Interview with Chicago Hollywood

WASHINGTONDC – Chicago took home a bit of gold on August 26th, 2018, as local filmmaker Oriana Oppice was awarded Best Director for her short film “Leia’s Army” at the Global Impact Film Festival in Washington, D.C. The film, which is a fictional overview of the Woman’s March Movement through multiple generations, is a contemporary and multi-dimensional look at families in the age of Trump.

Oppice was born in Sicily and raised in Chicago. She is a veteran filmmaker and actor, having made and performed in the shorts “Lobster fra Diavolo,” “Camp Belvidere” and “Lost and Found.” She is also a community leader in film advocacy for women with her role as Director of Programming for Women in Film Chicago (WIFC). Her commitment is to elevate the visibility of women in front of and behind the camera.

Rachel Sonvico of ‘Leia’s Army,’ Directed by Oriana Oppice (inset)
Photo credit: Testa Dura Media/Trinacria PicturesHer new short film “Leia’s Army” – written by Jane Barbara – concerns the voices of three generations of women during the events of the Women’s March, which took place after the inauguration of Donald Trump in January of 2017. Val (Rachel Sonvico) is an 18 year-old activist who is looking forward to the March, along with her grandmother (Ilona Dulaski). Her mother (Lisa Hodsoll) is not on board, since she is both an Evangelical Christian and worked for the Trump campaign. The three confront each other over the March, and there are also some secrets yet to be revealed.

In anticipation of the festival season, Oriana Oppice of “Leia’s Army” did the following Podtalk with Patrick McDonald of, and spoke about the context of the film and how managing a film set has evolved for her.
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In which I explain why self-taped auditions can work against you.

The day has finally arrived when taping your audition is simple, fast, and cheap because you can do it at home. Celebrations! Right? Sorry, but no. Getting in the casting room is still going to give you a better shot of getting called back or landing the role. Here’s why:

I need to sense you.

I know that sounds creepy, but hear me out.  When an actor walks in the room, we get a sense of YOU [which reminds me: DO NOT enter the room in character. It’s just weird.]. We want to see your natural presence, how you work with others, how you listen to direction. Sometimes very charismatic people can make that come through on tape, but it’s rare.

When you self-tape, you use an Instagram mentality.

What does that mean — it means you take 8 million takes of your scene, choose one, edit two together, blanche out your face so only your good side is visible, sometimes you add a filter (actually happened). Guest what. You will have zero control over this when you shoot a film. I need to see you when you are controlling nothing but your craft. I know when people do these tricks in self-tapes, and all it does is distract from the performance.

I’m a director and want to direct you.

Part of the “test” of an in-person audition is seeing how you take direction. If you take direction well, I will absolutely make note of that, and it will carry weight in determining if you’re the right person for the job or not. When you submit a tape, you don’t know what I’m thinking. If I wanted to see something slightly different, you won’t have the opportunity to make that happen. Think for a second what a huge disadvantage for you that is. You basically have one take to absolutely blow me away, despite 50 other people being seen for that role in person. The likelihood of that happening is extremely slim.

I want to connect with you.

I like to work with people who will work well with me and the rest of the cast & crew. I can only really know if that will happen if I meet you in person. I like to love my actors. I do everything I can to create a perfectly safe world for them on set. So let me get to know you. Show me you’re a team player. And leave me with a positive memory of you. If this isn’t the right role for you, but I liked you, I’ll probably call you in for the next film. In fact, I’ve cast people even without making them audition again because I liked meeting them so much the last time.

Having your little brother as your reader can work against you.

When you self-tape, you are usually at the mercy of whatever poor soul agrees to read with you. This can be a disadvantage when they’re not giving you what you need. In-person auditions give you a reader who knows the material inside and out, and knows exactly what to do to make your audition go in a successful direction. And no, reciting only your lines is not a good idea. I need to see you interacting with another human.

Do your best to make in-person auditions possible.

I know, sometimes you’re on the road, or your schedule is just a mess, or you’re being scene for a role in a different city. But I also know a lot of actors have just decided to stop trying. Don’t be that actor. Get on the Greyhound bus. Write me and ask for a different time. It’s not always possible, but I would much rather see you in person than watch your tape. Take ownership of your job as an actor committed to craft and get out there. In an increasingly virtual world, I promise it will make you stand out.


In which I lay down, once and for all, how to get yourself in the casting room

And since listicles are still all the rage, here we go:

If I ask for clips or reels, do not send me your headshot without a clip or reel.

I get it. Actors Access asks that you pay to put a clip up there. But this is your career, and I can tell you it IS a worthwhile investment. Probably more worthwhile than some of the classes you take. Because I NEED TO SEE AND HEAR YOU. And if you really can’t swing it, look up my email address and email it to me. Now, I don’t need to be added to a Constant Contact list, I don’t need updates from you, but I do need to see your video so that I can be convinced you may be right for the role I’m casting.

If I am looking for an 18-yr-old woman, and you are a 57-yr-old man, please do not submit for that role.

Chances are, I’m going to see your headshot and not — as you had planned — write a role for you. I just won’t do it. The bigger point is SUBMIT FOR ROLES FOR WHICH YOU ARE TRULY APPROPRIATE.

If you know I am casting or shooting in a certain city, and you live nowhere near that city, tell me that you are willing to travel and work as a local.

Let’s review what “working local” means in the film and TV industry. It means you are able and willing to pay for your own transportation and lodging. It means you will not require per diem. If this is not possible for you, or part of it isn’t, do me the courtesy of telling me that. Believe it or not, my producers need to know this. If you live in California and I’m shooting in New York, and you can’t pay to work as a local, please do not waste your time. It’s not that I don’t like you, it’s that movies have set budgets made way before the casting period that we have to adhere to. Unless you’re a celebrity, it’s just not gonna happen.  That being said, many actors consider travel a business expense, and write it off on their taxes (smart).

If there is something that would make you stand out, like FOR REAL, for a particular role, use the note feature or include that information in your email.

I read notes. I love notes. It doesn’t take me long to read notes and sometimes I find useful information in there, such as the website where I can find your reel, or that you are able to work as a local. Again, don’t bombard my inbox, and I don’t need your life story, but leaving a note is a good tool for you.  Here is a sample note that would work well:
“Hi, you can find my reel at I can also work as a local and speak the foreign language required for the role fluently.”
Boom. That person is in. Here is a sample note that would not work so well:
“Hi, Thank you for considering me, I’m soooooo excited to audition for you!” 
Huh? You don’t have the audition yet and you provided no information that helps me decide whether you should or not.

The bottom line

I think it helps to understand how the casting process works. There are a TON of submissions. Imagine a wall with 1,000 pictures that are the size of your nose. Yeah. That means we have to work quickly and decisively. I don’t have time to google search you, I don’t have time to watch an entire episode of ANYTHING, and I don’t have time (unless it’s a very hard-to-fill role) to personally write you and beg [again] for your video clips.

WE WANT TO HIRE YOU.  We really, really do. Please just keep these tips in mind to make it easier for us to really see you and what you can bring to the project.