In episode 12 of Casting Frontier’s Bring It! series, the Action Casting team—casting veteran James Levine and session director/actor Charles Carpenter—discuss when and how to ask questions in the audition room.

After receiving their sides, talent may feel uncertain about any number of aspects of the material—perhaps about the character, the scene, the tone, or even the product or service being advertised in a commercial audition. At the same time, actors know time is limited in the audition room. Thus, sometimes it can feel they’re in a catch 22: Should they ask a question when it might be viewed as unwelcome and risk turning off casting? Or should they skip all questions and risk giving a performance that misses the mark? What kind of questions are appropriate? 

First off, Levine insists, “You get one question when you come in the room—one.”

Question Don’ts

  1. Don’t bother to ask, “Can I ask you a question?” because that inquiry alone uses up your one question.
  2. Don’t say, “I have a lot of questions about the role,” as casting doesn’t have the time to sift through that much material with one person. Remember, they have long lines of talent to manage all day long, and it’s not uncommon for session directors to skip their lunch breaks to keep the lines moving along in a timely manner. So a performer who enters with too many questions can appear self-consumed and/or unprepared—unprepared if some of the questions could have been answered by doing research into the role, the director, or the product beforehand.   
  3. Don’t ask questions that are too vague. For example, querying “What kind of vibe are you looking for?” leaves casting having to explain too much.  

But Levine insists that it is okay to ask a question in the audition room. Here are acceptable inquiries actors can make.

Question Dos

  1. Make statements rather than ask questions. Levine states, “I like questions that don’t have question marks at the end. They’re statements. That’s a confident person who says, ‘She’s competitive, right?’” Casting might answer yes or no, but the actor’s decisiveness makes a great impression right off the bat. Carpenter adds, “It’s a question that’s going to push you and the character forward.” But be aware, if you’ve prepared your character to be competitive in this instance and then casting informs you the character is actually unambitious, then you’ll be expected to follow through with a read reflecting this new knowledge; this falls under the category of taking direction—an essential aspect acting.
  2. Do ask questions when invited. Levine urges, “Please don’t say no; there’s always something else you can learn about this—always. So, if you have that luxury, ask away. We want you to get all of the questions out of the way.” However, in cases when you’re in a group explanation, he advises actors to not give away their creative choices via their questions. It’s akin to giving away your secret recipe when you’re entering a cooking competition. So, keep your creative inquiries for when you’re alone with casting.

Determined to help actors cut through the mystery associated with the casting process, James Levine authored an enlightening book entitled Bring It! along with Charles Carpenter and Jim Martyka, which will be released digitally in the near future. In the book, Levine shares helpful audition information from the vantage point of a casting director as it relates to commercial, film, and television acting. The book’s chapters correspond to the Bring It! video series.

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