Phil Peel

Film, video, photography, sound and story

Auditions – 10 Tips on holding Successful Auditions

Posted by Phil On May - 30 - 2013

Earlier on this month I had a busy day of  auditions with the help of Deanna and Terry for John Lennon’s Turd at the wonderful Actors Centre  in London.  It was a good day and we got smashing actors

Luke Stevenson  to play “Ian”

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Kenton Hall to play “Digby”

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and Melissa de Mol to play “Carol”

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 It’ll all go wrong on the night.

I find though, however well planned you are, auditions always tend to go slightly awry.

For example: I like holding auditions on a Sunday as it’s easy and cheaper to get up to London and to get around. However I hadn’t planned for the maintenance work on the trains and tube. Part of my journey in was by bus replacement service and various actors found themselves battling across London to get there. Deanna and Terry got there OK  in time for breakfast, before we started.

Auditioning in a group.

I personally like auditioning actors in a group, playing each  role required for each scene.  The other way is to audition each actors on their own with the other roles being read, which does enable you to concentrate solely on the individual actor. But I prefer the group interaction; see how actors respond to others, how they re-act. I find I can soon hone in on the person in group, who’s most suitable for the part. I also run cameras on each actor, including holding one myself. So I can see afterwards how they come over on screen.

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My Personal 10 Top Tips

So here’s my personal 10 top tips on holding auditions. – as a director

1. Don’t sit behind a desk. It creates a barrier.

2. Don’t look at your script. It’s an easy mistake to make. You don’t need to check they are using the right words.

3. Concentrate. It’s really important to concentrate intensely on each performance. Walk around.  Get close to each person’s eyeline.

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4. Initially don’t say how you want it acted. See what they bring. It may surprise ..and delight you.  When you repeat the scene, then you can give notes, advise and change.

5. Watch when they aren’t speaking. How they respond to the other actors.

6. Get to know them. If you’re going to spend a shoot together you want to know that you’re going to get on with each other.

7. Change the performance. Even if you love their interpretation, get each actor to  adapt and change their performance.

8. Video tape it. Not just as a wide or side view. See how each person looks on camera in closeup.

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9. Give yourself breaks. Schedule an hour  for lunch and shorter breaks in the morning and afternoon. You’ll most probably overrun the auditions, so it gives you time to catch up.  ..and maybe have some lunch.

10. Take notes as you go along. Give yourself time in between each audition to discuss each actor with your team   You will forget by the end of the day. It’s surprisingly tiring. Get each person to introduce themselves on camera preferably with their name on a sheet of paper. I forgot to do this this time and it made it lot more difficult when I looked at everyone later on the edit suite.


Remember to thank everyone. They’ve given up a valuable day for chance of starring in your “baby”, be grateful. Let everyone know soon if they haven’t got the role …AFTER you have confirmed your chosen actor.   It’s a tough life as an actor.


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Multicams – hot and cold

Posted by Phil On December - 21 - 2012

I can remember when the time used to be when doing a multicamera recording used to involve a large truck which drove to the venue.

The director, technical manager and engineers sat inside in air-conditioned comfort. The camera took several crew to lift them onto the tripods. Now not only have the cameras shrunk in size, but the OB truck can be replaced by a small rackbox and laptop.

All can be carried in a small van, but now you have to find a place to put the vision mixing equipment.  …and it’s often in a cramped small store room or even a corridor. (Haven’t done one from a toilet yet)

It’s often not very comfortable. Either too hot or too cold. The recent “En Masse” Rock choir concert at the Point in Eastleigh was of the “too cold” variety.

Here is Ruth (as PA) and I  swathed in overcoats.  …and we’re still cold despite having a radiant heater under the table.


Supper was multiple pizzas.


..and I discovered a good use for the fact that Macbook Pros run hot. I could use it for keeping my pizza warm! But luckily I had eaten the pizza before I needed to use the Macbook again.


The filming went well…with the ATEM mixer and Balck Magic Intensity Pro running into the MacBook via thunderbolt. Seems very stable

First time I’ve used my new jib, with the underslung head. It worked well.


…..but unfortunately we had to clear the theatre quickly and didn’t have time to properly coil the cables, so I ended up next day with over a half kilometre of tangled cables in our kitchen …and hall ..and sitting room.

Untangling cables is best done in a large space. So you can pull them all out and coil them separately. Once they are tangled it’s a bit of a nightmare in a small space. So extracting the first 50 metre length took an hour and a half! ..but as you clear more and more it gets a bit faster.









Hollywood v. Local Hobbit Pub – the background

Posted by Phil On March - 14 - 2012

I don’t know why this has annoyed me so much, but a few days ago I found out that a well loved local pub "The Hobbit" that has been the meeting place for a whole generation of Southampton students and young pubgoers, has been threatened by a Hollywood production company, the Saul Zaentz Company. So I’ve done some research.

For heavens sake. It’s been called The Hobbit for 20 years. It started about 1989, long before the film was a twinkle in Peter Jackson eye, and long before  CGI existed.

I sent the news out to a few friends, and liked a little Facebook protest page. but have been amazed that the news has been taken up first by the local newspaper, then local, national and international news and TV.  and the page now has 35,000 likes. So obviously others share my anger.

