Episode 6: The Casting Process

A RadioPublic embed of the episode, which can also be found here

Date published: 9/14/2019
Written by: Wil Williams
Produced by: Wil Williams

Last episode, we told you about our casting call. This episode, we’re going to talk about what happened when we started listening to auditions. Learn from our mistakes! Trust your gut! And hear some of our initial reactions to auditions along the way.

Scoring Magic is presented by Hug House Productions. You can support us for behind-the-scenes details and early previews of upcoming projects on Patreon.

VALENCE IndieGogo Campaign

We’re crowdfunding our first season of VALENCE! You can find our campaign–which includes rewards like your own bespoke sound of magic–over on IndieGogo. For every 10% raised, we’ll announce a new cast member!

Transcript

WIL

VALENCE has been in my mind, in some form, for almost a decade now. Putting voices to those characters has been one of the scariest and most exciting things to date.

Last episode, we told all you about our casting call. On this episode of Scoring Magic, we’ll tell you all about our casting process.

[Intro Music]

WIL

Housekeeping time!

First and most importantly: our IndieGogo is now live! At the time of recording, we are 70% funded, but we record in advance, so hopefully it’s more percent as you’re listening. Part of our campaign is announcing cast members at each subsequent 10%, so I can now share with you that:

  • Alex Welch is playing Noel Alden
  • Josh Rubino is playing Liam Alden, our protagonist
  • Elena Fernández Collins is playing Soledad Marqeuz
  • Giancarlo Herrera is playing Luis Acebo
  • Ishani Kanetkar is playing Mahira Varma
  • David S. Dear is playing Richard Alden
  • And John Westover is playing Nicolo – or Nico – Salvai

You can, and should, still support us on IndieGogo if you’re listening before September 30th, 2019! Please give us your money so we can pay Julia and our actors. We would really like to have some of your money.

WIL

Today, we’re going to talk about the actual casting process. When the casting call opened, we were pretty terrified that nobody would audition. Over the course of the month, we got a total of 346 auditions, which is a lot–but I think it’s worth saying that almost all of those were for the characters that had the potential to be cast as cis white men.

This didn’t really surprise us, but it’s worth saying. We had way fewer auditions for our characters of color and our trans characters.

While the casting call was open, the three of us tried to figure out which order we would listen to auditions in. Initially, we figured we’d cast our Liam–our protagonist–first. Everyone else had to mesh with him given he’s the center of the podcast. Something about that just didn’t feel right, though. We had so many Liam auditions, and we knew we’d have to do callbacks. We wanted a Liam who could play off of everyone else, who sounded good based on everyone else.

This meant that, eventually, we decided to flip our casting process upside down. Liam became the last character whose auditions we listened to, which, by the way, for me? Was really painful. I just wanted to hear my boy! For the first, we wanted to make sure it was a character who felt like the core of the story in some way that Liam did.

Eventually, we settled on one of the emotional cores: Flynn (previously named Alex), Liam’s best friend.

WIL

The three of us got on a call and opened up the spreadsheet of our auditions. We went to listen, and I was . . . terrified. I had never heard words I’d written performed by someone else. I was terrified that if it was bad, I’d be furious–or that if it was good, I’d just be sobbing.I didn’t know how to emotionally prepare my big dumb emotional self.

We listened to the first audition and . . .

RECORDING WIL

Too old.

KATIE

He sounds too old for the role, yeah.

ANNE

Yeah.

KATIE

Like, by a lot. 

WIL

Ok.

ANNE

So, notes on that one . . . too old.

KATIE

He sounds–yeah, he does not sound young enough for Alex. Also, and this is not, like, a term, but not sunshiney enough? 

WIL

Yeah. Legit.

KATIE

I feel like Alex has more effervescence to him-

WIL

Mhmm.

KATIE

He’s a li’l mo’ bubbly.

NARRATION WIL

And it was pretty, um, normal.

If the audition had been the one we’d eventually go with, my response might have been different. I might have cried! But by the time we got to our winning audition, I was already used to the audition process and hearing my words performed. I still had a lot of feelings when I listened, but it wasn’t quite as emotionally overwhelming as I thought.

RECORDING KATIE

This is very cute

WIL

[excited giggles] So cute!

KATIE

Awww! Oh I like him.

WIL

Yeahhh

ANNE

Yup.

WIL

Ooooh, the “we don’t need to go there” is real good.

KATIE

Yes. I think-

WIL

[overlapping] AaahhhHHHHH.

