Casting offices can get crowded, especially with kids. Imagine a large group of children in a cramped space, waiting to be judged by strangers. Add strollers, siblings, gameboys, iPads, food, backpacks, and cell phones to the picture. Then imagine kids running lines and primping, preparing for their “big break.” Not to mention the chatter about who booked what job and the catch-up conversations between parents.
Auditioning is part of life for a child performer. And it’s tough.
Jen Rudin, an award-winning casting director for film, television, animated movies, video games and theater, began her professional acting career at age eight. By twelve, she knew she wanted to be a casting director. Rudin believes in “creating an honest, positive, and comfortable audition environment.”
“It’s a very small world and certainly casting directors talk to agents and production managers,” says Rudin, who has spent much of her career casting for Disney and now works through her own agency, Jen Rudin Casting. Her work includes “The Princess and the Frog,” “Chicken Little,” “Meet the Robinsons,” and “The Incredibles.” Upcoming films include Tim Burton’s “Frankenweenie” and Peter Bogdanovich’s “Squirrels to the Nuts.”
Rudin views the waiting room as a professional workspace. “You may not think you are distracting [actors] but subconsciously you are shifting their focus away from their audition material and ultimately depleting their focus,” she says. “That can be really detrimental.” Rudin believes that casting office etiquette begins with kindness and respect. “As my father likes to say ‘All you have is your name, so leave a good name.’”
Casting kids means, to some extent, casting their parents as well, and Rudin looks for “good” people. “Be pleasant to the casting assistant in the waiting room because they are going to tell me anything wacky that happens,” she explains. “It’s their job. I hear plenty of stories. Sometimes I will love a kid and say to my assistant, ‘So, what happened in the waiting room today?’”
Rudin suggests that conversations, especially between families, be kept to a minimum. “There is nothing that another actor, or another mother, is going to say to you in the waiting room that is going to make you feel better at that moment,” she says. Any audition-related conversations with your child should take place once you leave the building and be limited to “Did you have a good time?” “Whatever you say in a public space could end up being overheard,” warns Rudin. “You never know who is in the elevator or in the toilet stall next to you.”
Shaking hands is one of Rudin’s pet peeves and strongly discourages the practice to prevent the spread of germs. “It’s bad enough I have to touch hundreds of resumes during the day. I don’t want to shake everybody’s hands,” she explains. “A kid should come in and be themselves. Shaking hands seems a little manufactured and a little artificial to me.”
Finally, Rudin adds, “Take it all with a grain of salt. You’ve got to go on a million auditions before you get something. If you can remember that, you are going to be a lot happier in the waiting room, and your child will give a better audition.”
Casting Office Etiquette Tips
Arriving at the Audition
Arrive 10 minutes before your appointment time. To ease overcrowding, don’t arrive too early or late.
Don’t bring strollers or siblings, especially toddlers.
Finish eating, drinking and attending to the bathroom before you arrive.
Actors should prepare before they arrive. You can’t control the casting office environment and there are times when casting may run ahead of schedule.
Review the audition sides quietly without distracting others.
Be Quiet and Respectful
Do not speak with other actors. A simple hello is best.
Do not discuss industry business such as recent auditions and bookings.
Use of Electronics
Never play electronic games.
Headphone volume should be kept to a minimum.
Do not talk on cell phones. Place cell phones on silent.
Don’t stalk the sign-in sheet. It can make others feel uncomfortable and lends itself to gossip.
Listening at the door is awkward for your child and others. You don’t want to be that parent.
Be ready when your name is called.
Greet staff with a simple hello and be ready to slate. Allow staff to direct any small talk.
Do not shake hands with casting director or staff.
Parents should not go into the audition room with their child, regardless of their age. An important aspect of the audition is how confident a child feels in a room with strangers.
No tears. Reevaluate if your child does not enjoy auditioning.
Leave the room with a simple thank you and goodbye.
After the Audition
Don’t linger. Quietly collect your belongings and leave.
Do not discuss what took place during the audition until you are outside of the building.
Do not correspond with the casting through social media. Use a post card or email.
Be cautious about reading or sharing information about castings via the internet.