What I Learned Auditioning for Richard Linklater’s Film
Let me start by saying this:
If you haven’t seen it, watch Boyhood tonight. Seriously.
It’s a once-in-a-lifetime film that beautifully captures what it’s like to grow up in America. It’s also one of only 11 movies to receive a metascore of 100, the highest possible score that can be attained from professional movie critics. President Obama said it was his favorite film of 2014 (a plus or minus, depending on your political bent).
The guy who directed Boyhood is Richard Linklater: the director of School of Rock and Dazed and Confused. He’s a brilliant guy, and two years ago, I had the good fortune of auditioning for his latest film: Everybody Wants Some.
How did I get this opportunity?
Well, because I’m technically a part of the “Austin acting community” (I do improv), I’m occasionally notified for local auditions. I usually ignore them because I don’t have any desire to pursue acting professionally. But when I saw it was for a Linklater film, I couldn’t pass it up.
It was my first audition ever, and the process was a lot longer than I thought.
First, I had to go in and do an interview with the casting director. In the interview, I was asked what college was like for me, what kind of pranks I pulled (I told them the story of how I woke my suite-mate up to “The Circle of Life” from The Lion King — NAHHH SIMAYAH!), and what advice I’d give to college freshmen guys who are trying to “pick up” girls (I said “make them feel safe, treat them with love, and be open and honest with your intent”). That was it.
I got called back. They asked me to come in again and read the full script.
Reading the script took me a little over two hours. I was told by the receptionist to choose my three favorite characters, because I’d be acting out scenes in the next callback.
They also asked me to put together a short video where I demonstrated my baseball skills. My friend Tucker Max was pitching and playing catch with me off-camera.
A week later, I was told to come in for an audition in front of Richard Linklater.I was amazed and amused (hey… that rhymes with “dazed and confused”) by this whole situation. It was surreal that I was being considered for this acting role with so little experience. A good friend of mine had spent several years in Hollywood trying to make it as an actor. He would have murdered me with his bare hands for this opportunity, which had fallen from the sky into my stupid lap.
As I filled out the sign in sheet for my audition, I got stuck on a question:
I wasn’t represented by anyone. So I just wrote down “Hoehn.”
I sat down in the waiting room and looked around at the other actors. They were taller, handsomer versions of me… and all of them were holding head shots.
I didn’t have any head shots. All I had with me was my backpack, which contained my laptop and a few copies of Play It Away. Whoops.
I watched one of the actors pace around the room nervously for 30 minutes, rehearsing lines and occasionally jumping up to touch the ceiling. He was pumped. I sat there, breathed, and rested my eyes.
Suddenly, I was called in.
There were five people in the room: the casting director, her assistant, two interns, and Richard Linklater. I shook hands with each of them, smiling and apologizing for not having a headshot on me.
Then I had an idea: I asked if it would be presumptuous if I gave them a gift — a copy of my book.
They loved it, especially because it had a baseball-themed cover. We talked for a few minutes, mostly about improv and dealing with burnout.
Then the audition began.
I stood in front of all of them, while the camera rolled. The casting director had told me that I didn’t have to rehearse my lines… so I hadn’t. Whoops. I read directly from the script. My delivery felt clunky.
After it was done, Richard asked me to read another character.
I said, “Well I really identified with Chris… but Finch is more fun so I’d like to read that, too.”
Richard scoffed, looking a little annoyed. I realized they were on a tight schedule, and they expected me to come in knowing the characters I wanted to make my own. I quickly added: “I’m sorry, I know you guys are tight on time, so I’ll just do Chris.”
My lines felt clunky again, but I wasn’t terrible. In fact, I was pretty good in the second reading. Overall, it went well.
But I wasn’t called back in after that. Which was totally fine. It was a cool experience, and I was truly grateful they gave me such a strong shot.
If I were to do it again, I would have practiced more so that I could really embody one character. I also would have practiced in front of a few friends while being filmed. Because it felt pretty awkward standing in front of several people who were seated, silently critiquing you while the camcorder was rolling.
Then again, that is how movies are made. If you can’t handle acting in front of a few people, how are you supposed to manage the pressure on a big movie set?
Anyway… Go see the movie. Looks fun :)