Casting Director Paul Schnee on the Audition Room

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Photo Source: Andrew Hur
How many times will you call someone back to audition whom you've not cast? And if several years go by and that actor has not gotten anywhere, does that send up a red flag?
I'll keep bringing someone in forever; I don't care how long it takes. If there's someone whose work I like, I will keep calling them in no matter what. There's no real time limit for me. I realize that all directors and casting directors have different tastes, so it's subjective. The things that stop me from calling people in repeatedly are behavior -- not being prepared, always being late or less than polite or pleasant. As long as the work is good, it doesn't matter to me how long someone goes without booking something.

Aside from referrals, what draws you to an actor?
It's really just a gut feeling -- I'm drawn to what I like. Someone to whom I just respond personally. I tend to like actors who are somewhat offbeat, I guess -- actors who don't look like they just stepped out of an Abercrombie and Fitch catalog. I like actors who don't look or behave like actors, like if I saw them at Fairway, I'd have to think for a second about where I know them from. I like actors and comics who come off as smart, who seem like thinkers and maybe just a little weird. I like weird.

What are some typical audition room mistakes?
There's nothing really typical since every project we do is different. But in general it's nice to see people come in who can read the room. If I'm not in a chatty mood -- or certainly if you come in for the director and he or she isn't chatty -- then go with that. I can't stand hearing actors hold up their sides and say, "I just got this last night/this morning." I get it. You don't always get a lot of time with material. But when you say that -- or that you have a sinus infection or your allergies are acting up or you had food poisoning last night, all things I've heard -- you are apologizing in advance for not being good. And who knows? Maybe you'll be great. So don't apologize ahead of time. My advice is always, always, without fail, be polite and pleasant to every single person you ever meet anywhere. You never know if that assistant stage manager working on a crappy showcase you are in is going to be working at Warner Bros. in one or two years. We all live in a very, very, very, very small world.