Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Technology in the Audition Room

Wednesday pet peeve...

I begin with this: students of mine, feel free to take my name off your resume if you feel my words will get in your way. I understand!!! But I believe this needs to be addressed and as this is a forum for my observations, I am going ahead and taking it.

The audition room is a space in which artists in development and developed artists are able to present themselves for a job, in front of people who are in casting in some form or other who are in charge for whatever reason, of hiring said artist.  

We often know very little about these casting people - where they come from, what their background and expertise is, but, we as artists, prepare/study/develop craft and throw ourselves out there in front of these people.

Now, don't misunderstand me - there are some legitimately talented, knowledgeable and humane casting people in our business.  However, there are many who are not.  This is a fact. Just as there are many who are auditioning who should perhaps find something else to do, so there are just as many sitting at that table that need to find another job more fitting to their "strengths"...

How can you legitimately stand in judgement of talent in front of you if you have not been on stage? If you have not studied and know the discipline and craft of theatre? If you know nothing about how a voice is built? How a character develops? How to use vocabulary specific to theatre, acting, and voice and music properly? Just asking...

We have all heard the horror stories, and in many cases, experienced them - of being in that audition room and being summarily ignored - no one looks at you, acknowledges you, talks through your audition, gets up and walks around, or is on the phone the entire time.

Now we have entered a new technology:  the computer in the audition room.  Casting people are IMing, on facebook, and now, twittering about what they are seeing and hearing and commenting during an audition process!

Where is the line?!  What is the point?!

Perhaps if you were actually paying attention and creating a safe space for an artist to create those few moments, you would get a much more authentic audition and a stronger sense of what that artist could do.  Perhaps you might learn something!

This appalls me.  It angers me. It disgusts me. If performers and artists were not auditioning, there would be no "show business" and casting/agents would not have work to do.  We are dependent on each other.  We are each other's necessary evil aren't we?!  

So what happened to a superficial courtesy?! At least look as if you are interested even if you aren't! At least look as if you know something about what is going on even if you don't!

This shows lack of respect, lack of professionalism, courtesy and frankly a complete disregard to the process of auditioning.

Just as I have said to emerging artists and wannabe performers  - "learn your craft - develop it! Live it! Be it!"  and if you just wanna be "famous" do it somewhere else, I say to the casting director/intern - whoever you are or whoever you think you are:

"Know what you are there to do! Learn YOUR craft! Learn the craft you are assuming to make judgement on! Learn how to treat people the way you would want to be treated! Develop a sense of ethic and morality that shows LEADERSHIP and PROFESSIONALISM - and if you cannot - please, get another desk job."

We need to support those casting directors who show empathy, reality, true talent and true professionalism.  We need to support those casting directors who GET THE PROCESS, who understand art in business, who recognize real talent, who don't make excuses, who are about SOMETHING REAL.  

The rest of them are making the process murky and giving the business a bad name.  Shame on them.  Grow up and be a professional! If you are demanding professionalism from the people who stand in front of you, then demand the same from yourself and your staff.  DEMAND a simple competence.  Heaven forbid we all actually can enter a room with certain level of knowledge and development instead of ignorance and rude behavior.

Knowledge is power.  Rudeness is stupidity. Our business deserves more - from BOTH sides of the table.  

edited to add: Freedom of speech is NOT the issue.  EVERYBODY in that audition room - and I MEAN EVERYBODY is accountable.  If you cannot respect the process and give it its due, you have NO BUSINESS being in the room.  ON EITHER SIDE OF THE TABLE!


  1. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! and well said!

    As someone who has been on either side of that 'desk' I would never dream of such disrespect for a fellow colleague and potential employee. Just as it would be rude for the performer to twitter an update of how they think the audition is going between pieces, the same applies for the panel.


  2. Hi Susan,

    Brava! Thank you for addressing this issue and for letting us know. When someone is auditioning or applying for a job, they are as you say very much in the moment, and intimately sharing who they are as a person and artist.

    To even think that people are making sport of this very personal experience, publicly at that, is disturbing to say the least.

    You are right to say that there are reputable, caring and sensitive casting people out there and they should be buoyed by our support. The others who don't need to take note and review best practices.

    What a stir this has caused, but that's one of the reasons why we love you so!



  3. This is completely unacceptable. The nerves going into an audition are bad enough without being made to feel you are wasting your time and the time of the person behind the desk.

    It is nerve-wracking enough when they don't look at you or acknowledge you, but to be ACTIVELY ignoring you - doing something "more important" - while you stand there with your dreams in their hands is just beyond disrespectful.

  4. Well said...and bravely spoken! I love doing what I do in VO and the audition is our chance to share our gifts, display the craft we've developed and hopefully get paid for the effort. To that end, I really care about the performance I produce and I would sincerely hope that the other person listening--even if I DIDN'T knock their socks off--would care, too. Thank you for addressing the invisible behemoth.

