Escaping Your Day Job: The Truth About Open Calls Part 2
This past summer, AOL (yes, they’re still around) decided to throw their hat into the online news and media game with the very public launch of AOL Live, and an open call for on-air news personalities. The posting stated that they were seeking big personalities whether you were “experienced” or “new.”
We were encouraged to bring props and I found myself conversing with a young woman who brought her own microphone, and she had one thing that most others did not have: Experience. She unwittingly made it through to the next round.
Casting directors, even in open calls, will always cast people with experience. When a casting director’s posting mentions that “we’re looking for all types.” That’s typically a lie. They are looking for a specific type but are open to the possibility of using someone else. Every casting director considers presentation; this is why headshots are always a part of the equation. They need to measure your look against others.
During the American Idol experience I was told that they can only cast so many similar looks per show—in other words, there could never be three thin, blonde girls and there could never be three black men. There has to be diversity in the competition’s appearance even if there are three super-talented people who look very similar.
Experience will ultimately trump raw talent. When we invest in anything, we want to know for sure that it will work. Raw talent will show. Polished performances show. Even when we don’t think about it, we know the difference. I’ve been in this business long enough to know there is no such thing as an “overnight sensation.” The term in and of itself is quite offensive. Alicia Keys, for example, was dubbed this ubiquitous title after the release of her hit record “Fallin’” from her debut album, Songs in A Minor. It was implied that Clive Davis discovered her when she performed for him, and the rest was history. It completely dismisses the years and years of classical musical training, self-development, and rejections she most likely endured not to mention the piano instructors, musical influences, friends and family who supported her along the way. The brutal reality for performers and musicians is that nothing good happens overnight.
AOL Live’s open call and American Idol/X-Factor have something very serious in common that people don’t realize: their open calls are part of a much larger in-direct marketing campaign used to promote their franchises. AOL, in particular, seems to have struggled to keep up with the times and the audition served as more of a ploy to draw an interest in the network for future viewership. Open calls, to some degree, give people a sense of being a part of an experience. I believe they are simply used as a direct-to-fan marketing strategy. What’s your best bet? Show up if you actually want the part and you’re qualified to do it.
To prove that I am not some bitter reject, I would like to tell you of a more successful open call experience. I recently went through a very long and draining audition process for the national Non-Equity tour of Mamma Mia, of which I was able to successfully reach the final round of the New York auditions. The auditions began in February but unbeknownst to me, I discovered that some of my colleagues started auditioning in December. Since then, I’ve been called back to audition at least once every month up until April. If only it ended there.
I, along with the remaining seven or eight guys I was competing with were either cut or put “on hold” until the date of rehearsals, which was to take place on August 19th. The next step was the auditions in L.A. The rest boiled down to genetics. Which is a nice way of saying: “Yes, you’re clearly talented. We realized that months ago, but this industry is all about looks.” At which point the process is, once again, out of your control.
The Mamma Mia audition was something I was more than prepared for as the requirements included a hip-hop dance combination and a pop song. One thing that’s important to realize is that casting directors are looking for people who can perform the work, not “audition” the work. Be yourself and show off your personality as opposed to what you may think they’re looking for. Initially, I never wanted to go on the tour, I would much rather tour with Live Nation, but after the third callback shit started to get kind of real and I suddenly found myself wanting it…badly.
After the auditions ended, I eventually received word that I once again did not get the part, but the story didn’t end there. Although I didn’t get the part for the Mamma Mia tour, I was asked to come for an audition for Bring It On’s national tour. One thing that I failed to realize is that performers do stay on file with casting agencies, usually when they’ve made a good impression. The experience in and of itself helped me to become a more polished, professional and confident performer which is what auditions should ultimately do whether you get The Part or not. And a spot on the national tour with Bring It On sounds like a hell of a consolation prize to me.
Remember, it’s essential to ask yourself if you are truly a good fit for the part you’re auditioning for. Are you trained? Are you capable? Are you ready? Auditions are not only about whether you fit the role, it’s about whether the role is a good fit for you. We would all like to escape our survival jobs as quickly as possible, but if we do not direct our exit strategy towards a project that organically works for us it can lead to much bigger disappointment and frustration.
Photo Credit: baangandburne.com