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Acting as a career is like no other. It’s the only profession I know of where you spend more time pitching and interviewing for work than actually doing it. I look at friends and family who have “normal jobs” and some have only ever had a few job interviews in their entire life – and actor can easily go through that in a week!
This is why it’s crucial to learn how to audition well. As long as you plan on working in this industry, you can plan on auditioning. Most of us who came through drama school are already familiar with the mandatory reading on this subject, Michael Shurtleff’s “Audition” and “Loving to Audition” by Larry Silverberg. Both are absolute essentials in an actors tool kit, but there is so much more to the audition than that. Although technology has revolutionized much of the casting process, the actual audition is still all about people and performance, so remains largely unchanged.
Here are 12 tips to help you master the audition process.
1. Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. If you manage to get in the room in a major market like New York or LA, you’ve already beat out several thousand other actors who were submitted for the same spot, (yes, really!) so don’t blow it off even if it’s only two words.
2. Arrive Early. This should go without saying, but so many actors still fly into the audition room with minutes to spare; you’re doing yourself a hug dis-service. You need a few minutes to sign-in, settle in and just generally ground yourself and catch your breath.
3. Be positive, no matter what. Every one has a life outside of the audition room, casting directors and producers included. Nobody wants to hear about your long commute, the horrible traffic what a stressful day you’re having or whatever stuff happened before you got there.Just don’t take it into the room with you. Whatever it is give yourself permission to put it on pause until the audition is over – this is the only place you have to be right now. You’ll feel so much lighter and glad you didn’t too!
4. Always take a headshot and resume. Yes, so much is done digitally today, but don’t assume just because it’s online that they don’t want a hardcopy. Many office don’t but many still do, especially when it comes to final rounds and decision making. And FYI, if this is a one line, that decision is happening right now!
Pro tip: always keep pic and res in your briefcase, backpack or trunk of your car
5. Know the words and understand what you’re talking about. While being off-book is great, and trust me, someone will show up who is, casting is generally more concerned that you bring the essence of the character. Make sure you understand the text and if there is something you don’t know, make Google your friend.
6. Ask questions only when you really need an answer. Casting almost always asks, “Do you have any questions?” . This isn’t a test, you don’t have to have one prepared. They are truly seeing if you need clarification on something before you get started. If not, politely say no and get on with it. Trust me, they’ll be grateful you didn’t waste precious time.
7. Don’t expect to be directed. If someone takes the time to direct you, great! Go with it! ….no matter what it is. They’ll only ask if there is a very good reason. Otherwise expect a polite thank you and just leave gracefully when the audition is over.
8. Don’t expect or need coddling. You are a professional. Go into the room and act like one. No one in there is expecting you to hold their hand or take care of their feelings so don’t expect this in return. This is business, not a therapy session.
9. Don’t blame the reader. If you get a wonderful, highly engaged reader, awesome! But never count on it. You may be acting your little heart out to the top of someone’s head as the read the lines like yesterday’s news. Give it your best and don’t take it personally – this is your job.
10. Don’t make excuses, don’t apologize and keep going. Nobody wants to hear that you had to rearrange your schedule to be there, or that your printer is broken. Show up happy, grateful, professional and prepared, and then just do your best. Go in and be the positive, engaged professional that they are hoping for. If you mess up a line – keep going
11. Stick to the script. No matter what you think of the material, and I encourage you to look for the gold in it, stick to what is written as best as you can unless asked to improvise. Remember the writer or writers may be in the room and may not take kindly to your creative editing. Also bear in mind that the script already has the job, you don’t.
12. Don’t take it personally. Try to remember that casting directors are under an enormous amount of pressure too! They have to get the job done while fielding calls from producers, dealing with the director, maybe the studio and the network. And then of course there are agents trying to get their clients in the room. So if the casting director is eating lunch during your audition, it doesn’t mean that they don’t like you, maybe they’re just hungry! Try not to obsess over every little moment that occurs before, during, and after the audition. That will just make you crazy and there is no way you can ever know everything for sure.
Auditions are only partially about booking the job. It’s also about booking the room and building relationships that will last over the course of your career. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself to get hired on the spot, you simply can’t do good work that way.
Working actors spend a large part of their career auditing for jobs they never get. Try to learn to enjoy the process. See every audition as a chance to practice your craft, and don’t sweat the outcome.