Stand-Up Comics audition to known Laughs Per Minute (LPM) standards via video or live performance in comedy clubs.
But there is another, very different type of audition you want to think about early on.
Because you never really know when a casting director might spot you,
and want to see you read the script for him or her
the very next day.
Note: for this short excursion into film history as relevant to current comedies,
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Casting directors are not always looking for trained actors.
There is a tradition in motion pictures that many film directors subscribe to:
•Non-actors can give more realistic performances because they make un-traditional choices
for delivering lines, making gestures, unselfconscious postures when making crosses, turns, standing up, sitting down, etc.
Beginning film students learn about this when studying post-World War II Italian neorealism
which greatly influenced the legendary director Frederico Fellini (January 20, 1920–October 31, 1993).
But advanced film students soon discover that the past master of this tradition was
the Frenchman Robert Bresson (September 25, 1901–December 18, 1999).
His masterpieces are available on DVD which can be rented from neflix.com for as little as $7.99/month.
Some of the most helpful Extras for our current discussion are on:
"The Pickpocket" (1959)
"Mouchette" (1967) which show Bresson directing his cast of "real people,"
demonstrating his expertise in working with non-actors.
Bresson was very controversial at the time, as seen in this interview:
Bresson inadvertently ushered in the New Wave in French cinema, although he was not part of that movement.
You can see his clear influence in the work of New Wave leader Jean-Luc Godard (born 3 December 1930).
One of Godard's perhaps most available comedies is "The Band of Outsiders" (1964).
Woody Allen (born December 1, 1935) remains greatly influenced by this same period,
as can be clearly seen in his comedies:
"Alice" (1990) starring his then girlfriend Mia Farrow (born February 9, 1945).
She is the daughter of great filmmaker John Farrow (February 10, 1904 – 27 January 27, 1963)
and actress Maureen O'Sullivan (May 17, 1911 – June 23, 1998).
Mia Farrow appeared in 12 of Allen's films.
"Whatever Works" (2009) features stand-up comic and comedy writer Larry David's (born July 2, 1947) best work to date.
Allen continues to hire comics and unique actors and real people who fit the part.
His auditions sometimes last only a few minutes, astonishing seasoned pros . . . as testified in their interviews.
"Blue Jasmine" (2013) is one of Allen's best pictures
and famous in comedy circles for his change in casting,
switching Andrew Dice Clay (born September 29, 1957) into the role originally meant for Louis CK (born September 12, 1967).
The bonus features on the DVD feature a noteworthy press conference
dominated by the film's Academy Award winning star Kate Blanchett (born 14 May 1969)
but beautifully disrupted by Dice's joke about their costumes which gets a huge laugh.
Many of today's directors, who went to formal film schools, studied during the above era in film history.
They are now top players in American movies and TV shows.
Notice the deliberate homage paid to the New Wave directors casting non-actors as the folks playing
the star's parents are her real parents and she really is from Sacramento, California:
"Frances Ha" (2013) DVD Supplements are well worth watching:
The director Noah Baumbach (born September 3, 1969) is interviewed
by Peter Bogdanovich (born July 30, 1939)
("The Last Picture Show" 1971, nominated for 8 Oscars including Director,
2 wins for both Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress).
Bogdanovich thought some "Frances Ha" scenes were improvised
as the actor's unique movements look like what often happens with good improvisations.
But instead, Baumbach reveals that all the scenes were tightly scripted and choreographed
as revealed by both director and star in their interviews.
Their admitted models for the long shots and actor crosses within scenes?
Ernst Lubitsch (January 29, 1892 – November 30, 1947)
and Howard Hawks (May 30, 1896 – December 26, 1977)!
Greta Gerwig (born August 4, 1983) in the lead co-wrote the script with
Throughout the film, Gerwig repeated stops herself in mid-gesture,
wanting not to fully express thoughts.
This refreshing technique makes her performance seem even more naturalistic.
