Casting Legend Jane Jenkins Visits VFS

By VFS Web Team, on July 6, 2016

Holy crap that was terrible. I know it, they know it, and they're just being polite. Get me out of here!!!! Why do they need to know my height? Can they just see? Relax. Don’t forget to turn on a diagonal and stick your chin out so you appear thinner. I can write better than this. I shouldn’t have eaten before I came here. I’m too ugly for this…

Objectives and eye line aside, what goes through an actor’s mind before, during, and after an audition? When I posed the question to my actor friends on Facebook, the list made up a hilarious and sobering inner monologue. It also confirmed a couple of things. One, it’s an undeniably nerve wracking process. Two, the other side of the table is a total enigma.

The breadth of Jane Jenkin’s career – beginning in the 80’s and still going strong – is astonishing. She has cast some of the most iconic films, impacting an entire generation of actors and audiences. Who can see Beetlejuice as anyone other than Michael Keaton? Or Kathy Bates in Misery?! Jurassic Park, The Princess Bride, Mrs. Doubtfire, A Few Good Men, and Hook are just some of the films Jane has cast. Take a second, review the list again, and think about that.

Actor’s Workshop Canada helps connect students and young professionals with people like Jane to soften the disconnect between fear and knowledge — empowering them with insight directly from the source. Imagine having the chance to ask Jane Jenkins about her experience in casting. Well, our acting students at Vancouver Film School did.

Laura Wall (AC62) and Paarth Kelkar (AC61) tell us about that seminal Q&A experience. Read on and enjoy!

Laura Wall

Getting the chance to talk with people in the film industry with as much insight and experience as casting director Jane Jenkins has been an incredible opportunity. As an aspiring artist, I know how helpful and important it is to take in as much information as possible -- to continue learning and to keep training. Jane also reminded us how important first impressions can be. She says:  

  1. When entering an audition room, be yourself and stand out.
  2. Be memorable in your performance. Keep it real, and bring characters to life with authenticity. Casting directors want to see what you bring to the character. There's no right or wrong way to approach a character, as long as the performance is honest, simple, and authentic, it's never boring.
  3. Feel good and be passionate about the art you create, and you'll be captivating to watch.

I was encouraged by the wonderful opportunity to meet Jane Jenkins, and I now have some questions about the tough world of acting answered. I know there will be plenty of rejection in this industry, but I am prepared and inspired to not give up.

If you get the chance to act, bring it to life.

Paarth Kelkar

Before I came to Vancouver Film School, I had only auditioned once outside of high school. I remember entering the room with extreme nervousness. I remember a pit in my stomach and trying to overcome the hump. Even though I landed the role, I remember that I needed to quell my nervousness prior to entering the room. In my first Audition class at VFS, I remember that sensation coming back to me, especially when all I had to do was say my name and tell an impromptu joke. When I was invited to attend the seminar with Jane Jenkins, I was very quick to sign up.

From Harry Potter, Da Vinci Code, and Jurassic Park, Jane Jenkins has been one of the major forces in casting in Hollywood. The faces and creative characters that we see on camera have come from the brilliant mind of Ms. Jenkins. She has worked with different directors and different actors, but she has maintained the same stance on the audition process for actors, which is: Natural abilities can only carry you so far. Without having technique, there’s no way to get there.

She spoke about tackling nervousness and channelling relaxation. Already, I was intrigued and curious about what she had to say. She spoke to us about having seen a young Meg Ryan auditioning in her room. She was able to convey a message that spoke to each actor in the room.

“Getting the job is NOT what the audition is about. Show who you are and why you are memorable.”

Automatically, I saw all of the actors crane their necks and scribble away. Jane’s main advice was to walk out of an audition feeling good about yourself and not to take it personally. Casting is specific to the script. If the character that an actor portrays does not fit that specific script, the casting director may use that actor for a different script all together.

When asked what she expected from the actor in the audition room, she replied curtly, “preparation”. She reiterated the idea of bringing the character to life with honesty and also spoke about clothing and its importance in helping to create a character. When asked to clarify what honesty meant, she stated, “I need to see that you’re thinking and if you’re honest then I will see the work and character”.

I was quite glad I attended this seminar. It helped me understand the nature of the business a little more. My nervousness has not been fixed, but it did allow me to realize that I could practice to help my nervous nature. But I could also use that nervousness in the room, which would allow me to become vulnerable in order to play my role with honesty.

Thanks, Laura and Paarth! And to our acting students and alumni: break a leg at your next audition!