Casting Director ‘s Audition Advice For Actors
It is basically getting handed a script – and acting the part with little or no preparation.
Don’t Block Your Face:
This is simple but incredibly important. Because the script will be in your hands during your audition, you might be tempted to hold the words right in front of your face.
Don’t! The Casting director wants to see your facial expressions. If you hide behind the script, you’ll never get the part!
Most of the time, when an actor is performing, you’ll get time to look at the lines, memorize them and put some time into thinking about the character. However, sometimes when you get cast in a film or a television commercial – you won’t get the script until the very last minute. This is when practice and skill at cold reading will become very important.
Practice with anything written. Just pick up a newspaper or a book or a script. Look at the first line or two – immediately make a choice about how you’ll perform it – and say the line out loud. That’s it. That’s a cold reading.
At first you’ll want to do it over and over again until you get it right. And, sometimes you’ll have difficulty memorizing more than one or two lines. But keep practicing. Try memorizing as much as you can. Try making different choices about the character or what’s going on – without reading ahead of course. That’s the whole point. It’s your choice about how to read the character.
Once you’re feeling comfortable, try it with a partner. Read the lines with a partner. Always remember that you should be listening to your partner – and that this is as big a part of acting as is saying your lines. So, only look at your lines as you need to – when you’re ready to speak, glance down and have a quick look. Memorize briefly – then make a creative choice – and speak.
The key is to make a choice.
If, during an audition, you get a few minutes to look at the script before you go on – try to go all the way through it at a glance. Try and glean just the essence of your character so that the choices you make during the cold reading will be stronger. A Speed Reading Course will teach you how to quickly go through your script and glean the essence of your character.
Don’t worry too much about feeling a bit awkward about the cold reading. It’s an awkward process and tends to go a bit slower than the actual scene will play when you actually know it and run through it for real. The goal of the cold reading is to discover what kind of choices you’ll make as an actor. This is what shows the true talent of the actor and helps the casting director to find an actor who will make original choices that are interesting to watch.
And that’s the key. Make choices. Be interesting – and be in the moment.
Actors Should Protect Themselves in an Audition
Concentration is key, but asking for, or rather telling them, what you need is also crucial. This is what is called “controlling the room.”
If you have a traumatic scene to do and you’re all geared up to connect to the character’s pain emotionally, then you come into an office and have to chat first—protect yourself. You can say, “I’d love to jump into the scene first; then we can chat after.”
It’s all about the way you ask or tell. If you’re polite and gracious, you can get away with murder in this setting—as long as you’re not a diva about it. Remember, Casting Director ‘s want you to do well. They want to help you. It’s OK to ask a specific question about the scene, character, or screenplay beforehand, but make sure that you can use the answer in a specific way to inform the way you’ll play the upcoming scene.
If you get lost in the first few moments of the scene, stop and say, “I’m going to start over” and do just that—start over. Don’t ask for permission. You need not make a big deal about it. Don’t apologize, and don’t have a meltdown.
Remember, you didn’t do anything horrible—but if you flip out and say, “I’m so sorry—can I please start over? Damn, I always do that!” then you give Casting Director ‘s pause, and they are now worried how you’ll be on set if this happens. It’s how you handle these little speed bumps that shows a Casting Director what a pro you are.
Remember, this is your time. This is your audition.
Tell the Casting Director what you need!!!
How To Embrace and Enjoy the Audition Process
You can enjoy your auditions and transform them into win-win situations for yourself and those present in the room, regardless of whether you book a role at that particular time.
Use your audition time—whether five minutes or longer—to act, rather than be judged. You should do the thing you love to do above all else and make a favorable, lasting impression on your audience. Because there is an audience in that room, be it one person or more. And an audience on another coast, perhaps, who will view the tape, if you are taped. You don’t get paid to act in auditions, but it is acting all the same, and you have entered this profession for love of acting.
Try to embrace the Buddhist concept of releasing specific outcomes.
(i.e. Learn the Art of Surrender). It’s easier said than done because we live in a world that prizes outcomes, and we’d like them to be favorable ones like booking the job, winning the object of our affections, obtaining a perfect apartment, etc. Often, everything aligns perfectly, and we do attain specific goals on any given day. More often, however, as I tell actors in my workshops, you plant seeds, and you won’t necessarily see specific results immediately.
Casting Director ‘s frequently audition actors who are terrifically talented, and, who—for reasons beyond their control—don’t get that specific role they’ve auditioned for because we end up casting someone older, younger, taller, shorter, or with different qualities. However, they have made such a favorable impression in the audition that it is only a matter of time before we bring them in for another role—either on the same or a different project and then we cast them.