The black and white photography shot on prosumer digital camcorders
is a conscious homage to New Wave films loved by the director.
Not to be missed DVD Supplement: "Interpreting Reality" features Baumbach
interviewing his Director of Photography Sam Levy and
Pascal Dangin, who did the film's color mastering.
As digital cameras only shoot in color, getting the "silvery" look and
sparkling black and while contrasts of 35 mm film requires experimental steps
for desaturating the colors which they share with viewers.
Photographically, this is a new frontier.
In a dinner scene, the interactions between the Frances and the other guests
she is meeting for the first time are at initially uncomfortable.
But, as Gerwig puts it in her interview on the DVD,
"Then, she sells it (her character's pov) to you."
In the beginning, that scene is made to look improvised rather self-consciously
until her final monologue breaks the discomfort, and nails the scene's finish.
Then, cut to the other characters who react silently,
remembering similar moments in their own lives,
as does the audience watching the film.
Corn, but goldenly expressed corn.
Frances choreographs a dance piece at the end of the film.
Significantly, this dance follows a similar pattern as that dinner scene
with dancers at first stiff, totally clumsy beginners.
Then, the finish is suddenly polished, a delightful surprise.
Frances explains: "I like things that look like mistakes."
This character has access to the solutions for her various problems throughout the film
but awkwardly can't seem to figure out how to do it.
Then, she does.
So, this is New Wave . . . light.
No matter your training or lack of training as an actor,
every comedy or keynote speaking performance
can end up being an audition for a movie or TV role:
Therefore, anytime you appear in public where casting directors can spot you,
you can involuntarily be auditioning for a major motion picture or TV show.
More often than not, comics find themselves at this type of audition as a result
At that point, the comic must change gears, and prep for a formal audition.
Many comics are thrown off by the sudden lack of control since they will not be doing their honed comedy club act.
Now the comic will be presenting an unfamiliar script and performing it in front of just a few folks.
Yes: these days, the casting director will video the audition to later observe how the camera sees you.
Not at all what the human eye sees in real life!
Warning: there is an exaggerated assertion that an actor or comic must never look at a script before an audition.
A more accurate description of the known dangers would seem more appropriate:
1) There is no time to work on character as you often get the script the night before the reading.
Even then, expect to be handed a completely re-written script just as you walk into the audition hall.
2) After you read the script:
Do read only your lines in the script just once, silently to yourself.
This should be an eyes-on-script reading, looking nowhere else but at the script.
You are just getting familiar with seeing the words on the page.
This, so the actor or comic does not accidentally re-word the copy during the actual audition.
Hint: the casting director knows all about "improvisation," and will formally ask you to wing it, if and when they want to see your improvisation skills.
Up until that point, they are usually much more worried about whether or not you are capable of reading the script . . . as written.
3) Finally, the night before, read the script once aloud for phrasing.
This, so you don't get tongue-tied during the real audition.
At that point, yes: the actor or comic would be wise to put the script away until the audition.
•Perhaps repeating steps 1 & 2 the next day, many hours before the actual audition time.
•But then, forget about reading the script any more than that to avoid getting too uptight in front of the casting folks.
And if they hand you a new script, you will know to repeat steps 1 & 2 ASAP.
Keep It Simple Silly (KISS): two steps and then, met those audition folks with an open mind.
That's my 2-cents worth.
Oh, one more thing.
See the movie "City Island" (2009) with Andy Garcia (born April 12, 1956) auditioning for a Martin Scorsese (born November17, 1942) movie:
•That scene says it all!
Watch a preview here that includes his first goof at the auditions.
Martin Scorsese is also a great student of film history, appearing on many DVD Extras and writing forwards to several film books.
For a contrasting view of written up biographies for the above folks,
always consult the Internet Movie Database,
•referred to in movie buff conversations as simply IMDb.
•Get in touch:
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Page last updated: Monday, December 9, 2013, 2:51 pm PST and July 12, 2014, 6:51 am PST.