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This post was originally published on February 9th, 2020 and has been rewritten and updated.
Your dream is to be a working actor. You know you have what it takes. You’ve studied hard, and maybe even taken the big plunge to move to New York or LA. You’ve always been told you “have it,” and you get some auditions, but the phone doesn’t ring for callbacks. What separates some actors from others isn’t always talent or ambition, it’s pure preparation, execution and a little industry know-how.
Here are 10 top audition hacks the pros all know… and usually come from years of experience and embarrassing mistakes. Try these at your next audition and see just how much easier it flows.
1. Memorize Those Lines
You are always going to feel a little shaky in your audition if you don’t know your line, and you’ll also have very limited room to play. If you can, be as off-book as possible. Memorizing the material or at least being super familiar with it gives you the freedom to really perform. It generally helps with audition nerves as well.
2. Walk in Confident… not cocky
This may sound simple but it takes practice and preparation. It’s easy to let audition nerves get the best of you, but the reality is that it’s just one audition – there will be many many more and your life doesn’t depend on it. If they’ve called you in, they definitely want to see you and are trusting that you’ll be good. If you’re nervous in the audition then everyone in the room is nervous that you’re not going to deliver on set. Remember you’re the answer to a casting problem.
3. One Bag Only
This is a simple one, but one that many actors overlook. Seriously, leave whatever physical stuff you can outside of the room. This isn’t always possible with purses, wallets, water, jackets, car keys etc. In that case, have an “audition bag”. This is one bag that holds everything. Walk in, set it down, do your audition, pick it up and leave. It will stop you from fumbling, dropping things or scarring to collect all of your belongings at the end. Trust me, unless you’re auditioning for the ‘ditzy blonde’ casting won’t think that little routine is cute.
Note: post COVID almost all auditions are being done virtually. BUT… you may be called in to match up with other actors or for a callback or producer’s session, so keep this tip in mind.
4. Stay Positive… no matter what kind of day you’ve had
You don’t get sympathy points if you’re having a bad day, you’re stressed out, you had a tough time setting up Zoom, traffic was horrible, your cat is sick or you’ve had a fight with your sweetheart. Everyone in that room has lives as well, and I guarantee they all have issue going on outside of that room. They’re trying to do a job no matter what kind of day they’ve had, so just be positive and leave your problems outside the door. Walk in with great posture and body language and a smile helps 🙂 And remember, right now, for the next 10 minutes, there is no place you’d rather be. Trust me, everyone will appreciate it!
5. Show Your Personality… but don’t be crazy
Yes, of course, bring your character into the room, but also bring You. Let a little bit of your personality shine through…. a little bit! Be prepared to answer a few questions about yourself, especially the dreaded “Tell me about yourself…” question, and don’t give one-word answers when having a conversation with the casting director. The industry is looking for interesting, creative actors and trying to see if you’re someone they want to work with on-set or long term. The audition room is really just the testing ground.
6. Cultivate Connection
Casting directors aren’t the only important people in the room, there is also the reader, and your ability to connect with your reader can make or break your audition. Try to make eye contact and make a genuine connection, character to character. It’s not always possible so don’t sweat it if they really won’t look at you, and don’t take it personally. Remember, the reader is usually another actor and while they may just as interested in playing as you are, they might also be nervous, or just have had a super long day if they’ve done the scene 30 times.
7. Know Your Character
Know your character. Read the entire script beforehand if it’s available to you, and pick-up as many details as possible. Try ad libbing or improving this character as part of your preparation beforehand. (not in the room! ) It’ll really help you to get under the skin of the character.
- What does he/she say about themselves?
- What do they think of what’s going on here?
- What is their body language like? What physical habits, posture or “nervous ticks” do they have?
Keep it small, but knowing the nuances add that little bit of spice to a performance that would otherwise be bland.
8. Find the Love… or just the fun!
Even nasty characters don’t think they’re nasty. On some level we all love ourselves, the persona we’ve created and who we’ve become. This holds true for your character as well. You can’t play someone you hate – no matter how despicable they are. If you’re having trouble finding the love for your character, find the fun! We all love to watch a really good portrayal of a horrible villain!
9. Pay Attention to Wardrobe
Wardrobe is important, but don’t obsess about this. If you are cast in the role they have professional people to take care of that, so don’t try to do their job. You’re an actor and your job is to show up to the audition and offer your portrayal of the character. Having said that, dress in a way that is somewhat appropriate to the role and most importantly ina way that is comfortable for you. No one is expecting you to show up in costume, unless specified. Keep the feeling tone but still bring in You.
10. Leave, Don’t Linger
When you’ve given it your best, and the audition is over, say thank you and get out of there – even if it’s a virtual audition room. Don’t linger to chat or try to make friends. And if the audition is in-person, don’t make a spectacle of gathering all of your belongs that you brought into the room. (see tip 3 above). Keep in mind that casting directors have probably only allotted 5 minutes for you and not much more for a bathroom break for themselves. They’ll appreciate you not taking up extra time to make a grand exit.
Most of all, have fun! What we do with our time is what we do with our lives! This is your life and your career. You don’t get any brownie points for going through this unhappy so you might as well enjoy the ride.
I’d love to hear your thoughts:
- What audition challenges do you face?
- What stage of your career are you at?
- Where do you live? What city or town?
- And what are your big audition questions?
Head to the comments sections and post your answers below. I promise to respond to every one!
Did you like or love this post? Be sure to share it on Facebook, send it to actor friends, pin it or tweet it! It’s a tough business and we could all use a little help out there 🙂