You can be the greatest actor in the world, but if you don’t audition well you may spend your career languishing in obscurity. Auditioning is a skill unto itself and one that you better master – at least until you become an “offer only” actor.
Auditioning is the equivalent of speed dating… and you’ve got roughly three minutes to score a second date. You need to focus all of your skill and training, and turn in a camera-ready performance at the flick of a switch. You are working without a net. You don’t have the luxury of getting comfortable, taking time to explore your character, or the safety of a second take.
Most actors I know will tell you that their best performance was in the car on the way home from the audition, when there was no pressure. The light bulb switches on… “ah-ha… now I know what they were looking for!”
Here are a couple of tips that will greatly increase your chances of booking the next audition:
- Show up 15 minutes early, sign in, find a corner, and start rehearsing. You’ve just battled traffic, and a million other “daily life” issues just to get there, so you need to take time to re-focus. DON’T CHIT-CHAT! Say hello, greet your friends, then politely excuse yourself. This is not a time for socializing.
- Smile and be courteous to everyone. The person behind the sign in desk… the camera guy… the casting director… you get the idea. You never know who’s who… and believe me, if you are rude to an assistant, you can be sure word will travel.
- Take a moment to re-focus again once you are in “the Room.” Casting directors will often speak with you briefly before the audition, getting to know you. Be engaging, interesting, and give the impression that you are easy to work with. This is where it’s ok for a brief chit-chat, but take cues on when enough is enough. The downside is that this can throw you off your game a bit – especially if you have a heavy, dramatic scene. It’s okay to ask for a minute to focus yourself before beginning your audition.
- Bring your audition sides with you into the room. Don’t get me wrong… you should be “off book,” but you should always have the audition sides in your hand in case you have a brain freeze. It also reminds them that this is still an audition. I was at an audition today and I saw an actor set her sides down as she was called into the office… the casting director asked me to read with her, and guess what… she was dropping lines.
- Remember that you are in charge. Sure, this is their show, but this is your audition. Take control of the room and do what you need to do to work. Do you want to sit? Do you want to stand? Do you want to step into frame? Do you want to have some “business” for your character? Discuss your preferences for how you’d like to do the scene with the casting director - they will most likely accommodate you.
- Ask what your frame is. You will need to know if they are shooting a medium, close up, or extreme close up. It will affect how tightly you focus your performance. Plant yourself on your mark, and only move when it’s necessary for your character. Don’t fidget or sway – it weakens your performance. Practice at home with a video camera.
- Realize that you are only in competition with yourself. They may see 500 people for a role, but honestly, only a small handful will offer something unique an interesting to the role. Be one of the handful. Make strong choices, give a layered and dynamic performance, and bring something to the party, as they say. If you make the strongest choices possible, even if they are “wrong” for the character, they will score you points. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard a director say, “I hadn’t thought of it that way, but I like it.”
- Take direction. You may finish your scene, and the director may ask you to do it in a completely different way. Take a minute, process the change, and then do it with the new direction. If you don’t understand, then ask for clarification. As a director myself, when I give an adjustment, I always ask, “do you need to take a minute?” Invariably, the actor always says “no,” and then goes and does it exactly the same way they did originally, ignoring the direction. There is no way I can cast an actor that can’t take direction. Take your time… process the changes.
- Ask for an adjustment. If you’ve finished your read, and they are looking at you with blank faces, ask if they have any adjustments? I have turned a train wreck into a job many times by asking that simple question. If I’ve made it to a call back, and I know I’m in the running, after my read I will ask “is there anything you haven’t seen that you need to, in order to cast me in this role?” It’s a bit of a bold move, but sometimes it’s appropriate.
- Have fun. Don’t focus on getting the job. Desperation stinks. This is 3 minutes where you get to do what you love to do… ACT! Who cares if you get the job…? If you have fun in the moment, and focus on your work, and not on the pressure of the situation, you may just find yourself booking the next audition.
Hope that helps! When you need a great headshot to get that audition, you know whom to call ;)