Back in September, I had an unbelievable run of audition success, booking six of eight 75 percent success rate. (The usual booking ratio for actors is one in 30 auditions.)
Why am I booking? Hard work and a lot of luck. I arrived in Los Angeles nearly three years ago with the goal of becoming a working actor, one I’ve had since I was five years old. Now, almost five decades later, I’m finally pursuing my dream full-time. It’s never too late.
When I arrived in L.A., I started by taking 2-3 acting classes every month at the most prominent studios in town. I love learning. I love watching other actors. I’m investing in myself.
Taking classes by reputable teachers creates a level of confidence that will show when you audition. Becoming a good actor is a process, a long journey, and like any skill, you have to put the work in to become good (and even more work to become great!).
An athlete doesn’t get to the Olympics by sitting on his butt all day watching TV, dreaming about winning a gold medal. Athletes are in the trenches, working out every day for hours. If you want to be a great working actor, be an athlete. Your body is your tool—work out all of it.
Confidence can only come by doing the work. And I still get nervous before every audition but, thanks to great teachers along the way, I’ve learned a few tricks to prep me to do the best I can when I enter the room.
At the beginning of this year, I found an agent and a manager who had faith in me. With their help, I’ve been getting into the room to audition. And with the help of my teachers, I’ve known what to do to prepare. Now the work is up to me to nail the audition as best I can.
Below are the first 13 steps I take to set myself up for a great audition, all before the audition.
1. Get excited.
You just got an audition! Woohoo! Most CDs see 2,000-5,000 submissions for one role. You are one of 20-25 to get into that CD’s room. That’s a big win, so celebrate!
2. Confirm ASAP.
If you have conflicts, call/email/text your agent or manager right away. Never call casting. Your representation are the liaisons between you and casting. (If you don’t have reps, then you can call casting yourself).
That said, you should always give your agent book out dates (times you’re not available to audition or work). Communication with your team is so important. Nothing angers an agent, manager, or CD more than an actor who they book to audition and the actor is not free.
3. Thank your agent/manager.
These people worked their ass off to get you into that room. You aren’t their only client. Appreciate them and their work.
4. Read the audition ticket and sides completely.
From the left upper corner to lower right corner, read everything on the page. What page does the scene start? Location? Time of day? Your character’s description? Who’s in the scene with you? Actions? Dialogue? Read it all.
5. Break down the scene line by line.
Not sure how to break down a scene? Check out this article or take a class.
6. Know the players.
Use IMDbPro to look up the CDs, producers, director, and writers. Find out who they are, what they look like, and what other projects they’ve worked on. Read their bios. Google them. This is the beginning of creating long-term relationships, the key to the business of the business.
7. Research the show.
What season are they on? What episode? What season/episode are you auditioning for? What’s the tone of the show? Dark, funny, drama, procedural, fast or slow paced, over-the-top physical comedy? Know the show before you start working the lines.
8. Read the dialogue.
All of it, not just your part. Read it again and again. Download a recording app and record the scene reading the other character’s lines with enough silent space for you to deliver your lines. Use this recording when you get to step 13.
9. Think (in the first person) about who the character is.
You are now this character. Read Howard Fine’s, “Fine on Acting” and Uta Haugen’s, “The Actors Challenge” to learn how to dive into character background analysis and actually do the exercises listed in their books. Just reading the exercises doesn’t help—you have to do them.
10. Figure out what’s happening in the scene.
What happened before the scene? What do I want during the scene?
11. Read other breakdowns.
If you can access the other character breakdowns, read them. This will give you more information to the story and may help you round out where you fit within the story.
12. Watch the show.
If the show you’re auditioning for is currently running, watch an episode or two to get the style of the show. Notice the colors of the wardrobe and wear that color palette to the audition. If it’s a pilot, watch other shows done by the writer/producers; it will help you learn the style of their work.
13. Memorize your lines.
Only once you’ve done the first 12 steps, start working on memorizing your lines and be word-perfect. Writers work their asses off picking the right words, so don’t change them. Commercial auditions sometimes let you improvise but be word-perfect unless you are told otherwise.
Check back in a few weeks for part two, where we talk through the steps you can take during and after an audition to ensure you land the part.
Check out Backstage’s TV audition listings!
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and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.