There are three main casting agencies in Chicago: O’Connor Casting, Pascal Rudnicke Casting and Claire Simon Casting. They book the vast majority of commercials, TV shows and feature films. Actors want these casting directors to know who they are, relish the opportunity to be called in and hope they give a great performance at each audition.
Most of the time, you can’t get called in to audition unless you have an agent. On occasion, opportunities such as The Great Danish Adventure come along or the search for the new voice of the Afflac duck, and they’ll hold an open casting call. Sometimes they’ll seek a specific kind of person, such as those who take a certain medication.
The business is fairly fast paced. Yesterday just after noon, I was driving to a indie film audition when one of my agents called to say I had a TV commercial audition at one of the big three the next day at 10:50am. Yay! (You can ask for something later or earlier if you have a conflict with your assigned 5 or 10 minute time slot, but usually you don’t get to choose.) If you’re not available for the callback or the shoot date(s), you probably won’t get to audition.
I’d be doing two short spots. The scripts didn’t arrive until 5:15pm. I had a class until 9:45, so I couldn’t prepare before then.
Deciding what to wear can be a challenge, whatever “nice casual” or “business casual,” etc., means to you. Basic rules of solids over busy patterns, simple jewelry that doesn’t distract, apply. On occasion, people will truly dress the part. When I had an audition to be a nun, I wore a black sweater over a white blouse, as did many auditionees. But a few showed up in full nun’s habits. I bought a lab coat because I was going on so many pharmacist/doctor auditions, and the coats provided at auditions were far too big and baggy. I haven’t had a single opportunity to wear it…yet.
In the waiting area, you fill out an information form. Headshots/resumes used to be mandatory, but with online casting services they aren’t always requested. Sometimes more than one audition is taking place, so it can be crowded and hectic. I almost always run into someone I know, and enjoy catching up.
In the casting room, you often have the opportunity to do a rehearsal with the session director. There may be others watching, from interns to clients. And those who watch don’t look at you, they look at you on the monitor. Then you get two takes, usually with some guidance in between. Nerves can set in because a lot is on the line.
Afterward, I try to let go of how I think I did and when the callback is. Because you never know why you didn’t get chosen. You might have done a fabulous job, but you’re blond and they want a brunette. They chose a tall husband, and you’re too short to be his wife. Instead of worrying and wondering, I look forward to the next opportunity.