I’ve always been resourceful, and very strategic in the way I approached anything and everything in my life. Acting was no different. Two years ago I took the plunge to pursue acting on a professional level. I had been working in the Marketing/Public Relations field for five years and felt confident in applying my corporate skills to my newfound acting professional field.
After having taken many acting classes and workshops, my next goal was to learn how everything worked behind the scenes from a production perspective. I was very curious, more so, in the actual casting process. At that point I had been lucky enough to be cast as a lead in most of the independent films and projects I auditioned for, but I always wondered what were the deciding factors in me landing the roles? Is it my talent? Of course, but I couldn’t help but notice all of the other talented and beautiful actresses at auditions…what set me apart?
Many of you know all too well the feeling of eyes sizing you up and down in the waiting room and the undeniable tension and sound of silence in that same room. I was one of the few that actually didn’t partake in the ring. I refused to be so competitive that I made it a point to say hello to the other ladies in the room and try to behave friendly towards them. Blame it on my naïveté or idealistic nature, but something told me that prior to any of us walking into the audition room the casting directors had a vision in mind. Something none of us can control. And I learned that I was partly correct – our appearances and what casting envisions are out of our control. However, our behaviors are well within our control.
The opportunity to learn behind the scenes and how the casting process worked made itself available in 2011 when I was accepted into a 3 month internship at one of Philadelphia’s largest casting offices. What began as an internship and chance to learn what goes on in a casting office soon turned into an employment opportunity. The casting director saw my public relations and marketing skill sets to be a great advantage to the office and I was hired a month into my internship. While at first I was hesitant to work professionally in the casting office (the plan was to intern for a few months and continue acting full time), I gradually saw that it was one of the best strategic moves I could’ve made as an actress. Now, in the two years I’ve been there, I’ve learned quite a lot.
Unfortunately, one of the bad habits that I keep noticing and am shocked is a reoccurring theme with male, but mostly female actresses, is one of the most basic things you learn from childhood. Etiquette. It baffles me that the etiquette – or lack thereof – I see in the casting office is also prevalent when I attend auditions at other locations…and it’s a disease. I could never figure out if it was the nature of the craft in addition to the female social behavior. Nevertheless it was unnerving. So many actresses – veterans and newbies – fell into this trap.
On many occasions, I noticed actresses of any age chat and catch up with fellow actress friends or –rarely – befriend them. This developed into chatter in the waiting room and sometimes spilled over to the audition room. I couldn’t believe it. This was supposed to be a job; I rarely spoke to contenders at a job interview, apart from a short hello and smile, this translated into audition waiting rooms.
At auditions and at the casting office, apart from random odd events, what became apparent was that many actors and actresses missed opportunities due to the lack of etiquette and focus that was apparent in the waiting rooms of other job interviews. No one running a casting session wants to overhear the chattiness of the waiting room or have actors that are paired up walk into the audition – with clients (directors/producers) present- discussing the last project they worked on or how their kids are doing in school. Anything that takes away from the current audition/project is a clear and obvious “no, no”. What’s worse is I’ve witnessed rude behavior towards the front desk attendants from actors! From leaving the audition because ‘they didn’t expect the wait to be this long’ as they had other engagements, to being upset because the casting office cannot provide any parking or meter information.
This was all mind-blowing to me as it proved the unprofessionalism of the actors and actresses. They failed to realize that the front lines or anyone dealing with running the casting sessions ALWAYS relate these incidences to the power at be – aka key holders aka who you’re auditioning for. So what you intended to be a smooth audition, without realizing it, turned into a disqualification because you decide to litter in the waiting room, chatter away with another actor you’ve worked with, answer a cell phone call, or even gave a little attitude to the front desk attendant when you called in earlier for directions. All of these and more are, 99% of the time, noted and relayed to your agent and/or the casting director before you even walk into the audition room. So, be mindful and treat this like it is your job.
Etiquette is very well appreciated, and more so expected in this field of work. Yes, it is creative and unique – the acting world – however professionalism is always expected and always effects your audition chances. Treat it as you would any executive interview for a big Fortune 500 company. Keep that in mind the next time you feel antsy knowing your meter is running and feel the urge to bring it up to the front desk attendant. It could not only cost you the audition, but also your relationship with your agent! Who would want to represent an actress or actor that is behaving without etiquette or known for rude behavior? Arrive early, be courteous to the front lines and keep distractions to a minimum- the last thing you would want is to be disqualified even before slating.