Even the Daily Mail has taken up the cause.   Ok.. Maybe it sometimes gets things right.

Apparently even  Tolkien’s son had problems with Hollywood.

In 2008 The Tolkien Trust, representing the interests of the family of Lord of the Rings author J.R. R. Tolkien threatened  to sue New Line Cinema in Los Angeles for £75 million, claiming that the Trust has not received "even one penny" from the highly successful (£3 billion-earning) trilogy of Lord of the Ring films. The film studio is accused of "insatiable greed" and of engaging in the "infamous practice of creative ‘Hollywood accounting’". Presumably as a means of negotiating an amicable settlement, the Trust was reportedly threatening to block production of the long-awaited prequel, The Hobbit.

The Tolkien Trust is hardly a money grabbing commercial enterprise. It has traditionally supported a wide spectrum of charitable causes and concerns throughout the world including: emergency and disaster relief, overseas aid and development, healthcare charities, environmental causes, education and the arts.

The case was eventually settled out of court for an undisclosed sum 


In 2009 The Tolkien Trust (a UK registered charity), New Line Cinema, and HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.announced that they have resolved the lawsuit relating to the "Lord of the Rings" films.  The precise terms of the settlement are confidential.

Commenting on the settlement, Christopher Tolkien said: "The Trustees regret that legal action was necessary, but are glad that this dispute has been settled on satisfactory terms that will allow the Tolkien Trust properly to pursue its charitable objectives. The Trustees acknowledge that New Line may now proceed with its proposed films of ‘The Hobbit.’"

Warner Bros.’ President & Chief Operating Officer Alan Horn said: "We deeply value the contributions of the Tolkien novels to the success of our films and are pleased to have put this litigation behind us. We all look forward to a mutually productive and beneficial relationship in the future."

The "Lord of the Rings" films produced by New Line are among the most successful films ever created and were released in 2001, 2002 and 2003, respectively


Note Alan Horn’s comment "We deeply value the contributions of the Tolkien novels to the success of our films" …yes but not enough to actually pay for it until their next profit making film "The Hobbit is threatened

Incidentally  Tolkien believed he had invented the the word " Hobbit" when he began writing The Hobbit , but it was revealed years after his death that the word predated Tolkien’s usage, It appears in the Denham Tracts, edited by James Hardy, (London: Folklore Society, 1895), vol. 2, the second part of a two-volume set compiled from Denham’s publications between 1846 and 1859

The text contains a long list of sprites and bogies, based on an older list, the Discovery of Witchcraft, dated 1584, with many additions and a few repetitions. The term hobbit is listed in the context of boggleboes, bogies, redmen, portunes, grants, hobbits, hobgoblins, brown-men, cowies, dunnies

 In 2008 The Saul Zaentz Company registered  UK Trade Mark 2462911, THE HOBBIT, registered in Class 43 for
"services for providing food and drink; temporary accommodation, services for providing food and drink; temporary accommodations; bar services; cafés; cafeterias; tavern services; tea rooms; wine bars; tourist inns; resort hotels; retirement homes; pubs; hotels; motels; providing campground facilities; restaurants; rental of tents; rental of meeting rooms; serving food and drinks; providing facilities for concerts, convention fairs and exhibitions; boarding for animals; catering of food and drink; brew-pub services; child care; providing reviews of restaurants".

This registration (and its Community trade mark counterpart here) would seem to cover pubs trading as The Hobbit, apart from the minor matter of the pub having publicly used the name for 15 years before the registration (Just to make it clear I’m being ironic here in the use of minor) 

The Saul Zaentz company also own  Community Trade Mark E3759231, HOBBIT, registered for a large number of items in Classes 3 and 29  as well as the following products in Class 32:
"Beers; mineral and aerated waters and other non-alcoholic drinks; fruit drinks and fruit juices; syrups and other preparations for making beverages; aerated fruit juices, aerated water, ale, aloe vera drinks, beer, colas (soft drink), drinking water, flavored waters, fruit drinks, fruit flavored soft drinks, fruit juice concentrates, fruit juices, fruit-flavored drinks, isotonic drinks, lemonade, malt liquor (beer or ale); mineral water, non-alcoholic malt beverage, non-alcoholic beer, non-alcoholic cocktail mixes, non-alcoholic fruit extracts used in the preparation of beverages, non-alcoholized wines, quinine water, seltzer water, smoothies (beverages), soft drinks in carbonated, low calories and/or non-carbonated form; soft drinks flavored with tea, sports drinks, spring water, stout, sweet cider, tomato juice (beverage), vegetable juice (beverage)".  

This was filed on 23 December 2003, published on 26 September 2005 and registered on 8 June 2005,  but apparently if they haven’t actually used the Trade Mark, then an application  can be made for revocation based on five years’ non-use.

Maybe someone should make a film about little folk threatened by Big Corporation.  ..coming to a cinema near you. 

Thanks to the IPKat weblog


After all day in the studio and working with the choreographer for Gary’s dance track, then onto a 3 hour final rehearsal with En Masse with a live band.

I’m working out camera shots for their come back concert.

High adrenaline.
Great to see Gareth singing again!