Monday, July 7, 2014

Bitter Bloggings From and Optimistic Actress: That is why you fail.


"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better." - Samuel Beckett

"Try Something Else." -Said to Lucille Ball when she wanted to be an actress...

So much of the art of acting is auditioning.  And so much of auditioning is failing to get a part.  Some say if you get one in every fifty parts you audition for, you are doing a great job.  That seems like an alarming statistic, but it really is very accurate.  We don't get every part we audition for and often times it is painful.

Consider Lucille Ball.  Her drama professors told her to try another profession due to her failed b-list actor status.  Elvis Presley was told by record executives to try his old profession.  All these amazing talents were told over and over again they were, in fact, not good enough.  
While this brings up both feelings of inspiration and depression, this is not my rant of today.  My rant for today deals with the number one reason that you probably didn't get the role, or at least the reason I hear most often from casting directors:
"You weren't the right right for the part", or "Someone else fit the part better."  
I find this answer funny for several reasons.  Mainly, this comment says nothing about your acting abilities.  Consider your mind blown.


But, obviously if I got the part my acting was the best.  Not necessarily.  I had a contract for an indie film and lost the part because they had asked a more famous actress to do the part before they had auditions.  She took a long time getting back to them.  She called back just after they typed up my contract.  I had contract in hand and signed getting ready to fax it back when they called me and took the part away.  What reason did they give me for this?  She was a better fit.  I was upset because I knew she hadn't auditioned.  They just gave her the part.  To add insult to injury they offered me an extra role, which I politely declined.

So today, lets talk about what it means to be right for the part.

When a film is being cast, they are given a breakdown and description of the characters.  Some of these breakdowns are specific, some are very vague.  Discussions are had with the director and, in many cases, a basic outline of the character is given.  No matter what, there is an image burned into the brain of the casting director, or in the case of smaller productions, the director.  They know what they are looking for, sometimes down to the vocal inflection.  If that casting director doesn't know someone who looks the part they have an imagined idea.

Now, in this case, we will assume you are not a six foot tall female auditioning to be Othello in Ben Affleck's newest adaptation of the Shakespearean Classic, Bad Nurfherder in Space.  We will assume in all these instance that they are keeping it general but looking for a type like yours.  Female 25-35.  Male 24-30.  Whatever that type may be, you have been asked to tape and/or have been given a callback.

It's All in the Slate
I know people who fit the physical look of a character so well they have gotten the part off nothing more than smiling into a camera and saying their name.  How do I know this?  On several occasions I have taped for friends of mine and put it on my YouTube account.  When it says it has been watched 13 times for a total of 1.5 minutes, you can bet their performance was not what got them the part.  That is exactly what the director was looking for physically to the nines and that was all that mattered.  Maybe the director thinks they are cute.  Honestly, yes, people are cast from their slate.  It happens.
I walked into an audition and never said a line and got a lead part in a show because I looked just like they wanted that person to look.  Best idea in casting?  Of course not.  But sometimes they get really lucky.
Now, the big thing is finding out how the casting directors see these people in the first place with no clues.  I look to see if they seem to be calling back certain people.  The acting community is small enough if someone gets a callback they will leave messages or clues on their Facebook.  Half the time I know when someone is getting a part before they do.
Here's a hint for anyone, if the CD or director contacts you directly, odds are, you have the part before you open your mouth.  Yes, if they like your look, some CD's will offer you a part weather or not you can act.  Once again, I reiterate, your ability to act has little to do with being cast in films.

That Word...I Don't Think it Means What You Think it Means...
To continue on this vein, sometimes they can't find someone who fits the bill to a tee, but they found someone who is giving the exact vocal inflection they wanted.  When they think the character should go up, this actor goes up.  Sometimes, and I know you will think I am crazy, a person's performance, simple or mundane as it may be, is exactly what this casting director is looking for.
But you just spent four days perfecting your character.  Your audition has much more depth and personality and you really know this person.  In an audition room, guess who knows the character better?  The casting director.
I have seen brilliant auditions from amazing actors go entirely unheeded, because the director had a certain vocal demeanor or character choice in mind.  It says the character is flat and cynical, well, guess what?  The director has a totally different idea of what cynical means.  "Wait, this director wanted fatherly.  That guy sounded like kid."  Well guess what, if that casting director thinks that was fatherly, then that is fatherly.  Who cares if it came off as a pedophilic or creepy?  If the CD saw fatherly, then that is fatherly.

What's in a Name?
Everything.  I have lost parts to more well known actors.  In the end, a professional movie is not going to be treated as a work of art.  It's a business.  If they can get Jared Leto, they will do it.  If they can get a guy who has had a supporting on major network television, they will.  If your buddy who can't act a lick managed to have five lines in a major film, they are more likely to cast him.  So you weren't right for the part in this case literally means, you guess it, you weren't famous enough.

If the Shoe Fits
Just a fun FYI.  If you are female and have ever dreamed of being a Disney Princess.  So you get an audition!  YAY.  You can sing just like Belle.  You look just like Ariel.  You can fit into the glass slipper your friends got you for your 16th birthday.  You are Disney incarnate.  You get to the door enter in and see the mess.  Want to know the first thing you will do at your audition?    Be measured.  No literally.  Someone will take your headshot and resume and take every measurement.  Why?  They want to know what costume you will fit.  A friend of mine got to the audition and was sent home because his headshot said 5'8" and he was really 5'11".  I, as a 6' tall female am too tall to play their tallest female face character.  You think I kid?  If you are female, over 5'7" and wear greater than a 4, you will never get to play a Disney Princess.  Why?  The world renowned theme park is not going to alter their expensive costume for you when they can hire someone to fit the costume who may not be as good, but will fit the bill well enough.
Often times this happens for modeling gigs, but occasionally I have lost a lead part because the person is supposed to wear an expensive costume and some part of my body did not fill it properly.  Talking about literally not being a good fit.

Welcome to the world of acting, where art and ability is secondary to you "fitting the part."  Yes, it is horrible, but very true about this world we love to hate so much.  The business I mean...the acting is a perfect fit for me.