A Session Director on The Major Audition Mistake Not to Make

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I would rather you be a confident, bad actor than an unconfident, great actor.

Obviously, I want you to be both great and confident, and we can be, but I see too many actors destroy their brilliant work in their audition with their insecurity. It has to stop. You’re reading this, so you’re probably an artist. You have a sweet, little, sensitive, arty-farty heart, just like me. So I already know you’re a sweetheart inside. You have nothing to be sorry for when it comes to doing your work at a casting. Stop apologizing for being an actor and start taking pride in it. Like, now.

We can immediately tell when an insecure actor comes in the room. We can tell if that person seems like they’ll be able to handle the pressure and stress of life on a set, if they can handle collaboration, and if they’re too sensitive to take direction. If your vibe makes us feel like you’ll wilt on set, we can’t hire you. We can’t risk our production on you, no matter how great your audition was. Chances are there was someone else who did work that was just as good, but also carried themselves like a pro, instead of an amatuer. Don’t apologize before, during, or after your performance, not physically, in terms of your energy, or verbally.

The first way actors apologize for existing is not taking control of their audition experience to make sure they are prepared to present their work effectively. When you arrive, run your pre-game ritual, and set yourself up for success.

READ: “4 Ways for Working Actors to Deal With Emotional Stress”

During your audition, if you flub a word or drop a line and need to use the sides to get back on track, stay in it and don’t break, and don’t apologize. Apologizing makes an event out of what would otherwise be a total non-event. Imagine you’re at a dance party and the CD player skips. Sure, it’s weird for a second, but as long as the music keeps going, you just get right back into the groove. But imagine if the CD player suddenly stops the music and is like, “Oh my God. I’m so embarrassed. I’m so sorry, you guys. I promise I won’t skip again. Blah, blah, blah.” We’d all be like, “Shut up and just keeping playing the music. Nobody cares you skipped. We get it!”

Finally, after your performance is over, the worst thing you can do is shit on it. After an amazing performance, so many actors will say something like, “Was that okay? I can do better. I’m sorry I missed that one line/beat/word.” If we or clients loved a performance and then the actor themselves appears unhappy with it, it makes us question it as well.

Who would you rather hire for a project? Someone who puts you at ease, who acts like a professional, who does what they need to do to bring their best work to each take, and who understands that it’s not about perfection but about the storytelling experience, and who seems secure in their art and outlook? Or someone who seems brittle, self-deprecating, and unsure of their choices, work, presence, and capability, who appears fearful or desperate to be liked, or who is trying to get it “right,” whatever they think that is?

Casting and session directors love actors and stories. We audition actors every day and see the differences in their approaches, not just to the craft, but the process of auditioning for work itself. The ones who feel like equals because of their professionalism and their skill are the ones we look forward to each and every time. They’re the ones we go to bat for. So stop apologizing for being an actor or not being perfect or taking up our time. We love spending time with you when you’re doing your job well. Focus on that! Remember, we don’t look at a painting, or a song, or a dance and say, “Yeah, they got it right.” We say, “What a beautiful piece of art.” Just create beauty.

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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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Shaan Sharma
Shaan Sharma is a session director, on-camera acting teacher, and author of “A Session Director’s Guide to Commercial Acting in L.A.”
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