Written by Jeffrey Dreisbach, CSA
You get nervous before your audition. There is a “fight or flight” response that makes you want to go home and get under the covers. You know the material; you’ve worked on it. And yet, without warning, your hands get sweaty, you have to pee, it’s hard to breathe. Does this sound familiar? Guess what? You are not alone. The mistake is thinking that your nervousness is a mistake! It is not. It is simply part of the process that many actors find hard to control. It is this lack of control that feels so uncomfortable and prevents you from doing your best work. After thousands of auditions both in person and on video, I can tell you that there are common issues I’ve experienced with actors that can sometimes cost them the callback or even worse, the job. Even though the title of this blog is “Common audition mistakes and how to correct them” I prefer to not characterize the following as “mistakes” but rather issues that can move you away from consideration for the role you are auditioning for. See if any of these might apply to you. I will also provide real solutions that can help.
- Issue #1. By far, lack of preparation is the most common reason for excessive nervousness and potential disqualification. Even more distressing is thinking you’ve done enough preparation and yet, when the audition happens, insecurity ABOUT the preparation shows up. To help with this, it is important to do the following: make sure you really understand the character you are playing. It is less about learning the words and more about where the character lives in you emotionally. Connecting the emotional journey to the words builds confidence and aids in making creative choices. It is not the amount of time you spend with a script, but the depth of understanding who you are as your character.
- Issue #2. Projecting the outcome. When we allow our inner voice to speak in negative terms about ourselves, our talent, the opportunity, we become a hostage to a non-entity. This begins a chain reaction of projecting into the future with no factual basis to support the awful voice in our heads. Being grounded and looking at the audition as an opportunity to perform is the solution. Remember why you are an actor in the first place.
- Issue #3. Wondering what casting is looking for. The minute you say to yourself, “I wonder what they are looking for”, is the minute you start wasting energy and time which prevents constructive, interesting choices. An audition is an opportunity to show how YOU will be playing the part. What others might be thinking is a total waste of time.
- Issue #4 Showing lack of confidence. Notice I said “showing” lack of confidence and not lack confidence. There is a difference. Sometimes actors feel good in an audition but still show insecurities that might be perceived as insecure. One is saying your name as a question; letting the voice rise up at the end of a slate, for example. This is very common. Making your name a statement is a better way of projecting security and grounding yourself internally.
Another, “tell” is when the actor acts over-confident, where the actor is “acting” like someone who has, “been there, done that”. In other words, not being themselves. It is a defense mechanism that is a turn off. Being yourself, ready to show us how you will play the part is the sweet spot for your audition.
- #5 Making the audition an event. When an opportunity to audition presents itself, remember it is only a moment in time and is part of the job of being an actor. An audition is not a “once in a lifetime chance…” . When you say that, you’ve already set yourself up for disappointment because it is now a big deal. It is not an event; it is an audition.
- #6 Lack of efficiency. This may sound weird, but sometimes I’ve experienced talent feeling the need to ask unimportant/unrelated questions, become chatty and too familiar, think small talk is a great strategy for being liked, try to memorize the script only to forget the lines and have to start again… Being efficient is the sign of professionalism, preparation and understanding while respecting the audition process. Of course, we want to engage. Of course, we want to have a pleasant interaction. The issue is one of overcoming insecurities by using nervous energy to compensate. Casting directors want every actor who is given an audition to book the part. We are on your side and think you are right. We wouldn’t waste our time otherwise.
Treat an audition like it is the best rehearsal you could possibly have. Remember the process is a collaboration to see if there is a place for your acting within the vision of the project’s concept. Knowing what you can control is the best way to be your best creative self.
Jeffrey Dreisbach, Casting Partner, McCorkle Casting LTD
New York, NY