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No callback for Zoom auditions

Auditions for the acting industry have been online since last March, but it is time to go back and stand in front of the casting director.

Opinion by Benjamin Royer, Staff Writer

Piper Reese looks into the camera wearing a blue shirt and blue eyeshadow look.
Piper Reese, at the Student Recreation Center, of the California State University, Northridge. She is an actor and student-journlist who is blancing the need to work with the dangers of in-person auditions and COVID-19 restrictions. (Photo by Solomon O. Smith/ The Valley Star)

I have been filming my own auditions since early last year, but I would love to have the excitement of driving to an audition and reading my lines once again.

Video call services like Zoom and BlueJeans have become the new normal for actors. Your day could be wide open, but then you get an email from your agent and you have to space out a portion of time to be on a video call for an audition. Frustrations with internet connections and a lack of feedback leave a lot to be desired with online experiences.

“I find Zoom to be the most anxiety provoking. The fact that you can be in the middle of a scene and it just goes off or something,” said Piper Reese, an actress and former student at Valley College, “it’s nerve-wracking.”

Feedback makes the online auditioning process feel like a chore; you send in your audition to casting and wait. When you are standing in front of the casting director, you can get feedback instantly. During online auditioning, the casting director does not get back to you on what you can improve or what you can change.

“If I was a casting director, I would want to give feedback to the actor,” said Walker Satterwhite, a film major at Valley. “You want to see if they can take direction well and it feels like there’s a gap between online and in-person there.”

Contrasting that to in-person auditioning, after you say your lines, the casting director or others in the room will give you notes. Repeating the scene with notes can feel like the make or break moment of the audition. This is missing with online auditions.

If in-person auditions are to return, productions have to think about how to make them safe. Protocols set by Los Angeles County would most likely have to be used. I would have social distancing, mask wearing, face shields for casting directors and large space in the room for casting directors and actors to be apart.

I would feel safe with these measures in place. If there were protocols ready to go today, it would certainly make people think about taking that step towards normal auditions.

“The actor in me says 100 percent ‘let’s do this thing,’” says Satterwhite. “The regular person in me says, ‘Let's hold the breaks and find a safe way to do this.’ I’d certainly consider it though.”

Phasing back to in-person auditions is where we could start to bring the audition side of the industry back to normal. Not everyone feels this way.

“I would have trouble with that. I would feel pressured to go jump back in,” Reese said. “I want acting work and I don’t want to miss opportunities, but my brother is high risk and I have to be extra careful.”

She has a good point. The safety of actors should be a top priority. We may differ on the opinion of returning to in person auditions, but this is why productions should have the utmost safety in mind, and protocols in place so everyone has a fair chance to audition. There is an agreement that we must use the strongest protections possible, but maybe, just maybe, we return to in-person and see how it goes. When will actors be ready?

“Tonight, tomorrow, I’m ready,” Satterwhite said. “As long as we can do it safe, let’s get it done.”


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