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Friday, October 31, 2014

5 Tips for Thriller, Horror, and Supernatural Auditions

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Auditioning for a spooky thriller or horror film? Embrace the fear and let it fuel your performance. Here’s Lana’s latest Backstage Expert column!

Lana Veenker CSAMy office has subjected our neighbors to a fair amount of screaming, sobbing, and agonizing deaths, after casting for supernatural projects such as Twilight and NBC’s Grimm (76 episodes and counting), thrillers such as Untraceable and Gone, and horror films such as the upcoming Cabin Fever: Reboot. But fear not: We’ve learned what it takes to excel at these types of genre auditions along the way. Enter if you dare….

1. Commit. It’s always important to immerse yourself in the world of the story, and even more critical in genre films and television. The situations and characters may be so outlandish, that it’s essential to truly invest and believe in them in order for the audience to come along for the ride. No matter how over the top the script is, dig deep to find your character’s underlying objectives, hopes, fears, strengths, and weaknesses, so that your performance remains rooted in authenticity. And educate yourself as well: When casting for Grimm we can always tell whether or not actors have seen the show by the way they morph into Wesen (the show’s monsters)…or fail to.

2. Discover. Thriller, horror, and supernatural narratives rely heavily on surprise and suspense, so avoid playing the end of the scene at the beginning, or telegraphing what’s going to happen next. Allow your character (and hence, the audience) to discover as they go along. Is your character the red herring? Don’t give it away by acting suspiciously. Does your character expect a knife-wielding maniac to attack her as she gets into her car? Unless it says so in the script, allow your character to be taken by surprise.

3. Don’t play the obstacle; overcome the obstacle. Novices often try to play emotions and obstacles rather than intentions. But when actors focus on conveying adjectives (happy, sad, angry) instead of verbs (charm, attack, diffuse), their performances suffer and become artificial. No audience can get behind an actor who is mugging, especially not in the exaggerated situations of genre stories, so spend less time thinking about showing, and more on what your character is trying to do under the circumstances. The emotions will take care of themselves. Don’t play fear. Hide or control the fear. If your character limps, don’t play the limp, overcome the limp. Drunks don’t try to act drunk, they try to conceal it, manage it, pursue their goals despite it.

4. Know your archetypes.Villains require strong justifications and backstory for their actions (their need for revenge, attention, power), and likable or intriguing characteristics (charm, humor, intellect) to accomplish them. Note that calm, understated villains can be more frightening than loud, threatening ones (recall Javier Bardem’s chilling character in No Country for Old Men.

When playing the Hero, identify weaknesses you need to overcome in order to grow into the You who can save the day. Pursue objectives with heightened resolve when faced with the unusual and overwhelming obstacles found in genre stories. Root your performance in reality to differentiate yourself from the crazy characters that surround you.

Are you the Victim? Witnesses and innocent victims are usually anchored in realism, whereas victims of stupidity or hubris may present an opportunity to have fun with the character. In either case, don’t be afraid to go for it when your character is supposed to shriek in terror or die a painful death, but do pay attention if the CD is shouting, “Cut, CUT, CUT!!!” We gather pretty quickly that you can scream; we don’t need our neighbors calling the cops.

Authority Figures (detectives, doctors, experts) tend to demand down-to-earth, truthful performances, but identify whether the circumstances that confront them are run-of-the-mill or unusual. Supernatural phenomena may be completely normal in some stories. Weird creature names and terminology should roll off your tongue if your character is used to saying them. Research proper pronunciations (or ask!) before memorizing lines. It’s a dead giveaway to producers that you’ve never seen their show when you can’t pronounce terms common in their scripts.

Playing a Character role? The nosy neighbor, the disheveled hermit, the alien being, the creepy voyeur: These are the kinds of parts that you can really experiment with in genre film and TV. Since you may only get one take in the audition, though, preface by saying, “I’m going to try something fun here, but I can always rein it in, if it’s too over the top.” (This is preferable to asking for a second take.) Be prepared with a very straightforward, understated reading, in case they ask.

5. Use your fear. Auditions are nerve-wracking, so channel that energy into your character. It’s easy to convey fear when you’re already feeling it. Not to mention that a good blood-curdling scream releases tension and helps vent frustration. Relish it!

Link to original article.

Monday, March 17, 2008

From "Burning Plain" to "Twilight" to the "Untraceable" premiere

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My how time flies! Time to get caught up. I’ll probably have to do this in a few posts.

We wrapped casting on “The Burning Plain” (starring Charlize Theron) in January. I finally made it to set on the second to last day of the shoot, out on the Oregon Coast. Producer Ray Angelic and Director Guillermo Arriaga told me they were thrilled with the talent and crews they worked with. We hope they shoot here again!

After that, we started almost immediately on “Twilight” for Summit Entertainment. The film, directed by Catherine Hardwicke, is based on the publishing phenomenon by the same name, written by Stephenie Meyer, and teenagers are MAD about it! We’ve been getting emails from all around the world from kids begging to be considered for roles.

