Manual An Actors Face: Audition, Casting Advice, And Anecdotes From A Working Actor

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Chocolate gives me a sugar rush that makes me appear to be nervous, so does caffeine. I avoid that, and any candy that is sour, or eating anything spicy before my call. My throat is part of my instrument, and I need to keep it in prime working condition. If anything, I take a honey cough drop 15 minutes before auditioning. I learned that one from a radio broadcaster. I always go in way ahead of my call time, so I can gather some more information about the audition.

I look at the casting area and size it up. I look at the sides for my part, and all of the other parts as well. If there is a storyboard on the wall I study that. If there are boards up for related spots they are casting, I study those as well. It gives me a better idea of the direction of the commercial campaign, and I might want to hint towards one of those.

If there is another spot they are casting at the same station, or another role I think I might be better suited for, I study that closely. I might want to wear an article of clothing, such as a mechanic shirt underneath my businessman shirt. Then I can easily transition in seconds to the other role if the opportunity presents itself. I observe all the other actor types that are out there waiting to audition for my part, and try to speak with a few as they are leaving the facility. I try to gather any information about the audition that I can.

Sometimes I need to talk with a few different actors to get some decent intel on the audition. For example, how many actors are they auditioning at one time? How many times did they let you read for the role?

Welcome To The Starving Actor Blog

Was it on camera? Is the casting director, or are the clients in the room? Was there a rehearsal before the audition? What did they have you do for it? Obviously, you are not going to get all that information from one actor, so I usually speak to a few, catching up with them as they walk out to their cars. This is why I need that extra arrival time. I return to my car, digest all the information, make adjustments to my wardrobe, my look, and think about some different reads I might give.

More often than not, I end up throwing all the reads out and go with something else when I get in the audition room. If my instincts guide me in a certain direction, then I go that way. But at least I am prepared to deliver something strong, if there is no direction given. Many times, there is none, and they want to see what you as the actor will bring to it. If they do give me some, I take it. I make every effort to go into a room with nothing but a positive mindset.

I leave it at home, or in the car.

And you have to really mean it! As I do this, with my left hand, I tap my right hand area just above the thumb, right on the flat area where my hand meets my wrist.

How to Break Into Acting

I just lightly smack it about six times with my left hand index and middle fingers pressed together. I was always a bit self conscious, and it helped my state of mind. You have to learn to love yourself, and like who you are, as hard as that may be sometimes. So doing that is a part of my pre-audition routine.

If there is something that I do, or try out and it works, I continue doing it next the next time at the callback. But I always go in ready to make adjustments. We need every edge you can get in this line of work. When I get out of my car, I do some stretching up against it just like an athlete, or a jogger does. I want to get my body limbered up for a little acting exercise. I exercise my facial muscles and my voice a little also.

I am there to do one thing, out shine the competition, and win this job. When I do get in the room and sign in, I do everything I can to stay relaxed and focused until I get into the room. Sometimes we can be stuck waiting there to audition for as long as an hour or more, waiting for our call. We are all in the same boat, some actors handle it better than others. As frustrating as it can be, I try to be disciplined, and just be patient.

It is very hard, because it is almost always loud with all the other actors yakking away in there. Many are blabbing loudly into their cell phones, like this is some sort of a social gathering. This is all business. Casting directors almost always have you fill one out before auditioning, and you give it to them with your headshot. The obvious things are on there, like your eye and hair color, weight, and various clothing sizes.

Also your agent, your contact information, and if you have any conflicts on the product. Many times the producers want to hire you as a principal, but they know the rules, and might just use you as an extra on the job instead. For more on this, read the chapter on unions. Sometimes for these auditions, we would end up sitting there for an hour or more.

And most of them know that. So if they ran a little late, we just had to deal with it, and keep our mouths shut. Often when I am at my particular casting, they would also be casting two or more roles, or maybe even a series of commercials at the same station. I really liked the ones that would post storyboards on the wall for each one. Especially at the callbacks, be sure to study all the parts. It worked, and I got the role, so keep an eye out, and study the other things they are casting.