Use your audition time to work and to shine. You will be acting. You will be seen and heard. You will have the opportunity to make interesting, often unusual, and often right-on choices. Please remember that everyone—no matter how self-assured they may seem—gets nervous and not just actors! Regardless of our experience level, we all feel as if we are always on the line in this business. And yet this is such a human profession. We should savor the humanity and joy inherent in the process.
Every audition will be different. Some people may greet you with warmth and encouragement while others will be strictly businesslike and will make it clear that they have no time to engage in pleasantries.
Each person’s time, including yours, is valuable yet limited. Be prompt. Prepare, prepare, prepare in advance, but allow for spontaneity too. Breathe. Enjoy the words in the scene. Contemplate the craftsmanship that went into those words, and honor it by adhering to the text. Don’t ad lib. Don’t leave out sections of dialogue. Don’t add colorful language.
If you have a question about word pronunciation or meaning or whether to do an accent that you couldn’t resolve on your own before the audition, ask the question in the room before you begin.
If you flub a line and would like to begin again, say, “I’m going to start over” and do just that—start over. Don’t ask for permission. Do so while also keeping in mind that the people in the room are also on a tight schedule. Again, you are human.
There is no shame in asking an intelligent question or admitting that you didn’t begin the scene as strongly as you would have liked. Some casting directors and directors will give you direction and ask you to do repeated takes and readings while others won’t. But the good news is that you get to act.
Try to take pleasure in auditioning for its own sake. It is an art.
How To Get Casting Directors To Find You
You wonder how casting director ‘s are going to find you. Of course you do! Whether you have an agent or not, you’re out there ready to go to work and you want casting director ‘s to know how great you are. You send us postcards. You e-mail us newsletters. You follow us on Facebook. You self-submit. You even send along Starbucks gift cards around our birthdays. You go to casting director workshops and wait two hours for your five minutes in the room with us. But nothing happens. Why is that? It’s disheartening. It’s frustrating. What more can you do?
First of all, don’t despair. Know that we very well may acknowledge your efforts without you even realizing it. If we’ve seen you do great work somewhere, you’re likely in our “favorite actors” files. There may not be a job or a role right this minute for you. We may not even be working at the moment. But your talent is deeply appreciated.
That said, don’t wait around until we open that file. And don’t rely on the mailings. If we know how wonderful you are, remind us with consistent great work. If we don’t have a clue, produce wonderful work that we’ll discover. What’s going to get our attention is the strong work you’re doing all over the place. You’re bringing the house down on stage. You’re in class working out consistently. You’re creating content in your own short films, videos, and webisodes. You’re writing scripts and articles. You’re putting up a comedy sketch show every week. You’re doing exceptional work when you attend workshops. You’re out there doing the best work of your life.
Casting director ‘s, directors, writers, and producers will hear about it. We’ll see you. We’ll support you. We’ll bring you in for a role. Hell, we might even cast you.
There’s still the fable in L.A. (and other towns) that you’re meant to showcase your work on the stage primarily to get hired in film and television. While the L.A. theater scene has evolved over the past several years, some still believe that stage work is a vehicle for getting screen work. Getting a job this way may be a byproduct of doing excellent work on stage.
But you must be doing your best work in a production, in class, and in a workshop because you love to act and you’re compelled to be in the work all the time—not because your goal is to book a guest star on a show.
You have to wake up and fall asleep craving the artistry of it. You have to love it for its own reward. You’ll be doing better work. You’ll be happier. And those people who can hire you elsewhere will be drawn to your talent. Audiences and professionals alike are desperate to experience extraordinary work, to celebrate it, and to ultimately reward it.
We truly are one large (and sometimes not-so-large) community of artists and professionals. We track down the fantastic work you’ve created, get excited about it, write about it, tweet about it, and hire it. We want to be a part of it. It’s exciting.
Why You’re Not Getting a Callback
I got an e-mail from a very sweet, young actor who is just out of college. She had an audition last week and thought it went well because the casting director gave her positive praise. But she didn’t hear anything regarding a callback or booking.
The answer I gave her I thought might benefit everyone so here it is, the honest truth.
A lot of casting director ‘s (not me) will say positive things like “Good job!” or “Nice!” or whatever seems to sound like you gave an Oscar audition because they don’t want to hurt the your feelings. And I get that. What I prefer to do is say, “OK, thank you” and that’s it if the audition isn’t that good or if it’s just OK. I think a lot of actors out there know me and my honesty from being in the studio or in a class situation. I tell it like it is.
