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What I've been up to recently...

Well, as of right now, the Rambles work, but I can't seem to answer any questions.

So I'll ramble.

Last week, we held auditions for a new series I'm working on as Story Editor/Writer/Producer at Sony for the WB and Mattel.

It's too early to give you any details on the show, but I think I can talk about the audition process in general terms.

Auditions took place under the watchful eye of our voice director Sue Blue and her engineer Pat Torres. Sue's directed a ton of shows, including MEN IN BLACK and the upcoming STARSHIP TROOPERS. I was there for most of the auditions, and Sue, Pat and I had a really great time.

We had five lead rolls to cast (three male, two female), and the nature of the rolls were such that we largely had five distinct groups of people coming in to read for each part. But all mixed up and in no particular order.

The actors had each received audition "sides". These were monologues that I had written up for each character that would demonstrate the characters personality and range. Give the actor the opportunity to prove (or fail to prove) that he or she was right for the part. The side I wrote for the lead character was just too darn long. So we cut that one down, which threw off a couple of actors at first, but in the long run made it easier on them -- and us.

The actors would wait in the waiting room (hence the name) and we would take them into the booth one at a time. We three jokers were out in the control room, so they couldn't hear us unless we wanted them to or unless we forgot and left the button on. (No major faux pas this time, but over the years, I've had a few embarrassing moments with that button.)

We'd usually ask the actor if he or she had any questions about the character. We'd do our best to answer them, and then let the actor read the side through once without much input from us. Then we'd generally do a second or third pass, where we gave them direction. Sometimes people who did lousy first reads, did great with direction. That's a good sign. Sometimes people who did decent first reads, didn't improve much with direction. That's not as good a sign. Sometimes people were so good, we wouldn't do a second take. Maybe just pick up a single line or two that we felt could be improved on. Sometimes people were so obviously wrong for the part, we wouldn't do a second take, and just pick up a line to be polite -- or deceitful, it depends on your point of view.

Basically, you're looking for good acting instincts. Do they notice and pick up the various acting beats? After you point them out, do they hit them nicely or force them? Etc.

And just as important, you're listening simply for vocal quality. Do they sound like the character you have in your head? Sometimes they don't, but you like it anyway. They redefine what the character SHOULD sound like. Keith David was like that for Goliath. So was Thom Adcox Hernandez and Bill Faggerbakke.

At these auditions, at most auditions I've ever been to, the actor has no way of knowning how well he or she did. Cause we're equally polite to everyone. It's selfish, basically. Ever try rejecting ten or so people per hour? It's tough on each of them of course, but they only have to go through it once. It would be brutal on us. And everyone reacts differently. Some rejectees would get pissed. Others would beg for another chance, etc. Nightmare. So we smile and tell everyone they did great. It sucks, but I can't fathom an alternative.

Even if we like someone, we don't want to be too effusive, because, we don't know who we still have left to see. We might like the next guy even better, and so you don't want to make promises.

LESSON: Don't become an actor unless there's just nothing else you can see yourself doing. BRUTAL PROFESSION. Writing's not much kinder, by the way.

Anyhow, we lucked out this time. Saw a ton of great people. Now, unlike Gargoyles, I'm not the top dog on this show. I'm a Producer -- the guy on the line, but Sony has two Executive Producers on the show, who are my bosses. Plus Sony has a development executive assigned to the show. And the WB and Mattel have (at least) veto power over the final casting choices.

So what Sue and I did (with help from Pat and Cynthia, Sue's assistant) was put together a voice CD, with about seven actors per character on it. We eliminated all the people we hated, and by consensus put our best choices on the CD. I felt very good about the CD. I liked most everyone on it, and feel confident we'll have a GREAT voice cast, even if my personal first choices aren't chosen.

I did rank my picks (on a separate memo) for the Exec Producers. We'll just have to see how it all turns out.

A side benefit of all this is that I got to see a bunch of people that I hadn't seen for awhile.

Thom Adcox Hernandez auditioned. Of course, I have seen him recently, at the Gathering and at a few movies that we attended together with our respective mates, (RUN LOLA RUN and AN IDEAL HUSBAND). But it's always great to see Thom.

Marina Sirtis, Brigitte Bako and Sheena Easton all gave great audtions, and it was terrific to see them again. (Of course, it doesn't hurt that they're all knock-outs.) They all have fond memories of Gargoyles. Marina said that at Star Trek conventions, she signs more Demona dolls than Troi dolls everytime.

I also saw Gregg Rainwater (Coyote Trickster, Natsilane/Nick, Young Peter Maza). James Avery (Shaman). And a few others too. (I'm blanking out. It's late.) They were all terrific. I wish we could cast them all.

Unfortunately, I couldn't be there for every audition (seven hours a day for four days), so I missed seeing Kath Soucie, Tress MacNeil and Rocky Carroll. Bummer.

But I did get to meet Ben Vereen, Lauren Tom, Rosalyn Chao, James Marsters (who plays Spike on Buffy) and a bunch of other people that I really admire.

Frankly, the voice stuff is the most fun part of my job.

7-21-99



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