The guy seemed to be having trouble focusing, incessantly clenching his eyes shut and popping them wide, feet rooted yet upper body swaying in place, his unsettling rictus grin perhaps belying some deeper-seeded issue: drug dependency, mental illness, a serious medical condition? His staccato mutterings barely audible, he staggered a little and caught himself, using the chair for support as he leaned in, looked right at us and leered. Silence. It took me a full five seconds to realize the audition was over. “Great!”I told him. “Thanks for coming in.” He nodded, all smiles, gave a wave, and shuffled out. I threw my director a sideways glance. Pete rolled his eyes back at me and made a little note beside the auditioning actor’s name.
At the beginning of each session, we are given a sheet of paper that includes a list of Artist Names, the Role they are auditioning for, and a space for Client Comments which we may use to rate the performances or, in my case, jot down a little reminder that will allow me to differentiate between the various performers. “Pothead?”was what I wrote down for the last guy. Other comments on this day included: “Too contemporary”, “Too serious“, “Too Martin Short-esque”, “Good performance”, “Unprepared”, “Crazy Eyes”, and “If Squiggy had let himself go”.
Casting usually goes fairly quickly but, every so often, we’ll breeze through the initial proceedings and wind up ahead of schedule with a bit of a lull between the next bunch of candidates. I’ll often take advantage of the respite to check out the information listed at the back of the actors’ headshots: their agency, their credits, their training and, my favorite, their special skills – talents that might lend themselves to just the right role. A proficiency in a foreign languages, horseback riding, and stunt training are good examples. Some of the other special skills I’ve seen listed are not. A few of the unique talents that stood out in today’s batch included: walking underwater, sword sharpening, beading, cartwheels, shakuhatchi – the Japanese flute, and sniper training (My comment on this fellow’s audition: “So-so performance but…sniper(!).”
The auditions we sit through are of varied quality – some great, some terrible, and much in between. If the performance is problematic but we see potential, we may ask an individual to repeat the scene, perhaps directing them toward an alternate take, maybe giving them another shot at nailing that line they flubbed on their first attempt. For instance, today, the line was: “Same as you. Scavenging the ruins of a dead world.” but the actor forgot the line halfway through his delivery, so we gave him another shot. He started: “Same as you. Scavenging…Damn, can I start again?” “Sure,”we said and he took it from the top. “Same as you. Scavenging…” “The ruins – “prompted Sean Cossey our casting director. “The ruins…”he repeated. Beat. “Of a dead world,”Sean filled in the blank. “Scavenging the ruined lost world,”finished the actor. Close enough. “Great,”I said. “Thanks for coming in.”
With the auditions completed, we make our top three choices, then head back to the office where we peruse the taped selections with the other producers and make our final decisions. A call back to Sean books the actors and, provided any unforeseen scheduling conflicts, Kindred I is cast and that part of the pre-production process is complete.
The mailbag will return tomorrow. Probably.