3 stages of an audition

 20 May 2013

Starting out as an actor? Martha Shephard of To Be Seen, an online audition resource for actors, discusses how to get the part and avoid common audition mistakes.

Let the casting director see a clear difference between you and the character you have evolved into. (Image: Suraya Jina and Mansoor Mir)
Let the casting director see a clear difference between you and the character you have evolved into. (Image: Suraya Jina and Mansoor Mir)

1. Before your audition

Be prepared

Do as much preparation as you can. Most casting briefs will describe in detail what it is they are looking for, so carefully read your auditions notice.

Research the role and the character and, of course, learn your lines off by heart.

Print out your CV and attach your headshot photo securely to it.

Whether your audition has come through an agent or castings you’ve found online, it’s always worth putting in all the effort you can. Half-hearted performers need not apply.

Dress appropriately

It’s a common mistake for people to dress to fit a character, which can be hugely distracting for a casting director.

Even if you are having a momentary lapse of confidence, you can fake it until you make it.

The worst example of this I’ve seen was an actor who auditioned for the role of Simba in The Lion King and actually came dressed as a lion.

Instead, wear something clean, comfortable and simple. The casting director is assessing your acting skills and wants to visualise you as the character.

You should want them to forget what you are wearing and be drawn in by your personality and performance.

Even adding whiskers would be a no-no!

2. During the audition

Get into the right frame of mind

So, you’ve arrived at the audition venue, ideally with a few minutes to spare. How do you make your first impression count?

There is absolutely no disadvantage to handing a casting director your credits and headshot on the way in – it’s a nice way to say ‘hi’ and be remembered.

A quick handover of the documents, some not too lingering eye contact, your name and a big smile. That’ll do.

Think about your presence and body language. Command attention, be confident, stand up straight and give a firm handshake.

Help the casting director notice you by going in with an air of ‘I am the right person for this role’.

Never apologise if you felt you could have done better – this makes you look worse.

You are an actor, so even if you are having a momentary lapse of confidence, you can fake it until you make it.

A good technique is to take a moment to shift the focus away from you and try and visualise how the piece should look to the viewer. This helps relax nerves and remind you what you are doing: telling a story.

Let the casting director see a clear difference in the character you have evolved into, in contrast to the person they just met.

Auditioning with other actors

Sometimes you may be asked to audition with other actors, with each playing specific characters.

With other people around, there’s the chance to bounce off each other, which can be more interesting for both the actor and the casting director.

A casting director once said to me that, above all, he was most interested in seeing a connection between the actors in the room. It’s great to demonstrate that you can make everyone feel involved and acknowledge other people’s performances as well your own.

Improvisation is a great skill too, as it shows the casting director that you are flexible and can think quickly. But this should be only done on request, never when a specific script has been given.

3. After the audition

You’re likely to feel full of adrenaline, but make sure you still are still courteous – thank the casting director for their time.

Never apologise if you felt you could have done better. This is a common slip-up as it actually makes you look worse.

Ask for the date of callbacks or when you would expect to hear from them. Then check your phone and emails regularly.

Continue applying for further auditions. Perseverance is key – it is a competitive industry so be prepared to work hard to land that role you want.

Getting your next audition

You should take initiative to get your next audition, even if you have an agent. There are plenty of magazines and websites which post auditions, so check them regularly.

To Be Seen is one resource where actors at any stage of their careers can post profiles and check audition listings.

There are a wide variety of casting calls posted every day, including low-budget short films, fully paid feature films, TV productions, TV adverts, corporate videos, online series and theatre productions.

When you put up a profile anywhere, it’s essential to complete all sections, such as physical statistics and roles you’ve been cast in, honestly and in detail. Always use professional headshot photos and make sure they are a true representation of you. 

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