Screen tests are not always held before casting large roles, and they are never used for smaller roles. Now that pretty much all auditions are digitally taped by casting directors, a “screen test” is often redundant—every step of the audition has been a screen test! But they are useful when it’s impossible for all the decision-makers to be in the casting room.
Screen tests are important for a final decision on a large role to see how the actor looks on film—interestingly, some people come to life on film while others seem to disappear. Finally, it can also be important to do a screen test if the actor needs to transform their look very much, so the director and producers can see how that new look works. They are also sometimes used after an actor has been cast to try out different hair and makeup options before filming, especially if the look is expected to be an iconic one.
Most screen tests are done in simple casting offices that look like conference rooms, but some are done in full wardrobe on a soundstage with an entire crew. You don’t have to worry about which one your child will be facing if they are fortunate enough to get to that stage in the audition process—your agent will let you know exactly what you can expect. In general the process is not as exciting as it sounds!
If auditions are the primary activity for an actor, then rejection is the primary experience of this business. It’s hard on anyone to feel rejected, but it can be especially hard for kids, who just haven’t been around long enough to have much perspective. There will always be another role, another audition. And frequently, when you look back, it seems like everything happens for a reason.
Finally, you should be aware that the audition process—even at the final point of a screen test– is actually something you are part of, whether you know it or not. One of the considerations in the final choice of a kid for a role is their parent. Are you pleasant and easy to have around? Are you high maintenance? Do you complain a lot or make more demands than average? Are you generally positive or negative in your conversations? How you conduct yourself in the lobby of a casting office is noted, and how you manage yourself and your kid on set is too, and you will develop your own reputation after some time goes by. Make sure it’s a good one! It can tip the balance either way.
Dove actually made it to screen test for five different roles the season she finally got Bits and Pieces (which became Liv and Maddie). It was a frustrating time, as she got repeatedly to the final round for so many great parts but no further. But each of those experiences made her that much better—more confident, more fluid in a room full of executives and high stakes. And by the time she walked into the conference room on the top floor of the Disney Channel building for that final casting round, she was truly unattached to the outcome. And she got the role that would change so much.
My book, The Hollywood Parents Guide, available on Amazon contains everything I wish I’d known when Dove and I started this journey, and will save you untold amounts of time, money, and stress. Full of information you MUST know, it also features stories from parents of other kids who’ve made it!
Or book an hour consulting with me to come up with an individualized plan that takes your own unique needs into account. For about the cost of an hour with a professional acting coach, you can get your questions answered and a road map to help you move forward toward your dream.
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