process. …At least sometimes. It depended on who I was working with. But, I never really like it. I always preferred just the meet-and-greet. I mean, you can get a pretty good understanding of who and what a person is by just meeting them. But, even via this process, I have sometimes been very disappointed by the attitude an actor brought to the set. But, as I am speaking about auditioning here, I won’t go into that. And besides, you know me, I’m all about the Zen. I always do things a little differently… Happy

Since we have entered into this era of #metoo, a lot of actresses and/or actors have stepped up and spoken out about some bad behavior delivered to them by some very noted filmmakers. Some of the complains about what took place and what was expected occurred during the audition process. I won’t list those situations here as you can find them on-line and I am sure it is more revealing to have the story told via the words of the victims. But, think about it, if that took place and still takes place on the A-level, think about what is going on within the indie level where there is no implied guarantee of protection. I think a lot of people have been hurt. Who helped those people who were hurt? Not the production companies and not the unions.

Long ago, as an actor, I stopped going to auditions. It was such a game of bullshit and hope building equaling very little. I’ve spoken about this in the past, but you get all dressed-up in-character, drive across the city to get there on time, check in and wait. Then, they call you in, you read your lines, you give your best performance, then drive home through traffic. A total day killer. After that, maybe you get a call-back. I seemed to get those a lot. Then, you go through the whole process again. Maybe there is a third or a fourth call-back if it is for a film. But then, nothing… In many cases the commercial was never filmed or the movie was never made. Or, they cast someone else… What did all that time, all that auditioning equal? Nothing.

I feel I have been more than lucky in the roles I have received via auditions. But, compare that to the hundreds of auditions I went on and the ratio is very small. Now, think about the thousands-upon-thousands of actors and actresses who have gone through this same process. Thus, long ago, I stopped. I mean, many of the roles I received I did not have to audition for. And, if you want me as an actor, and your project is real, call me up or call my manager. We can have a sit down but I ain’t gonna audition. You either know what I’m about by this stage of my career or not.

But, that’s just me. Everyone isn’t like that. Most actors are not filmmakers. I know people that have been going to audition for decades. Some even used to have TV shows or acted in big films. Now, today, they are just trying to get another dose of the dream. Thus, they go head-to-head with all of the new faces on the scene of which there is a constantly changing array.

The thing is and the point being, hoping to get into the film game via going to auditions is like being thrown into the gladiator pit. You have to be a trained fighter or you are going to get creamed. You have to know what to expect, and kept your expectation low, or you will walk away very hurt. The thing is, most people come to Hollywood with stars in their eyes. But, just because you get a headshot, just because you go to acting class, just because you get an agent, just because you go to an audition, does not mean that you are going to get the role in that big film which will lead you to stardom.

In closing, be careful, because it is a dark game. People only care about themselves. And, if you do go to an audition, keep your guard up, because you do not know who is going to be the auditionor. Even if they have a big name in industry, that does not mean that they will not try to do bad things.