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I don’t have to tell any of you that 2020 radically changed the game for actors. Suddenly, casting directors who had been tough to get in front of became readily accessible through virtual classes and workshops (Thank you Zoom!), Facebook and Instagram Live events and discussions and weekly gatherings on Clubhouse. I made a point to attend at least 2 virtual workshops a month + one or two other online events as well as interviewing casting directors for My Actor Guide. And yes, after almost 2 full years of this I’m kind of exhausted, but I’ve learned A LOT!
Being a freakishly organized person, I keep a spreadsheet of every casting conversation I have, with notes on each CD’s thoughts, preferences, background, quirks and pet peeves. I sat down recently to review this and noticed a few common themes and trends emerged. I pulled out the highlights and here are the top 22 Things Casting Directors Want Actors to Know in 2022.
1. When you get a callback (round 2 of auditions for the same part) be completely off-book.
Casting directors are presenting you to their clients – directors and producers and if you’re not prepared it embarrasses them for putting you forward. For the love of all things holy, have the material memorized.
2. Be respectful and even pleasant!
No matter what kind of day you’re having. You got one of a few coveted audition spots. Put a smile on your face and show that you are happy to be there. And hey… this is show business so put on a SHOW!
3. Don’t say that you can do something that you can’t.
They will find out. When you are listing Special Skills on your resume (get a basic resume template here) keep it real. Going on a trail ride at a ranch does not make you an expert equestrian. And those ballet lessons you had as a kid may not really make you a ballerina. Make sure that all your performance skills are up to date on your personal resume and online profiles, but don’t lie or exaggerate. Need to make sure you have your credits right? Read: Actor Credits Defined: What is Your Role?
4. Lose the props.
You are an actor… not a property master or director. Every casting director I have ever spoken with has a horrible story about a prop going terribly wrong in an audition. This throws everyone off, especially the actor. As one major casting director I worked with reiterated numerous times, “nothing shinier than your face.” I could see this play out in an acting class with one actress who used a handbag in her scenes 3 weeks in a row… I still don’t remember her scenes but I remember her constantly fidgeting with the handbag.
5. NO WEAPONS! EVER.
Just like the props, EVERY casting director I have ever spoken with has a horrible weapons story. When you pull out a weapon in an audition, they don’t know if it’s real or fake or what you’re going to do next – and now their primary concern is their own safety, not your audition. Another casting director told a story of an actor who pulled out a real gun in a virtual audition and all she could think about was whether or not he was contemplating suicide on camera. (He wasn’t and didn’t) Enough said!
6. If you are unsure about something, by all means ask questions.
Keep the questions about the material, but don’t feel obligated to ask anything just to “look smart or interested”. Useful Questions: Do you want me to mime this or skip over the stage direction? Is it OK if I move around here? I’m confused about this line, does it mean this? Just a quick question about this character’s relationship to that character..? Only ask questions when you really need clarity and it will help your audition.
7. Never criticize the writing of a project OR Change the lines!
There is a good chance that the writer or producer may be in the room or your comments may get back to them. They have worked hard on this project, and actors are the very last people to come onboard. Similarly, if you’ve been given an adjustment don’t disagree with the creatives and tell them how you see the character. It’s great to make strong choices about your character and performance, but the creatives have lived with the script a lot longer and know the role better than anyone because one or more of them have probably written it and given considerable consideration to each and every word and line.
8. If you’re really not into the material, don’t force it.
It’s better to let your rep know that, and to pass on the spot. Also be sure to let you reps know why you are passing. We all have preferences and boundaries and it’s being respectful to yourself and everyone involved to simply pass on something you don’t feel passionate about than to submit a poor audition.
9. Be flexible and loose with the material.
Yes, rehearse, and yes do your character work prior to the audition, but don’t over rehearse to the point of being rigid so that you can only deliver the lines one way. You may receive an adjustment in the audition or get new information about the character. Be prepared to flow with whatever you’re given.
10. Don’t touch the reader, ever!
Whether it’s a self-tape or in-person audition, and even if it’s written in the script NEVER TOUCH THE READER. If it’s a self-tape, keep the audition about YOU. And it it’s in-person… well, touching the reader is just plain creepy!