Another reason why you may not be getting called back or booking the job is you just don’t have the right “look” according to what the director and/or producer envisions. So it may not be a performance thing; it’s just that you don’t look right for that particular project. I’ve been on callback sessions where my client will have—as an example—a blonde female and a brunette female. Both gave great auditions. But the director likes the brunette and the producer likes the blonde. Then, the ad agency has its preference between the two and ultimately it’s up to the ad agency’s client.
It’s a tough business, and as you may have learned from any acting conservatory or classes that you have to have thick skin.
Here’s what I recommend: Simply try to enjoy auditioning “just because”—without any expectation of booking. This should be an enjoyable experience, not a psychologically torturous one. Do your auditions the best you can. Enjoy the process. Have a positive attitude, and when it’s over, move on and try not to depend upon the booking. Let it go. If it’s meant to be, it will happen.
7 Things You Should Know Before You Accept an Audition
Don’t go through the audition process for a job you wouldn’t accept. So here are seven things you should know before accepting an audition!
1. Accountability. You may have a great agency with a reliable staff representing you, but remember that your career is your responsibility. If you receive an audition appointment and have concerns over any of the below details, ask! Don’t make assumptions, and don’t confirm without getting your questions answered.
2. Availability. It is your responsibility to double check callback and shoot dates for a job prior to confirming an initial audition—even if you have given book-out dates to your agency. If you’re not available for the callback and/or shoot dates, cancel the appointment.
3. Conflicts. Yes, your agent should record your conflicts and submit accordingly. However, if you receive an audition that raises concern, follow your instincts and ask your agent to double check. I once had an actor accept a job and show up to set, only to find out that her agent had renewed a conflict. The renewal hadn’t yet been recorded in their agency’s system so it didn’t show up at time of the submission. Production had to shut down the set, and it was a $500,000 mistake.
4. Compensation. You need to be on the same page with your agent. Are you willing to work for scale? Are you willing to go out of town? Do you require a guarantee of days if the shoot may be, “One, two, or three days, depending on role”? If you want a guarantee, talk to your agent, but don’t confirm simply hoping you’ll book the maximum.
5. Dues. Pay Your Union Dues. Period.
6. Documentation. Do not confirm an audition if you lack the necessary documentation to accept the job on a quick turnaround. Examples include passport, visa, work permit, Coogan info, etc.
7. Content. Your agent should already have your personal preferences on file, but in the event you receive an audition for a product or message that you don’t wish to represent, talk to your agent. Don’t accept an audition if there is any chance you will have second thoughts upon receiving a booking. We understand, and would rather not see you in the first place.
10 Tips for Actors
Casting Director ‘s get emails daily from actors asking questions.
1. Contacting Talent Agents.
“Paul, I’m compiling a list of agents and casting directors to send my headshot/resume to. Is it recommended to send packets to one person in the office or all?”
It’s best to target one agent in the office.
Most offices have an assistant opening mail. It’s that assistant who decides to pass along your materials. If an actor sends more than one mailing to multiple agents in an office that assistant will often trash the additional copies and pass along only one copy of the actor’s materials.
If after your first round of mailings there’s no response, try other agents in the office. Wait at least a month.
Note: Pilot season is the worst time of the year to do a mailing. April, May, summer, and fall are the best times to target agents.
2. “Extra” Work on a Resume.
“Paul, I teach at the University of Albany using your book as a text. A student of mine had a question. Below are his question and my reply.
Student: Should background and stand-in have their own categories on my acting resume?
My reply: If your resume is still a bit thin, then for now you can include them under ‘Film’ or ‘Television’ headings. Just be sure, in the ‘role’ column that you list your contributions to the project truthfully—be it ‘Background’ or ‘Stand In.’ Once your resume starts to fill out, then lose these credits.
Any hints on how to better answer this type of question would be appreciated!”
You’re near spot on about listing extra work on a resume. Unfortunately because of a stigma of extra—created by some over zealous background actors—and because extra work is more about look and warm bodies than talent, listing the credits drags down a resume. But as you know we all begin with a blank page. Your advisory to the student is the best advice for this point in their career.
3. Giving Up.
“I’m currently wondering whether to try working in the ‘industry’ or just leave the country for good and find a proper job back home? What do you suggest?”
Without knowing your talents, history, goals, strengths, challenges, and overall state-of-mind, I can’t give you an informed opinion.