  5. There is a particular casting director whom I've consistently seen with his nose buried in his laptop when I am auditioning, and I just think it's conceited and degrading. I know that my "craft" is not always what these people are looking for, sometimes they know right off the bat when I walk into the room that they don't want me. But when they don't even try to hide it, it almost always takes me right out of the moment and compromises my audition. That's when I start to feel more like a throw pillow than a person. I honestly appreciate when people behind the table are actively listening and paying attention, because then I know that I didn't waste my time and I did my best, whatever the outcome. Twittering? Seriously? Why are you IN this business if you can't commit to it fully?! If you have better things to do, by all means, go do them and leave us alone!

  6. Susan, thank you for speaking out for everyone- I am so glad you did! I went to an audition some months ago with two people behind the table and they did not look up from their Macbooks the whole time I sang. When i was done I stood and waited until they looked up to see why i was still in the room. I kindly said thank you for your time and exited.

    People have to be able to communicate- no one is trying to take that away but is it necessary at that moment? STEP OUTSIDE the room! I've had people talk on the phone while I am singing. Facebook and twitter can certainly wait. And also, aren't some things private? Why do they feel the need to discuss what is happening in the room? Isn't that the time we earned by standing on line sometimes for hours on end just for our 1 minute in the room? This whole situation makes me so disappointed. We the auditionees are preparing to make our work impressive and hire-able and memorable. If you aren't looking at or hearing us, you can't see if we are all those things!

    I think this is definitely a professionalism issue. We are encouraged to be professional and treat the audition process as a business interview because that is what it is-- our business! Would a VP take phone calls while you spoke in an interview? Wouldn't he/she want to see if you were qualified by asking questions and watching how you answer? SAME THING. Watch us! We might even be really good! You might like our songs. You might like our clothes. You might hate us. You never know until you put the iPhone/BB down.

    I sometimes wait until people look up from the table to begin. I wait and when they look up, I smile and begin. I think we all have earned that. Don't be discouraged, folks! There are some amazing CDs out there who enjoy seeing us! Yay for them!

  7. I applaud this post and agree that this is disgusting and immature behavior. Perhaps, instead of saying "this one casting director" or "a certain casting driector," CALL THEM OUT BY NAME!!! SHAME THEM!!!

  8. thanks all! keep those comments coming! This is moral outrage, not just a professional one. And it disgusts me that is has to be addressed at all.

  9. Thank you for saying this. I don't sing much any more, and I never sang professionally. I love opera and vocal music. When I go to the opera or listen to live broadcasts on the radio, it is painfully obvious to me that many of the casting people simply don't know voice, or aren't listening during auditions. I had to drop my subscription at the local opera company; performances were too painful to listen to.

  10. I agree with you, for the most part... however, I would just like to point out that laptops & texting in the audition room do not always mean someone is Tweeting or Facebooking. I use my laptop to take notes, send callback info to my office or to actors, pull up resumes online, etc. I do not use my laptop or text while an actor is auditioning. Obviously, there are CD's who do, and we all know who we're talking about. And yes, it's unprofessional, disrespectful, and inexcusable. The person who has been Tweeting snarky comments DURING auditions ABOUT those auditions should be banned by CSA and AEA.

    By the way... it's worth mentioning that if you notice that someone on the other side of the table is typing/texting/not paying attention while you are singing, you are probably not giving your best acting performance. Either you can be in the moment and perform your best, or you can try to catch me doing something wrong. You don't get to have it both ways.

  11. Joy - thanks for your comments. Appreciated from your side of the table. Having your laptop in the room and using it for business reasons when an artist is not auditioning should be the way of ALL CDs! Don't completely agree with you about your last paragraph though...some of us are artists and trust me, if a CD is on the phone, talking, reading a newspaper etc, we notice in the moment, and can still give a great performance - why? because we are not trying to multi-task! Just like on stage, we are aware if someone's phone goes off in the 3rd row! We are in the moment and focused, but there is something out there that is competing for that focus. I don't need to know specifically what that is, but I am aware it is there. This is what I am talking about. Is it too much to ask that a CD take the 60 seconds and be involved in what that artist is DOING as well? If they can't perhaps they shouldn't try, or perhaps, as I've said in an earlier blog, the audition process needs a major revamping in order to accommodate instead of excuse.

  12. Paul Russell blogged last night - please read, and thank you Paul!

  13. Wow. You are so brave to post this Susan but what a brilliant blog!!! I've been in auditions where someone was on their laptop the entire time and it's distracting but I tune it out. I just go ahead and assume that they are extending the same courtesy to everyone not just me so I leave it be. However, I liken the whole experience to someone being on their cell phone during a movie and I'm sure we all know how inappropriate and frustrating that is.

