Lauren Mass is a casting director based in Melbourne, and works at one of Australia’s premier casting agencies. Her role requires her to see each project through from concept to completion. Not only does she work directly with the talent, but she also works closely with all involved in the creative process — the director, producers and others key to the process. Her background in acting allows for a deeper insight when it comes to her casting work.
Mass shares that when looking for talent at a casting, “every brief from a client is different, and therefore, each casting has its own set of unique requirements, and a clear focus and personality is needed from each talent auditioning.”
Mass continues to share that “the more someone is able to be true to themselves in the casting room, really apologetically unique, that is when we’re witness to magic. So many castings these days are centred on improvisation, especially dance auditions. We will often have dancers freestyle in their preferred style of dance to get a sense of capabilities and then build on their performance by offering direction during the audition. The more a dancer is able to throw themselves into this collaborative process, and be as uninhibited as possible, the more both parties benefit. Directors want to hire artists who will be able to contribute to their vision, and producers like to ensure anyone booked on the job will not only be able to show up, be professional and do the work, but also be malleable to new ideas if and when they arise on set. It’s as simple as that – come in prepared, and the rest will follow.”
Many dancers ask the question, “Is it my look? Am I the right body type and height?” How do they know if they are wasting their time and the director’s by attending the audition? “Every artist scheduled for an audition is selected on purpose,” Mass reveals. “When anyone comes in for a casting, it’s because we believe they can be hired for that particular project. There is no ‘one look’ that directors or clients look for. Even with a proposed casting brief — which may describe a hair colour or hairstyle — it’s not always set in stone, and directors may choose someone who looks completely different to their initial requirements, based off of an excellent audition.”
Mass continues, “A performer’s gift is that they are able to breathe life into a script or scene and expand upon what the director has already created. This is why a particular hair colour, body shape or size should never prevent applying to and attending an audition. It’s more about an understanding and interpretation of the role — and of course, raw talent — than a dancer’s physical attributes. Every dancer and performer has their own unique execution and expression of movement, and that is what will really book the job.”
Many dancers want to extend into being an actor, so we asked Mass if she had any advice on how they might do that? “If a dancer wants to pursue multiple disciplines by trying their hand at pure acting in addition to dance, it’s as simple as having that discussion with their agent or applying for a variety of different projects,” she says. “Knowing your strengths as a performer allows you to understand your brand and capabilities, and that understanding is integral to furthering your opportunities and, therefore, success in this business.”
On any differences between an acting audition and a dance audition, Mass shares, “The main thing to note is that there’s not really a difference between any type of audition. An audition, in its simplest form, is when the talent is given the opportunity to showcase their skill in the hopes of booking a job. No matter the project at hand, the task is still the same: to come in and do your best to bring the given circumstances of the scenario to life.”
Mass points out that, especially these days, dancers are not looked at for being simply movers but performers. The lines have become blurred between those who come in for a “dance audition” and a straight “acting audition”, and often dancers will be sourced for even non-dance-related castings.
And what’s Mass’s advice for dancers working toward being chosen for their next casting? “My favorite dancers are the ones who truly stand out,” she says. “Those who fill every movement with power and purpose. Those who create an entire story from moment to moment. Dance is a very powerful art form. You can always notice when a dancer is simply going through the motions, no matter how accurate the execution, something is missing. You want dancers who have passion that you cannot only see but feel. Dancers whom you simply cannot look away from. The performance aspect of a dancer’s audition is just as important as the movement itself. It’s the clever dancer who knows how to emote from their core to their fingertips.”
By Lara Bianca Pilcher of Dance Informa.