11. If you have a bad reader, just get over it.
Take it from me, it happens. And no it is not ideal for your audition, but there is really very little you can do about it other than focus on your part in the scene and keep going. Many readers are actually actors and enjoy going through the scene with you, but this isn’t always the case. They might miss cues, mess up the lines or give you the flattest read ever; still do your best and then let it go. And hey…. Keep in mind everyone got the same terrible reader.
Want to find a great reader for your next audition? Try WeAudition.com and use the code MAG25 for a 25% discount.
12. Keep your clothes on.
If the role calls for any disrobing or nudity, this will be handled on set with an intimacy coordinator and is not to be done in an audition situation. This is another NEVER EVER.
13. Keep the perfume off.
Obviously, this doesn’t apply to self-tapes, but more and more people are becoming sensitive to fragrances or may just plain not like what you’re wearing. You don’t want the casting director to remember you because you gave them a headache or literally stunk up the room. 😂
14. Invest in a blue backdrop for self-tapes.
While there are a handful of casting directors I’ve spoken with who really don’t care about the backdrop, most lose their minds over this! It’s just being professional, keeping your audition clean and removing all distractions. Kind of like with the props you don’t want casting directors focusing on what’s in your apartment while you’re pouring your heart out in a big scene.
15. Make sure your sound quality is excellent and your lighting is good.
This is something I’ve heard from every casting director I’ve spoken with in the last two years.Your most wonderful performance is wasted if casting directors can’t see you or hear you when you submit your self tape! Adam Stephenson, an associate from Coulon Casting recorded a 5 minute video in 2020 on the big Do’s and Don’ts for self-tapes. It went viral and he actually received a free year on Actor’s Access for this. I’ve posted it here and it’s well worth watching!
16. Don’t question whether or not you are right for the role or the project.
If you are being called in for an audition or asked to submit a self-tape, someone thinks you are right for it! Casting directors have spoken to the director and have a better handle on the big picture than anyone else. They have probably also seen your material. In any case, they think you have a shot at that role. They absolutely won’t waste their time otherwise.
17. Don’t loiter.
When doing in-person auditions or virtual auditions which have also become popular in the last couple of years, when your audition is over, say thank you and go. Casting directors are not your besties and no matter how friendly they were with you they don’t want to chit chat. They are on a tight schedule and want to be respectful of everyone’s time and keep things moving.
18. Book-out when you are unavailable.
Agents and managers spend valuable time trying to hustle up auditions for the talent on their rosters. If they have submitted you for a project and then the casting director calls you in for an audition, they get super ticked off if you are suddenly out of town. (And so do your agents BTW!) If you are going to visit grandma or have a vacation planned, be sure to book out for those dates and don’t wast anyone’s time
19. Find a way to manage the nerves.
Audition anxiety happens to everyone… maybe not all the time, but it does happen. Have what I call a “toolbox” of ways to calm yourself down and get centered when those pre-audition jitters pop up!
20. If you want to get in touch, take a class!
The audition room is not the right time to ask the casting director how to stay in touch with them or any other tips. Many CD’s, even really big name ones, are teaching a few classes a year. One on One / Next Level Studios in NY and LA and Ace Studios in Los Angeles are my two favorite places for casting director workshops.
Hey actors in Atlanta, Chicago, London and Sydney… where are your favorite places for casting director workshops? I’d love to know! Pop them in the comments below 🙂
21. Thank the casting director when you book a part!
Casting directors love to be appreciated! They gave you one of the coveted spots and put you forth to the director and producers. Keep that in mind and say thank you.
22. When acting opportunities are few and far between (aka the last couple of years), so are casting jobs!
Keep in mind that casting directors, much like actors are constantly pitching for work too! Only a handful have jobs that go on for years, or season after season, and commercial casting directors are gig to gig. Cut them some slack, be patient and be kind… we are all on the same team!
I hope these tips help you navigate the audition scene in 2022. Anything you’ve heard from a casting director that you want to share….. I’d love to read your comments below!
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* Please Note: I am not an agent, manager, or casting director. I do not procure work for actors. All information, workshops and coaching are for educational purposes only and are not a guarantee or promise of employment. Thank you for being here!