    Brava!!! Thanks for your boldness.

  14. thanks for all your comments - I really think this is an ongoing and worsening problem in our business. We stand in a room, expecting competence and more likely than not, do not know who we stand infront of. We don't have a sense of the qualification of a CD. We need that. If we were interviewing for any other job, we would know the CEOs credentials and the person we are interviewing with. Why should it be different in our business? As actors, we ARE aware of what goes on in a room - we use energy to play off of - that is what we DO. And sadly, how many great talents are dismissed because an uninformed CD doesn't have the knowledge/vocabulary to know a great talent stands infront of them? It happens all the time. As Paul Russell said - casting is glorified HR. The business needs to take back some artistic integrity. It's past time. We demand artistic integrity of ourselves, and we must demand it from those on the other side of the table! We are lost when we never audition infront of somebody who is literate. And this is a huge HUGE flaw in our business.

  15. I can't say how I feel I would get kicked off the internet. I can only implore actors to contact both AEA and Bernie Telsey's office. As he is the head of the CSA (Casting Society of American in NYC) I trust he will act accordingly and I hope backstage is interviewing him as we speak. Please actors I fight so hard to fill classes on Auditioning that are loved and respected throughout this community when I see someone like this woman who peddles classes based on a casting offices name and see actors flocking to them it makes me wonder. Who is truly investigating their teachers and interviewing them.. I only wish actors well and I hope each and everyone finds their success in whatever way they see fit. But I implore you all to develop a keen eye of discernment. There are clearly a lot of teachers who should not have the privilege of artists in their room.

  16. Woah!, I am TOTALLY caught up in this drama here (and have pulled my mother into it as well! *laugh*) and have been reading everything I can find on it - articles, blogs, etc...

    Just to catch up anyone not following all this, AEA has required a second EPA. Anyone who auditioned Weds is invited for a "do-over." Of course, there is no change in the casting director, but the producer/writer will be in the room.

    Said casting director has tweeted that her NYMF show is holding a second round of auditions "just for fun." EXCUSE ME? She has learned NOTHING from this. She has made text-book apologies because she feels she must - said several things which contradict tweets made and when they were made - and has indicated she will continue to tweet from auditions.

    In all my perusing of information, she is not someone who was a performer - she is in her mid 20's, had a trust fund and support from her parents to help her start her casting company.

    Basically, she fits the profile of a spoiled brat and high school "mean girl." Not someone I want having any kind of say over whether or not I am worthy of being cast.

  17. Susan,

    You bring up a good point about a casting director's credentials. There are certainly CDs out there who are unqualified to evaluate a performer's skills. There are also CDs who look good on paper but don't have the background or even the simple good taste to discern whether a performer is qualified for a particular job. And, there are CDs who have no discernible qualifications -- at least none that can be put on paper -- but are brilliant at what they do. Anyone can call themselves a casting director (or an actor, for that matter) but there is no standard in the business. It would be very difficult to develop one, but it is worth having the conversation.

    All that said, it is possible for an actor to do her research on the casting director prior to the audition. After all, when you go into an interview in "civilian" life, the CEO doesn't hand you a copy of his resume. Presumably, you would have researched the company and the CEO's qualifications before you went in... just as you would research the company, the role, the project, and the personnel involved before going to an audition... right? However, I do agree that there should be some kind of standard for CDs; but for now, we just have to trust that the producers have done their due diligence before hiring a CD.

    It is also worth noting that the casting director does not decide who gets cast in the show (usually). We are, as Paul Russell so succinctly pointed out, "glorified human resources". We must look past our own personal tastes and preferences and evaluate people based on the sensibilities of the creative team and the audience. A great talent may be dismissed not because the CD doesn't recognize the talent; but simply because the CD knows that the creative team will not respond to that particular artist. However, that same artist is likely to end up in a file in the CD's office, where he or she will be harvested for a future project in which the creative team is likely to appreciate his/her talent.

    Now that I'm re-reading that, "harvested" sounds creepy...

  18. thanks all - Joy thanks for adding your comments! Sadly, all CDs don't have resumes we can find, and sometimes, we get assistants or interns, or even, heaven forbid, somebody's daughter!!!! Yes, it's happened! I loved when I was called in last year that a 20something chippy asked me while holding my resume "So Susan, what have you done?" to which I smiled and replied "Well, since my career is older than you, perhaps I should be asking YOU that question."

    I just wish we could get honest and find some bottom line to make this system work without bullshit. And if actors were auditioning infront of CDS like you, perhaps we have a chance to make this business a better place...I am beginning to wonder if I could do this or if my knowledge would just get in the way!!!

  19. and "harvested" made me laugh - creepy or not!

    Let's hope real talent gets a chance. I just don't see it as often as I would like.