I understand that "Booking the Job" is a primary goal of any young actor. It says "Hey, I am good enough," or "Look I have a job" or most honestly "I am safe for a while." It is the validation the industry gives you as an artist, their own stamp of approval that you seek so vigorously. Nevertheless, before you can prove to them in fact YOU ARE WORTHY, you have to learn how to "Book the Audition," first.
Nailing the perfect audition is an uphill battle and one that takes years of practice. However, I have been in Los Angeles going on 4 years; and by no means have I "made it" yet, but in that time I have gained experience that has made auditioning a triumphant process. A Guest-Star, A Feature-Film, Two National Commercials, and a Series-Regular role on a new show are some of my credits that were an upshot from great auditions.
So if increasing your chances of success, or becoming better at auditioning doesn't interest you, then don't read on. But if you want to start booking the job, here's what you need to do the minute you get the sides.
"Hard Work Eliminates Fear"
1. Print Them
What may seem obvious to you might not for other actors--Bear with me--Write them down if you can’t get to a printer, but don't be that actor scrolling through your phone or iPad. It's incredibly tacky and can potentially ruin your audition. Keep it Simple.
2. Read The Sides 4x
Los Angeles Acting teacher Lesly Kahn suggests actors read their scripts multiple times having different perspectives.
Once, as Yourself. Go through and highlight your lines. Not committing anything to memory yet. Don't worry your brain will automatically do that for you.
Once, as the Character. You should be thinking about what your character is saying, how they are saying it, and what others are saying about them.
Once, as the Director. Try and picture the scene played out on camera or on the stage. (For example, an interrogation scene might call for close-ups, hovering cops, and the smoke from a lit cigarette. Whereas, a romantic scene might call for wide-shots, a romantic stroll, and two warm coffees.) Let your imagination go wild, but always work towards making the scene real.
Once as the Writer. Know where the jokes are in a comedy and the pauses are in a drama. Understand the rhythm of the scene. Long sentences usually reflect longer thoughts or that the character is searching and picking his words carefully. The same can be said about short, direct one-word answers. Good writing will tell you a lot about your characters background, social status, and emotional state.
3. Research The Scene
A smart actor knows how to do “good” homework. Look up the playwright or screenwriter, and get familiar with common themes in their work. Read the entire play or screenplay. If your agent sends you the script and you have time, Read it. Familiarize yourself with the show by watching a couple of episodes to get a sense of the style and tone.
4. Find The Blood & Guts Of The Scene
Identify your characters Overall Objective, Scene Objective, Moment Before, Place, Substitutions, As If, Obstacles, Relationship, and a One-Page Backstory. Renowned Los Angeles Acting Teacher Anthony Meindl calls these tools the characters "blood & guts." They are helpful devices in developing your character and making choices for your audition. There are many more ways to develop your character and scene, however based on the average amount of time an actor is given to prepare an audition (which isn’t much) these tools will do the trick. There are great resources to find out what these tools are online, and in the book, “The Power of The Actor” by Ivanna Chubbuck.
5. Set Your Intentions For Your Lines & Inner-Thoughts for Your Partners Lines
Your intentions or “mini-objectives” should go as follows “I am saying this line to make you feel _______.” You should have an intention for every one of your lines. In the case of a larger monologue or paragraph, find the overall feeling you are trying to evoke in your partner with that group of lines. Again “I am saying these lines to make you feel ________.”
You should have an inner-thought every time your partner speaks, as we do in life. The thought does not have to be long; it can be a few words or utterances such as “Hmm…”However, having that inner-thought will do two things for you:
a. Connect you closer to your partner, by allowing every word they say to have an effect on you.
b. When you are in the audition room with the casting director you won’t be staring blankly at the camera or at the reader when they speak, you will be thinking, listening, and responding truthfully and the camera will pick that up. Be careful not to over-act your thoughts, in life we are much more subtle.
“Say Your Lines, But What Is Unsaid Is Much More Interesting.”
6. Run Your Lines Regularly
Run your lines continually in the time leading up to your audition. Going over the scene with someone else would be optimal, although finding a quiet space to rehearse alone works just the same. You should incorporate your intentions, inner-thoughts and all the information you gathered using steps 1 through 5.
Pro-Tip: Be aware that in your audition anything can happen, so don’t be married to any of the choices you made on the script, but an actor who prepares is much better off than an actor who goes into the room and tries to wing it. Trust me.
So today’s the day. Hopefully, you are well rested and well rehearsed. Here are the steps to finish out strong.
