Maybe you’ve gotten the audition from your agent, or you’re connected enough that you got the chance to get in front of a casting director by yourself. Perhaps you networked while running into someone at a party, or maybe your acting coach put in a good word.
Either way, you done it: you’ve received your first big audition.
Chances are, you’re incredibly excited. And incredibly nervous. That’s normal. Seasoned actors still complain about auditioning, saying it’s one of the most unnatural situations to be in. That’s true, but it’s not much different from putting your performance on film if you book the job. Props and realistic sets may help, but you’re still playing pretend in front of a group of people staring at you. Hopefully we can give some insight to the whole process, that way you’ll know what to expect and you won’t be thrown by potential bumps in the road.
We’ve mentioned it. It’s going to happen. Accept it. We can see your hands shaking, and we don’t care. You shouldn’t either.
The Waiting Game
There’s a general rule that we’ve come to learn over the years, and it’s hard to avoid. Either we’re waiting on actors, or you’re waiting on us. That’s just how casting sessions go. When casting offices set up sessions, they will often double book time slots. Actors are, by and large, a fickle bunch. They may not be able to get off work to come in, they may have car trouble on the way, or they may cancel at the last minute because they don’t feel right for the part. The point is if we gave actors lots of space in between appointments, we would undoubtedly have large gaps in the session. This means two things for you: be prepared to wait, and be prepared to go in right when you get there if there aren’t any other actors in the waiting room. You shouldn’t worry if someone has the exact same time as you, nor should you let the wait frustrate you.
There you sit, waiting, and all around you are people who may look just like you. Sitting across from your competition is awkward, but again, it’s something you’re going to have get used to. Are you a specific looking type of girl who can play a small range of ages? Chances are, you’ll be auditioning with the same girls again and again who also fit that bill. It’s a great chance to make friends, but be aware that some people prefer to quietly prepare instead of socialize. Lastly, sizing up your fellow actors is hard to avoid, but you shouldn’t do it. You run the risk of mentally psyching yourself out. Better to step out, and take a breather.
When the audition room door finally opens up, you should be ready to encounter any number of situations and people. Auditions usually range from three people to a whole table full of intimidating decision makers. It will usually consist of the casting director, yourself, someone running the camera, and sometimes a reader (someone other than the casting director who reads the scene with you). Sometimes there are directors and producers, or assistants and associates. Whatever the number, it’s your job to stay in the zone.
You’ve spent many nights memorizing and deconstructing you sides and you’re prepared to give it your all. Now throw that all out the window, because the casting director may want to have you do it completely differently or read a different part. But that’s the craft, right? Seeing what works, and what doesn’t. And don’t forget, you may be asked to read new material cold, with little to no prep time. Again, try not to worry – in most cases, casting directors are trying to get a sense of you and your instincts, so fumbling on a few lines that you’ve never read before won’t hurt you. They care less about the exact words, and more about the comprehension of the scene.
Many actors in the waiting room think that the duration of an audition correlates to how interested the casting director is in that actor. You may be right, but other times, it may be because an actor requires a lot of work on the casting director’s part, either trying to get the actor to a certain place, or merely trying to strengthen an average audition. An actor may only read the scene once, nail it, and get a callback in a few short minutes. Whatever the case, you simply cant know what’s going on behind the door, so there’s no sense in telling yourself the actor who’s been in there for any amount of time is booking the role.
The Other Waiting Game
Ultimately, every actor wants a callback. It’s validation that all your work has paid off, and you’re one step closer to landing the job. Every project and every casting office will do callback notification differently. You might be told on the spot that they want you to come a back later in the day for a producer or director, or they might call you days after your first audition, probably when you had just given up hope on hearing back on the role. You just never know.
The goal is to be as flexible as possible in this game. A little confidence and a lot of patience go a long way. Auditioning may never get any less awkward, but over time, it will become easier. Just be ready for anything, and you’ll adapt in record time.