Have you ever been to an audition, walked out and asked yourself the following questions?
- What the actual hell am I doing with my life?
- Who even am I?
- Was that a practical joke?
- Am I the world’s worst actor?
- Would setting myself on fire in front of the casting director have been less painful than that casting?
If the answer is yes, then cool – SAME!
If the answer is no then congratulations, you’re a unicorn.
After reading that, it may come as no surprise to you that I have been to some pretty embarrassing auditions. I have been auditioning for professional work for many years and it’s only been the past 12 months I have come to better understand the beast that is auditioning.
Let’s be honest, auditioning is pretty odd: you walk into a stark white room with a camera, a casting director, and sometimes a bunch of people you have never met and then you bare your soul to them.
It can feel very unnatural and often it’s the least creative environment for something that requires the most imagination and truth.
So I get it, auditioning can suck.
But I am here to tell you that after years of hating auditioning, I now genuinely really love it. I treasure going to auditions and being able to perform in front of people. And that’s good because I live in LA and auditioning – whether it be in the room or for self tapes – is something you do A LOT.
So in celebration of auditioning and being given the opportunity to do the thing you love most, here are some tips that I have learnt along the way that have taught me to love auditioning. I hope they help and inspire you.
“Creativity is a crushing chore and a glorious mystery. The work wants to be made and it wants to be made through you.”
No matter the circumstances surrounding the audition, the first thing you absolutely have to do is trust yourself. Sometimes the odds are stacked against you; you may not fit the brief and more often than not you have had very little time to prepare. However, none of that matters if you trust yourself and your abilities. Remind yourself that you have been called in for a reason. They might know your work, love your headshot or your agent may have pitched you really well. Whatever it is, do not doubt for a moment that you have every right to be in that room with that material. You have just as much chance as every other nervous actor in that waiting room. I don’t care if the girl sitting next to you just finished three seasons of Shameless and the casting director hugged her when she was called in. The reality is if you can get seen, then you can book the job.
BE FAMILIAR BUT FLEXIBLE WITH THE MATERIAL
It goes without saying that being as familiar as possible with the material can only benefit you in the room. Everyone has different theories on whether it’s necessary to learn your lines for an audition. In LA, you can hold the script so you don’t need to be word perfect. However my personal opinion is if you have time, learn your lines. If this is simply not possible, then its important to be able to cold read well and this might mean taking classes and learning this technical skill. Whilst being familiar with the material is important, you need to be flexible with it too. Some actors feel confident having made choices in advance, I personally think it’s best to not make decisions regarding your performance and instead have an understanding of the character that allows you to make choices in the moment. This will mean being more present in the room. Being flexible with the material also means that when you are given a redirect, you are able to quickly make changes to your performance and are not stuck in your own version of the scene. All actors have different approaches and all you need to know is what works best for you. There is no wrong or right answer.
REMEMBER THE BASICS
If you only have a very small amount of time to prepare, don’t freak out. Just remember the basics. It might seem obvious but don’t forget to ask yourself questions like where am I? Who am I? And what is my intention? Sometimes when we panic or feel rushed, the basics can be forgotten. Remember to give yourself a moment before and most importantly focus on the relationship between yourself and the other character in the scene. Understanding this relationship will allow you to make choices that best reflect the intention of the scene.
DO YOUR RESEARCH & WIN THE ROOM
The reality is you might not book this job but you can win the room. Often auditions are not about the role you are reading for but the opportunities doing a great audition can give you in the future. If the casting director likes you, whether you book this job or not, they will call you again for something else. With this in mind, it’s also important to research the casting director and have an understanding of their work. This means knowing the tone of the shows they have cast, their style, and the actors they have cast in the past. Another thing to remember is that the casting director is doing a job; they may appear as a kind of gatekeeper between you and the job you want, but actually they want you to do well. Make their job easy and remember they are on your side. They want to see you succeed.
FAILURE IS A GIFT
No artist can escape failure at some point, it is a huge part of the creative process. British author Ken Robinson said ‘if you are not prepared to be wrong, then you will never come up with anything original.’ The likelihood is at some point you are going to fail or walk away from an audition with the overwhelming feeling that you sucked. This might mean dropping your lines, pitching the material completely wrong or completely bombing a scene. Whilst this experience definitely hurts and bruises the ego, the process of ‘failing’ at an audition is actually a real gift and is often where you will grow the most as an actor.
WEAR SOMETHING BASIC
One of the first things my first agent ever told me was to wear something basic to auditions and I swear by this. I regularly go to castings in LA and see beautiful girls looking flawless in flowy, flower printed dresses. They look amazing in real life, on-screen however – not so much. Try to wear a basic block colour on top. It is important to avoid anything with a print or pattern or anything that hides or distorts your frame. This may not make or break whether you book the job but it does make it easier for the casting director.
TELL THE TRUTH
David Mamet said, ‘always tell the truth, it’s the easiest thing to remember.’
Sometimes as actors we like to complicate scenes but if you have empathy in your heart and an imagination then all you need to do is tell the truth. You can fill in the gaps between the character and your own experiences or understanding of the world. Just tell the truth and you have done your job.
Go in, do your best, have fun and then walk away and don’t think about it anymore. Once you walk out of that room, you have no more control over the outcome. To avoid insanity and certain unhappiness, let it go. There will be other auditions so leave, tear the script up if you need to, hike Runyon, and walk your dog. Do whatever makes you happy. Be grateful for the experience and continue with your day.