So you have decided that you want to audition for a role for a play, movie, or other event. You know that you are going to have to compete with the abilities of others, as well as their look, experience, and believe it or not contacts in the industry. So how do you go about ensuring that you at least get the opportunity for a call back, if not actually ‘land the role?’ The following is a ‘How-To’ guide offered by myself, a director and producer who has cast well over eighty different projects to date.
The first thing that you need to do is your homework. It is likely that you will not know who, or for that matter how many people will be conducting the audition. If it is a name that you recognize, look them up on-line. Find out what shows they have produced or directed before. This will help you understand the person(s) that you are auditioning for. If the majority of what they have done is live stage, you know, even if the role you’re auditioning for is video, what it is that they are looking for – people who can act on their feet and take change and adjustments quickly and readily without complaint or issue. If the sum of their work is primarily video, it’s a sure bet that they are perfectionists who will work a scene over and over until it looks the way they want it, until it’s perfect, at least in their opinion.
Learn about the role that you are auditioning for. Read the play, or sides, if available, in order to familiarize yourself with what you are auditioning for. Don’t over think how you are going to present a set of lines. This usually only causes you to plant in your own mind how you think the lines should sound, and if you deliver them in a manner other than what the casting director is seeking, you’re out of luck.
Second, make sure you’re actually ready for the audition. Regardless of your audition time slot, make sure that you are able to arrive at least fifteen minutes in advance in case the person auditioning before you didn’t show, and make certain that you’re available to stick around for an hour or two if the casting director requests it. Note that this will be rare, and most of the time the casting director will release you immediately, but this is not always the case.
Make sure that you have great full-color head shots to give to the casting director, along with a resume of what you have done in the past. You may also be asked to fill out some sort of audition application which can very for every program and for every casting director. Be ready to fill it out completely, and never write ‘See Resume’ in a field on such an application. Make sure that you have different head shots to offer the casting director, and if there appears to be any kind of a chance that your over-all looks might be important in landing the role, which is the case about ninety percent of the time, it would be highly wise of you to have a full body shot to give the casting director as well.
Make sure that you dress and carry yourself correctly. Everyone has their own style, and as a casting director, believe me we know this. However, first impressions speak louder than anything you do at the audition itself, trust me on that one. There is a difference between odd and personal expression, and casting directors will make their own evaluation on you by what they perceive to be your approach to the audition. Thus, it is wise to wear clothing that is form fitting, in good repair and clean, and that does not have abstract or wild personal messages, statements, or advertisements on it. Make sure that your hygiene is great. You would be surprised at the number of people that seem to think that not bathing, having disheveled hair, or worse being doused with cologne or perfume, is absolutely fine when going on an audition. Trust me, it isn’t.
Third be ready for whatever the casting director asks. Even if the program your auditioning for doesn’t require it, many casting directors will ask you to sing a short selection of eighteen bars or so to tell them something about your abilities there. They may ask you to dance or learn a short dance routine. If so, be ready for that, meaning you should have appropriate shoes and clothing with you in a knap sack to change into. You may well be asked some personal questions. Don’t be alarmed, the casting director may being attempting to decipher whether or not your over-all character will fit well with others that have already been cast in the program. Never lie, it will always find you out. Tell the truth, if not only because it is always the best policy, it will always be the easiest thing to remember should you be called on it at a later time.
Do not enter an audition with an attitude that you are the only person for the role. This is never the case, and I have yet to meet a casting director, myself included, who is willing to put up with a ‘Prima-Donna’ in their cast. Nor should you approach an audition with the attitude that there may be aspects about the role that you’re unsure you could properly fulfill. A casting director wants to see that you are sure of yourself and your abilities, without being pompous or arrogant. This is a good place to tell you that you need to watch your language as well. Even if the casting director uses foul or questionable language, show control of your own faculties and act professional at all times. If it can’t be said without using a foul word or slanderous comment, it likely does not need to be said at all.
Please know that there are lines that should never be crossed by a casting director in an audition. They should never touch you, outside of shaking your hand; which may or may not actually occur, without asking your permission to do so first. Also, you should never be asked to show any portion of your private parts to a casting director at an audition. If you are ever asked to reveal these aspects of your body to a casting director at an audition, run for your life, chances are very good that their intentions are less than honorable, and you don’t want any part of that.
Many casting directors will want to take a photograph of you, regardless of the head and or body shots that you might have brought to them. Don’t freak about that, it is usually used to help them recall certain things about you as they evaluate the mass of performers they have seen at any one call. You may also be asked to audition on video tape. If this is the case, make certain that you have signed a release with them that allows them to film your audition, and that you have read it completely, making certain what use it may have to the casting director. Otherwise, you may one day find your audition show up some place you never intended it to show up, and that could hurt your career.
Now that you have the basics of how to prepare yourself for the audition, and you know how to approach the process, it is all up to you. You need to be ready to give it your very best, and also be ready to walk away from it with the understanding that not receiving the role, or even a call-back, is not necessarily a statement about your person, abilities, or look. Often times a casting director likes what he or she sees with you, but the program that they are currently casting for just isn’t a great fit for you or your look or abilities at this time. Don’t fret, most casting directors, myself included, will retain your information, and when a production comes up that you might be a better fit for, you might get called in to audition for that, out of the blue.
One last bit of advice I might be able to offer. Never make assumptions about the casting director, or who they may actually be in the field by the way that they present themselves, or how they act, or what they may say. Words cannot begin to tell you the number of power-house people in the industry seem to present them selves in a manner that all too often causes others to dismiss or judge them. You never know who you might actually be auditioning for, or who all they may actually know or be connected to in the industry. Give it your best every time, for every casting director, no matter what; that is always going to be the best way to approach an audition. Good Luck.
Randall J. Gray