Return to Sender: Auditions

The auditions were held for Return to Sender this past weekend, and I’m happy to report that, despite all of my worries, they went incredibly well.

Leading up to audition day, we had a good amount of responses. We received about as many responses as I was expecting to get, so that’s a plus. I’ve heard on many occasions that there’s a sliding scale between confirmed responses and how many people actually show up for auditions. That proved to be true.

We had a few people cancel the day before and the day of. There were a couple of people who confirmed their time but never showed up. Of course, there were also people who we assigned an audition time to, but they never confirmed and they didn’t show up. From what I can tell, this is pretty normal.

Even with these drops, we still had a great amount of talent come in front of our casting table that day. My whole idea of holding auditions was to be able to have options. I’m very glad to say that I definitely had options for my characters at the end of the day. That’s an entirely new and very pleasant situation to be in.

I really wanted to make a good impression on the actors who came in, and I really hope that I did. I tried to make them as comfortable as possible. I tried to put myself in their shoes on many occasions. This led to the decision to leave the tablets at home and take handwritten notes on paper.

I figured if you’re already nervous, a line of people sitting behind tablet screens wasn’t going to make you more relaxed. For all you know, they could not be paying attention to your audition at all. They could be on Facebook. I didn’t want people coming in to feel that way. I have no idea how they do auditions through more official channels, but I’m happy with the decision that I made. I think it allowed me to really be present in that moment.

Chicago-area weather definitely didn’t help us out that day though. As the day approached, I was really upset to see a foreboding snowflake in the forecast. On the day, I was even more upset to see that the snow was set to hit during the exact hours when my potential lead and supporting actresses were scheduled to come in.

The snow did end up coming, and it was much more than some basic flurries. The roads got pretty awful. I’m so thankful for all of the actresses that braved those roads to come out and audition anyway.

So now, the next step is to review the audition tapes and our many notes in order to make the best casting decision possible for this project. We started this process as soon as we got back to the studio, and I’ll write more details about that later.

This is all a learning experience, and I’m happy to be learning it.

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Return to Sender: Casting Call

It’s taken me a while to decide when to actually post the update about auditions. Should I post it once I design the casting call? Should I post when it goes live and we start getting responses?

For the sake of actually having content on my blog, I decided to split it into a few different posts. There will be one post about the casting call itself, another post about the audition day, and a post about making the casting decision.

So, here we go!

When it came to designing the audition notice, I felt completely out of my element. I’ve never done official auditions for my films before. I had an idea of what needed to be said, but I was terrified about saying it correctly.

I did a lot of research. My colleagues on the project did a lot of research too. Eventually we put something together. There were still doubts about how we designed some things, how we worded some things, what things we left off. It was stressful, but we made it though.

On the day the casting call was initially posted, I was really grateful for the response it received. It was shared around to a lot of different networks. It got a lot of attention. We even got some headshots submitted on that first day! We got a lot of responses for the minor characters, but responses for the lead and supporting characters were slow.

After some time, I talked with a friend of mine who is a professional actress, and she gave me some tips. I learned that it’s a lot more helpful to give potential actors the specific shoot dates rather than leaving it open for discussion. Apparently, it helps potential actors to know the dates ahead of time so they can determine whether or not its worth it to audition at all. I had no idea.

We uploaded a new casting call with this updated information, and we got even more responses. These responses even included actresses who were interested in the lead role!  I was very grateful.

The whole thing was a really thrilling process, but of course, my experience with thrilling situations always includes a ton of stress. I am still stressed out. It’s stressful. I’m freaking out about possibilities that will probably never come to pass. It really can be a curse to have an overactive imagination.

I completely understand why big productions have casting directors. Casting is such a daunting job! Next time, I should probably have less of a hand in the processes leading up to the audition. It would likely help my stress levels tremendously.

We’re still accepting applicants until February 10th, although we have removed the minor characters from the casting call due to the overwhelming response given for those. The day of auditions is February 17th, so I’ll be back with more information about that at a later date.

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