KATIE

-this would be an extremely good foil for Liam’s . . . shit.  

WIL

Yeah. That-

KATIE

The almost-crying take?

WIL

I–I-

KATIE

I think that the other person who did it was good–I think this is a good foil for when Liam gets all “I’d be fine if I didn’t exist anymore.”

WIL

Yeah, this, uh, this was perfect.

KATIE

Yes.

ANNE

Yeah.

WIL

This was, like, I listened and I was like, that’s Alex.

KATIE

This is peak Alex.

ANNE

Yeah, I liked the other ones-

KATIE

[overlapping]

One sec, lemme grab a notepad.

ANNE

-fore the other ones, I was just, like sitting at my computer watching the screen, and for this one, I actually sat back in my computer chair and closed my eyes so I could just picture Alex

KATIE

The bean!

WIL

I full-on teared up.

ANNE

Yeah.

WIL

Casting Flynn was easy for us. And then, we got to the other characters. Eventually, listening was just exhausting. We had to really prioritize saying no to the people who, off the bat, were just not the right fit for our characters. We wanted to give everybody a fair chance, but sometimes when you listen, you realize this person is way too old or way too young, and there’s not much we can do about that. It’d good to keep in mind that, for those instances, if you’re casting, you can just skip to the next audition. You’re not a bad person for doing it, just taking care of yourself. And you’re taking care of the role that you’re trying to cast. 

WIL

So, for instance, this was especially true when it came to Richard’s auditions. We got a ton of them, and eventually just started putting the note “Too babie”, next to auditions where the person was, y’know. Too babie. Just, way too young. On top of that, the sides we wrote were confrontational, because that’s who Richard is, but this meant we essentially had to be yelled at across 44 different auditions.

[Recording of “do we have to”]

RECORDING WIL

Ok, let’s keep going, let’s keep going! We can do this!

KATIE

…can we?

WIL

Listener, don’t be like us. Make sure that the sides you write are all things you’ll be okay with hearing over and over and over.

WIL

Now, going back to crying again, because we all know I do it a lot. This isn’t to say that no auditions made me happy cry. You better believe I happy cried.

Like . . . duh.

So, this story’s gonna take a little bit of background. 

As we listened to our auditions for Nico (originally Finn), there was one audition that wasn’t quite right, but something about it stuck with us. It was too refined for my trash son, Nico, but the actor just really went there with improvisation. There was a trust and willingness to be bold that we loved, and the timbre just sounded right–not for Nico, but for VALENCE.

WIL

When we finally got to the auditions for Liam, we had a few choices we really liked–but none of them quite hit. Remember last episode, when we said we wished we would have added direction to our sides? This was the worst when it came to Liam. See, Liam’s the protagonist–and it said so in his character description–but, frankly, he kind of reads like an antagonist on the page, mostly because he thinks of himself as an antagonist. That meant that most of the auditions we got made a lot of sense when read in a vacuum, but they missed the mark completely for Liam as a character, especially based on his character description.

Actors. When you’re auditioning, please. Read the character description, and read it closely.

Still, if we’d taken the sides and added some direction to them to explain how we wanted them read, they probably would have been a lot clearer to everyone auditioning. That’s our bad.

WIL

When we sent out the new sides for callbacks, we didn’t make the same mistake as our first sides. Not only did we include direction, we also sent along a collage of aesthetic inspiration for Liam, which you can now see on our IndieGogo campaign. We wanted to show that he’s refined, minimalistic, macabre, and incredibly pretentious. This really helped our actors give something clearer and more solid to embody when sending their next round of lines.

We also took this time to make sure that all of the actors in the callbacks would be okay with the emotional toll the roll might take, along with some other questions about comfort in the role. We’d already expressed some of this in the casting call and audition form, but it was a good opportunity to give the actors one last chance to decide whether or not they really wanted to play through a panic attack or flirt with somebody during a table read.

WIL

So, back to that Nico audition. After some talking, we realized that the refined edge might actually be a great fit for Liam, even if it wasn’t a great fit for Nico. After all of this, we finally let ourselves see who the audition was for, and we sent him an invitation to callbacks along with the others.

He sent in his callback, this time playing Liam instead of Nico.

Here’s my initial reaction.

RECORDING WIL

[sharp intake of breath] . . . fuck

KATIE

That last one thooo . . . 

WIL

Fuck! I was taken off guard by how Liam that was.

KATIE

Uh-huh . . .

