*If you're not an LA native, you will still find this post highly informative.
Greg Apps is an Australian Casting Director with more credits than a kangaroo can stuff in her pouch. When I received an email from his assistant inviting me to his workshop, I was wary. After the initial email exchange, when still no dollar amount was listed to join, I emailed how much it cost. "It's free."
Free? Hmmm. So I figured it was a Free Class he was doing to help sell his new classes in LA. I was cautious. I couldn't understand why I was contacted and what it was for.
I get there on a very rainy day on the 17th. Greg is a charming man, shook our hands, welcomed us to the room he had reserved on the third floor of Space Station Casting on Highland.
Greg explained he was only in LA for the week; every few years he comes round to the studios to remind them he's available in the Southern Hemisphere to cast actors on their behalf.
A few more actors trickled in until we had a total of about 10.
Have you ever done an LA Casting Director Workshop before? They're cold and sad. Every actor in the audience is paying upwards of $30 to audition so that they can hopefully be brought in later. The people running Casting Director workshops in LA say they're running a valuable teaching workshop, but every actor who does one knows they are essentially paying for a job interview - which is illegal. After performing a scene, very little useless feedback or direction is given, and every actor in there looks sad and desperate by kissing casting's ass. [That is another long discussion at another time!]
This workshop was not that. Greg actually shook all our hands, learned our names (!) and chatted with each of us a few minutes before his workshop began.
And yes, this was a workshop where we actually LEARNED things. Greg started off as an actor, and once he was finished with that, he moved on to casting and loved it so much that he quit acting altogether. Casting fulfills him in a way that is completely obvious in how he talked and got to know us, and genuinely cared. He spoke to us in actor terms and knew what he was talking about.
This workshop was treated like an On Camera class; we all got up to perform our scene, he gave us a few quick notes, redirected us, and then had us all do the scenes again. We were taking a class and learning from a CD who rented the space on his own, and wasn't charging us.
He instructed us on how to come in and "own" the auditioning space. He recommends that you have things in your pockets (cell phone, wallet, etc.) and slowly take them out and place them on a nearby table while making small talk and asking about the character. It was so cute and really made me want to audition in Australia, because NO WAY would that fly here in LA. Your pre-read is created to get you in and out of the office super fast and I can only imagine how annoyed the cd would be if you're creating any sort of wait for the actors in her lobby. Time is money in LA.
But here's some gems I want to share with you:
- If, after a line delivery, you can add the word 'idiot', you're saying it with the wrong intention. For instance, saying "Is that what you think?" with the intention of making the other person feel stupid vs "Is that what you think?" with the intention of making the other person feel safe and that they can open up to you, changes everything. And if your character is in a romantic relationship with the person they're in the scene with, well, you probably don't want to make your lover feel dumb. That's just bad manners, and probably NOT what the writer intended.
- The character not the dialogue must be what pops. Every other person auditioning already kind of looks like you, they're already framed the same way in the camera, they're all saying the same exact thing you are. And there's about 100 of them. So how do you stand out? Eye contact (only making it when making a point, just like in real life!) mannerisms, tics; THOSE make a character, and therefore YOU pop.
We had a Q&A session afterwards and he told us that the reason he was doing this workshop was because he eventually wants to retire from casting but still teach actors online.
Now of course, I recommend finding a teacher you love where you're located, so you can actually get up and work in a group of people and blah blah blah (I'm sure you're sick of me touting my favorite LA instructor) But his technique and approach are invaluable for those who aren't in LA or NY or heck, even the United States.
So check him out on facebook at www.theauditiontechnique.com and follow him on Twitter @AuditionTechniq and see what he has to say.
I recommend him.