Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Auditioning: Gary Shaffer

 On Auditioning
   “I saw some pretty bad auditions here in Las Vegas.” In general single card casting director and professional speaker Gary Shaffer says “Las Vegas actors lack experience, training and audition skills.”

    “Most Las Vegas actors are not prepared to do larger roles and producers know that. Until that changes, Las Vegas will remain a good place to earn your union card and get ‘film’ before you move on.”

   “The audition is your time, do not feel rushed and never apologize,” were the first two suggestions made by casting director Gary Shaffer, who shared his expertise at a UNLV / SAG Nevada Conservatory Master Class session.

   His almost 35 years as a casting professional has included many stops in Las Vegas, most recently with United Paramount Network’s “The Watcher”. From 1978 to 1980 Shaffer cast “Vega$.  In 1991 he cast Aaron Spelling’s “Hearts Are Wild” for CBS. Among Shaffer’s other credits are “Dynasty”, “Medical Center”, “Trapper John, MD.” “Matt Houston”, “Norman, Is That You” and “Kansas City Bomber”.

   The casting process, according to Shaffer, is not mysterious. First you have a script, and then someone does a break down of the script detailing the characters, that breakdown is used by talent agents to submit actors to play those characters. The casting director, and often the director, select the actor to be cast and the casting director then negotiates how much the actor is to be paid.

    “In Las Vegas the pay is usually union scale plus ten, with that ten percent going to pay the actor’s agency,” explains Shaffer, who works directly for the producer.

    However, Shaffer adds that “The talent here has improved to the point where I consider locals for major roles, but remember that I work for the producer and my reputation is on the line.”

   During a Nevada SAG Conservatory Master Class, Shaffer offered the following observations and suggestions for Nevada based actors:
•     Never start until you have made eye contact with the casting director. Do not say a word until you are sure you have made contact.
•     Keep your eyes up from the paper and focused on the auditor as often as possible.
•     Do not break character. If you have to take a beat, find your place and pick up as if nothing ever happened
•     Be aware of your surroundings and what you are auditioning for. As often as possible start with what is really there, in other words the real time, place and environment. The more of the situation you make real to the character, the greater energy you can put into your performance.
•     If you have questions concerning the audition or your sides, ask them, professionally and to the point.
•     When reading with another actor, do not upstage yourself or them.
•      Roles get cut or changed all the time. If this happens to you do not take it personally and keep on trying.
•     Chewing gum is not a good choice. If you must make that choice, do not chew gum for the entire audition.
•     Playing nervous is also a poor choice, because most auditors will assume that they are seeing the real you, and be afraid that you will be nervous on camera.

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