7. Wake Up Like The Character
Practice igniting your creativity early. Roll out of bed like the character. Brush your teeth as the character would. If the script suggests any music that your character likes, listen to it. If you allow yourself to be open to it, your body will naturally re-align your behaviors and thoughts with those of the character.
8. Meditate. Meditate. Meditate.
If I could only do one thing on the day of my audition, it would be to meditate. This has been the key to my recent success and overall happiness, and I booked my second National Commercial the day I decided to implement this into my routine. Give yourself time before your audition to mediate. Allowing yourself the time to quiet your mind and get centered gets you out of your nerves and focused on the task ahead. There are a range of great 5-20 minute meditations online that you can choose from. UCLA offers free-audio meditations and Abraham Hicks on YouTube categorizes her meditations depending on what you need in your life. HeadSpace is a meditation app that you can take with you on the go.
9. Visualize The Audition In The Waiting Room
As you enter the waiting room most casting directors have the actor sign in with their name, role, and time of arrival. This is where even the most seasoned actor can become nervous. self-doubting, and sabotage their audition before even entering the room. Not to worry. You’re not like other actors. You are prepared and confident in your work. Breathe. Collect your thoughts. Focus on your character. Gradually block out the other actors in the room and visualize yourself having a great audition.
Pro Tip: Let’s face it whispering your lines to yourself can be awkward to do in front of strangers. So I will usually take a look at the list, and step outside the waiting room two people ahead of myself. I will run the scene and use this time to pump myself up and get my energy going. What this does, is get me mentally and physically prepared for when it’s my turn to go in to the room. Ultimately, the key for the waiting room is staying in character, blocking people out in the room and not letting your fear take hold of you.
Remember: Keep your ears open at your audition. Without being overtly obvious, listen in to how the other actors are doing in the room. Are there laughs? What is the energy of the room? You may need to match it or raise it when you walk in. What notes can you hear the casting director give? Many might disagree with this piece of advice, but I hope the smart actors will incorporate this into their routine. This is an audition not a time for mingling.
SMART ACTORS=WORKING ACTORS.
10. Audition Like You Are Going On The Perfect Date
The best actors are self-aware people who understand the social etiquette’s of life. Just like a date, you want to put your best foot forward. You don’t want to talk too much or come off rude or crass. You have to recognize that auditioning at its core is just another human interaction. The reader or casting director follows the same guidelines of life as you do, and even though it may seem like an audition is a foreign experience, you must not treat it as such.
The casting director wants you to do well. Your date wants you to sweep him/ her off their feet! As much as I hated hearing this from other actors when I first started, it wasn’t until I sat in on a casting session that I realized the truth behind this familiar tune. By staying cool, calm, and collected you are going to create an atmosphere that is inviting and encouraging. Ultimately, changing their mindsets to match yours, which is, “This is fun, let’s work together.” Most likely, the people you are auditioning for are going to be a part of that production in some way or another. That team needs to know that you will be a joy to work with on set; not someone who’s personality will cause problems. Your job is to be your most honest, most positive self. That’s how you get the second date.
11. Have A Conversation With Your Lines
In life we stumble over words and mispronounce words all the time. If acting is living truthfully why would you not include things that we do in real life. It is important that you have your lines memorized, but in the case of stumbling over your words…Pause. Collect your thoughts, find your place, and continue on with the lines. Most likely the casting director will think you are making a choice, but do not apologize or worst blame you not having your lines down on your job the night before or your agents. Casting directors don’t usually hire an actor that makes excuses.
12. Be Open To Adjustments
Film is a director’s medium. Therefore, a casting director may ask you to make an adjustment, even if your audition is going extremely well. Don’t panic. The casting director is making sure you can take direction. They do not want to hire you and then get word from production stating that you lack range. The most important thing to understand is that getting direction is nothing personal and purely part of the job.
13. Say Thank You And Keep It Moving. It’s Just Another Day On The Job
After your audition is done and the casting director is satisfied you can say something like “Thank you for having me,” or “Good luck with the rest of the project,” and walk out of there with your head held high. You have to remember, this is just another day in the life of an actor. Actors have one of the coolest jobs in the world, but again it is a JOB. So try not to bring your audition experience back home with you.
Remember, auditioning is just part of the process and it gets easier every time you do it.
If you’re prone to stressing out or over-thinking every audition, I am confident that these thirteen tools will free you up. They can be fantastic ways to help you generate some fresh ideas on how to approach auditioning in the future.
A key thing to consider is that time is an ally on the road to becoming a stronger actor. With time comes experience, and with experience comes confidence in your artistry. Go forth and prosper my friends.
Any tips or tricks I am missing out on? Let me know in the comment section below!