Recently, I had the great privilege of being offered a part in a magnificent short film with one of my favorite filmmakers. Of course I was honored and thrilled, but the best part? I didn’t have to audition for the part. I mean, can we be honest for a second? Auditioning is kind of the worst. Let me clarify, I welcome and am always grateful for the opportunity to audition; it’s a wonderful thing to have an inbox full of C-mail from your agent and/or recent submission splurge, and I try my damnedest to seize each moment as a chance to WORK and exercise the muscle. But I don’t think I’m alone in disliking the process, the torment, and the grind. It can be overwhelmingly dispiriting. If you’re like me and prepare the hell out of each role, you spend countless hours developing your character and learning your lines, not to mention hours driving the grid-locked freeways surrounded by somber, road-raged filled faces. It’s what I’ve signed up for, so I always try to remind myself of the end goal and embrace the whole mess of it, but for me, an offer will forever outweigh an audition.
When it came time to cast my co-star, I was allowed to be a part of the casting process, not only as the reader but I was given a voice in the room. This was a hugely eye-opening experience for me. I really got to see the other side of things; from narrowing down hundreds of submissions, to picking favorites for the chemistry reads, I got to be there from beginning to end. It was very different sitting behind the camera and I saw it as a fantastic opportunity to learn. I was able to observe the many variations of performances, and it was very interesting to see what landed, what didn’t, and what my own preferences were in a “casting” position.
There are so many things we are taught in regards to audition technique, and it’s incredibly important to find what works for you, and apply those methods to your work. I learned a lot by watching; I was able to experience it as both a “casting director” and a fellow actress, and while dissecting each performance, I was able to distinguish what choices made an impact on me.
For me, all of the special performances had three things in common. Whether you’re new to the game and you’ve never stepped into a casting room before, or you’ve been doing this for years and this is a reminder, I think applying these three things will help elevate your performance, aide in facilitating greatness, and leave your mark in the room.
1. BE PREPARED
Obviously, know your lines or be as familiar with them as possible–I really hope that’s a given. However, it goes so much deeper than that. Prepare on every level, do the homework, and go as deep as possible. If you were given the whole script but only need to prepare a portion of it for the audition, read the whole script. If you’re given the option between three scenes, learn them all. You may think this sounds incredibly elementary or maybe you think it’s an overkill, but you would be surprised how clear it is to the people in the room whether or not you’re prepared. When it’s obvious that “the work” has NOT been done, it’s distracting and disappointing, especially when you have the right look. At that point it’s your audition to lose. Furthermore, deep preparation allows you to take complete advantage of what’s right in front of you; knowing your lines in and out frees you from the page, doing the work (and being able to let it go in the room) enables you to fully engage with the reader, and when that happens, so does the magic. It’s fun to watch and you will be someone to remember.
2. DRESS THE PART
I don’t mean that you have to wear scrubs if you’re auditioning for a nurse or doctor, all you need is subtle hints of the character–I know it sounds trite so but if you walk in the room AS the character, it makes a world of difference. If you’re showing up in your work-out clothes or looking like you just rolled out of bed, especially when the script calls for something completely different, you’re really not setting yourself up for success. Even if you’re incredibly talented, it looks sloppy and kind of like you didn’t put any effort into it. If they think you don’t care, why should they?
3. OWN THE ROOM AND KILL IT
I’ll say it again: Own the room and kill it. It’s so compelling to watch a prepared, confident actress dive in fully, make strong and interesting choices, and play. Those are the performances that stick with you. The room changes, and the energy is electric. It’s bewitching, inspiring, and excites everyone watching. You did the work, now let go and trust that they will see it.
So much of casting is out of your control. We hear it all the time: you were too tall, too short, too pretty, not pretty enough. All of that sucks and you cannot think about it. What you can and should think about it what IS in your control. YOU. Take all of your training, coaching, and talent and apply these three things. I can’t promise bookings, but I can guarantee you’ll stand out and walk away feeling like a pro.