I came across a very interesting crowd funding project on www.wishberry.in. It is a book about casting and auditioning from the point of view of a Casting Director. And hence I got in touch with the author Manoj Ramola to try and understand in detail about the book.
I am a casting Director. I have been associated with various production houses like Star TV, Disney, Endemol amongst others. I am working as casting director for the past six years now.
On casting, in the context of the Indian Film Industry
Casting is relatively a very new term in the Indian film industry. It must have been a cultural shock when veteran Hollywood casting director Susie Figgis started auditioning actors for film Gandhi (1982). If you go by the credits, Hassan Kutty (Saalam Bombay) is probably the first Indian casting director; however, it was Tigmanshu Dhulia, who made it mainstream with Shekhar Kapur’s Bandit Queen. Again, both were respectively involved as an assistant director and writer with the said films. It is not much later after this that casting directors started doing casting alone and now casting is being treated as a dedicated profession. While even today everybody knows about the casting couch, but not how casting actually happens. I do not blame them, because it is usually the only thing covered in media about casting.
On my book “Audition Room”
Audition Room is basically the essence of my experience and knowledge of working as a casting director in the film Industry. It is a book about the art of auditioning and casting process, basically how casting process actually happens. The target audience for the book basically is the actor community, all kinds of actors and not just the strugglers/newcomers. So while I have devoted the first chapter of the book totally to newcomers, the rest of the book is for every actor.
While working as a casting director in Film Industry, I have conducted more than 1 lakh auditions. I have seen some very bad auditions and also some good actors giving bad auditions. I have seen smart actors cracking the role because of their auditioning skills. And at the same time I have seen many newcomers becoming victim of fraud auditions. I felt a need to fill that communication gap and share my advice about how to audition and build your professional acting career. There is a misconception that an audition is a test of the actor’s acting skills, actually it is not. It is a test of suitability.
What is suitability in casting terms?
It is fit of an actor with a given character. An actor thinks he can do every role, but filmmakers don’t think that way … that is the difference.
Communication of Filmmakers on what they want
Filmmakers communicate what they want with a casting director and he/she shortlists actors for auditions. And we do communicate with actors, but sometimes the situation is not ideal. It is very hectic process, we conduct lots of auditions every day and there is very little time to explain a character to an actor. Also sometimes filmmakers want to see the actor giving a performance with his own inputs and reference. What he can do and what is his interpretation with minimal preparation. But still we make sure that everybody gets equal an opportunity.
Why shortlist? Why can’t everyone give auditions?
Sometimes actors come to know that auditioning is happening somewhere and they just walk in. So there is huge amount of people who would come there to attend the audition and we get less time to communicate, at least in the first round of auditioning.
There are basically two types of auditions, General and Normal. General auditions are open to everybody; casting director does it to refresh his database. We have video database of thousands of actors. So we know who is better actor or not. And we show that database to our clients and then we brainstorm before arriving at a shortlist of actors. So general auditions are more democratic while normal auditions are only for shortlisted actors. It is not possible to take thousands of auditions for a role, logistically and financially.
How can an actor give a better audition?
Well … auditioning is a unique skill. It is like marketing your acting skills. The basic difference between acting on the sets and auditioning is Zero Preparation Time.
While acting in a film, there are workshops, one to one interactions with directors, reading and preparation of the script and character, basically time to ponder over your character. But auditions are different. To give equal opportunities to every actor, we give same frame size, usually mid close and same amount of time. An actor usually gets ten minutes to prepare for the character and he has to understand the script and think of a character and perform in front the camera. One has to master this minimal preparation time to master the art of auditioning.
More books on the subject
While there are books in Hollywood, but there is no Indian book, which tells about auditioning and casting from Indian film industry perspective. So in a way it is a unique book, in fact I have copyrighted the book, just to confirm that fact too.
Why Crowd Funding?
I am working on this book for a year now. Lots of people chipped in and helped me out while writing. Now the manuscripts in English and Hindi are ready. And I need funds to complete the editing, proofreading, formatting of the book. I need funds to make it available on-line.
For a project like my book the Audition Room I am sure that crowd funding will work. The target by the way is to raise Rs.1.5 lakhs in 30 days. We have already raised 34 % of the funding and we still have 16 more days to go for the campaign.
I think there is a significant first mover advantage. See an actor gives thousands of auditions before he get a role, and if he understands casting and auditioning principles before rest of the crowd, it can make a huge difference. That first mover advantage can be very crucial. And we are giving a book almost a month in advance to our backers, before it is available to anybody else. It is more like pre-booking the book, which is one way of looking at our campaign. You get the book before everybody and we get to funds to complete the book. This is a complete reward based crowd funding campaign. We are also offering rewards like audition updates, three day workshop and one year mentor-ship too.
Why Crowd Funding isn’t charity and about the rewards
It is not, at-least this campaign is not charity or donation. You get more than what you pay. It is value based crowd funding campaign. First of all I am a casting director and I am shouting about my book openly and it is there for everybody to see. It is on our site, Wishberry’s site and even in our video. If I do not deliver the promises, it will be end of my casting career and that is much more dearer to me than anything else. I won’t tarnish my image for 1.5 lakhs INR.
Also when I submitted the project to Wishberry, they have their internal process too. They went through our manuscripts and we had a long chat with their team. It was good to know that they had trust in us.
It is a good enough motivation for me to deliver my promises and rewards.
More details of the campaign
Visit our website (www.auditionroom.in ), you can read the book’s excerpts (http://auditionroom.in/about-book), there is a table of contents of the book displayed too. You can reach out to us in case of any doubts. And if you think this book can make difference in your acting career Please back this project and make this book happen.
Here’s the link to the campaign-