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Secret Agent Man

The A Word

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The A Word
There's a little bar on Sunset called Tiki Ti, where I like to meet one of my favorite casting directors for drinks. Whenever the two of us get together, we always end up talking about all the knucklehead things actors do when they have an important audition. As our laughter grows louder, the other barflies tend to gather around, listening joyfully to our tales of thespian misdoings. Good times.

This week, I'd like to share with you some valuable tips that have come out of those drunken rants. They just might make all the difference at your next big audition.

1) Let's say you're going in on "24." Well, the casting office for that show is way the hell out in Canoga Park. (New York actors, imagine having to get from Wall Street to Yonkers in rush-hour traffic.) Now, depending on where you live, you're probably looking at two congested freeways and quite a few surface streets. That means you need to plan this trip in advance. Nothing makes me angrier than when clients call a few minutes before an audition to tell me they're lost. There's no excuse for that kind of unprofessional behavior. We live in a world where MapQuest makes our lives so much easier. And wouldn't you rather get to your audition early so you can hit the bathroom and take a few moments to prepare? Don't forget: In this industry, on time is late, and early is on time!

2) Always, always be nice to the overworked and underpaid assistant who greets you at the door. They tend to report back to their bosses about the actors in the waiting room, so you really don't want to get them angry. And God help you (because no one else will) if you're my client and I find out you were rude to someone in the casting office. Also, you need to remember that casting assistants grow up to become casting directors, and they tend to have long memories about who they like and who they can't stand.

3) Don't touch anyone. I'm serious. There's no reason to shake the casting director's hand unless he or she offers it. And don't even think about touching anyone during the audition. I don't care what the scene calls for. It's an audition. You're not on set. So just walk in, do your job, and keep your grubby hands to yourself.

4) Once you're in the room, it's perfectly okay to ask the casting director a question, but you don't want to overdo it. One question is fine. Two is pushing it. And three is a sign you have no idea what you're doing.

5) When you're auditioning, it's important that you not get locked into your original choices. If the casting director gives you an unexpected note before you start, you need to be Johnny-on-the-spot with the adjustment. The same is true when you're asked to read again after some direction. If you're not open to changes, you'll probably do the scene again exactly the same way, and that means you can kiss your callback buh-bye.

6) Never overstay your welcome. When you're done auditioning, ask the casting director if he or she has any adjustments. If the answer is no, then say thank you and get out. Don't ask if you're going to get a callback or when the callbacks are or if you did well. Those kinds of questions mark you as an amateur, and that's not what you want.

Agents work hard to find opportunities for their clients. So when you get a shot to read for a casting director who holds the keys to the kingdom, you want to make sure you're judged on the choices you make as an actor, not the choices you make as an insecure, unprofessional, lazy human being.

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