Not sure how to introduce yourself at an audition? Wondering how to make the most of a casting call over Zoom? Casting directors Tess Joseph (The White Tiger), Abhishek Banerjee (Paatal Lok) and Nandini Shrikent (Gully Boy) tell you everything you need to know about cracking an audition:
Introduce yourself properly
Abhishek Banerjee: I think it is very important for an actor to know the language. How they approach a casting director, what they write is important. Sometimes, the photographs by themselves are not important. I always respond to text messages. Sometimes, what happens is that you just say, ‘Hi, I am from Benaras’ or ‘Hi, I am from Chandigarh’. There’s no name, there are no details. We’re not here to make friends. You have to tell us whether you’ve had training or done acting before. Basically write a short note about yourself, like a CV.
The first take is crucial
Tess Joseph: The first minute is crucial. There are times when the scene itself is not even a page long. There’s always a second chance, but I think the impression is made on the first.
Nandini Shrikent: Often, I find that an actor comes in with something else in mind and then we do the first few takes and work it out. Then, if the actor is able to improvise and add value to the scene, I’m impressed.
Ask smart questions about the character
AB: Unfortunately, we only give actors a scene, they don’t have the entire script. So they don’t know anything about the character. When they ask questions before they start performing, that is how I gauge whether they’re going in the right direction. Somebody will ask, ‘Sir, how old is the character?’ Sometimes, it’s written in the script, but sometimes we’re looking for a young actor. I don’t understand why somebody would ask me about the age of a character. What can they do with that? We’ve already given them a brief of what kind of a character that is, why do the age and the look matter? When anybody tries to understand the look of the character and not the mind, that’s what I consider dumb questions. A smart question would be: How does this character lead to the scene? What happens before this scene?
Learn your lines
AB: I have simple rule – if you don’t remember your lines, you go back. It’s as simple as that. Go, learn your lines, and then come back.
NS: My casting partner, Karan Mally, is an actor. I’m married to an actor, so I’m a little soft now. I get that the whole experience of auditioning is very nerve-wracking. You can get very frazzled when you’re in front of the camera. But if you know your lines and your scene, if you know where you’re coming from and have understood the background of the scene and the character, you’ll crack it.
TJ:Not knowing your lines is a complete turn off. We give you a lot of time for prep, more than 24 hours. You get a minimum of three to four days.
TJ: Another turn-off is a breach of boundaries. If you do not know how to respect the space and the people in the space, if you’re an actor who’s going to come and slap my associate or one of the interns or one of my assistants in the office because you are angry in the scene, then I can’t have you because you’re a liability on the set. Don’t give me method acting and turn up drunk. An actor once turned up drunk because the scene said that his character had an addiction problem. He tore my colleague’s pocket in the middle of the audition.
Use your social media accounts smartly
TJ: When I see someone interesting, I go to their social media to see what they look like, if they have a good voice, if there’s something about their personality that didn’t come across when they were in the room. That makes me realise, ‘Wow! I hope they bring this into it.’ It’s our way of gauging actors and I think they should totally use it.
AB: Social media accounts help us do our research. There have been many times when I’ve looked at actors’ profiles and send them to my teams to audition them.
Don’t message casting directors incessantly
NS: Don’t text incessantly, don’t call me after 8 pm and on weekends – on Sundays at least. During festivals, please don’t send me greetings.
AB: People think that if they keep buttering us, they will land a role someday. Those greeting card days are gone.
Get comfortable with online auditions
AB: A lot of performers or actors on Instagram are very confident and entertaining because of that free space they’ve created for themselves. Online auditions are the same thing. Try and be as entertaining as possible there too.
TJ: The joy of Zoom is that you could start your own meeting, roll a sample of your voice and the way you look. Look at your take, see if you sound all right. If you’ve been given instructions to stand, figure it out. The basics are light, camera. So get a tripod, do little things so that we can hear and see you well. Train yourself to figure out your eyeline. You’ve got to find your spots. If you want to put an ‘x’ on the wall because you know you’re going to be talking to three people, do it.
NS: Lighting and sound are very important. If you’re getting someone to give you cues, make sure it’s audible and understandable. Someone got his grandma to do cues in a scene that was really abusive, and I was wondering about this poor woman.