Thursday, 16 July 2015

Should there be more transparency to actors after auditions?

I know how frustrating it must be. You’ve had a casting for a show. You learnt everything you were meant too, had a nice chat with the director and casting director – and thought you left with a ‘good vibe’. But two weeks after your audition you haven’t heard a thing. Frustrating. Particularly if you’ve had five recalls and a final. In this kind of situation you’ve already invested a lot into the audition process – time, money, and energy. Not to mention the sleepless nights, days taken off work, even paying to watch the show. So it’s only natural to feel you’ve got the part. So why is it that we often don’t give you, the actor, an answer? Whether it be a ‘yes’, ‘no’, or ‘we’re still not sure’  - at least it would let you know where you stand, and allow you to move on if the job doesn’t go your way.

I recently spent a boozy Dom-filled evening discussing this with some dear actor friends, who said they find it frustrating and rude when we don’t give answers – particularly when they’ve had a couple of recalls and dance calls. In any other job after an interview, or even after an application you would usually get an answer – so why doesn’t this happen in showbusiness? It used to be because of time – if we’d seen over 100 people then it would take forever to let everyone know why they didn’t get the job - but times have changed. Theatre, in particular, has always been steeped in tradition, and some people resent changing with the times – but now we live in an age where it takes seconds to send an email. For casting directors to send a standard email stating the result of an actor’s audition takes no time at all.

We often say that an actor is still ‘in the mix’  - which means they’re not our first choice, but there’s a chance we might come back to them if everyone else turns us down. Now this is not a bad thing – indeed it means you’re still in the running – but maybe we should be even more honest. Often when you don’t hear something for weeks then that’s the reason – you simply won’t be told until the other actor gives us an answer.  But maybe, instead of not letting you know what’s going on, we should be honest straight away and tell you that we’ve offered it to someone else - and if they turn it down then the part is yours. Then you’d know how highly we thought of you – and there’s still a chance the job is yours. Is that something that would be better than just a yes or no? I’d be interested to know your thoughts.

Auditions are very complicated jigsaws, particularly in a cast change – when it’s not just about casting the parts, but also their covers and swings. It is a difficult task – and can drag on for months. If it’s for a long running musical the difficulty comes when actors who are in the current cast don’t decide if they’re staying on until the last minute - because we will inevitably have already started auditioning for their part. Now of course this is annoying if you’re the actor auditioning – because you’re actually auditioning for a job that possibly doesn’t exist. But with the rising costs of casting venues we have to see as many people as possible on an audition day. Again – this is another example of where we could be more honest to the actor. If we are auditioning actors for a role that actually might not be available we should make that clear from the offset, so the auditioning actor knows exactly where they stand. This, I feel, is only fair. Then we aren’t getting anyone into the room under false pretences. It’s just like if a business advertised a job and took interviews, and the job wasn’t available – it is actually entirely illegal. The same applies if we’re not sure about whether to give you the role or not – we should be honest with your agent and let you know that’s what we’re thinking.

Then comes the question of if we should give you an answer on the same day - just after your audition. Often someone is outside the door letting people in, and it wouldn’t take any time at all for them to pop into the audition room and relay an answer to you. But I suppose that can be quite difficult –particularly if you thought you had a good audition. The alternative is that the casting department could do a standard email after the auditions to let your agent know (indeed some casting directors sit in auditions dribbling over porn on their laptop – instead of doing this they could use their laptop to email your agent, dear).

A couple of actors told me they’d be happy to be told in their audition if it’s a ‘no’ - straight after they’ve performed their material. Personally I think that could be quite hard and upsetting - for both the auditionee and panel. In an audition situation the actors are vulnerable enough – without the threat of them being told by the director that they’re not right for the part. It’s most important that we let you perform, and then have a few minutes to talk amongst ourselves.  But I do feel it’s vital that you’re told as soon as possible. So the solution may be that your agent is contacted the same evening with an answer - or if you want to know directly you could leave your mobile number or email address and we will contact you (however there are some directors and casting directors who you should NEVER give your number too, dear). Then we could message you an answer as soon as we get chance.

And while we're on the subject - i have heard horror stories of the words 'you've been pencilled' or 'you've got a heavy pencil' for an advert. Now whoever invented this term (it was probably an advertising exec who got paid 5k for coming up with it) should be pencilled heavily in the face. The term means nothing. Absolutely nothing. Advert casting directors should stop using it entirely - it is like they're dangling a lovely little cheque in front of the actor's nose - only to inevitably take it away with the words 'we've gone in another direction'. If you think there's a chance you may 'go in another direction' then don't call the agent in the first place. It is cruel and makes the actor so excited about the job - which is usually taken away from them a few days later. So please cease from using any term with the word 'pencil' in it - and just call the agent and be honest about the situation the actor is in - for example: 'we like her, but we've got to let the client see the video first. But we also like 2 others. So it could go to any of them'. That would be far fairer, and far clearer, and would not involve using a heavy pencil with a rubber on the end to erase the 'possible booking' from an actors' diary, dear.

Many actors like feedback after an audition. This can be rather difficult as often casting directors see so many people that they forget why they thought you weren’t right. And also, it can just be a ‘feeling’ – sometimes there’s no reason at all why you’re not suitable for the role, apart from the fact that you’re simply not ‘quite right’. I know how frustrating that may sound – but it’s the truth.  And besides, you should never really believe everything you hear when asking for feedback. I have known agents asking for feedback about their clients, and the new intern in the casting director’s office has had to read some scruffy handwriting on the audition sheet – which is interpreted totally wrong. So unless it comes directly from the casting director themselves take feedback with a pinch of salt. And even then, casting directors have been known to say anything just to get an agent off the phone (of course if the feedback is marvellous then accept it regardless of who it comes from, dear).

Because of social media now it is very easy for actors’ to do detective work and find out if someone else got the role they wanted. And of course it’s such a small world that actors know actors – and report of other people getting the role. So it seems silly not to let the actors know from the horse’s mouth. And it’s only polite. An actor has given their time to come and audition for us – and we should show the same courtesy by giving an answer.

Indeed I know one actress who has been waiting for 6 years to find out if she’s been offered the Evita tour (and the tour finished two years ago…)!

My actor friends all said it would make them feel much more valued if we just let them know either way. So the time is now to break this inconsiderate and unprofessional pattern. If an actor auditions for a show, no matter how many recalls they have, they deserve an answer. It’s as simple and easy as that, dear.


  1. This sounds all very polite & fine & heaven knows there is little enough of that in the casting world, however,I wonder how many casters will follow this policy? As an actor, I make sure I'm fully prepared,do the best I can & forget it! If I'm cast great! If not, another opportunity WILL come along. Life's too short to waste feeling angst about auditions. Nick Simons

  2. My dear friend Stephen is spear-fronting this great campaign to provide a bit more clarity. I think if it's easy for producers then it would be lovely. Until then: I make excellent use of my short term memory.