Trust your instincts, they will guide you. If you feel you are better suited for another part, you might be right. Plus, it gives you a chance to get more time in front of them.


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I found out that with many of these commercial campaigns, they only have a vague idea of what they want. Some other spots are cast in stone, they know exactly what they want. Most of the time, I tune it out any way I can, and stay focused on the job at hand. I use my mp3 player if need be, to white out some of the noise. The music I play is something instrumental so I can still stay into things, and not be overly distracted by it. Back in the day, it was a CD player, and before that a cassette player! Other times to get away from noise, I will just walk away to the far side of the room so I can be alone.

Even if everyone else in the room is loosing their heads, keep yours on. Try to find a compatible one. If someone does want to talk with me, I just politely explain that I am focusing on my audition right now. I will be happy to speak with them afterwards. Some actors cop an attitude about it, but I am there to work. I move and find another seat if I have to. Some of them are just knuckleheads, but others are trying to get inside your head. It can get to you if you allow it in. It affects your confidence, and your audition.

Some actors will try to psych you out in the waiting room, and they love trying to do it. Some even get off on it. Unfortunately there are some people like that when you get to the professional level. I admit, I have been in both of those seats. The same as before, I turn on my mp3 player, or I go to another part of the room to get away from it.

ACTING

Mostly I just try to tune it out however I can, and get my focus back on. A doctor explained to me many years ago, that more oxygen can get to your brain that way. This helped me with auditioning a lot. I breathe like this until it is time to speak.

Meryl Streep and Other Actor's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Auditions

As simple as it may sound, it takes some practice to do it. Normal breathing helps you to be more relaxed. One way I learned was bicycle riding. It's humbling to hear that even an Oscar-winning sensation hasn't always had directors barreling down her door.

Unfortunately, terrible auditions are a common thread weaving through Hollywood -- possibly not all as shameful as Streep's admission, but existing nonetheless. Let's check out the worst audition stories from some of today's most celebrated stars. They didn't think I was worthy enough of even reading with the casting director. They did it in the basement, and it was a scene where I have to do this oral thing with this guy's hand, and no one was there so I had to do it to myself. It was by far the most humiliating experience.

I thought, 'They think I'm such s--t that I'm here on a Sunday with the assistant, giving myself a finger in the mouth. This is a low point.

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I just didn't seem to quite connect Early on I remember going to a casting for a commercial for coffee It was for instant coffee. It would have paid my bills for months -- I would have been thrilled! You go in and sit down We're making mini motion pictures. It might not end up in a booking, but it could end up in a great audition. And making your mark in a big casting office is a milestone. And go to every legitimate audition you get, no matter what. Every auditioning experience—even one gone terribly wrong—is something you will learn from and can use to become a better actor.

Show up scared and prepared, if you have to, but just show up. You will be miles ahead of a lot of actors who chicken out. The need for comfort and security can derail even a great artist—and wanting a nice car and clothing can really keep people from exploring their potential.

Keep upbeat, positive music in your car or on your mobile device. When you feel a hard day coming on, combat this with a mandatory dance break or a happy sing-a-long. Surround yourself with supportive people who are on the same path or who understand your struggle. Take a walk and feel the sun on your face to get your head in the right place.

Take a bath or read a book or do whatever you need to feel important and happy in this moment. And above all, remember how lucky you are to be pursuing this dream. Just to be attempting your dream is a blessing.

She got her degree in music and theater from Virginia Tech. She just completed her first novel while shooting pilots, auditioning and maintaining a blog about locally grown food sources and small businesses called Locally Grown Life. She is also a founding member of the successful Portland theater company, Sojourn Theatre. You can find her hiking canyon trails with her dogs, reading voraciously, or writing up a storm.