Audition Advice…Please Heed

I cast a lot of actors.

A lot.

All sizes.  All ages.  All types.

I am also an actor.  So while I am casting, I am also actively auditioning and working.  This gives me the advantage of working on both sides of the table.  And I love both sides.  And because I have an understanding of the casting process, I am better at auditions.  And because I understand the casting process from an actor’s perspective, I am better at casting.

I love to audition.  My time to shine.  A lot of actors dread it.  But not this cowboy.  The reason actors dread auditioning is they feel they are being judged.  Ugh.  Judged.  I hate that word.  It sounds so judgmental.  I prefer the word “considered”.  When I call an actor in for an audition and tell them they are being considered for a role, it’s an immediate confidence builder.  And in casting, we love confidence.  Not cockiness or conceit.  There is a big difference.  One is reassuring.  The other is a big turn off.

In seeing so many actors, I am dismayed how many damage their opportunities without knowing it.  So…here are a few tips to guard against doing just that.

The first thing all actors need to know is the casting director and/or director is on your side.  We want you to be good.  We want you to be great.  It makes our job infinitely easier.

BEFORE THE AUDITION:

Do your research.  In casting the roles are made public along with a description.  Make certain there is something for you.  And know your type.  I am a small guy.  I will never be a leading man or the center for the football team.  But I play a great nerd, fop, someone who is dying of something, addicted to something or is quietly evil.  So those are the type of roles I go for and I work.  I see actors who are in their 30’s going for the young 20’s roles.  And that let’s us know the actor has no idea who they are as an actor.  And that is a turn off.

Prepare your audition.  So many actors “wing it” with disastrous results.  Does the audition ask for two contrasting monologues?  (And please do not use a monologue from a movie.  Or from monologue books which do not come from published plays.)  Stay within the time limit given, if not under.  We have a lot of people to see so don’t put us behind.  And if you go over, that sends the message you didn’t prepare.  Time yourself again and again.  Then again.

If you are reading from a side which you have received ahead of time, study it.  Do not memorize it.  We don’t expect or want that.  It’s not about the words.  It’s about the heart.  Do bring your side with you.  Highlight your lines.  Make notes in the margins if needed.  Do not bury your face in the script.  Make certain in the reading your are connecting with your scene partner.  Which may be a reader, invisible partner or the camera.  We need to see and feel you are talking TO someone.

Make certain your resume is in an easy to read and professional format.  Always bring a few head shots and resumes.  I do not care if you have worked with the director fifteen times, always present yourself professionally.  A big turn off for me is when I call in an actor I know personally.  And they do not bring a head shot.  Or a resume.  And on the audition sheet where it asks for experience they scribble “you know.”  Well, yes, I do know.  But this is a professional situation.  So be professional.

Do not list grade school credits on your resume.  Do you know why we want your resume?  We want to see the types of roles you have played.  Where you have worked and with whom you have worked.  Because if after your audition we want to call you back, we may give one of these directors to call and ask what you were like to work with.  We are calling you back.  We know you can act.  Now we want to know how your are to work with.  If there are two actors who give equal reads, but we find out actor #2 is difficult and actor #1 is a joy to work with, we are going with actor #1.  Every time.

If you are above the age of ten, leave off you played Flower #4 in your elementary school spring pageant.  It is irrelevant.  The ONLY exception to this is if you played Annie in “Annie” when you were twelve and it was directed by a well known director.  And I mean nationally and internationally known.  If you were directed by Steven Spielberg, we want to know that.  Do not list dates on your resume.  It dates you.  And is irrelevant.

Of course, do not lie on your resume.  You will be discovered and it will be extremely damaging.  The world of entertainment is very, very, very small.  Everyone knows someone who knows someone who knows you.  I recently was working with a casting director whom I had never met and is based in another country.   However he knew someone who knew me.  It’s a very small world.

It’s a good policy to always be honest and transparent.  Not just in this type of work, but in life in general.  You can never go wrong being honest and transparent.

Do not rest on your resume laurels.  I have met actors who have impressive resumes and an attitude.  An attitude of they are doing us a favor by auditioning.  Well.  No.  That’s not how this works.  Some actors don’t feel as though they have to “work” for the role because of their previous experience.  Yeah. You do.  Meryl Streep continues to have to audition.  Really.

