This week on Casting Frontier’s 12th episode of The Curve, Burgandi and Govind continue their two-part interview with the Emmy Award-winning casting director April Webster. Her endless casting credits include the films Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, Star Trek, Mission: Impossible III, and Tomorrowland, and her television casting credits include the series Lost and Alias

Webster recalls some of the talents she plucked from obscurity in her rich and varied career such as the English actress Olivia Cooke for the starring role of Emma Decody in the A&E series Bates Motel; Canadian actress Evangeline Lilly who broke out as Kate Austen in the ABC series Lost and later would go on to play Tauriel in The Hobbit film series and transform into the Wasp / Hope van Dyne in the Marvel Universe. Also, back when young Kevin Costner was non-union, she helped cast him in his first starring role as Will Bonner AKA “Double Down” in the Jim Wison-directed and Michael Blake-written film Double Down, also known by the title Stacy’s Knights.

“We do [our casting work] to help the actors have access, right? So, when people really get an opportunity from it, and their talent really shows through, a lot of times that’s all people need,” Webster says.

When Govind asked Webster for any insights she’d like to share with actors about self-tapes, she first addressed the topic of sending out unsolicited materials to casting directors. 

“If I was an actor, I would not send out unsolicited material,” she said. “We often get material that has been not requested. And my policy generally is to not look at it. If I happen to look at it and you happen to be right, then I might take it further. But it’s really kind of a violation in a way; it’s not something that you do.” 

Continuing, Webster offered the following advice in creating quality self-tapes: “Make sure that you have good lighting, that you have good sound, and that you get yourself a good reader.” When actors perform their lines solo—that is, without the other half of the dialogue being read aloud by a scene partner—it can be particularly distracting for producers. So it’s worth putting in the extra effort to find a good reader as much as possible. 

But one advantage to self-tapes, Webster says, is they allow actors to do multiple takes in order to put their best foot forward. “But you don’t want to get crazy though,” she warns. 

Her office usually asks actors to submit two takes, “because that way, you can give us something a little bit different which might give us a different way of looking at your audition.”

Webster is known for how warm and supportive she is of the many actors that come her way. For instance, she always hopes to assure performers that they’re enough just as they are. In this spirit, while speaking about auditioning, she says, “All you can do is come in and do the best job that you can do. You don’t know what is happening outside of the room; you don’t know if the director hated his sister who is a redhead … and everyone has a different prom queen … there are people who you just are naturally attracted to. Could be someone who looks like your wife; could be someone who looks like your husband. So you have a tendency sometimes to lean towards that.”

While she acknowledges some things fall outside an actor’s control in the audition room, Webster emphasizes the undeniable impact actors can have over everyone present at the audition. With this in mind, she encourages actors to “spread your energy over the room. And when I say that, what I mean is that you don’t have to be just affected by the room, by what’s happening there because they just lost a million dollars of the budget or whatever else it happens to be. You can draw the focus and get everybody centered … so if you come in and really take the room, then even if the audition wasn’t exactly spot on, we will remember. We’ll say, ‘Remember that person? They just like were so present in the room.’ And I’ve cast people who we’ve seen in one movie audition two years later in another film.”

The most important advice she likes to give actors is, “Have a full, rich life. Go to museums, go to movies, go to other countries. Learn to speak other languages. You want to enter into other cultures so you can be empathetic to other people. And as an actor, as an artist, that’s something that’s so important.” 

To view the first half of Burgandi and Govind’s intriguing interview with April Webster, please click here.

Casting Frontier’s YouTube series The Curve is hosted by Burgandi Phoenix and Govind Kumar. Stay ahead of the curve by learning more valuable tips and stories from an assortment of industry insiders each week.

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