ACTRA and Film Training Manitoba hosted a casting panel discussion in February 2018. Panel members were Jeff Beesley (director), Kyle Bornais (producer), Kristen Harris (actor), Carmen Kotyk (casting director), and John B. Lowe (actor). Marina Stephenson Kerr was the moderator.

Marina started by noting that we all recognized auditioning was an imperfect process. She quoted a friend who told her we had to be tough as nails to get in the door and, once in, be open, confident, and sweet. This seemed to strike a chord with several in the room.

There was a consensus that the increase in film production seen during the past year would continue and that Manitoba and Manitoba actors had a good reputation among producers who had completed projects here. In short, the future looks good for the film industry in this province.

When asked about what sort of training was important for actors, the following points were raised:

  • Actors with distinctly more credits collaborating as peers with other actors.
  • A difference is noticed when an actor prepares with a coach.
  • Actor’s gyms are a valuable resource and one where you can make connections with producers and directors in a safe and encouraging atmosphere.
  • Members initiating small groups of friends or colleagues to prepare for auditions together.
  • Two people mentioned Cal Botterill, a sports psychologist and author, as being knowledgeable about handling performance anxiety.

When asked what panelists liked to see in an audition room, the following points were raised:

  • Strong choices
  • Pleasant manner
  • Confidence
  • Professionalism

When asked what professionalism at an audition looked like, the following points were raised:

  • Be prepared
  • Say thank you
  • Be considerate of fellow actors outside the room by keeping noise level and interactions at a minimum
  • Know your lines cold
  • Be prepared to shoot as if you actually had the job and were shooting that day

When asked what panelists didn’t like to see in an audition room, the following points were raised:

  • Not being prepared
  • Making excuses for not being prepared
  • Shaking hands (one person talking about the number of people seen in an audition day and spreading germs)
  • Weapons (even if just toys, but yes, it’s happened)

A question about how to get into the audition room was raised. The response was keep submitting. A casting director may have 800 submissions from local actors and cannot see all of them. Carmen Kotyk mentioned that now that she has her own studio she will be able to see more people. She also said that there will be facilities there for self-taping. If you are not sure you are right for a part or want to submit for more than one part, submit anyway. She may decide to read you for another role. An audience member mentioned that while casting workbook only appears to allow you to submit for one role per production, if you wait 24 hours it’s possible to make a second submission.

Notable quotes:

John B. Lowe: “The best actors in the world are always learning and growing. Theatre actors get the advantage of rehearsal. As an actor, hopefully you are always open to growing.”

Jeff Beasley: “Give us the tools to sell you. If you have something that shows your talent, put it on your website or your reel – record something and make it available. Just give us the tools to sell you.”

Jeff Beasley: “Carmen f’n fights for you. She will go to the wall for Manitoba actors. You have an advocate here in Carmen!”

Carmen Kotyk: “We often have no control over some of the casting decisions. If a director or producer wants something, and even if it doesn’t make sense to me, their choice gets priority.”

Kristen Harris: “A safe audition space is the most valuable thing for a performer. The safer you make that space, you are going to invite that actor into their character and audition.”

Thanks from ACTRA to Film Training Manitoba, the panelists, the moderator, and all those who attended.