I don’t know about you, but if I really want to get a great audition for myself or my kids I just need to plan a trip. The bigger the trip – think expense, distance, length or inability to cancel – the more likely one or all of us will get an audition.
A few years ago, my family was driving back from a camping weekend near Lake Tahoe when my agent called: “Hi, I know you are booked out for your vacation, but a great audition just came through for your son and they need a self-tape sent over today. Is there any way you can do it?”
So, there we were, exhausted from a long week of roughing it and a few hours into a 7-hour drive. It was a simple audition… if we had been home where I have a background, tri-pod, great lighting, and some noise control. Casting was looking for an interview style audition, just answer three questions, no need to rehearse. The next little town we went through had a large warehouse building you could see from the road. We pulled around back; found a spot that had decent lighting and was blocked from the wind and other noise; did our best to spruce him up with a clean-ish shirt and combed hair; and pulled out my iPhone to recorded it. Then we got lunch at a nearby restaurant that let me use their own private wifi to send the file, which took forever! It did eventually work, and everyone was satisfied with the result. Plus, we fortified our relationship with our agent because she knew she could count on us to pull through and make them look good when they were pitching him.
You may be thinking, “That can’t happen that often, right?”
Well, last summer we were staying in a cabin sooo far into the woods there was no internet. I only got the text because when we were in town at the general store I had just enough signal to see that an audition came through. We used my DSLR to tape that one because I had my tri-pod and it was easier to get it transferred into my computer editing software. I had to drive 45 minutes into the next town so I could go in the coffee shop and use their internet.
“Okay,” you say, “twice doesn’t make it a pattern, or all that likely…”
As I type this I’m on a vacation with my family. I made sure to pack my laptop and my microphone because I got an VO audition on the day we were heading out of town that I knew would have to be taped from the road. I didn’t have room in the luggage for the mic stand, foam clam shell or pop filter so I improvised by going into the carpeted bedroom, placing the mic upon a pillow on the arm of the stuffed chair to act as the shock-mount and placed a sock over the mic as a makeshift pop screen.
“Hmmm,” you ponder, “if this is actually that common, what is the best way to plan for auditions while on vacation?
First and foremost, I ALWAYS Book-Out with our agent and manager. I send them an email every two-weeks with any upcoming trips or days where we just can’t make an audition or shoot date and usually update them on any classes or other things that are happening that would help them pitch us. They know that I’m always game to do a self-tape from the road if it is at all possible.
Thankfully, cell phones have become more than adequate tools for self-tapes and even VO auditions. Instead of missing those amazing opportunities when you’re on the road just pack these essentials and you’ll always be prepared when opportunity is knocking.
My packing list:
- Mini-Tripod / Cell Phone Stand
- Smart Phone
- USB microphone OR 3mm lavalier microphone
- Discerning eye to watch for ‘good lighting’ and ‘plain backgrounds’
- An ear for sound that will be distracting like plane or traffic noise, a neighbor’s dog….
- And lastly, and probably most importantly, a ‘CAN DO’ attitude.
If I’m expecting to tape something important:
- LED light (like a small ring light or I have a flexible flat light mat)
- Small ultra-lightweight light stand
- Wired or wireless lav mic with a dedicated recording device
- iPad loaded with a teleprompter app
It is difficult to bring everything but being prepared with the basics will allow you to turn in an audition you’re proud of. Of course, you still need to do all your other prep work and rehearse. Sometimes you’ll even have to pass up an activity to get it done in time. And in my family, you have to limit the computer time so it doesn’t frustrate people by working too much during the vacation.
Last year we were traveling in Switzerland and there we were taping an audition for my daughter in the spare bedroom in the Alps. We sent everyone else out ahead of us to get a table at the restaurant. Then we covered the hard surfaces with a blanket to get good sound, and she stood facing a window for great lighting in front of a mostly blank wall. It took 30 minutes and we got to enjoy the vacation not feeling like we were missing out.
But mostly, now I can turn my nose up at Murphy’s Law and say, “bring it on!” I’m happy when booking a trip causes us to get an awesome callback. Like last month when I went to go help my mom in Florida so of course my daughter and I got a callback for a job together. The casting person used a video conference to ‘bring me in’ so they could see me while my daughter was there in-person. Sure, they could see palm trees in the background but I’ve never been so relaxed at a callback!