Thoughts from Casting Director Lauren Bass

Lauren Bass is a feature film casting director in Los Angeles. She focuses primarily on indie films, though she started in, loves, and continues to work on television shows as well. Oh, and she’s friggin’ funny. I had the fortunate opportunity to hear her speak at The Actor’s Network. Below are my major take-aways.

An Actor’s Job is to Audition

The importance of auditioning cannot be understated. Lauren talked about how auditioning is a whole different beast than “acting,” and that you have to become excellent at it. Yeah it can totally suck, but whether you like it or not if you don’t audition well, you’ll never get the chance to be on a set.

With that in mind, Lauren proffered a number of audition technique tips:

  • People skills are vital
    • Actors can’t come across as desperate. This comes in large part by just being comfortable in your own skin (a recurring theme for the evening).
  • Have fun!
    • Acting is supposed to be “freeing, liberating, and playful,” Lauren reminded everyone. Practice auditioning and you will get better at it. Learn to have fun with it.
  • Get over your validation complex
    • Oftentimes us actors want to be validated at every step. Stop it. You will not get validation in an audition room. Seek validation elsewhere. Like in a lover…or from a puppy. Puppies are awesome at that. :)
  • Walk in. Do your job. Get out.
    • I think this should be the mantra of all actors for their auditions. All you need to do is walk into an audition with a great energy, perform a short scene, and get the hell out. We don’t need to make it more complicated than that.

Theatre

Lauren is a big fan of theatre, and believes that it lives at the core of all acting. She believes that everyone should have the experience of being in a show. The process of building a character, working with one person with a singular vision, and the camaraderie are but a few of the aspects that make it completely worthwhile.

Lauren also brought up a point that I think many actors in L.A. miss. Do theatre for theatre. That is, don’t do it because you’re convinced that Steven Spielberg or some random agent is going to see your show and make you the next star.  Do the show for the reasons above, to hone your craft, and become a better actor.

Do Your Research

As you will hear from many CDs, actors need to do their research. Specifically, you should know the tone of any television show you’re auditioning for. Lauren talked about how TV deals with archetypes, which the actor has to fit perfectly. Beyond that, there is a certain polish and attitude to each network, show, and genre. There is more leeway in film (and even more so in theatre), which can be cast on more of a “vibe.”

Additionally, it’s good to get to know casting directors as best you can. For example, Lauren has far less of an online presence than say Bonnie GillespieJeremy Gordon, or Marci Liroff, but she is very good about attending showcases all over town. She loves meeting lots of new actors and the opportunity to teach. (Note: I had the opportunity to attend one of her showcases and she had great tips and advice for actors.)

Have a Life

Similar to a theme that Jonathan Prince talked a lot about, Lauren discussed how booking the job can’t be your end game. It can’t be the most important thing during your day. You need to have something else that’s driving you; that you’re passionate about. With those things come a certain comfort in your own skin which will greatly improve your auditions.

Casting Directors Want to Love You

“I love actors,” Lauren repeatedly said. I don’t think I’ve met a casting director who doesn’t like actors. Why else would they spend their entire week being around them? Lauren noted that “we [casting directors] want and need you to do well.” In order to do that, actors need to be professional, and treat an audition similar to a first date. Be on your best behavior, don’t whine, be excited without being desperate, and be interested in the other person.

Lauren had a great tip for actors to conquer the audition: set goals for yourself (note: the goal can NOT be to book the job…too many things are out of your control). For example, you could have the goal to nail the accent, or not be nervous when you walk in. With this mindset you will increase the “success” of your auditions.


Ben Whitehair is the Los Angeles contingent of this blog. Find out more information and view his materials on his website, or read the rest of his blog posts.