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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Acting Auditions Are Guilt Trips!

(Note: this post has nothing to do with the Takashi Miike movie, Audition)

I've held a few auditions for several occasions, from my own short films last year (VERTICAL DISTANCE and GIRL DISCONNECTED) to the two tv movie productions I'm involved in this year, I find auditions rather exciting but sometimes frustrating.

Exciting because it provides the possibility of meeting and discovering really good actors, frustrating when none who came actually fitted the criterias I wanted.

My routine for auditions is pretty generic: Greet the candidates (in my friendly, cheery manner), let them fill up their particulars on a form, get them to relax by chit-chatting with them, and then give them a page or two of a scene for them to line-read.

When I'm the one conducting the audition, I usually carry my own broken-down tiny camcorder with me. Sometimes I film them, sometimes I don't (yet still giving candidates the illusion that I was filming them) especially when I had to deal with a candidate purely for the sake of courtesy (say, seeing a 40-year-old woman auditioning for the role of a high school girl, I'll be too polite to turn that person away, but there's no way I need to film the woman either!!).

The last two auditions I held was for the casting of teenage characters. Aside from actual teenagers, I had to deal with my share of kiddies who thought they were old enough to play teenage roles, or adults who thought they were youthful enough to play teenage roles.

Few of the younger candidates were accompanied by their parents, and things get rather disconcerting when that happens.

A part of me is impressed by how supportive these parents are with their kids' acting endeavours, willing to drive their kids to the venue of the auditions regardless of how far away it is from their places.

I thought parents were more supportive and open-minded towards the whole acting thing in western countries like Australia, I would never imagine Malaysia to be similar.

I had assumed that typical Malaysian parents would freak out when their 10-12 year old kid wants to get involved in acting. Acting? Showbiz? That's scandalous! The parents would exclaim, demanding the kid to go the hell back to his or her bedroom to continue studying so that the kid can become a doctor or a lawyer in the future!

I'm sure what I described above is a more common scenario, but witnessing the exceptions to the rule bring a warm feeling to my heart.

Yet these warm feeling can sometimes dissipate when some of these proud parents try very hard to convince me that I will strike gold after I audition their kid. I met an actress who was accompanied by her uncle, her uncle was relentless with his praises, telling me that his niece is so good that I'd definitely have to pick her, that not picking her would be a catastrophic mistake.

I nodded repeatedly with a frozen smile fixed upon my face, assuring the man that I was impressed by his niece, but the final decision 'is up to the director' (in cases where I was the director, I would say that I have to discuss with the rest of the production crew AND my executive producers about casting him or her*)

It's a way to deflect attention and avoid potential problems, better to let them believe that I'm not the only one who decides their fate!

One of my tutors last year told me that it is a more courteous gesture to call the candidate and inform them about their rejection, I agree, and I won't mind doing that if I have to. However, I've seen too many horror stories where actors take things personally when they weren't casted for the roles, throwing a hissy fit, screaming at the phone, demanding to meet the casting director for another audition etc etc. Absolute pains-in-the-asses.

A nice example would be when I went to Chewxy's audition back in May and had the misfortune of meeting a crazy-ass wannabe method actor who, unlike most real method actors, was very horrible with his acting methods. Of course the guy got rejected, a blind casting director would've done the same. Unfortunately the douchebag didn't react too well to that, and said some horrid HORRID things to Chewxy on MSN**.

Thus I usually choose NOT to call a rejected candidate, I believed that not calling is a good enough sign of rejection. I might be quite an assholish thing to do, but I'd rather not be too emotionally involved with them, otherwise I'll end up feeling guilty myself that I have to reject the person.

It's silly to feel guilty, why should I feel bad that the person isn't good enough? Or does not fit the criteria I requested? Or does not suit the director's artistic vision? Things are difficult when the line that separates my professional life and my personal life is slightly blurred.

* It's a lie.

** Chewxy had gotten it easy with just some lame homophobic slurs, I wouldn't want to retrieve death threats, or get blamed for causing suicide. The guy I mentioned seemed so imbalanced that he might be capable of both.