In episode 15 of Casting Frontier’s Bring It! series, the Action Casting team—casting veteran James Levine and session director/actor Charles Carpenter—discuss how actors can increase their chances of getting more callbacks.

Specifically, Carpenter gives the example of an actor who asks, “I have an agent and I’m auditioning … why am I not getting any callbacks?” And, Levine straightforwardly answers, “You’re fine. [But] you don’t want to be fine.”

With the word “fine,” Levine draws attention to the tendency for actors to make conventional and safe creative choices with the material they’re given. It’s easy for performers to fall into this trap. They might rely too heavily on the fact that they were punctual, memorized their sides, dressed in the right attire, and made sure to prepare for the part. But did they find a way to personally connect with the circumstance at hand and zero in on what precisely is at stake in the scene? Did they find a subtle or not-so-subtle way to make their performance different from the status quo? Did they give their character ambivalent feelings about someone or something? Is their character hiding a secret or harboring contradictory personal qualities? 

Certainly, when actors make a bold choice, they risk things getting awkward at the very moment they’re looking to impress others. And who wants to make a “mistake” in the audition room, on camera, only to be reviewed by several casting executives?

Levine continues, “Call in 100 people and 80 of them are fine. They did it right; they didn’t make a mistake.” But just because an actor focused on being perfect—that is, performing the scene just as he or she’d practiced or exhibiting not much more than an appropriate tone and manner, Levine says, “You don’t get a gold star; you certainly don’t get this job for being fine.”

Those who are selected for callbacks listen to direction, make adjustments, playfully go with the flow, and add something fresh, unique, and authentic to the part. Whatever choice they make, Levine says, it essentially “forces” casting to invite them for a callback.

Levine attributes confidence as the determining factor of what gets an actor invited back for a second chance. And more confidence translates to less fear. “You can’t be afraid of making mistakes!” he asserts. 

Similarly, when entering the audition room, Carpenter encourages actors to adjust their frame of mind. Instead of concerning themselves with what casting wants to see, he says, approach the audition thinking, “I have an idea of how I can bring this [character] to life.” 

Through their personal qualities, acting skills, and artistic touch, actors bring a whole lot of value to any given production. But remember, casting isn’t always clear what they’re looking for in auditions. That being said, they sure recognize an interesting, strong performance when they see it. By the way, “strong” doesn’t necessarily mean “more emotional.” Rather, it refers to doing something different—something with depth. Whatever the choice is, commit to it. Be bold!

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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