I have seen actors with great resumes who completely blow an audition.  I have seen actors with no credits nail an audition.

In the end it doesn’t matter what you have done before for the most part.  We do like working with actors who know their way around a set or stage.  But it’s not a total deal breaker.  Directors aren’t there to teach actors how to act.  That’s your job.  We are there to shape your interpretation.

What matters is what you are able to bring to the table the moment of the audition.  And that should be honesty and heart in the character.

Do not be late.  Do not blow off an audition.  If you are going to be late – call.  Do not blow off an audition.  We are calling YOU in to read.  If you blow it off and just don’t show up, we are not likely to call you again.  If you have a scheduled audition and are unable to attend-call.  Things happen.  We understand.  You do not have to go into detail.  In fact, please don’t.

Training is very important.  Some actors think they are “trained” because they took a two hour acting for camera class.  They are not trained.  Professionally trained actors spend years working on their craft.  They carry degrees in theatre.  BA’s, BFA’s, MA’s and MFA’s.  And putting a trained actor against an untrained one is so uncomfortable and unfair.  Now, you don’t have to have a degree in acting to be considered trained.  And honestly, some are so natural they don’t have to have training at all before their audition.  But training will follow.  Oh, will it.

If you consider yourself and model/actor, leave the modelling credits off the resume.  It’s difficult to take an actor auditioning for “The Glass Menagerie” seriously who has listed on their resume they won a runway modelling contest.  In the modelling world this would have significance.  So know which credits are going to help you when.  And which won’t.

AT THE AUDITION:

Arrive early.  Look nice.  Smile.  Be nice to EVERYONE.  

When you are called in to the audition and the casting director and/or director asks you how you are, we except to hear something short and pleasant.  “I’m great, thank you!  Excited to be here!’

That’s what we expect to hear…something along those lines.  You’d be stunned how many give  too much, and sometimes very personal,  information.  And that’s a turn off.  What it says to us is that actor is drama waiting to happen.  And we do not have the time or patience to cast actors who cause drama anywhere but onstage.

We do not want to hear about how bad traffic was.  How you had a cold last week and it may affect your audition.  We don’t want to hear how you won Mister Thong 1985…it’s all irrelevant and sends up a red flag.  We want to know you are nice, professional and fun to work with without having to ask.  Show us.  But be sincere.  We can spot a suck up and panderer one hundred and twenty miles away.

Sometimes a casting director/director will ask “Why do you want to work on this project?”  Be very careful how you answer.  Let’s say the script is about someone who died a violent death.  If the actors says something akin to “I want to be a part of this project because I relate to the character because my father died a violent death…’, which the actor then describes in detail, that tells us drama is going to ensue.  A better answer is “I want to be a part of this project because I would enjoy the challenge of developing such a complex character.”

Do not play your audition to the casting director/director.  It freaks us out.  Play facing the casting director/director placing your eye line to your invisible partner just above our head.  That way we can see your face.  Playing directly to us eye to eye, freaks us out because we feel we have to react to you speaking to us instead of being able to listen to your audition.  Some auditions will be taped, and in this case ask if you should play to the camera.  When in doubt, ask questions.

If you have an agent, great.  You still gotta prove yourself.  I have met with actors who think saying “I have an agent” is a magic phrase.  It isn’t.  Honestly, I have met actors with agents who are just not good actors.  Or at least weren’t good at the audition.  Which makes us think “How did this person get an agent?” and “What kind of agent would sign them without being familiar with their work, and if they are familiar with their work and this is the example of it  – yikes.”  Again.  Professional training is SO important.

What are we looking for?  We are looking for actors who are friendly, easy to work with, professional and who create characters who are honest and have heart.  That’s what it’s all about.  Don’t try too hard.  Don’t try to impress.  It’s all about honesty and heart.  Play the subtext.  If you don’t know what subtext is, this is where the training comes into place.  Make strong choices and if you are given a direction by the casting director/director, take it.  I have seen actors who have been asked to give three different choices on the reading of a line, and they give the same reading each time.  This is a huge red flag the actor isn’t listening and isn’t able to take direction.

Next.

You should enjoy your audition.  Which really isn’t an audition, but an opportunity for you to perform.

So do it.

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