Advice from a Casting Director – Maureen Hughes
Maureen Hughes trained as artistic assistant under Garry Hynes at Druid Theatre Company in the ’80s and went on in 1992 to work in the Abbey Theatre for two-and-a-half years as head of casting. She has since moved on to cast several major screen productions, including the Oscar®-winning films Six Shooter and Once. She was also the casting director for Love-Hate, which stared the likes of Aidan Gillen along side newcomers.
We can’t afford to rule out actors who have very little on their CV, particularly if they are right for the role. But in general I would go to a lot of fringe shows and watch an awful lot of short films. As an actor you have got to start working yourself up some screen credits. Ring third level colleges to get on student films and get your ass out there – you’ve got to get yourself some experience, which will almost always be unpaid in the beginning.
First, we check if the actor is available for the specific period of time. We send them the script in advance and ask them to prep a scene. Then we bring them in to audition. Personally, I don’t mind people reading from the script, but there are casting directors and directors who will be very, very unimpressed if you do. It’s up to the actor themselves to check who they are going to be working with. Sometimes I feel if people are really, really off-book then it’s very hard to unlock that performance. Whereas, at least if you have somebody just reading it, they’re not scared to try it a different way.
For film and television the audition is everything, because if it ain’t working on the screen, it just ain’t working. We use fairly limited MiniDV cameras but it has got to work on camera on the day. I suppose the big thing is “to thine own self be true” There is nothing worse than coming into the audition dripping with neediness. Are you happy with the way you read? Can you get up out of that chair, walk out the door and go, “well, fuck it, I thought I did great.” I’m looking for the person who does that as opposed to the person who has tried to second guess what we’re looking for and ends up in a very artificial process.
Good, intelligent preparation is everything. Who are you meeting in the room? What are they like? What are their expectations? I’m bringing you in there, so ring me. I want you as prepped as you can be, because I don’t want to look foolish either.
The full article first appeared in issue 131 of Film Ireland Magazine.