Casting Calls: 8 Mistakes That Will Wreck Your Audition
By Jeff Seymour, Author of The Real Life Actor
Whether you’re a young actor starting out, dreaming of Disney casting calls or a professional actor in the LA casting scene, you’re never going to get any acting jobs or have any kind of acting career if you sabotage your auditions with these common, easily avoidable mistakes
#1 — Stop Saying You Hate Auditions
Most actors feel the same way about any casting call. Most actors don’t like the pressure of having one quick, moment to win a part. Since it’s common for most actors to dislike auditions, why not put yourself ahead of the group by learning to enjoy the process? Teach yourself to thrive under pressure. Here is an opportunity for you to gain an edge by assessing a common weakness in most actors and exploiting that knowledge by making it one of your strengths. Change your perspective. Power can always be found in perspective.
Most actors spend time commiserating over how difficult or lousy auditions for T.V. shows can be. They moan about how long they were kept waiting at their movie auditions or how rude the casting director was. They complain about the number of lines or the short amount of time they had to prepare. While I know their complaints may be warranted, I also know that a lousy carpenter always blames his tools.
If you want to be a champion, you need to do what champions do. If there is a weakness in your game that can be strengthened, you need to strengthen it. To simply succumb because something is difficult, is a loser’s mentality. Refusing to overcome this difficulty, which could give you an obvious edge, is nothing more than a mixture of laziness and fear. Successful actors must not only be able to endure these pressures but must also perform at their best. Their careers count on it. It is an ability all professionals must acquire, the ability to deliver under pressure.
Stop throwing your psyche under the bus with your negative disclaimers each time you have an audition. Don’t sabotage your work with the cliché complaints of hack actors. Look at each audition as an opportunity to improve your game. See each opportunity to audition as an opportunity to test yourself. Don’t waste your time with self-defeating, negative thoughts. Learn to excel under pressure. Get better at it. Improve. Look forward to the challenge.
#2 — Never Be Late
EVER. But don’t be too early either. Give yourself enough time to arrive, find your way and sign in with no more than 15 minutes extra. Walk in with a quiet, peaceful optimism. Respect everyone else’s space. Sit quietly. Let your mind drift a little. Stay loose and relaxed. Be grateful for the opportunity. Sit in that outer office with your engine idling, ready to walk in and go pedal to the metal. Look forward to getting into the room and getting to business. No matter how long you have to wait, remain courteous and quietly confident. Don’t ask unnecessary questions. Don’t become a needy nuisance. Mind your manners and don’t cause problems.
The people in the inner office know what’s happening in the outer office, always. Just because you put on a nice face when you walk into the inner office doesn’t mean they won’t hear about your poor behavior in the outer office. They will. Be sure to conduct yourself professionally from the moment you arrive.
Just relax and focus on the good work you’re going to do in that inner office. The only thing you have control over is your work in the audition. Everything else is out of your hands. The part isn’t given to the best actor. It’s given to the best actor who also looks exactly the way they need him to look. You can’t control that.
Avoid thinking silly thoughts like if you do the audition well enough you’ll get the job. It’s a suckers ploy that’ll get you off your game. If you get preoccupied with hitting a home run, chances are you’ll miss the ball and pull your back out. Relax, keep your eye on the ball and try to get as much wood on it as possible. The casting gods will take over from there. You can light a candle when you get home.
#3 — Don’t Practice Your Lines Out Loud At The Audition
I don’t think an actor should do this, ever. There are many reasons and I could certainly list them all, but the first one that comes to mind is that it just looks silly. I know a lot of you have seen this and some of you have done it, but that doesn’t make it any less ridiculous. To see someone standing in a hallway at open casting calls shouting at a fire extinguisher or talking to an imaginary mother in law, just looks absurd. I can’t help but think, “Why does he need to practice his lines out loud?” Is he still trying to find that magic inflection that’s going to unlock the door behind which the riches of a new part await?
Trust your creative self. Start showing it some faith by not making it recite all of your lines before you walk in. When actors practice their lines out loud by themselves they are focusing more on how they sound. Humans don’t do such things.
In life, if you were waiting to go into an office for a business meeting, would you sit in the outer office and go over what you wanted to say, out loud? You’d probably be thinking about the points you want to make and why it’s so important that you get your way. You certainly wouldn’t be as insane as to say what you were thinking out loud in front of everyone. You wouldn’t take out the anger you have for your boss on a water cooler as a warm-up, would you?
Be prepared before you show up to the audition. It’s been my observation that the actors I saw arguing with the wall in the outer office were the same actors who didn’t do quite as well when they came into the inner office.
#4 — Stop Being So Nervous
Everyone gets nervous. Everyone gets the jitters. So what? Big deal. Stop worrying about it. The more you are afraid of something, the more you empower that thing you’re afraid of. Instead of allowing your nerves to work against you, figure out a way for them to work for you. Allow them to help you focus. Learn to love them. Look forward to them. Use them as inspiration. Use them as energy. But whatever you do, don’t try to suppress them. You can’t squeeze nerves away. You shouldn’t try. You’ll only make them more powerful. That’s why it’s a good idea to turn that nervous jitter before a performance into an ally.
