Last Sunday, Carolyn and I attended a preview screening of Last Chance, Charlene. Carolyn had a small role in this independent film and did a great job. But the movie offered only a glimpse of her life as an actor.
Charlene’s star, Allison Ewing, is a fellow student in Carolyn’s film/TV acting class and suggested that Carolyn audition for the role of Joan, a nasty church lady. Carolyn sent the director, Tony Gapastione, an audition video. Tony quickly got back to Carolyn that she was Joan, the role was hers.
As with most film productions, time was tight. Carolyn had to deliver her performance without rehearsals. “You prepare for the audition,” she says, “and bring that to the shoot.”
Before COVID, Carolyn often flew down to Los Angeles to audition before a casting director. Now, most actors “self-tape” auditions. Carolyn shoots hers in our dining room. She’s mastered a lot of technology and constantly adds new backdrops, lights and microphones, as well as software. Often, I read other characters’ lines. Sometimes, fellow actors do over FaceTime or Zoom.
Digital auditioning comes with pros and cons. Recording at home eliminates flights to Los Angeles, rental cars or Lyft, and time consumed just getting to a casting director’s office. But that’s part of the industry, and Carolyn worked it to appear on such TV shows as Grey’s Anatomy (ABC), Chance with Hugh Laurie (Hulu) and Strange Angel (CBS All Access). Unfortunately, self-tape auditioning eliminates possible feedback and weakens establishing a relationship with a casting director. For feedback, Carolyn turns to class.
Auditioning brings more “defeats” than “victories.” Even well-known actors go long periods without securing a role. Carolyn’s goal: book the room rather than the role. “Every audition is a chance to perform, and I want to show a casting director how good I am, leave a good impression. If I’m not right for the role being cast, I may be for another down the road.”
Actors work hard to get those auditions and shine. In 2004, having done industrial films, as well as radio and TV commercials, Carolyn redirected her career towards movies and TV. That demanded doing what most actors do—take classes. She’s been studying with two teachers ever since and will continue to do so. “It’s like being an athlete or a musician,” Carolyn says. “You always practice and keep in shape.” She cites classes as enabling her to move forward by getting in greater touch with her feelings and imagination. She has Los Angeles and San Francisco agents and a manager.
During the pandemic, Carolyn let her hair go gray. That yielded more auditions. She recently had six in a three-week period. A market exists for older female actors.
Classes, auditions and, when everything aligns, going before the camera. Obviously, Carolyn’s career ambitions are not the same as those of a woman in her 20s, 30s or even 40s. But digging deep into her own soul, she’s able to explore and reveal the humanity of her characters—even unlikable ones—and bring them to life on screen.
“The product—working—is important,” Carolyn says. “But appearing on screen is the tip of the iceberg. What’s most rewarding is the process.” Carolyn loves every minute of that, and it shows.
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