Hasn’t it all been said before? Probably. But I’ll try again, as I was reminded of the obvious while sitting in on a casting session recently. I think it’d be helpful if actors put Post-it notes all over their house reminding them of these simple truths.
1. The audition isn’t all about you. I know actors think that the audition all boils down to them…but actually, it doesn’t. The actor is one of several moving parts and what you do—or don’t do—in the audition, is really not that big a deal. The casting director is not obsessing over the mistakes you think you made. They have a casting problem and they’re hoping you are their answer. But if you’re not, it’s not personal. They aren’t thinking of you in the way you think of yourself. Eleanor Roosevelt put it best, “You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.”
2. There will be more auditions. Our lives are ongoing, but we live a moment as if it’s the only opportunity we’ll ever have. It’s not. You’ll have another chance to audition. And find love. And succeed. And catch the missed bus. You’ll have another chance to book a job and get an agent and be cast in a film. Don’t get so caught up in the minutiae of life, when your life is actually a continuum of many, many, many moments.
3. There’s not secret to auditioning. The secret to auditioning? Drumroll please…there is none. No magic pill, no “correct” way of doing it. In fact, the more you try to do it “right,” the more you’re actually doing it wrong. No one cares about you doing it right. They want you to be you. And when you do, they’ll be interested.
4. Tell your true story. A casting director friend of mine said recently, “If an actor comes in and is willing to tell his or her story and they believe it, then we’ll believe it.” You have to be brave enough to do this. The great librettist, Oscar Hammerstein said something similar to his protégé Stephen Sondheim once as well, “If you write what you feel, it will come out true. If you write what I feel it will come out false.” So tell your story through the material and it will be true.
5. You can be the most amazing actor and not get the role. Don’t worry about it so much. You’re not auditioning for a job, you’re auditioning for your career. Just go in and play and commit, and then leave it in the room. If you do this, they’ll remember you for the next time. Wentworth Miller confirms this when he says, “You might look at my CV and see I’ve had 12 jobs, but I’ve been to over 450 auditions so I’ve heard ‘no’ a lot more than I’ve heard ‘yes.’ ”
6. Stop thinking about if as a job. It’s not. It’s your opportunity to create. Give yourself the permission to have your own experience. That means go in and show them how you would choose to play this role. That’s the reason to do it anyway.
7. Give up control of doing something perfectly and instead be human. Another way of seeing this is to play and have fun. When you do, we will have fun watching you.
8. Pray for mistakes. (Doubly important for people who like to control; see #7.) When mistakes occur and you’ve been taught to embrace them and not deny them, they will usher in very exciting and dynamic moments that aren’t planned, orchestrated, and mapped out. You’ll go from acting to being.
9. It’s not really rocket science. Understand the material. Make a choice. Go all in. Commit bravely. Listen. React. Play.
10. It’s all listening. Every actor can say a line perfectly. But how you listen to what is being said to you and how it affects you is different for each person in each moment. Surrender to the listening in a way that draws you into the experience, and it will draw us in too.
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