NEW YORK -- You can't accuse filmmaker Barry J. Hershey of being wasteful, that's for sure. Having auditioned about 350 actresses (!) for three roles in a narrative film he was hoping to direct, he instead decided to incorporate the footage into a documentary feature when the project fell through. The result is "Casting About," a simultaneously dispiriting and inspiring portrait of the auditioning process that will be of great interest to actors and casting directors, if not necessarily the public at large.
The real star of this effort is film editor Marc Grossman, who has crafted the footage, culled from about 70 hours of casting tapes, into a sometimes hypnotic montage that only suffers because of the inevitable repetition factor.
The hopeful young actresses, trying out for the roles of a dancer, a nun and a model in an apparent wartime drama, are seen alternately as themselves, reading dialogue from the prospective script, and performing audition pieces culled from the works of Eric Bogosian, David Hare and many others.
The viewer is thus thrust into an almost voyeuristic role, as the actresses, who are examined by the camera with minute precision, reveal themselves in often highly personal ways. One woman, for example, arrives at the audition in an obvious state of anxiety, informing the director that she has arrived directly from the sentencing hearing of the man who was recently convicted of raping her.
Watching the footage, one alternates between admiration for the dedication and passion of the performers, and distaste at the way their bared emotions are sometimes exploited here for dramatic effect.