How to prepare for auditions

 4 July 2012

Matt Selby is a casting director with Belinda Norcliffe Casting. He has advice on how to prepare for commercial auditions, with five quick tips to take away.

Matt Selby is a casting director with Belinda Norcliffe Casting, one of London’s busiest casting agencies
Matt Selby is a casting director with Belinda Norcliffe Casting, one of London’s busiest casting agencies

Commercial castings can be one of your toughest experiences as an actor.

  • You often have short notice, with less than a day to prepare.
  • You’ll be up against plenty of actors who look a lot like you.
  • You’ll probably only have about five minutes to convince the casting directors that you’re what they’re looking for.

So how do you make those minutes count?

The advice of a casting director

Matt Selby works with one of London’s busiest casting agencies. His clients include Vodaphone and the BBC. He’s also worked as an actor himself, so he understands the pressures all too well. He’s got a very clear idea of some of the dos and don’ts that an actor should understand.

He began leading workshops to help actors give themselves the best possible chance in that little window of opportunity.

Matt points out that, just by being in the room at all, you’re already beating the odds. There are well over 65 000 actors listing themselves as available for professional work in Britain today. And that’s before you take models into consideration, which they will be for adverts.

By the time you’ve been asked to come in for a casting, you’ve narrowed those huge odds down to somewhere between forty and fifty. That’s a great start! For Matt, you’re already at an Olympic standard, so you should come in feeling confident.

How to present yourself

"If you’re coming in to a job and you’ve given us the right headshot that represents who you are, that’s an important thing. That’s your calling card.

"Sometimes we bring people in and discover their headshot doesn’t represent who they are. So make sure you have the right headshot.

"The biggest thing that nails jobs is attitude."

"The next point should be, if you’re in the room, you should look right for the job. That should be taken care of."

So think about what you know of the character you’re going to play. You’ll often get a brief explaining what the advert is about and how your character fits in.

Dress appropriately for the part. You needn’t show up in a full costume, especially if that would make you look ridiculous! No clowns or alien outfits.

But if you’re auditioning for a business executive, don’t come in a scruffy T-shirt and jeans. Anything that makes it easier for the casting director to picture you in the part is a definite advantage.

How to prepare

Learn any lines you’ve been sent. Having them to hand in case you get stuck isn’t the end of the world, but make sure you’re more than familiar with the script. Because once you’re in the room and have made your introductions, a short screen test is the next step.

"The next thing is your acting ability," says Matt. "And let’s be honest, commercials don’t always test that. Sometimes it’s just a person walking into a bar saying hello. Just like anybody does in their normal life.

"I’ve spoken to other casting directors, some people think acting is the most important. For me, the biggest thing that nails jobs is attitude.

"People bring the wrong stuff into the room. They bring in their own drama, they bring in a problem they had today, but this is business. If I walked in with my own personal issues to every casting, I wouldn’t get anything done!"

Matt believes strongly that having the right frame of mind as you come into an audition is key.

"You don’t go on a date and start moaning about your life. It makes you unattractive! I don’t think you should come in with that intention.

"I see a few people in every casting who come in and they bring the wrong emotions with them. They need to forget that for the business side of this.’

How to make your own luck

But maybe you’ve just had a bad day through nothing but bad luck – can you actually shake that off? Matt believes you can, and that’s one of the main things he teaches in his workshops.

"We are, basically, what we think we are and what we feel we are. And when those two align, that’s when the magic happens.

"Remember: you’re already ahead of the game just by being there!"

"That’s powerful stuff, it really is. I really believe that I have something that I can get to anyone."

Through a variety of techniques, Matt helps actors access their confidence in themselves. That’s vital in a career that can often be quite disheartening. Anything you can learn to do for yourself can give you a fantastic edge.

"When people leave the workshop, they’ve got sets of skills, things to remind themselves, and I believe it sort of helps them own what they do again.

"A lot of actors put their faith in their agents and let the work come to them. I don’t personally think that helps the individual.

"People who are being successful, whether they realise it or not, are doing something that keeps them in the frame. There is a sort of luck involved, but I think a lot of it is made luck. You can make your luck.’

5 tips for commercial auditions

  1. Learn any lines you get ahead of time. Arrive off book if at all possible!
  2. Think about how you can find the truth of the character. Many adverts use big characters that you need to make believable, so use all your usual acting tools and techniques as you consider who you’re playing.
  3. Dress for the part, it helps the casting director see what they’re looking for.
  4. Remember: you’re already ahead of the game just by being there!
  5. Leave your worries at home, come in feeling positive about yourself and the job.


For more details on Matt’s workshops or forthcoming CD, you can contact him on

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