One of Monday Night Writers Group’s projects is a web series called Conversations in Cars. Short films that take place in or around a vehicle. Usually only a few minutes long. Once we had written a ton of scripts and worked on them and then decided which to shoot, it was time to hold a casting.
Actually, that’s false. First we decided when to shoot. We had been sitting on these scripts and I was getting antsy. When we had finally figured out a day that worked for most of us, we figured, Hell, let’s bang them out. So we planned to shoot three in one day. Sounds like madness, but the first two were shot simultaneously with two separate (very small) crews.
We held the casting at CAZT. Dane posted the casting on Friday, we auditioned people on Monday, and shot on Saturday. So, a lot to do in a short period of time. I had no part in acquiring the space and time for this. Dane did all the work to get us there, so I know nothing of that process.
Once he had posted the casting, we had access to actors who had submitted for roles. First of all, I have a profile at CAZT. So I feel like I am in some way violating the privacy of all these actors I’m looking at. That’s another thing. If you have a reel attached to your profile, your name immediately goes to the top of the list, and there are about 300 actors who submitted for one role who have reels. Do you think I’m going to bother asking in any of the other actors who don’t have a reel? No chance. I’m not even considering them. Welp, up until this point, I do not have a reel. Which means I’m pretty sure no casting director will consider me. So there’s that. Not that I didn’t know before that I needed a reel, but this just makes it feel so urgent. Besides that, some of the reels are AWFUL. I have not put together a reel with what I have right now because I didn’t think I had enough or the production value wasn’t high enough. Not so. Some of these reels look like shit. And some of the actors are just so bad. Like, why would you even put this out to the world? It’s embarrassing.
Monday I show up at CAZT for our two hour slot. I’ve been to a few auditions here, so it makes it even more exciting to be sitting on the other side of an audition. I’m surprised at how nervous I am. And slightly giddy. It’s amazing. Dane takes the lead on running the auditions. He introduces all of us (Zach and Lys of MNWG) to the actors when they walk in and kind of tells them where to sit and when to slate and all that. We’re casting four roles – all male.
Lys is on camera, taping them so we can watch later, Zach is our main reader, and I’m calling the actors in. For one of the shorts, I’m acting in it, so I read with the guys auditioning for that. I actually sit next to them, so Dane can see the two of us together. He’ll be directing the short, so it’s important for him to see our chemistry. This is super fun for me – I already have the part, and I’m practicing with all these guys and actually have a say in which person I’ll act with. Although it’s hard for me to really focus on their acting when I’m sitting side-by-side with them and reading my lines as well. But there’s another script I co-wrote that we are also casting for, and for that I can just watch. All the actors are so good. Except for like two of them. A lot of this may have to do with the fact that most of them are SAG actors. That’s because this is a SAG New Media project.
Highlights – I love when the actor says my words the way I wanted it to be said. Especially when a lot of them aren’t doing it the way I want. On the other side of that, I love when they surprise me and say or do something in a way I didn’t think about when I wrote it. Generally, I just love hearing my words acted out. It’s a pretty cool thing. They come in with this script that they’ve been studying and it’s crazy to think about how long they’ve been reading it or practicing it. Your words.
As an actor, I am definitely less scared for auditions now. We are rooting for you to do well. We don’t want to watch people fail miserably. It’s just as awkward for us as it is for you. And for the guys who came in nervous and didn’t make eye contact, I was immediately turned off. Their audition could save them, but seriously, just come in as yourself and be friendly. It’s easy. Just kidding. It’s not easy. But next time I audition I will keep these things in mind.
Lindsay Stetson is a former collegiate field hockey player and sports journalist who is currently writing, producing and acting in the web anthology Conversations In Cars while working on feature spec scripts and her acting career. She’s on Twitter (but only technically) @LStet