Closed Casting, Pre-Casting and Auditioning by Invitation Only

by Liz

I am a director and an actress both.

As an actress I have lately been pre-cast and invited to closed auditions. As a director I have held closed casting session and pre-cast entire productions. These situations can make performers really frustrated, so I wanted to dig in and examine my thinking, experiences and reasonings. I’ve been mulling things over and have just a few thoughts to share.

Why I, as a director, have pre-cast before

I don’t do this often, and I’ve never done it while advertising the opposite. In fact, the only times I have ever cast performers without auditioning, I have done so for the entire project–every role in the cast. I have done this on paid projects and volunteer projects, all of which I was also the producer and was self-financing. I knew what I wanted in each role and approached directly those I wanted to cast. No auditions were ever posted. It saved me a good deal of time and effort. Additionally, at least one of these projects involved inviting the cast into my home studio to record, and I feel more comfortable giving out my personal address to people I know, than to strangers.

Why I, as a director, have held invitation-only auditions before

At least once, I have had all of the above conditions, but still felt like more than one person could do the job well, and I honestly didn’t know which was the right fit for the project without an audition. At least once, I have had similar casting situations in which I wasn’t the final decision-maker, and my casting collaborator would need audition-level information to make the final decision. I enjoy inviation-only auditions when I already have a pool of talent to whom I can reach out that offers all the options I need, and I’m working on a time crunch, and the project involves coming to my home studio or something equally revealing of my private life.

What sucks about closed auditions and pre-casting for a director

I am a firm believer in giving people chances. I love being surprised. I love seeing an actor do more than I thought they could do. I love finding new talent. Generally, closed auditions and pre-casting limit my exposure to performers I’ve already worked with, though there is an exception to that rule in at least one cast member in all my closed-casting projects. I actively introduce new performers into my work experiences because I think it’s better for me as an artist.

Top of mind

There’s this concept in the corporate world called “top of mind.” Being top of mind means being visible, regularly, so that when someone asks, “now who can do this thing well,” the answer “you” is already at the top of their minds. I totally agree with this from a marketing perspective, but as a director, I actively try to circumvent my “top of mind” impulse decision making.

When I’m sending an invitation to a close-audition or considering offering a role pre-cast, I do a full-length Facebook friends scroll. It’s a decent digital roledex for me of all the performers I’ve ever worked with or come into networking contact with. There are quite a few performers on there that I don’t know well or haven’t worked with yet, but maybe this next project is the one that I will. I don’t want to forget about people just because they weren’t part of my last project, and the full-scroll is one way I try to level out opportunities, and add new faces to the work I’m doing. It isn’t a perfect approach, but it sure helps. And I always manage to find at least a few people that I’ve seen perform and haven’t worked with yet that I’d be willing to invite to audition or outright cast depending on the needs of the project.

What does that mean in terms of “top of mind?”

It means we don’t have to have worked together for you to be in my digital roledex of people I’m looking to work with, but I do need to know something about how you perform. You may use social media for a variety of reasons–I sure do. But I assure you, posting that clip of you singing, your new demo reel, or those promotion photos, and throwback Thursdays (remember those?) or any other indicator of the work you are doing, or are capable of doing, really helps me keep you in mind. And I want to keep you in mind. If I get to keep doing the work that I love at the rate I want to do it, odds are I’m going to have an opportunity where you would be great to consider casting. I don’t want to miss that opportunity because I didn’t know what you could do, or didn’t know what you were interested in learning to do.

A final word on open auditions

I love open auditions. Best way to see as many options as possible and be surprised by talent familiar and new. But not every audition I hold is going to be open. And I’m not apologizing for that. Sometimes that’s what the work and/or my private life need me to do.

In any case, here is an open invitation

Keep posting stuff of you doing what you love to do! Show me what you are learning, what you’ve been doing, and tell me what you’re hoping to do next. My network isn’t closed to you, even if sometimes my auditions have to be.

– Liz Christensen

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