Miley Cyrus auditioned twice before landing the star-making role as the lead character of the Disney Channel TV show Hannah Montana.
While that doesn’t seem outrageous by Hollywood standards–especially considering the months-long process to cast a young Han Solo for Disney’s new Star Wars spin-off began with a list of 2,500 actors–a couple of facts reveal that it was more of an ordeal that it sounds.
First, Miley was 11 at the time. And she was living in Tennessee.
Now a couple of auditions become a matter of a child having to make two round-trip flights across the U.S. just to be in the same room with some Disney producers. While Miley ultimately won the role, and the singing and acting career that came with it, there has to be an easier way to audition talent outside Hollywood.
With video conferencing there is.
Video Calling Fame
Of course, the upside to Miley’s tale is that she was living on a 500-acre farm at the time, the daughter of a successful country singer.
Needless to say, many wannabe Hannahs couldn’t have so readily afforded that second Disney invite. However, the technology to make that second call via video conferencing is far cheaper than a flight from Nashville to L.A.
For something as visual as an audition you’re going to need a little more hardware than the built-in camera on your laptop, but the leading private-use peripherals are comfortably less than $100 and convey image and audio well enough for any back-and-forth with a potential future director.
On the other end of the conference call things can become a little more adventurous. Any Hollywood production team worth its star on the walk of fame is going to have access to a far greater budget than any aspiring actor, even one that stands as heir to an ‘achy breaky’ fortune.
And that means a casting crew could potentially create a fully immersive audition.
Acting Auditions Via Video Conference: Larger Than Life
Today’s telepresence technology can literally present any actor as larger than life.
Polycom, for instance, offers video callers the chance to project their conversation across an 18-foot video wall. It’s big enough to allow everybody in the room–like casting directors, writers, and producers the chance to speak, be seen, and move about freely.
It goes without saying that such systems can accommodate more than just one-on-one conversations, which means casting agents could pair up actors in dramatically different locations for some real-time role-playing. This ability is a key factor if video conferencing is going to replace with any authenticity the in-room process of casting that next blockbuster.
Producers, directors, and agents need to be able to see how an actor adapts to instruction, thinks on their feet, uses the entirety of their body, and interacts with potential co-stars.
The power of an average broadband connection of around 11Mbps can drive down the lag in video conferencing enough to permit actors to exchange lines and emote in real time. All a production company need do is establish a multi-connection link up–and even free services such as Skype can accommodate around a dozen people–and they can sort through any combination of leading men and ladies without ever being left with a request to refund an airline ticket.
A Virtual Stage
And while there are plenty of would-be video commuters already between the acting hubs of New York and L.A., these virtual casting calls open up a world of foreign actors to come into the range of Hollywood’s dream makers.
Remote-performer interactions far more complex than anything demanded of an entire troupe of auditioning actors have already been staged across continents, transforming video conferencing into a platform for art.
London performance group body>data>space is currently staging live shows across two and three remote stages via video conferencing. The group has performed simultaneously on stages as far flung as Germany, Japan, China, and the US. The impressive me and my shadow let dancers in London, Istanbul, Brussels, and Paris share an interactive space fuelled by 3D projections and two-way communication.
If such dramatic expression can be mastered to the point of commercial performance, then there is little doubt the confines of a casting room can be expanded to involve actors from across the globe, which could even help Hollywood with its infamous diversity problem.
And if it saves the next young Hannah Montana from 16 hours of flights across the continental U.S., then all the better.