We did put out an open casting call for the role of Jacob, an American Indian teenager (causing our MySpace friends list to take off!), but that role has now been cast.

The remaining roles were all filled by professional actors and shooting is well underway. Photos of the lead cast can be seen on MTV’s website.

I somehow squeezed some travel in during all of this, first to attend the LA premiere of Lakeshore Entertainment’s “Untraceable,” starring Diane Lane. It was great fun to see Director Gregory Hoblit, Producer Hawk Koch and all of the cast again. Here are a few photos of the festivities:

Lana Veenker, Actress Betty Moyer and Actress Katie O’Grady
Betty Moyer, Katie O’Grady, Actress Diane Lane, Lana Veenker and Actress Angie Rutan
Casting Director Irene Cagen, Lana Veenker, Producer Hawk Koch and Katie O’Grady
Actress TL Forsberg, Actor Ty Giordano and Lana Veenker


More to follow…..

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Untraceable…coming to theatres soon!

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The upcoming Diane Lane film, directed by Gregory Hoblit, that we cast in Oregon last year:

The film is set for release in January of 2008. We can’t wait! Allison Burnett’s script was tight; the cast and crew were a pleasure to work with. We hope it’s a huge success.

Thanks to Hawk Koch, Greg Hoblit and Lakeshore Entertainment for the stellar experience.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Actors who love monologues about actors who love monologues about actors who….

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OK, well apparently I’m not posting much about the Seattle Generals. 😐 Not because they weren’t great; I’ve just had other stuff on my plate since I got back.

I will mention that I didn’t see many overused monologues this year, but I only was able to attend the first day and a half of the auditions (had some fires to put out on the Lakeshore film), so I don’t know how indicative that is.

We did see a lot of actors auditioning with pieces about–you guessed it–actors auditioning. Wheee!

They’re great when they’re really well done, but take note that we do see a lot of that kind of stuff. Kinda like, if you’re going to do Hamlet’s soliloquy, you’d better know what you’re doing.

Actually, not like that at all, but you get the point. 🙂

Things are finally picking up at work–not that we didn’t have other stuff to catch up on–but staff likes it when it’s busy. I’ve been working on R&D, so I’ve got plenty on my plate.

We’ve finished casting on “Untraceable” and the other two films we were working on, and they’re all well into production now. Now we’re starting on a SAG short and a few commercials. Goody, goody!

Went to the official Oscars party here; great fun, except that I was so slammed over the past year, I only saw a handful of the films. I did get to bend the Mayor’s ear for a while about film incentives, though, so that was cool. Enjoyed chatting with our charming First Lady, too.

This weekend, I’m seeing William Hurt in “Vanya” and hoping to see “Pillowman” next week.

More soon….

Friday, February 9, 2007

So you wanna be "Untraceable"?

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Even though we are not doing the extras casting on the new Lakeshore Entertainment film “Untraceable,” we seem to be getting a lot of inquiries, so here’s the scoop on the casting call this weekend:

Starring: Diane Lane, Billy Burke, Colin Hanks

All Types of People, All Ages Needed.
No Experience Necessary.

Convention Plaza Office Building
123 NE 3rd Avenue
Portland, OR 97232

For More Information / Extras Casting Email:

We only did principals on this film and are pretty much finished now. Met with Director Greg Hoblit and the film’s producers yesterday to go back through casting DVDs and notes, and nail down the last few roles. If all the actors come back avail for their shoot dates, we should be drafting deal memos and wrapping it up! Yeay!

This film is going to be amazing. I couldn’t put the screenplay down when I read it. Writer Allison Burnett showed up at our casting meeting yesterday and I forgot to tell him.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Slate Please!

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Just a quick fly-by here. The wrap party for “Paranoid Park” was last weekend; it was really fun to see all the kids and meet their parents, reconnect with the crew, and celebrate our hard work. Can’t wait to see how the film turns out! Sounds like the shoot went exceptionally well, so everyone’s excited to see the results.

We’re starting on a new feature film for Lakeshore Entertainment, “Untraceable”” starring Diane Lane. Have got several other independent films underway and the usual slew of commercial clients. It’s a conveyer belt!

I shot down to LA last week to do some casting down there and got to drop in on a few casting directors I know and catch up with friends. Had to cut my trip short, though, when I heard the wrap party was moved to Saturday: After 14 weeks on Paranoid Park, I wasn’t going to miss that, so I flew back early to attend!

Oh, and we’ve finally entered the digital age and got our new website up and running. It’s mainly geared towards clients, but kinda fun to check out. I hope I don’t get an onslaught of emails from actors in Romania and Venezuela, wanting us to cast them in our next Lottery commercial….it doesn’t really work like that, guys! If you’re not local, it’s not likely we can use you. 😉

Off to work!