WeRehearse Co-Founder and CEO Darren Darnborough on the Future of Auditioning
With the abundance of rehearsal apps available to assist actors with learning lines these days, it’s almost quaint to imagine thespians from a bygone era memorizing by simply sitting and reading over their scripts.
Of course, reading and repeating lines from the pages of a script is now and will forever be a big part of the work. However the options available nowadays to aid actors–and in the process make the experience more aural, visual and thus more tactile and immersive–are as widely available as they are varied.
One great addition to the field is WeRehearse, a videochat-based platform that allows users to run lines with other actors, seek advice, self-tape, and upload scripts to share for rehearsals and auditions.
Co-founder and CEO Darren Darnborough took the time to chat via the WeRehearse platform and offer a little background on the company and demonstrate how it works.
“Basically the idea was to provide a platform where, in one place, actors could meet, rehearse, and where they could upload a script and read it alongside the video,” Darnborough said.
By adding yourself to the site’s stable of actors (free for now, but will soon be moving to a $10 per month subscription model), you can seek out other actors to serve as readers for your audition piece, request advice, or make yourself available to read with others. There are options for selecting a reader who is available at that very moment, or you can put out a call for a reader with a specific skill set–dialects, gender, type, experience level, etc.–and arrange a time when both of you are available.
“I used it the other night when I was reading for a show, and I had to have a Texan accent,” said Darnborough, whose natural London dialect is anything but Longhorn State. “So I went on WeRehearse and found a Texan. And I mean, I work with an accent coach, and I still went to him to refine it, because I needed that extra help. But [the actor] I found on WeRehearse got me to a place where I was already well on my way.”
The platform launched in 2015, and to Darnborough, it’s not about the company controlling the interactions between various actors, but rather to simply provide a portal where actors can find each other. To that end actors who seek out the help of others are encouraged to offer their own time and talent in return.
But with a couple of clever innovations, WeRehearse also functions as a way for cash-strapped actors to make a few bucks on the side.
“Some of our readers charge a fee, but you’ll see that come up before you initiate the session,” Darnborough said. “So the way it works is, if the reader doesn’t charge a fee, you can tip them at the end of the session. Most of our actors are doing it for tips only, because the whole idea is that if I’m reading for you, you’ll read for me. We’re still both getting a workout. And there’s always two sides to a script. If you’re an actor, you should always be acting anyway.”
For instance, for the lucky actor from Texas who read with Darnborough , the extra ten bucks he got as a tip for his 30 minutes of dialect help was probably a nice bonus.
Another great innovation that WeRehearse offers is the option to self-tape your audition material. Sounds pretty standard, but what Darnborough and his partner Richard Cambridge have come up with is a seamlessly integrated native video recorder that cleverly produces a single file with the voices of both actor and reader, but with just the actor’s video.
“Like if we were doing a scene, and you were the reader and I’m the actor, I can hit self-tape.” Darnborough explained. “So that records my picture and my voice, and just your voice. It puts the file together nicely so it looks exactly like it would if you were in the room.”
And with good quality compression that can render a one-minute piece into a highly watchable file of about 10Mb, the self-tape option is ideal not only for actors who live far away or are traveling, but also for those who don’t have another actor close at hand they can call on to read.
“The idea is to help actors do things they otherwise couldn’t do without another actor in the room, if they aren’t in the right place, or they don’t have the right contacts, “ Darnborough said.
And it’s not only actors who frequently travel or who live outside the big audition hubs who have taken notice of WeRehearse. Lately it’s been serving more and more as a gateway for casting directors and producers to use for initial auditions, eliminating the need for the cattle call.
“It’s good for the casting directors because it means they don’t have to have a space big enough to hold that many people,” he said. “Obviously we don’t think this is going to replace in-person casting. It’s not designed to do that. It’s designed to get to that place quicker and easier without hordes of people coming in for the first read. And for the actors it means their time is respected as well.”
Not only that, by theoretically taking a lot of actors’ cars off the road–especially in a place as spread out as L.A.–WeRehearse could make a respectable environmental impact as well.
“[It’s for] really anybody that’s encouraging diversity in casting, anybody that’s encouraging the use of technology to save people time, to make everything more ecologically friendly–you’ve got people driving across town all day to auditions just to see if the actor looks like what they say they look like, which could be done on a video chat.”
To be sure, some will react by saying “Well, I can just use Skype or FaceTime. What’s the difference?” but Darnborough is confident users will be quick to appreciate what WeRehearse brings to the table.
“First, with Skype you have to know the person you’re trying to call,” he said. “You’re still limited to your network. Then you each have to have the app, you both have to log in, you have to have each other’s Skype name, have them as a friend, wait for them to log in and make their connection. And then if you want to send them a script, you have to email it separately and the have to open it separately in another window. You can’t self-tape without using a separate screen recorder, and if you did, then you’ve got the problem of it recording the computer sounds as well.’
In other words, there’s really no contest.
Currently WeRehearse is only compatible with the Chrome browser and not as a stand-alone app on either Android or iPhone. But Darnborough is quick to point out that changes are on the horizon.
“We did actually develop an iPhone app,” he said, “and we launched it. But Apple updates so constantly that it was a struggle to keep up. But the good news is that Apple is launching a new version of Safari in November, and it will be supported then. So people will be able to use it on their phone browser.”
And with a network of professional actors, producers and casting directors that is already growing every day, Darnborough sees the only limitation to WeRehearse being the size of the niche he’s marketing to–although to him, that’s a feature, not a bug.
“We started with a very strong core group of professional actors,” he said. “We haven’t done any like, Facebook advertising or anything like that because we just don’t want it to reach the wrong people. And that’s not to say that in order to use it you have to have a long list of credits.
“But if people discover it through the work,” he added, “and they want to put the work in, then they’re the right kind of people.”
The bottom line is that WeRehearse is an app created by actors for actors, and serving their needs has been the company’s focus from day one.
Or as Darnborough says, “If I wasn’t also an actor I wouldn’t have started this business.”