A Casting Director on What You Need to Know About the Audition Room

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You’re doing everything you can as you wait to head into the audition room. You’ve been staying proactive between auditions and taking steps to prepare once you have a date set for your next one. But what should you expect and prepare for when you’re about to step into that room?

Well, studios and casting offices vary. You can’t anticipate what the atmosphere will be like when you walk in and you may have no idea how many people will be in the room. Don’t allow yourself to be thrown off by the environment. A good casting office will care about making you feel welcome, but you should learn to make yourself appear confident and at ease. Auditions can be stressful even for the casting director. There can be tension if the CD feels pressure to impress the creative team and agency. Be prepared for any casting situation when you walk in. Focus on your breathing and stay calm, confident, and always be polite. 

It’s important to remain positive and leave your problems at home. The team needs to know that you’re going to be a great collaborator on set and in rehearsals. When you radiate warmth and are engaging, we remember you because you’ve left behind a positive impression and first impressions count. When you arrive in a room you need everyone to notice and remember you. Make eye contact with everyone and look well put together. Casting directors will often let agents know if there are any wardrobe notes for the audition so don’t dress in a costume unless it’s requested. However, you can dress with a nod to the era or style of the piece. For example, if you’re going up for a period production, then a vintage style blouse will help us imagine you in that role.

For commercial castings, there are often quite specific wardrobe notes and for dance auditions, wear something comfortable with the correct footwear. For music video castings, you should look at the treatment or mood boards to get the vibe of the video to work out what to wear. We’ve probably brought you in because we’ve seen your Instagram photos or model shots and like your own unique style and you’ll probably be asked to wear your own clothes for the shoot because of the low budget.

READ: Everyone You Need to Know in the Audition Process

When you’re asked questions in the room, answer naturally because it’s usually obvious when an actor is trying too hard to impress or saying something you just feel you should say. It’s also much more interesting to allow your personality to shine through instead of saying something you think we want to hear. We want your honest reaction to the script and to the character. Feel free to ask us questions and be open to having a brief discussion about the script or your character, but don’t be put off if there isn’t enough time to chat in the room.

If you fluff your lines in the middle of a scene, don’t apologize too much and come out of character. Focus and carry on with the scene unless the casting director has called cut. We can always edit the scene together in post, or we will let you do the scene again if you haven’t done too many takes. The casting director will take into consideration that this is your first time reading with us or working with another actor and you’re getting used to the rhythm of someone else talking, so you may need to warm up. It’s often the second or third take that is the best.

See the experience as a mini-workshop opportunity to work on a character. In the room I let actors do the first take to see how they’ve prepared it and to get an idea about their instincts on the character. Then we will give them direction and notes for their second take. Actors must learn to listen carefully and adapt quickly to a different direction and be open to exploring their character. Sometimes casting directors might just be testing how well you can take direction. We might ask you to play it bigger, smaller, louder, quieter, or with a certain motive.

Often when discussing a character in an audition, you’ll want to tell us how you personally relate to the character or situation, because your job requires you to evoke emotional memory and empathize other peoples’ experiences. Be careful with what information you share with the casting director so you don’t come away feeling like you’ve overshared. Think about what you’re comfortable discussing before your meeting.  By speaking in a matter of a fact way when discussing a character and how it relates to you, it will help you to feel in control, comfortable, and professional.

With this knowledge, you’ll be able to handle whatever you face in the room.

Looking to get cast? Apply to casting calls on Backstage.

The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Louise Collins
Louise Collins is a casting director for TV, film, commercials, and promos. She began her career assisting Jina Jay for “Rogue One,” “The Night Manager,” and “Pan.” In 2016, she launched Collins Casting. Credits include LFF winner “Fighter,” IFF winner “Okay Mum,” Netflix’s “Murder Maps,” and “Everything You Didn’t Say” starring Olga Kurylenko. She has cast commercials for Nike, Ikea, and Unicef, and promos for The Weeknd, Jorja Smith, and Shy FX featuring Cara Delevingne.
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