You need to ask yourself what you want. What are your hopes, ambitions, and desires? No one can give this answer but you. The best person for the advice you seek is you. You know best your strengths, challenges, and frustrations. Ask yourself. But don’t follow the immediate response. Give yourself time to consider alternatives and consequences of your instinct.
4. Filling Out the Resume.
“I’ve been a professional actor for 16 years. I’m a member of SAG-AFTRA and have no day job. I live in a small market that has very few film auditions and even fewer female roles when there are actual films being shot locally. My list of films is short. As a casting director, when you see a resume that is light on films, do you automatically assume a person is inexperienced?”
With this business being very subjective, I can only speak for myself when I’m presented a resume with few or no film credits. My reactions cover a multiple of reflections: the actor hasn’t had opportunities; the actor may be lacking in skill; or simply, the actor is just one among many of the competition fighting for a job.
Everyone begins with a blank resume. Everyone trudges along at the start with a resume thin on credits. Other than an actor honing skills and marketing the hell out of their business, there are few, other, proactive options for the actor. Luck is the major remaining factor to filling a resume.
5. Demo Reels Online.
“I have my demo reels on my website. Is it also important to have it on casting sites? I don’t have it on now but when I submit I usually leave a note to check my website. I’m not getting a lot of auditions.”
Imagine yourself as a casting director. What’s the easiest way for you to see an actor’s reel if you’re on a casting site? Seeing the video there directly? Or endlessly clicking to find the actor’s reel?
If your video(s) are not on casting sites that casting director ‘s visit, you’re giving an advantage to your competition.
6. Crashing an Audition.
“Is showing up to an audition without an appointment something that is a horrible idea, frowned upon, tolerated or encouraged?”
Crashing an audition is generally something—at the Broadway and studio level of the business—that is not welcomed. However, as Broadway actor, Michael Mastro explains in my book, he’s used tactics that have worked for him. And if something he does works, it’s great for all involved—if the casting people are open to the crash.
7. DVDs and Digital Marketing Submissions.
“I recently auditioned for the ‘Chorus Line,’ National Tour. I did well, but got cut after learning the opening combination. I know if I had gotten a chance to sing maybe I would’ve moved forward. Is it completely against protocol to send a reel of me singing ‘At the Ballet’ to the casting director with a note? Is there anything I can do in this situation? Or just wait for the next time around? Thanks so much!”
Never be hesitant in pushing yourself regarding your marketing. Send the video, but know this: Most casting directors don’t open their own mail, an assistant or intern does. Your video may or may not make it to the desk of the casting director. And once on the desk, there is no guarantee it’ll be viewed. But, at least you can have the satisfaction of never having to say to yourself “I should have sent something.”
8. Paid Auditions and Seminars.
“Is it a conflict of interest to have to pay agents and casting directors to audition for them? I’ve been a dues paying SAG-AFTRA member for years, but they won’t see me. (OK so I’m world famous in Rockland and not NYC) but they won’t see me.”
I still feel uncomfortable with these one-shot seminars. With my own seminars, I alleviate my personal discomfort by offering three weeks of marketing and audition tools to my students rather than the standard hit-and-run-audition seminars. In general, “paid auditions” are now the most effective way of displaying your talents directly to agents. I know many actors personally who have gotten signed by agents and/or landed jobs from seminars.
To actors who object to the seminars, I ask this question, “If they are so immoral then why are actors the ones creating the demand? And how do you explain the actors who have careers because of a seminar?” Times and marketing methods change. Resist and you’ll be as useful as an 8-track tape in a Tesla.
9. New York or Los Angeles?
“I’ve always wanted to be an actor in film. Which place is ‘better’ for that between NYC and L.A.?”
Actors with screen ambitions who do better in L.A. have one or more of the following: an agent, past film/TV credits, an ‘L.A.’ hot look, a definable character, an unrelenting drive.
Actors with screen ambitions who go to New York first do so because there’s an active screen community with film and episodics shooting; there are more opportunity to keep their acting skills strong by doing theater; and New York offers an actor opportunity to build credits which to transfer well to L.A.
There are no absolutes to any of the above. This business is like gambling—you never know if you’re going to win or lose. Keep playing at your best and try to beat the odds.
10. Fuel Your Passion.
When my career path is pitted with potholes, I ask myself, “Why the hell do I cast, direct, teach, and write?” You may ask yourself, “Why the hell am I an actor?” when faced with career adversity.
Answer: I know nothing better, at present, which doesn’t feel like “work.”
If ever you find yourself continually bemoaning your career participation as drudgery then time has come to move on. You’ve lost your love.
Nourish your joys and the journey will be more fulfilling.