How To Succeed At Auditions
This blog will tell you everything you need to know about auditioning: how to prepare, what to do, what to wear, and how to deliver your lines. I guarantee you that if you follow the five steps I outline below, you will book every single audition!
Okay, the first test was whether you got through that paragraph without your Bullshit Meter sounding every alarm it has. If you smelled something fishy, then you're doing well. If your Bullshit Meter didn't so much as chirp, you need to check yourself - your gullibility is off the charts.
There is no secret, no proven approach that will turn everyone into a superstar. Anyone who says they have the secret is delusional or fraudulent.
The second test was whether you kept reading this far. If paragraphs 1-3 are enough to discourage you, you definitely need a gut check as to whether you picked the right profession. This isn't meant to be a beat-up-on-new-actors blog and I will get to the encouraging stuff shortly. I'm just saying that if you're scared of your own shadow, you're probably not Peter Pan.
The bottom line is that there's no substitute for experience. There just isn't. I've mentioned this before, but Malcolm Gladwell points out in his book Outliers that practice is what separates the great ones from everyone else. Specifically, he points out the 10,000 Hour Rule - that the key to success in any field is practicing that specific task for at least 10,000 hours. This isn't the Ten Commandments set in stone, but it is an illustration of how important it is to get experience doing what you want to do. For actors, this means getting audition experience.
Casting director Bonnie Gillespie pointed out in one of her recent Actor's Voice blogs that many actors make the mistake of "leading with need" (to see the article, click here and scroll down to "Don't Lead with Need"). When you go into the audition room, they can tell immediately if you "need" the role. It comes across as desperation and that's a huge turn off. Many an actor has lost a role before they opened their mouth on this point alone.
Another surefire way to lose the role before you start your audition - oozing nervousness. Yes, we all get nervous in the room. But there's a difference between being nervous and being so nervous it's palpable to those around you. That will disqualify you 10 times out of 10.
If you are coming across as needy or nervous, you can't fix these things overnight, nor can you fix them by just going to a few classes. There's no quick and easy trick to overcoming these issues. You have to practice it...and fail...and try again...and fail again. Just fail better each time and eventually you'll stop failing.
Everyone has an opinion about how to achieve this. "Do this. Don't do that. Take this auditioning class. Stretch. Stand before your turn. Meditate. Ignore everyone. Go in the room in character. Don't eat before an audition. Eat before an audition. Envision yourself succeeding. Imagine them in their underwear." The list goes on. Ask 100 actors or acting teachers, you'll get at least 50 different answers.
That doesn't mean any one of them is wrong. The solution isn't to do none of these things - quite the contrary, do them all. Try everything. Most things won't work for you. But you can't figure out what does work if you're not trying different things. Lots of different things. Keep what works; drop what doesn't. Auditioning (and acting) is a uniquely personal endeavor. What works for someone else may not work for you. Don't let others dictate your process. It's yours, not theirs. They won't be in that room, you will. Only you can figure out what works for you. Of course listen to everyone, but don't drink the Kool-Aid until you're sure it's the flavor you like.
Classes are great. Go to them. Practice there. But don't get married to classes. Classes aren't the real thing. If you're a ball player (pick any sport), you absolutely must practice, but practice isn't the game. Neither is scrimmaging. Going to class is practice; performing in front of the class is scrimmage. But being in the audition room is being in the game. If all you do is take classes, then you're never in the game.
Submit to student films. Even though you won't get paid, you'll get real world auditioning practice. That's the perfect place to try out auditioning approaches. If you get cast, then you'll get invaluable experience performing on camera under pressure. Can't get student film auditions? Create you're own content (viral video or webseries) and cast yourself. Whatever it takes, find a way to practice practice practice.
I guarantee over time you will get better.
Eventually you will reach that level where you can walk into an audition room and say (again borrowing from Bonnie Gillespie), "'Hey, I'm just here to show you what I can do with this material. It looks like this when I play with these words in this character: Boom!'"
You can't get there by thinking it. You get there by doing it.
What are some ridiculous audition "tips" you've been given? What works for you?
(first photo courtesy of Tara Welch; second courtesy of Keith Wood)
-- Gabriel Voss