Your dream is to be a working actor. You’ve always been told you “have it,” but you're not getting many (if any) callbacks.
What separates professionals from wannabe talent show prodigies isn't inspiration. It's preparation and execution. Take control of your audition with these ten helpful tips to improve your skills.
1. Confidence. It sounds simple but it takes practice. Walk in the door with your held head high. Be wary of shuffling feet. You don't get sympathy points if you're nervous, not feeling well, or having a bad day. Leave it outside the door. You are being sized up the minute you walk in, so practice good posture and body language before you arrive. And don’t forget to smile – that's the lasting impression you want to leave.
2. Personality. Let it shine through. Don’t give one-word answers when having a conversation with the casting director. Ask questions!
3. Connection. Make one with the reader. Memorize the material or be familiar enough with it to maintain eye contact. Knowing the dialogue is important, but making a connection with the reader is what will make the scene natural and believable.
4. Character. Know the character. Read the entire script beforehand - if it was sent to you - to pick-up as many clues as possible. We know about a character by the following:
6. Obstacle. What's in the way of the character getting what they want? Acting is what happens to you as you TRY to get your objective met, in spite of the obstacle.
7. Opposites. Yelling isn't the only way to show hatred or anger. Sometimes being quiet as you make your point is a powerful display of emotion. Playing opposites is a much more interesting choice than the obvious.
8. Love. Find the love in the scene. Even nasty characters should be likeable on some level. Find a moment in the scene where the love can show through.
9. Act. Acting means TO DO, not to talk. Find your actions and play them! (A wonderful resource is the book “Actions: The Actor’s Thesaurus” by Marina Caldarone & Maggie Lloyd-Williams.)
10. Variety. Feel the levels and dynamic in the scene. Don’t play one emotion. If the character is angry or tough, when might this character show some vulnerability?
Interesting, memorable auditions will start to happen for you when you dig into scripts with these thoughts in mind before and during your auditions.
Master your craft! Empower yourself! Enjoy the journey...
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Casting directors are your advocates and champions. Your wonderful work makes them look good. Your disconnected, tentative, muddled work does nothing for anyone. So they need you to be great! They're not there to hold you back. They want to be a part of your excellent work in the audition room—it makes them happy and their job easier!
Casting directors awaiting you on the other side of the door can be seen as either a gateway or barricade. Whether it’s a pre-read for an associate or a full-blown director/producer callback session, this is your time, your experience, your opportunity to do exceptional work. Enter the space and do the work for yourself, for the gratification of the work itself, and yes, to collaborate with other creative people waiting to figure it out with you. They need you. They can’t do it without you.
Here are some choices you can make (and they are choices) to keep any casting director truly happy in the room.
1. Accept the invitation with grace and enthusiasm. You were requested to be here as their guest.
2. Come to do the work you love so much, not to please or get their approval.
3. Enter with certainty. Don’t give up your power as soon as the door opens.
4. Play on a level playing field. We’re all figuring it out. Together.
5. Make no excuses whatsoever. Leave your baggage outside. Better yet, leave it at home.
6. Make the room your own. It will make us so much more comfortable and engaged.
7. Ask questions only when you truly need answers. “Do you have any questions?” is usually another way of saying, “Are you ready?” You aren’t required to have one.
8. Know your words and understand what you’re talking about. Make them your very own. You don’t have to be totally off-book, but if you’ve spent quality time with the material, you’re going to know it.
9. Do your homework on the project. This includes knowing all the players and the show or film’s tone and style. Read all the material you can get your hands on.
10. Make decisions and take responsibility for the ones you make.
11. Don’t apologize. Ever. For anything.
12. Know what you want to do and do it. Then leave yourself available to make discoveries. Know that your homework is done. Now let your preparation meet the moments.
13. Don’t mime or busy yourself with props, activity, or blocking. Keep it simple; the only thing that matters is you in the moment.
14. Don’t expect to be directed, but if you are, take the direction, no matter what it is. Understand how to translate results-oriented direction into action.
15. Don’t blame the reader. Make the reader the star of your audition. Engage fully no matter who’s reading those lines. Very likely your reader will engage—at least to the extent of their capacity—if you show up.
16. Make specific, personal, bold decisions. They want your unique voice to bring the script to life. Only you can bring that. That’s everything they want to see.
17. Stillness is powerful. Understand how to move and work in front of the camera. Eliminate running in and out and getting up and down. When you’re fully engaged, stillness is a wonderful byproduct.
18. Require no stroking, coddling, or love. They're there to work. Don’t take it personally when they're not touchy-feely. Know that they love actors and that’s truly why they are there.
19. Understand that you’re there to collaborate. You’re being evaluated in terms of how you serve the role and the material. It's not a verdict on your person-hood. Judgment is something you can control. Take your seat at the table.
20. What you bring in reflects how you’re received, so bring joy, conviction, and ease, and their hearts will open.
21. Share your artistry above all else.
Remember that we’re all human in those rooms, and you can affect casting directors on an emotional level. It’s what they all really want. That’s your job. You being fully present, truthful, personal, and vulnerable is going to give them the ammunition they need to champion you with all their hearts. They all desperately want you to do great work. They're rooting for that every time you walk into the room. You show up and do your fullest, deepest work, and they’ll slay dragons for you and follow you anywhere. And they will be so happy doing it. You have the power to make that happen. For you. For them. For the work.