Being memorable as an actor, especially in the audition room, is key to landing not just your next gig, but also future roles. Casting directors often see hundreds of different candidates, so standing out is a surefire way to get ahead of the crowd.
We’ve got you covered with the best tactics on how to stand out from your competition, plus tips on reading the signs that a casting director likes you.
Sounds simple, right? According to CD Ken Lazer, it’s not. “Let’s say I’m casting the role of a male or female spokesperson or host,” he says. “I guarantee you that 99% of the actors that come in to audition will do the same exact thing. However, there is that 1%—those one or two actors who will do something a little different from the other 99%—and those slight actions make their auditions stand out.”
Add small, personal touches to the material to convey emotions that go beyond the words on the page. One agent tells the story of a client auditioning for the role of a grieving woman who cries throughout a scene. “My client did just that,” the agent says. “But then she decided to add a sad little laugh at the end. It worked within the context of the scene, and the laugh didn’t change the writer’s intention.”
This is where improv skills come in handy, as long as what you’re doing makes sense for the scene. Introduce yourself, deliver your lines, and move around the room in unexpected ways—which sometimes, can just mean not standing still. Lazer says that the majority of actors “will stand and stay on the mark from the slate through the copy.”
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It’s natural for fear to take over when you’re walking into a casting studio; but don’t let it kill your vibe. CDs are people, too, and they like to surround themselves with people who radiate self-assurance and positivity. Bringing confidence and upbeat energy into your audition will help you make a good impression.
“Put yourself in the shoes of the producer and director,” Lazer says. “If you were watching a casting session of actors—including yourself—would you want to work with you? Would you feel comfortable booking [yourself] to get the job done?”
Not sure how to shake the jitters? Here are a few methods for calming audition nerves:
- Create an audition playlist. Choose songs that not only help you get into the mindset of the character, but also make you feel cool and collected.
- Take deep breaths. Inhale, hold, then exhale. Repeat this 10 times.
- Visualize the audition experience. Picture the entire audition going well, from the moment you slate your name to your exit from the room.
CD Allison Estrin (“Billions”) advises actors to come into the audition room ready to rock. “Being prepared is the most important thing,” she says, “and that does mean being off book.”
CD Jay Binder says that he values actors who do their homework. “Make sure you know how to pronounce every single word,” he tells us. “If it’s a play that’s already been written and produced, do your research. Make sure you read the whole play.”
Learn as much as you can about the project you’re auditioning for—and that starts with reading the breakdown. If it’s a TV show that’s already on the air, watch a few episodes to get an understanding of its subject matter and tone. If it’s a brand-new series, see if you can find past work from the creators or writers to get a sense of their style.
Make sure you’ve learned your lines to a tee. Try these memorization exercises:
- Write your lines out by hand while saying them out loud simultaneously.
- Use a memorization app, such as Rehearsal Pro or Run Lines With Me.
- Run your lines in threes. “If you’re running lines with your scene partner or about to do a scene, doing it three times sort of cements something in your mind,” Emmy winner Sarah Paulson advises.
A good actor will come to an audition ready with interesting choices for their character. A great actor, however, will come in with those choices and be prepared to take any feedback they’re given in the room. CDs and creative teams need to know that you’re able to deliver what they’re looking for even if it’s different from what you had in mind, so figure out how to pivot easily.
For example, actor Greg Braun says that “many times, you can translate ‘bigger’ into ‘urgent,’ or think about a strong, active verb phrase to translate a direction such as ‘louder’ into something more along the lines of ‘to broadcast’ or ‘to assert.’ ”
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According to CD Jason Styres (“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder”), an easy way to get a casting director to like you is to avoid overstaying your welcome or oversharing; actors should come into the audition room, give their performance, and move on.
“The analogy I always use is a first date situation,” he explains. “We come in and we don’t really share everything, but you are going to tell them a little bit about you, and you’re going to show your best version of you. That way, you can get a second date.”
Know how to properly correspond with a CD. Ilene Starger (“Two Weeks Notice,” “Night at the Museum”) tells us that being mindful of a CD’s time—especially when it comes to communication—is a great way to get noticed.
“As with any human interaction, one should observe etiquette and respect boundaries. We’re all in this together, and there are not us versus them divisions; but it’s always better to err on the side of restraint and a lack of presumption,” she says.
Here are some best practices for communicating with a casting director:
- Never email a CD on the weekend.
- When you do email them, double check that you’ve spelled their name correctly.
- Follow directions. For example, if a casting director requests that you send your self-tape with a specific file name format and via a certain delivery method, send it exactly as they’ve asked.
- If you see a casting director in a social setting, never say anything like, “You didn’t call me back for the last project I saw you on.”
- If you don’t know a CD personally, keep your hellos professional—handshakes over hugs!
- Don’t bombard them; keep your correspondences infrequent.
- In conversation, don’t only talk about yourself and your career.
- Never ask a casting director you barely know for advice on how to get an agent.
And remember: A simple thank-you letter can go a long way.
Actors and casting directors are essentially team players in the entertainment business. It’s important to remember that CDs don’t make the final decision on who gets the gig; it’s ultimately in the hands of the client. According to Lazer, many actors think that people in his field have more power than they actually possess; but really, CDs and actors are on equal ground.
“It’s not up to a casting director whether you book the job or not,” he tells us. “If you look and do good in an audition, then I look good to my clients. Just be real. We like that. It’s just that simple.”