Written by Top Casting Director, Jeffrey Dreisbach
Whenever I teach an audition workshop, I usually start the session by asking, “What are your issues with your audition?” The answers are as varied as the actors I teach. They range from, “I get nervous”, “I just want to book the job.” It's no wonder that many actors find auditions nerve wracking, uncomfortable, and sometimes just a waste of time. Having been an actor and now as a casting director, I can share some thoughts about your next audition. I often see the same behavior taking place now as it did when I was acting. Let's look at the five tips I have for nailing your next audition.
Tip #1: I think it goes without saying, but by far the most important tip for your audition is to feel prepared. Notice I did not say be prepared. I simply want you to feel prepared. Some actors choose to work so hard on their audition that they lose their sense of spontaneity. Others just decided to wing it, in which case the result is quite disappointing. Somewhere in the middle, I think, is the answer. It's important to prepare yourself the best way you know how but then be very careful not to overwork the material. In other words, the best auditions I see are the ones in which you do not simply recreate what you rehearsed but, rather, find some spontaneous choices during the audition itself.
Tip #2: Have the best mental approach you can when you audition. In the past, I used to say, “Be your best self”. I now think that wasn't the best advice. The better approach is to think about being your true authentic self in an audition. When you are simply presenting a smiling, friendly and outward personality, it oftentimes comes across as being disingenuous. The deeper more truthful human self is by far a better approach when coming into an audition session. I have seen desperation seep into the first meeting to the point where it becomes a complete turn off. If you approach the work in an honest, truthful and forthright way, the subtext you have when entering the audition should be “I can't wait to show you how I'm going to play this part”. Now, it's true that when I say, “be your best true authentic self”, you may be confused. You might be thinking, “I have no idea who I am in an audition because I am nervous, I feel insecure, or I wish I knew what they were looking for”. I have found this to be self-defeating. The better approach is to come in ready to create with a point of view and then decide that your uniqueness and your training are enough.
Tip #3: Make sure you are fully present during the audition. While making a first impression is important, being fully present during the audition session is equally important. For example, if after doing the scene the director gives you an adjustment, only your true present self can process what is being asked. The minute you think to yourself, “I wonder why I'm getting this note”, you have already diminished your creative focus. Being receptive, willing, and open to suggestions can only support the impression you are making in a positive way. This is also quite valuable during a chemistry read or callback. It is not enough to just do a good job. It’s about doing a good job and being willing and comfortable with the changes asked of you. Your talent alone is simply not enough when actors are auditioning and evaluated. If you fulfill the vision of the role and you have your best self accessible, you will be in position to nail the audition. I really didn't mean to rhyme that last sentence, but there it is.
Tip #4: Sometimes before an audition, a director or producer will ask, “do you have any questions?”. Actors view this as an opportunity to show how much they've prepared or how much they can impress. The reality is that most directors or producers are simply trying to be friendly. Unless you have an extremely specific question, the better response when asked if you have any questions is to simply say, “I have an idea that I would like to try. Then, if you would like me to adjust, I'm happy to do so”. Please do not confuse a nicety with a legitimate opportunity to have more facetime. I know this might seem harsh, but an audition is a method by which we can determine if the talent fits the concept. Being aware that this is not a test will go a long way towards us having a positive impression about you.
Tip #5: Make a clean exit. When the audition is over, please remember to thank everyone in the room. You might choose to say how much you enjoy the material and thank everyone involved, but then depart. Waiting for some additional comments or feedback puts everyone in an uncomfortable place. Also, be careful not to misinterpret what you hear after the audition is over. “Good job”, “great”, “nice work” usually are meant as a kind, appreciative comment and do not indicate the degree of interest in hiring you. A clean exit will, by far, demonstrate professionalism and awareness of the process.
Now, I cannot promise that adhering to each of these five tips will guarantee a booking. But what I can say is that if you adhere to these 5 tips, the experience for you as well as the creative team will be rewarding. It will leave a lasting impression that might prove important and useful down the road, if not for this project then perhaps future projects. Casting directors love actors that comprehend the audition environment, do the work, and are creative during their audition. Good luck and break a leg.
McCorkle Casting Ltd and Podcast host of “Casting Actors Cast”