There are many scenes that can benefit from a jolt of the jitters. Your scene may have you delivering bad news. Or maybe you’re supposed to be angry, shy, excited, anxious, impatient or just plain nervous. Look for ways to use that energy. Look forward to your nerves. Be happy when they arrive.
Stop obsessing about your nerves. Quit looking for a magical way to make them go away. There are no elixirs, pills, diet regiments, or deep breathing techniques. Forget it. You get nervous. So what? So does everyone. Focus on the needs of the scene. Get to the point. Win your argument. Affect the other person you’re talking to.
Make your nerves your ally. Use them, or they will use you. (Dealing with nerves)
#5 — Don’t Try to Shake Everyone’s Hand
Generally, you walk in and the people behind the desk are introduced. Acknowledge everyone, quickly and simply. Shake their hands only if they offer. These people have been meeting actors all day long. To have to politely lift out of their seat, reach forward, and shake every actor’s hand that comes through the door can be a little tedious. There will be plenty of time for handshaking when you get the job. Be comfortable and ready to work. Be a confident, focused version of yourself. If they want to chitchat, then chitchat. But be aware when it’s time to stop the chitchatting. Otherwise, try to be relaxed and ready to go. There is nothing as impressively professional as a comfortable, focused actor, prepared to work.
Don’t try too hard to be funny or entertaining. If you’re clever and witty then I suppose you’re going to be clever and witty no matter what I say. Just try not to make it seem like you’re trying too hard. Try not to ask too many questions. Sometimes actors want to show how clever they are with their list of questions about the script and their character. Avoid this. My favorite type of actor walks into the audition, respectful and in a good mood. We introduce ourselves and ask, “Do you have any questions? The actor simply replies, “no.” Then the actor does an amazing job, smiles, thanks us for our time, and leaves like he has somewhere else to go.
You want to aspire to something? Aspire to that. (Walking into the main room)
#6 — Don’t make little notes on your script
Avoid this a little habit. It’s the thing that actors sometimes do when they’re preparing for their audition. They write little notes off to the side prompting them as to how they’re going to “act” a particular moment. We may see things like: “Ferocious like a dog,” “Really let them have it,” or “Start to cry.” Actors shouldn’t need little emotional cues written in the margins to remind them what to feel. Do you really need to see, ”Really let them have it,” in order to understand how angry you need to be? Generally, this is the kind of work actors do in their attempt to feel like they’ve done homework.
Over the years it’s been my observation that the actors who wrote in their scripts weren’t as good as the ones who didn’t. One could come up with many reasons why that was, but I think it was simply that the good actors new what they were talking about while the others needed to be constantly reminded.
#7 — Avoid Asking To Do It Over Again
Asking to do it over again should be a, “Break glass in case of emergency” situation. Do it only when it is completely necessary. The reason is simple: If every actor asked to do their scene twice, the casting director’s day could last twice as long. Besides, part of the test is seeing if you’re able to come in and nail it the first time. That’s one of the ways you impress the people you’re auditioning for. It’s not as impressive if you have to wind up two, three, or four times in order to get the job done. It may make them wonder how efficient you’ll be on set.
When actors ask to do it over again they rarely do it better. I can tell you from having watched countless auditions; the work is usually not that different. Once in a great while, it is. That’s why I say: only if it’s absolutely necessary. The main reason I say this is because if you are prone to allow yourself to start over again when you drop out, you’ll be more prone to dropping out. In fact, you’ll focus so much attention on whether you’re in or out of the scene that you’ll tend to be more out, then in. Focus on accomplishing what you’re trying to accomplish in the scene. Don’t give yourself the task of trying to accomplish good acting. Stop obsessing about how your doing while you’re doing it. Go in, lay it down, and leave.
Be a winner not a whiner. (Should I ask to do it again?)
#8 — Don’t Dawdle Before You Leave
When the audition is over, thank them and leave. Don’t stall. Don’t stare at them with big doe eyes looking for acknowledgement or approval. If you feel that things didn’t go perfectly, try not to look like a sad sack. These are the types of actors who are visibly disappointed if they think they gave a bad audition. They seem disgusted with themselves. They look like they might cry. What are the people auditioning the actors supposed to think? “He could have done better, look how sad he is?” If the actor could have done better, he should have.
Better to leave what you did where it lies. Don’t make excuses. Don’t act sad. Don’t act disappointed. Thank the people auditioning you for their time and leave the room like you have somewhere else to go.You always want to make them believe that there might be other people wanting your time.
Maybe they didn’t think you did a bad job. Maybe they don’t know what good acting looks like. Maybe you’re just not what they had in mind for the part but, because of your wonderful professional attitude, they’ll keep you in mind for something else. They’re less likely to do this with sad sacks.
I’ve seen actors give weak auditions and then had them in for a call back anyway. I’ve done this because I liked their attitude and because they were right for the role. But as a rule, I avoid using sad sack actors. This kind of actor is so self critical that he’s not much fun to work with. Save the sad, “I could have done better” attitude for the ride home, it has no place in the audition.
(How to leave when its over)