I recently created an audition checklist with a group of casting directors and producers, and used it as a guideline for one of my classes. It turned out to be a great experience on many levels. It was a powerful preparation tool as it gave actors insight into what boxes are being checked in the minds of the people auditioning them, and helped them prepare accordingly. After the audition, the checklist took all of the unnecessary and unhelpful emotion out of the equation. There was no, “Oh, God, I sucked!” “I’m a failure,” etc. The checklist brought everyone back to what actually happened with no emotional overlay. Their answers to the questions on the list told them what worked, what didn’t, and what they needed to do about it.
The checklist is broken down into four categories, each containing several questions. Below is a sample from each category that can help you with your auditioning.
“Have you taken steps to calm your mind, energize your body, and open your heart?”
You only get one shot at the first read. In order for the piece to open itself up to you beyond the obvious, you need a mind that’s settled and calm, a body that’s energized, and a heart that’s open. In this state, you’ll be much more attuned to the subtleties of the piece even after just one read.
“Are you preparing offensively (to blow them away) or defensively (not to bomb)?”
There is no defense in an audition—it’s all offense. You need to have access to the qualities in you that are the strongest and most compelling. In addition, you need a way to apply those qualities to the beats of the piece so that the words jump off the page in a way that is entirely unique and powerful. If you prepare anywhere beneath this standard, your audition is already over.
“Are you aware at all times what you need in order to be relaxed, energized, and focused?”
The act of asking “What do I need?” is strengthening and supports the idea that your work is worth taking care of. Also, if your wait is long, your needs will change. One moment you may need to relax, the next you may need energy, water, or a snack. Checking in moment to moment ensures you’ll walk into the audition room alert, energized, and relaxed.
“Does your opening moment grab the interest of the casting director?”
In an audition, you need to reach out into the room or through the camera to capture the attention of the people watching. Whether it’s connecting strongly with the other character through your eyes or starting with a bold choice, the first 10 seconds of your audition will determine whether they’ll consider you for the role or not. One of the CD’s involved in creating this list said, “When the actor knows how they feel about me, meaning the other character, and grabs me from the beginning of the read, I’m in!”
After all, when the director calls action, you don’t get a warmup!
“Are you able to let go, listen, and react?”
The goal of a good technique is to allow you to let go by giving you a way to store all of your work in the body so that when you start the read you need do nothing but listen and react. The body will be alive with the emotions of the piece and the mind will be still and nonjudgmental. It takes a solid technique and deep work to just “be” and still be fascinating, but it’s necessary. Casting directors don’t want to see your work, they want to be part of an interesting, original, and effortless conversation.
After the Audition
“Do you have a way of letting go of the experience?”
The closer to the experience that you review the audition the better your chances keeping any emotional reactions at bay. Keep a notebook in your bag or your car. Right after the audition write about the waiting room, entering the room, your opening moment, listening, reacting, adjustments, and walking out exactly as they happened. Then literally close the book so that you can move on, knowing what to improve and able to let go of the rest.
From preparation through the actual audition, having a way to check your work brings stability and strength to your process and ensures that you stay in the reality of the experience and out of the negatively focused stories of the mind.
*This post was originally published on Nov. 21, 2019. It has since been updated.
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