Quick Tips are bite-sized articles meant to give you simple, actionable ideas that you can apply to your filmmaking right away.
This morning I was reading Dan Mirvish's hilarious and incredibly useful book, The Cheerful Subversive's Guide to Independent Filmmaking, and he shared a tip he learned from the legendary Hollywood casting director Lynn Stalmaster.
I'm paraphrasing here, but the basic idea is this:
When you're holding auditions, pay more attention to your actors when they're not delivering lines. Pay attention how they're reacting and adapting to the scene.
Why would you this? Quite simply, it's a quick way to measure the depth and breadth of what an actor can deliver onscreen. Some of the most touching, emotional moments in films come from simple reaction shots, so finding actors who can react in a compelling way is a recipe for success.
When you're auditioning actors, here are some things to look for:
Do they stay in character when they're not speaking?
Are they reacting to the nuances of the scene in a compelling way, or are they just waiting for the reader to finish their lines so they can jump back in?
Are their facial expressions and body language equally invested in the performance?
Are they adapting their performance to what the reader is doing?
Ultimately, giving a decent line reading isn't too difficult, but being able to immerse yourself in a character and stay in character and use your body as an emotive tool during a scene is incredibly challenging.
The actors who can do this are the ones you want. So use this quick tip as a means to find them next time you're auditioning.
For a more information about casting, be sure to check out this detailed article on various low-budget casting techniques and mistakes to avoid.
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