Hey y’all-- how do you schedule chemistry reads? I’m prepping for them next weekend and don’t want to call people in just to wait around while we try different combinations, so I’m trying to figure out the best way to go about it. I have a 5 person ensemble, so each character has at least two others with whom the chemistry is really important. Any advice?
I don’t know if this is helpful but when I was casting for an ensemble cast what I did was bring everyone into the room at the same time and have everyone sit in a semicircle around me. Then I would test different actors against each other. This way I was able to test a whole bunch of combinations but at the same time, the other actors didn’t have to wait around getting bored because they were able to watch other people audition. I think it was also helpful for the other actors because, and this is just conjecture, but by seeing the other actors perform, someone else could get insight in to how to perform against them when it got to be their turn. Now, I happened to have a large enough room to accommodate the fifteen people I had but if you had more people, you could break people up into groups.
How many people are you calling in to audition, total? If they know it’s a chemistry read audition (which, kudos to you for doing! Way more in-depth of a process than I’ve ever done!) they might understand if you need to call them for longer periods of time. I’d suggest, if it’s not too many people, having some food and water available and just letting them know it’ll be a while. Then just try to stay efficient with each pairing/trio, know what you’re looking for, and move people through as fast as you can while still seeing what you need to see.
The room isn’t the issue-- I’m just wondering if actors felt awkward? Or uncomfortable seeing their competition.
I mean, actors will always see their competition, at least a little bit while they’re waiting in the hallway to be called in. As long as you have a separate, non-audition area to corral everyone as they wait/swap out, you should be fine
We’re not sure, as we have three more days of auditions this weekend and expecting at least ten people per day, with one day having potentially over twenty. So far, we have 2 people we’re calling back for each of the three roles we’ve had people read for, with more people auditioning for two of those roles this weekend. It’s such a character driven show that we need chemistry reads-- I didn’t want to call people back all at the same time, but maybe that’s the best way to go? The scheduling could be very intense, it looks like.
Yeah honestly just do it all at once. You’re students, right? People get it. Just provide them a chill out room where they can snack, chat, or do homework. This is how big shows do it too- I remember reading something from Jenna Fischer (Pam from The Office) once described their chemistry reads where she and John Krasinski kept getting put together over the course of a day- I think it’s pretty standard to do it all at once.
yeah man just have food and a holding area and people will chill. actors get it- they know the grind and they’ll probably appreciate being able to just set one day aside instead of more
Hi Emma! Speaking as an actor, I do not think I would be uncomfortable being around for several hours with my “competition.” I am always surrounded by other people who want the same part at auditions, so it would not seem that different to me. I would also prefer to get everything done in a single day instead of being called in for multiple days for multiple chemistry reads, and if that means more time out of one day, I would understand.
We’re students, but most of the people we’re casting are professionals. Since we’re in LA, we have no shortage of actors… only two of the 30-50 actors on our list are students.
That’s really good to know, thank you! I was just worried about making people uncomfortable or having them bored. Do you think it’s appropriate to have chemistry reads as a call back? We’re generally most concerned with getting a good mix of characters and a solidly diverse cast, so we want to experiment with proper fit vs. simply choosing a single person, so I think having people read opposite each other is what makes the most sense from the producer side of things, but is it common/appropriate?
Much of an actor’s job is boring. We are often the ones sitting around the most on set so we are used to it. Chemistry reads are very common, perhaps not in independent projects as much, but they are absolutely an expected and understood part of the process. As well, chemistry reads make the most sense as a call back… I would be more confused if it was my first audition. My first audition I would want to wow you as myself, and if I impress you enough for a second audition then having other actors there to work off of will help me show you a different side of me and my performance.
Awesome, that’s exactly what I needed to know! Thank you so much
I recently just cast my graduate thesis film (a musical comedy) and doing chemistry reads was certainly part of it. IMO, as a director, I try to maximize efficiency, and I don’t want to make the actors work more than they have to. We handled it a mix of two different ways:
We had our lead cast early, so we had her in the room with us as we were first-round auditioning her counterpart. That was helpful because we could immediately put scenes up on its feet and watch how it goes. Honestly this was a little bit of good luck too–our lead was the first person we saw on the first day and no one else who came in for that role met the bar–so it helped out casting her partner.
There were mom and dad parts that we needed to cast, and there’s a duet number with the two of them so we knew the chemistry here was important. I did a first round of calls individually with each actor. Had to make sure they could both act and sing in their own right. Then, for callbacks, we went through the tapes and set up “pairs,” and brought them in like that. In this case, one of the pairs was perfect and we went with them–but there have been prior times where after callbacks like that, I casted two people from two different groups.
I would be weary of holding actors for a long time in order to try the different combinations that you need for your ensemble, especially for the first round. Callbacks are an important part of the process, and that’s where it’s kind of expected that we’re going to play around with different things. I think it’s helpful to record everything and then use those tapes in your own debrief afterwards to try to match people up. Also, choosing good sides (not necessarily sides from your script) that best articulate a character’s “stuff” is important.
Hope this is helpful!!! I realize this is a student project (as do the actors you’re bringing in), so if you keep it chill, light, and easy-going; it should be a good time no matter how your process goes. Above all else, making it a not-awful experience for everyone involved is your #1 priority. If you foster a great environment for your crew and the actors, you’ll get the stuff you need!