What should Actors Prep for in their Next Audition?

A lot of drama teachers and actors will have you believe that the only criteria we use for audition success is your ability.

A lot of drama teachers will have you believe that the only way to audition success is through scene and character analysis.

In my 30+ years of casting, I would say they are right.

But only if you take out the word “only”.

To succeed as an actor in the long term – that is, to have a career – I believe you need consummate ability and intelligent analysis of character and scene. Your performance career needs these skills.

But being in the audition space, delivering a memorable experience, in an environment of zero creativity and maximum tension, requires a different skill set.

Or am I wrong?

Did you get the job every time you really nailed your audition? You didn’t, did you?

Did you not get a call back after a tragically, confidence destroying, hopeless audition? But every now and then a bad audition does get you a call back.

Your audition prep should not simply be about the performance.

What actor can say their technique or training can realistically get you more work? To book more jobs?

Frankly, I don’t know how anyone can make that claim. The criteria for making a decision to go with one actor or another ebbs and flows. In the course of casting, we may favour a different actor for a role several times before the day comes to make a decision.

One of the main reasons is that the final decision involves so many people. How many producers get a credit on successful TV shows? All of them have a say.

What an actor can strive for though, is to get more auditions.

Because the choice of who gets an audition is usually down to one person: the casting director.

And if your acting class has weaved it’s magic and you are impressive in the room, you stand a good chance of booking the job.

The trick, though, is to get into the room in the first place.

The opportunity.

If You Could Audition For One Role, Which Role Would It Be?

Okay, I’m going to grant you one wish and that is to have any audition you want. Whatever role you want to audition for, you can audition for. Which role are you going to choose?

Now are you going to choose the major leading role in a studio picture? Therefore if you get that audition, will you get the part? If not you’ve wasted a wish. Your wish should be to audition for the role you were born to play.

At this stage in your career, what is the role you were born to play? What is the next role in your career? What is the next role you would be ideal for in terms of character and in terms of the production and size of the role?

That’s the role you need to be chasing. The role you were born to play, not the role you dream of playing. Otherwise you’ve wasted a wish haven’t you?

Casting Directors Hate This In Auditions

I came back from holiday recently, and on holidays is when I read all the books I try and keep up with and can’t when I’m reading scripts. A book I read was ‘Silkworm’ by Robert Galbraith.

The book described a character as ‘a reliable pursuer of the obvious’. You think of that kind of person. Who is a reliable pursuer of the obvious?

You think someone who’s really conservative, narrow focused, narrow thinking. They’re not imaginative and spontaneous.

The point I’m making is when I go into the audition space if you give me a faithful rendition of what’s in the sides. So many actors do. If I’m seeing 20, 30 people I guarantee 80% of them are following it, right down to the punctuation.

What does that make them? It makes them a reliable pursuer of the obvious.

Did you start becoming an actor to be a reliable pursuer of the obvious? Of course you didn’t.

You must take risks. You must be inspiring to the casting director, to the filmmakers, to the decision makers. Because that is what’s going to inspire us, maybe to get this role, maybe not, but more importantly it’s going to inspire us to want to see you again.

You have to deliver individuality and not be a reliable pursuer of the obvious.

What Are Casting Directors Looking For?

I think the problem with actors in terms of success in auditions is that their goal is wrong. You want to show how good an actor you are. No.

I’m a casting director. Take it from me, I’ve seen over 120,000 auditions. I’ve seen people come in and what they want to show is how well they act. That’s not what I’m looking for.

I’m looking for a great, unique, compelling, individual version of the character. Because that’s my job, that’s my journey.

What am I looking for? I’m not looking for a great actor, I’m looking for the character. I’m looking for the person with the right combination of ability and looks and skill and individuality that creates a character that I want to put up on screen. A character that I can cast. An actor whose version of the character I can champion to the director and producer and say ‘You’ve got to give this actor a chance because they will be great in the role’.

But it all comes down to your approach, your thinking, your goal. Your goal at the moment is to be good. Be special. Be individual.

For Actor Audition Success, Prepare Nothing

Johnny Drama Cut OutIn the classic online scene from Entourage, the character Johnny Drama played by Kevin Dillon in his ‘audition’ for CSI that “Just tell me what you want. Because I can do it a million ways

What do you want? Tell me what to do, what to play, what emotion to give and I will gladly give it to you.

Actors say this to me in the audition space all the time. As if the casting director knows the exact emotion or moment to deliver.

All creative art will always be a subjective pursuit.

So it is with acting. And even more so with auditions. Because we are yet to set the character in concrete.

Think of it this way. You pick up the phone and ring your telecommunications provider. Or your bank. You are outraged. They have not provided a promised service. You plan how you are going to deal with them. You are going to be so angry. You know exactly what you are going to say.

But when you arrive at that moment, your feelings, your attitude, your relationship with them has evolved because of all the things that have gone before it. Your emotional journey and your relationship with the call center person has progressed.

If you are able to name exactly how a character feels at a given time (and this is a time is in the future, even 10 seconds in the future) the moment is fake.

The key to audition success is to be brave. Discover your character’s feelings at any time in the script ….. when you arrive at the moment.

Oh yes, it is truly scary. You can plan where you would possibly like to take your character, but the exact emotion, the exact delivery, needs to be flexible. You may be saying the dialogue accurately, but you are improvising the character. Improvising the relationship.

Does Jim Carrey plot and plan what will happen? Will Smith? Kristen Wiig. Johnny Depp?

Of course not. This is the essence of true screen performance

To decide a character’s feeling in advance, during your audition prep, is not a screen actors approach.

Focus on the journey, and the destination will take care of itself.