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Advice

The Audition Checklist

Know what you are fighting for. Make sure your goal, your intention, or your motivation is so exciting that your stomach muscles are tight and your energy is high. Then raise the stakes higher. If you are fighting to pick up a woman, don't fight to get a date. Raise the stakes by choosing that you'll kill yourself if she refuses you. Fight to win.

Have strong actions for your first and last lines. Even if the first line is  "Hello," don't make it a lead-up. Say hello to scare your partner or show who is in charge or tell them you love them. Your last line creates an ending. Don't turn to the auditors after your last line. Give your partner a final message.

Start immediately. Chat briefly to the casting people and start! Don't bore auditors by preparing in the room. If your boyfriend left your car a mess, again, you wouldn't take a few breaths, laugh nervously, and wring your hands. You'd yell at him as soon as you saw him.

Use energy. Often actors talk with charm and energy when they walk into the room, and then when they begin "acting," they lose their personality. They are trying not to overact, but they are dull. Energy is sexy, fun, gets you noticed, and gets you work. Use your full voice, not some whispery "acting voice." Casting directors cast you for your unique personality. If your reader is not giving you energy, act as if the reader is fighting just as hard as you are. If the scene is hushed, make it energetic with intensity.

Learn a perfect technique. For an important audition, use a coach. Memorize the sides, but hold the script up to the side of the person you are speaking to, and don't flap it up and down. Then it becomes invisible. Never set it on a table. If you wear glasses to read, greet the auditors without your glasses, put them on, read the scene, and take them off to say goodbye.

Know how to position your body so you are seen. Do not get upstaged. If it is an on-camera audition, know how far you can move before going out of frame.

Dress for the part. Wear jeans for a young mom, or a suit for a lawyer, but only approximate the costume of a bishop.

If you flub, keep going. Never ask to start over or comment with a grimace on your performance. One of my students' cell phone rang in the middle of a TV audition. He grabbed it out of his pocket, yelled, "Not now!" and carried on. He got the job.

Use the exact words of the script. Don't ad-lib.

Never sigh or say, "Uh." Would you say, "I, uh, love you?" or "The car is about to, uh, crash?" Sighs let your energy out of the scene. "Uhs" are sloppy.

If the casting director says, "Take it down," do not jettison your preparation. Lower your volume or find the vulnerability.

Find the specifics and the images. If the script says, "He's dumb and stupid," don't treat these adjectives as identical. If the line is "We can bang on the door or yell through the vent," dare to physically act out both choices to create images for your partner.

Find the silences. Silences attract the attention of the room. Filled silences are riveting. Too many actors talk right away after they receive big news. Wait. Absorb the news. If you're slapped, don't scream at the person right away. Receive the slap and then speak. I heard an old actor say to a young actor, "I can do more with my silences than you can do with your lines."

Use humor in every scene. In "Beginners," Christopher Plummer smiles as he gets the news he has cancer—a fascinating choice that showed courage. Such humor should be sprinkled throughout all your work, including drama. In my book, I say, "Great actors give themselves the freedom to laugh in places that lesser actors wouldn't dare." Take pleasure in your wins. Hannibal Lecter was proud of his brilliance. Most laughs are social laughs or scared laughs and have nothing to do with funny. Play humorous games with lines. If the line is "I'm miserable," don't do it straight. Dare to laugh or groan or mock-stab yourself. 

Risk! Everyday life is dull. Raise the stakes. Dare to jump up and down on that bed like Brad Pitt in "Thelma & Louise." Casting directors love energy and subtext. They love to hear a line delivered in a new way. Go beyond the obvious. Don't use your ordinary self. Use your extraordinary self.

Deryn Warren is a film director, L.A. acting teacher, coach, and the author of "How to Make Your Audience Fall in Love With You." She can be contacted at DerynWarren.com.

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