With the proliferation of mobile digital technology, the entertainment industry continues to be revolutionized in ways decades past never expected. Aside from the huge shift of bringing the show from stage to screen, even auditions have gone from rooms to tapes. A few years ago, this would have been unthinkable. Today, online auditions have overtaken the conventional meet and greet in many cases. In 2014, Joseph Pearlman, a celebrity acting coach, said roughly 35 percent of his sessions are audition taping and coaching, as opposed to three years ago when audition taping was maybe 10 percent. Rhavynn Drummer, casting director at Tyler Perry Studios, said out of every 30 or so people she auditioned, at least half was on tape.
As a matter of fact, Emma Roberts auditioned for Scream 4 through Skype, Emma Stone submitted an online audition for Easy A, director Arthur Laurents discovered Josefina Scaglione on YouTube for his 2009 Broadway revival of West Side Story, and many other actors launched a career from a successful self-tape. From A-list actors to beginners, performers are taking advantage of online auditions to look for work.
As a casting director, is this a trend worth considering? The answer is a resounding yes, with a few things to consider. Here’s why online auditions can be better than the traditional in-person auditions.
Advantages of Holding Online Auditions
Now that many people have access to DSLRs and cell phones with high-quality cameras, casting directors have found it advantageous to make use of this technological shift for an easier, quicker, and more efficient casting process. Here are the benefits casting directors can get from holding online auditions.
Saves you a lot of time
To make a self-tape, an actor sets up a small camera or smartphone in front of a solid background, provides some lighting, and has a friend off-camera read the lines with them. The actor then sends the audition themselves to their agent, who sends it off to the casting director. This is certainly quicker than the traditional process of in-person auditions: bringing in all the interested actors from the waiting room one by one to watch them the entire day.
No more commuting, renting, and waiting
You’ll only need to send out the breakdown and wait. You, the director, the producer, the camera operator, and your casting assistants won’t have to travel all the way to a venue you need to secure and go through the grueling process of facilitating entire days of auditions. Skip all that and stay within the comforts of your office. Let your push notifications tell you when submissions come in, and communicate with the director and producer online. Even callbacks can be done through Skype.
Everything becomes paperless and more organized
Remember all the forms you’ll have to print out, the headshots and résumés you have to look through and organize, and the notes you’ll have to take as you watch each live audition? Remember how a courier used to bring headshots from agents to you for your initial list of talents? Now you can do away with all these and save trees. All the requirements the actors and their agents have to submit with their self-tape can now be sent to you online. Announce beforehand what name and file format to use and enjoy a more organized casting folder.
More access to a wider scope of talent
Actors normally would have to drive hours to and from auditions, but now with the help of technology, it’s less of an issue. Because regional location isn’t a factor anymore, casting directors get to see more talent and fresh new faces come to the forefront to try a project out. Online auditions have leveled the playing field for newer people getting into the business, particularly for locals of a location a project will be shooting in. Nationally and internationally, online auditions are presenting actors with opportunities they might not have.
Factors to Consider When Holding Online Auditions
Film and TV projects only
While self-taped auditions have been around for years, especially for film and TV projects, they’re less popular for theater, as the Actors’ Equity Association has tight restrictions. Casting an actor directly from a video audition is rare in theater, as theater is a live performance.
Video quality affects criteria
To make the self-tape fully effective, the working actor needs a few more skills in their repertoire. They might have to learn all the different aspects of this industry—from how the camera looks, to how the lighting works. This factor intimidates many actors as the playing field may not be of an equal level for each submission. Some actors will produce a self-tape with horrible lighting or sound quality, distracting objects in the background such as using wrinkled sheets as backdrops, and living things moving about in the background such as pets. There are self-tapes shot too close to the face or, more often, from too far away, making it more difficult for casting directors to see the actor’s facial expressions.
Lack of personal interaction
It can be hard to get a sense of who a person is through a video. There are some people that don’t audition well in person. And there are those who are marvelous in the room and they dazzle the client. Many actors agree. While self-taping might seem easier, without the personal interaction it can make an actor’s job more challenging. For some actors, not being able to feed off of reactions of casting directors takes more confidence.
However you view it, as an opportunity or a competitive deluge, self-taping is clearly here to stay. Despite the drawbacks, self-tapes are creating a larger pool of talent for casting directors to choose from. Many industry professionals predict this technological movement to take over the majority of auditions in the next five to ten years.
“With the world shrinking and people from all over the world being able to communicate and be considered for projects way beyond their borders,” Seher Latif from the Casting Society of America said, “you cannot shut out what technology can facilitate.”