Laura Kirk’s Audition Techniques (THR 406), offered each Spring through the Department of Theatre & Dance, provides lessons on how to make an impression on camera. Details can really help students with video auditions, but in our current climate, these tips may help “level up” Zoom meetings too.
“I always love this class for helping our students be professional out of the gate in how they show up to on camera auditions,” Laura said.
Students record a self-taped audition of a short scene, which is what most actors use to get work. Then, she and her guest Michele Taylor, who has years of experience serving clients’ makeup and style needs, (tactfully) critique what’s good and what’s bad in each student’s mock video audition.
“Theatre and film are two of the only disciplines we teach here at KU where, in the professional world their looks can be discussed and often this happens in their presence. In the privacy of our classrooms, discussion for this topic centers around a student’s look, their hair, makeup, clothing and style choices such as piercings or tattoos,” Laura said. “This can be difficult for some, but receiving constructive criticism is part of the artistic process and in this case career preparation. All looks are cast, but awareness of how certain choices influence casting is what we introduce.”
Laura and Michele – one an actor and one a stylist - share two important sides to the auditioning process. Through their expertise, students learn firsthand what casting directors are looking for from talent. Some students, chosen for in-class demos, even see themselves transformed.
"Michele was super insightful. She gave each student feedback on their self-tape attire and makeup. I learned about what tones are best for my skin and hair along with what reads well on the other side of the camera. Getting the chance to watch a local makeup artist transform my classmates in a matter of minutes was definitely informative. Seeing how a little goes a long way in regard to technique takes some stress away from the industry preparation we learn about every day,” said Gracie Horvat, senior theatre performance and strategic communications double major. “Laura is always providing her students with up-to-date professional standards and perspectives. They are something I know we all appreciate." (Gracie's self-tape is included below.)
Major takeaways from Audition Techniques (THR 406):
Hair and makeup:
- Keep hair out of your face. If you have long hair, perhaps try pulling it all over to one side and front, so the casting director can see how long your hair is.
- Jewel tones (ruby, sapphire, emerald) are best on camera. Stripes, checks and plaids tend to jump around on camera. Do not wear logos for auditions.
- Light should not be harsh overhead or fluorescent
- Natural light from a window on your face is your friend, but behind you makes you hard to see/becomes a halo/glow
- Camera should be slightly above your face, never below it. Stack it on some books or keep a small box to use for this purpose.
- Look up and into the screen. The minute you look down we lose your eyes, and eyes are everything on camera.
- Smooth flyaway hair with Tigi Bed Head Hair Stick (estimated cost $15-18)
- A little powder helps with shine; high-definition finishing powder never cakes or adds color. Makeup is different for every person. The HD powder comes in a less expensive NYX version ($5-10). Laura prefers the Make Up Forever version ($20-40). The Make Up Forever Pressed Powder version comes in translucent, banana and peach colors, but rest assured the makeup does not reproduce in those colors once applied. Many men use it on camera too.
- Clean lines. Not too distracting or messy.
- If using a blank wall/drape, step four feet in front not to have shadow behind you.
- Good natural light. Light is really the make or break of being in front of a camera.
- There's also "touch up your appearance" in settings on Zoom.
So there you have it. If you ever wondered what a video audition was like and how to look your best and you cannot take a class on it, this will set you on course to impress casting directors.
Michele Taylor is a highly sought-after hair, makeup and wardrobe stylist and the founder of Michele Taylor Style, serving corporate and celebrity style needs of the Kansas City area and beyond for nearly 20 years. She has also worked with CBS, NBC and ESPN commentators, including Tony Romo and Jim Nantz. Locally, she works with KMBC on its special promos and she privately works with a few of the station’s anchors to ensure they have the right day-to-day set makeup. Michele has styled a range of clients including Dr. Oz and also provided her makeup design on short films, including "The Bedroom" with KU faculty member Laura Kirk and KU Theatre alumnus Tosin Morohunfola, who was also in “On Sight” which Taylor worked on. She's served as guest lecturer at the University of Kansas, among other institutions, providing valuable lessons to young actors about how to look their best on camera or in auditions.
Laura Kirk is scholar/artist and an award-winning filmmaker with credits as a producer and actor: “Parallel Chords” (2018), “The Tree” (2017), Andrea Arnold’s “American Honey” (2016): Cannes; “The Sublime and Beautiful” (2014): Slamdance; “Earthwork” (2009), and “The Only Good Indian” (2009): Sundance. She co-wrote and starred in the film “Lisa Picard is Famous” (2001): Cannes. An alumna of KU, Laura is also a co-founder of the mentoring group Women of Lawrence Film. She teaches at the University of Kansas for both theater and film. Her full bio can be found at http://theatredance.ku.edu/laura-kirk
Special thanks to Tehreem Chaudhry, a junior theatre and accounting double major, for providing the before and after.