Hollywood North embraces virtual auditions for actors

·3 min read

Some actors and talent agents in British Columbia are positive about the new normal of the film and television industry, where auditioning doesn't look the same as it did before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Hollywood casting has slowly returned to province, which entered Phase 3 of its restart plan in late June.

Despite the lifting of more restrictions, auditioning for roles by actors is predominantly virtual instead of physical, following the B.C. government's safety protocol that production companies should limit the number of people on set.

WorkSafeBC recommends employers in the motion picture industry to cast remotely wherever possible by using virtual meetings.

At home in the role

Lena Lees-Heidt, agent and partner of Vancouver-based talent company Play Management, said her clients have been doing virtual auditions, which they either tape themselves or conduct through video conferencing platforms.

In self-taped auditions, actors film themselves rendering the script provided by the casting director on several takes, and send the recording to the director for feedback.

Lees-Heidt said the method, while abiding by pandemic safety rules, doesn't have the real-time interaction with a director or producer that actors have in video conferencing auditions.

"You're set up with a date and a time, and you're in a virtual waiting room ... to be with the casting director and the producers and ideally the director, and get some in-person feedback," she told Gloria Macarenko, host of CBC's On The Coast.

Tamara Mcgill
Tamara Mcgill

Still the talent agent said online auditioning can works to actors' advantage.

"It gives actors a certain sense of comfort auditioning from the comfort of their own home, and maybe a little bit more flexibility and time to work on their material."

The Yellowknife-born Olivia Kate Iatridis came to Vancouver just three weeks ago to pursue her acting career in what she describes as a land of beauty and entertainment job opportunities. The 18-year-old said she's familiar with self-taped auditions and has done them previously.

"Self tapes were already a big thing before the pandemic even started. So it wasn't too big of a transition, and it's just given me the opportunity to really focus and master the self tape. So it hasn't been too bad," Iatridis said.

Whitesell Photography
Whitesell Photography

'Double-edged sword'

Hamza Fouad grew up in Toronto before he landed in Vancouver three years ago to develop his acting career. He said virtual auditions allow actors to do as many takes as they like, but can be a "double-edged sword."

"If you miss the interactions of being one-on-one with the casting directors, the directors [and] producers, the feedback that you get in the [physical audition] room is things that we now don't really get in the same way [by] doing a self tape," said Fouad.

Shimon Karmel
Shimon Karmel

Lees-Heidt said she wouldn't be surprised if virtual auditioning becomes a permanent way for Hollywood to cast talent in B.C., but she stressed that physical interactions are still very important in the motion picture industry.

"I don't mean that's just between actors. I mean you've got hair and makeup people working closely with actors. You've got lighting people working closely with your camera people."