WIL

Which is a good sign. One thing that I like that he did–I don’t know if y’all, like, picked up on it, is . . . he placed each take in a different, uh, like, placement, vocally. So there were some that relied more on, like, the third take of each relied more on a deeper vocal fry. The middle take of each was more nasal, and then the first take of each was more front-of-the-mouth. Which is, um . . . very impressive. And I don’t know if he was aware he was doing that? 

KATIE

I didn’t pick up on the pattern–I could hear they were different, but I am clearly not as schooled in vocal things.

WIL

I only know because of, um, I had a physical linguistics unit in a linguistics class.

KATIE

Aah . . .

WIL

Um, yeah, so I think that for each take, he was putting on a different kind of character for each separate thing, and all of those characters lived in a different place in his mouth!

ALL

[laughter]

KATIE

He just has a mouth full of characters!

WIL

Yup! But I like, um, I like that. I think that-

KATIE

He’s got the range!

WIL

Like, literally! 

KATIE

And I think that the-the ad-libbing going in, just, such a violently Liam is – to me, at least – not necessarily more important, but I think it is definitely, um, a big part of what to consider.

WIL

Mmhm

NARRATION WIL

And it was obvious. We knew who we had to go with.

I didn’t cry at the time, but I did cry later when I listened again, off the call. And I did cry when I played this audition off of our winning Flynn audition too.

And did I freak out when our actors started signing their paperwork and being onboarded, ending with Josh Rubino signing his paperwork to come on as our Liam?

Yes. Yes I did. Is that a lot of crying? Yes. Do not underestimate me.

RECORDING WIL

Oh god, ok. Ok, so I am at my day job, and campus is, like, really bustling even though it’s summer. It’s July 30th and we just cast our Liam and everything suddenly feels really real and I’m trying not to cry and I’m gonna be stoked and, uh, but I had to slip out because I kept almost crying at my desk, um. Yeah, this is–it’s happening.  And . . . it just feels really good. And I’m really happy with our choice. And . . . with everything. That’s all.

NARRATION WIL

Our steps were pretty straightforward. Using RocketLawyer, we had all of our cast members sign an agreement and an NDA. Word to the wise: if you use the consultant agreement on RochetLawyer, it includes an NDA. Don’t do double the work, like I did. Once they signed all the paperwork, we added them to our private Discord server so everyone could meet and hang out–and so that we had a central location for communications with them. Because we had all the data for our other auditions from our Google Form, we used a mail merge to send specific rejection emails to specific groups of auditioners. The mail merge was a lifesaver. It meant that we could personalize every rejection just a little bit by saying “Dear ‘Your Name’, we received your audition for ‘Character Name’.” We could do this all in a way that was automated. It’s a nice touch–it makes sure that everyone is accounted for, and it makes sure that you have as little work on your hands as possible.

We had two different rejection emails. One rejection email was standard–thanks for auditioning, but we’re going in another direction. One rejection was a little more tailored: we’re going in a different direction, but is it okay if we contact you about other roles?

For everyone who said yes to that email, we’ve added their name to what we’re calling our Rolodex–an Excel spreadsheet that we can access at any time. This is where we’ll pull actors from if we need bit parts–and we have a lot of those–or for consideration as we write the next seasons. From that Rolodex, I already have some ideas for characters for the next seasons–we’ll see, we’ll see, we’ll see.

This way, we can keep track of everyone we really loved and try to find ways to get them involved. Highly recommended, Rolodex, top notch, get on it.

WIL

So, it’s been a few weeks now–a month, maybe? Or two months, maybe? I don’t know what time is anymore? –with our cast, and I just . . .

Y’all, I just really love them.

I really love them.

I keep thinking about how I almost dropped this project so many times, and now I’m not only really making it, which is, uh, terrifying to talk about right now, but also really exciting–but I’m also making it with a team I love and respect and cherish so much, and . . . we’ve become kind of this nice little family–I talk to them all the time, and I’ve made new friends and, y’know, people that I never would have met otherwise, or people that I only kind of knew but now I consider really close, um . . . 

Okay.

That’s enough happy-crying for now.

WIL

Next time on Scoring Magic, we’re gonna talk to you about . . . some nerd shit! Buckle in for some of the most important information about building a podcast collective: the money. Gonna let Anne take the reins on that one. I’m baby!

KATIE

Scoring Magic is a Hug House Production. The music this week was by Broke for Free. You can find more on Hug House Productions at HugHouse.Productions. 


Credits

Music by Broke for Free Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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