What was your first acting "gig"?
My first acting gig was actually a musical called the Dickens Christmas Carol at Silver Dollar City in Branson Missouri, and everything just blossomed from there. My mom found that audition for me. I was thirteen years old and I wasn't really looking for a job at thirteen but my mom knew that was something I enjoyed doing. We did the research for the audition, I went to a big casting call in Branson, and I was picked.
When did you start taking acting classes?
I started taking acting classes when I started doing musical theater. I was doing stage acting classes in Springfield and then I realized the film world was really what I loved. Movies always intrigued me more than musical theater. I just felt like it had more of a raw tone to it and the human emotions really inspired me. So, after I got my agent in LA, I started auditioning for films. I had some people helping me self-tape for the auditions when I was in Springfield, but I still didn't have a film acting coach. I met Jonna on the set of a commercial shoot. I over-heard her talking about how she's been in many on-camera projects and I basically begged her to work with me and she did.
How have acting classes helped?
Acting classes with Jonna have helped immensely. I think my first acting experience, when it comes to classes with Jonna, was great. I had no idea at the time, but I was actually learning core acting techniques like Stanislavsky and Meisner. It was so important for me to start taking a specific acting class for what I wanted to do . For example, for a solid year, casting directors in LA would tell me to "bring down" my acting because it was way too "theater" and I was projecting to the back of the small audition room. You get away with a lot of non-sincere moments on a big stage and you just can't do that when you're doing film work. It was vital for me to have Jonna catch those bad habits from the beginning and help me access more honest emotions for the camera.
You just got back from an audition in L.A. Can you tell us what the audition process was like?
I land auditions through my agent and manager out in LA. I'm with Innovative Artists and they are wonderful! I met with them when I was almost16 years old. During that visit to LA, I met a few others as well. After I met with Innovative Artists, I made the decision that day. It was just a gut instinct. They are the people who send me the auditions, negotiate contracts and advice me on what roles are best for my career. It's a lot of work!
What is a typical audition?
So for your first audition you usually meet with just the casting director and the casting assistant...sometimes just the assistant and they most likely tape you. When you get a call back, you will probably meet with the director, maybe some producers. It's different for every audition but the farther you get, the more people you will meet to get approval. Those are the handful of people. If you get to do a "chemistry read", you will read with some of the other actors. Sometimes even celebraties that are starring in the film or show.
How do you prepare for an audition?
Preparation for an audition is such and interesting thing that I am still continuing to learn. If you're lucky enough to have a couple of days to prepare, I recommend looking up everyone who is part of the project and see the things they have done. I usually will watch clips of things they have done including episodes and even full movies. I mean, it all depends on how much time you have. Sometimes you have hours and sometimes you have days. It's really about what you can fit in. Obviously, you need to know the lines as much as possible. But even before that, if you have a few hours, find specific things that your character is feeling and then start figuring out how you, as an actor, can bring them to life.
What can someone expect when they walk into an audition?
You only have maybe a day to work on this stuff and like I said it's usually the casting director and assistant. You walk in there they usually ask how you are if they are nice...and an actor told me, Lenny Hernandez who is a working actor in LA, said they usually ask you those questions to hear how your natural voice sounds. They want to see if there is a difference between you talking as a normal person and you acting because it really should be seamless. They will then ask you to slate your name, age, height, and some other questions then you will read with them.
What comes next?
Sometimes you get a chance to read a second time. They usually have notes in between and they may ask you where you live if you're not from there. It's pretty chill usually and you just want to be the best version of your self and they understand to give you enough space for you to give your bests performance.
What happens in a call back?
Call backs can be any number of things from chemistry reads, or producer meetings, or the next step may be for you to go through hair and make up. They might want you to sit down and ask you about the script. They may ask you about how you feel about the character and the writing. Call backs are usually more extensive because they are more interested in you because there is a greater possibility you may get booked. There is a lot more things to think about when you get to the next step, but it's all fun. My biggest advice is to have fun and to see yourself as an equal.
Just know that they are still just figuring it out too. You as an actor are just trying to figure out what choices to make and they as producers are too. The producers and director don't have all the answers yet either and it's a team effort to make the project wonderful and you are part of a team when you walk into the room.
What kind of feedback will there be?
Sometimes you will get feedback sometimes you won't. Directors don't always know how to tell an actor the right feedback. Sometimes the director will simply give you "be happier" or sometimes they will go into the character's thoughts which are so much nicer for the actor. Just be prepared to get different kinds of feedback and be able to turn that around because they want to see if you are directable.
What advice do you have for first time actors?
For people who are just starting out, I think the first step when it comes to technique is to figure out what emotions you can pull out of yourself. Start with yourself because that really is the base to any character. You figure out how to relate to the character just as the person you are and as you get down to it some things may not be as relatable and that's where you use your imagination.
How has your acting changed over the years?
My acting has changed immensely over the years. It's just crazy how far I've come. I think those roots always stay in you and parts of yourself are always going to show, so that doesn't change. I can't explain enough how much it helps to have a coach to take you to the next level. I am continuing to learn and my acting has definitely changed. My approach is different for each project as I explore different ways to connect honestly and emotionally, depending on the character. So, yeah...it's changed a lot.
What advice do you have about the business of acting?
When it comes to the business, having a great team around you is super important. Having people who will be honest with you. And at the end of the day, if it's something that is making you happy and you are having fun, then you need to keep doing it, to keep trying. The best advice I got was, that I needed to keep acting. You have to keep going, keep trying. The simplest advice, and I hate it.... but it's true, is to work hard. And it is hard work! Know your limits and try everything. Figure out what you can and can't do and have an amazing acting coach...like I have with Jonna, and Acting for Real.
Keep reading to learn more LA acting tips from Cailee.....
Welcome to an interview
with Actress Cailee Spaeny
Sept. 1st, 2016
"It was so important for me to start taking a specific acting class for what I wanted to do.."
What is your main goal before an audition?
Having someone to help you read lines is nice and can really be anybody but having someone help you with a technique and figure out how to connect emotionally without faking it, is really the main objective for preparation, no matter how much time you have. Also, figure out how much time you need to work on it and when it's time to take a break. That comes with anything, but I had to learn fast when I had a whole full day of back to back auditions and, me being the perfectionist and I am, wanted to spend every second working on it. Jonna helped me to know when it was time to pull out and when to dive in and to separate that the right way. So knowing yourself is very important.