Casting Frontier’s YouTube channel now features weekly content designed to empower talent by providing valuable insider knowledge. And this week we’re excited to share the third of nine episodes of our Bring It! video series. Casting veteran James Levine and working actor and session director Charles Carpenter discuss the topic “Taking Direction & Adding to It to Make It Your Own.”

While it’s important to be able to take direction in the audition room, it’s really just a starting off point for the professional actor. James Levine puts it this way: “You do not get a gold star if you just take direction. You do not get the part if you just take direction. You’re there because you’re a professional direction-taker. And that’s a given that you can take directions. If you can’t, you’re not hireable.”

So, to stand out in the audition room, actors are encouraged to find out just how welcome they are on any given day to play around with the material in order to breathe life into the character. While auditioning, Carpenter likes to ask casting, “Can I play with this?”

Now, some casting directors may want actors to adhere strictly to the script, but others will encourage actors to play around with the material to make it their own. Being able to do playful takes is a valuable skill because it provides production with many creative options—making all the difference in the editing room.

In some instances, casting might invite actors to play “a little”—meaning some improv is welcome. In this case, Levine suggests sticking to the script as written and then adding a button, also known as a tag, to the end of the performance.

“A button is the last line that you are going to add at the end of a scene. It is a button—not a zipper. We don’t need it long. We need you to get in and out,” Carpenter says, adding the button should be no more than five words. “It’s the next thing this character would say in character if we kept rolling,” James says.

Improv skills are especially of value when it comes to commercial work because they empower actors to be in the moment, and give honest and relatable reactions. But improv doesn’t require actors to give a funny performance. Indeed, improvisational choices need to make sense within the context of the scene. “You don’t want to just tag something to be funny. You want to tag it because it adds something to the story,”Levine asserts.

What’s most likely to get talent hired on a regular basis? Knowing how to take direction, and knowing how to add something unique to the performance. It’s also important to be able to give an identical performance over and over again as well as be adept at doing something a little differently with each take in case it’s needed for the project.

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 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! YouTube series.

Casting Frontier’s YouTube channel publishes weekly video tips, tricks, best practices, interviews with industry professionals and more. Stay tuned next week to watch the fourth episode of the Bring It! series with James and Charles. Or better yet, subscribe to the channel so you know as soon as the next episode is out!

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