Be You Productions is a project in sustainable theatre-making, and we’re sharing each step of our journey with the public - in hopes to provide tools and inspire others to take up the mission of creating their own sustainable theatre productions.
What will you find in this article?
It's rare that we are able to gain an insight into the thoughts and opinions of the creative panel. Bradley Dylan is passionate about bridging the gap between the creative panel and the performer.
We will learn about the inherent preference performers hold for submitting their auditionees close to the due date (and not earlier) and how that affects their chances of obtaining a call back, and being considered for the show.
Bradley’s general findings show that the majority of performers delay their submission until the day of, or the day prior to the submission date. Bradley will help you understand why this is and why it’s more beneficial to submit earlier.
Below you will find an outline of his experience, an insight into what the panel is thinking and finally, how the anchoring bias relates to all of this. By understanding these points, you will increase your probability of receiving a call back and being seen by the panel.
We’re halfway through auditions
We’re half way through our audition process for Musical of Musicals The Musical (due on June 24) and seeing as we’re half way, I wanted to provide my insights on how I believe the remainder of the audition period will go based on my findings.
Looking specifically at our Backing Vocalist audition process for 2020, which the first round is always an online submission, we see the following when looking at the percentage of auditions submitted along the process.
As you can see, we barely received the bulk of auditions before the 5th, which was three days away from the deadline. In the last four days we received 64% of all the submissions.
This trend is mirrored in other processes, and also for in-person auditions. Most people aim to be seen at the end of the process.
What are the Panel thinking?
This mindset of auditionees brings up a few issues for a panel who is deciding on whether you will be seen again:
If there is a short turnaround for callback (which often is the case) the more people shoved in to the last day will mean the less likely they are to watch your submission, or less likely to have them watch the whole submission. Be You Productions (and all Be You Inc projects) will ensure we watch all submissions, though this brings us to another issue;
Time management. It’s extremely difficult to ensure a plurality of people (say five or six) will be free the day after auditions are due to watch every single one. Most people would prefer to watch them over a longer period of time, so the early bird will get the worm in this instance, plus;
Think of what it says about you to submit your audition at the last minute. Every production team is looking for skilled people, but overall we’re looking for people we will enjoy working with. It’s harder to put my faith in someone being prepared and easy to work with if I can see they waited until the last moment to submit. It says something about your ability to manage your time - which is the most important commodity in rehearsals;
Also, creative teams often worry people won’t audition. There’s a moment at the beginning where most teams worry that the show will have to be cancelled because no one has signed up - therefore the first auditionees can be seen as validation for our efforts, and make us grateful to those who put their faith in us before anyone else did.
And finally, there are biases involved in auditions from a panel’s perspective, so why not try and game the system? The biggest bias in an audition process is anchoring bias.
This cognitive bias is centred around the fact we humans tend to base subsequent things off the first thing we see. Anchoring is a cognitive bias where an individual depends too heavily on an initial piece of information offered to make subsequent judgments during decision making. Once the value of this anchor is set, all future negotiations, arguments, estimates, etc. are discussed in relation to the anchor.
More on this bias here.
To put this into a real world example, if I told you I was providing singing lessons for $50 per hour, and then raised my prices to $90 an hour, you’d think I was taking advantage. But if I stared at $110 per hour, and told you I was lowering it to $90, you’d think I was saving you money.
In auditions, knowing this bias exists, you will know the earlier you can be in the audition process the better chance you have of setting yourself apart. Auditionees who are earlier in any process are seen as the benchmark that everyone else is then held to.
What does this bias look like for auditions?
To paint a picture on how this works in practice, this is often my experience:
When on a panel, watching over a hundred people vying for a few lead roles, it becomes sadder the longer it goes as you see people who simply don’t match the personality and work ethics of people who’ve gone before, even though we can see how skilled you are.
Those who are earlier in a process stay on our minds. We finish for the day and consider who are the current contenders. We start to cast the show with who we have - even if this isn’t the ideal way to be. Once we’ve had a night or two to think about the people we have and become attached to them, it’s harder for newer people to knock them out of the running and take their spots. I simply haven’t had the time to consider you the way I’ve had the time to consider those who’ve come earlier.
Looking back at processes I’ve been part of, it’s usually someone who we saw earlier than the last day that gets the main roles. It’s so rare to see someone come in at the last minute and be able to get enough time for a panel to consider and become attached to.
In summary - submit early.
Be seen early.
Give the panel the time to reflect on you before there are many more people to take their attention away from you.
Talent is subjective, so use these cognitive biases to your advantage.
Bradley is the founder and president of Be You Inc, and is the artistic voice and vision behind all of its projects. His passion for leadership, holistic approach to sociology and social systems, and degrees in business, management, and applied psychology, coupled with extensive experience in running production companies and performing arts studios since 2004, gives him a unique perspective on the future of theatre, and how best to use applied psychological approaches for the betterment of everyone involved.
Are you someone who submits with a moment to spare? How could you change your behaviours and capitalise on the anchoring bias?