What is an audition?
What is an audition?
Let’s use television as a template for the discussion. A TV show that already exists, not a pilot, which is the first episode ever of a show, but one that is already on the air.
Your phone rings. It’s your agent. She has an audition for you tomorrow. (How you get an agent is a whole other thing that I will post about in the future) She will email you the information as well as the ‘sides.’ Sides are what you will print out from your agent’s email which are the scenes you will be reading in the audition. They are called sides because you can hold them at your side and refer to during the actual audition. The actual audition is set up by the Casting Director for the TV show and your agent or manager.
You get the audition – now what?
There are a million schools of thoughts and practices as far as acting goes. I have acted on shows, done stand up on television and just recently played a small part in the movie Gangster Squad. I have also done hundreds of live performances of stand up, sketch and theater over the last 20 years. Nothing has helped me more then actually producing and casting projects. NOTHING. How can you experience the same thing as an actor without having to get hired as a writer or producer on a TV show or movie? MAKE YOUR OWN! Make a short film. Trust me. Do it. Hopefully it will be amazing, you will get into Sundance and people will finally get you. But what will most likely happen is it will be average to horrible and guess what? That is okay. That is what is supposed to happen. That is how you learn. Most people talk themselves out of something because they think “If I am not going to be amazing at this then I don’t want to do it.” When you think like that or respond to your own thinking like that, you get nothing. No growth. No learning. No moving forward. Nothing. Give yourself the option to fail and you give yourself the option to succeed.
When you make your own short you are forced to look at things from a different angle. You have to think like the director and now you see how a director sees an actor. You have to write the short, so now you see the script not as the actor, but as the person who created it. Shoot a scene holding the camera, so you can see what an actor looks like through the camera, not in your head. Go through the editing process, slogging through it on your desktop or laptop, to see how two scenes come together to give something energy and pace. Then build on that when you make choices as an actor for your audition. What if you can’t make a short?
Mostly likely you can but if you decide not to, let’s move forward with your audition. Whatever your audition is for, you are there to serve the creative vision of the show (project). As an actor you must be prepared. What does that look like? Know your lines and be open to direction. Make a solid choice going into the audition then be open and honest in your portrayal of that character. Remember that you are reading with a Casting Director. They are not actors. They will try their best to act, but most of the time it won’t be great. Don’t blame them for that. Don’t look for an excuse to fail. They want to see you do well. They believe in you. That’s why they brought you in. You do well and it is a positive reflection on them to the producers (their bosses) Don’t expect a full scene partner when you are reading with the Casting Director. It won’t happen but when it does, be pleasantly surprised and roll with the punches. But let me back up for a second.
So you have the audition appointment. You have printed out your sides. Sometimes you will get the whole script too. Read it. The entire thing. Don’t be an asshole and think you are smarter or above doing the work. You are not. If you think you are, IT ALWAYS shows and you will ALWAYS look like an asshole. The reason you don’t read the script or prepare is you are looking for an excuse to fail. FEAR. Now you know what you are up against. Deal with it and move forward. Read what you can and prepare for the audition. Rehearse with another person. Film yourself if you can. I will write about my audition prep in another post. This is about what an audition actually is and how it goes down.
You’ve prepared and are ready. Now what? You arrive at the location of the audition. You walk in and will be told where to sign in. This let’s the Casting Director now you are there and ready. Once you sign in, get ready. The Casting Director will come out, look at the list and if your name is next, she will call out for you. Walk over to her with your sides and she will guide you to where the audition is being held.
There will be some small talk. If you have never met this person before, you might catch up about your agent or where you are from. Keep it light and polite. When you walk into the room, there will usually be another person in there, the Casting Associate, who will be operating the camera. The camera? Yes! Usually you audition on tape (film). There are a couple levels of auditions.
Level 1 – Preread: This is where the casting director brings you in to see if you are right for the part.Usually this is not on tape. If you do well here you go to
Level 2 – Go on tape: This is where the Casting Director will put you on tape for the producers and director who are the ones who will actually cast you. But you sometimes there is just a pre-read and -
Level 3: Producer Session: This is where you walk into the room and the following people are in the room: The Casting Associate, the Producers of the project, the Writer (who is often the producer as well) and the Director. The Director will drive the casting session, give you adjustments on your performance, etc.
Your job is to make the best choice you can going in and perform the hell out of it. If the director sees it a different way – fine. You did it your way, now try it his way. If you are a good actor, you need to be able to take direction. Take the note or adjustment and run with it. I know some directors that give adjustments just to see if the actor can take them so they know that ‘on the day’ you will be able to move around in your performance if they need you to and not shut down because you can only perform the part one way. They may or may not ask you if you have any questions about the role. If you didn’t get the script and something in your dialogue doesn’t make sense, now is the time to ask. This is not a bullshit session. There is a lobby full of actors that they need to see so be professional. Ask, let it soak in, then let them know when you are ready. Take a moment to make sure you are ready. Again, don’t be an asshole, but make sure you are ready. Confidence without cockiness can go along way. Some people can get away with being confident AND cocky. I am not one of them. There is a humility in pure confidence when it comes from a place of being of service. When you are there to be part of the greater good. I cannot get away with being cocky. I look like an asshole. Tried it a few times. I will never do it again.
Everybody gets nervous auditioning. It is an awkward odd thing to do. The more you do it, the easier it gets. Or – the more you except it for what it is, the easier it will get for you.
When the audition is over, a nice thank you works fine and off you go.
You did an amazing job at your audition. You should be proud of yourself. There are a lot of factors that go into casting and not always the best performance gets the job. You could have the same hair color as the guest star or star, too tall, too small, etc. So what am I saying if the best performance doesn’t book the job? I’m saying be happy with what is in your control and forget everything that isn’t. You can control your own performance, you can control how well you prepare and you can control how well you do in the room. Do your best and forget the rest.
Take 10 minutes after the audition and think about what you would have liked to done differently or what you can improve on. Then take 10 minutes and think about what you did well or what you are proud of. End on a positive note. Be kind to yourself. If your art is suffering you are doing it wrong.
As always, I welcome all comments and questions.
See ya soon, Mick