There are so many talented and well-trained actors competing for every acting job, both big and small. You may self-tape an audition and feel very positive about your work–as may your representatives–and yet you still might not book the job. Of course, there are times when it’s clear and obvious that a job was booked by someone else because they have a higher profile, more credits, or are a different type or age that fits the role better. But what about when it’s more mysterious why you don’t book a job?
It can be downright confounding to talent when they feel the person who ultimately got cast seems to be similar to them in type, age, credits, and even their audition interpretation and performance. That’s when the actor must become a bit of a detective to uncover clues about how to refine their audition approach and process to help them land more work and opportunities in the future. There are subtle things to keep in mind.
The first is to become a student of the production and people involved in the job you’re pursuing. It’s good to study all the players’ previous work and productions to make sure you’ve nailed the genre, tone, and style of the project you’re auditioning for. Is it docu-style naturalism, seriocomic, drama, or broad comedy? Are the characters quirky or straightforward and grounded? Is it a Disney show or a procedural drama?
These may all seem like acting class questions, which they are. They’re also the choices that must be made by skilled, well-trained actors to make a marriage between themselves and the production based on a clear understanding of the material and its requirements. Many productions, writers, and directors have identifiable elements that, if unmet, will most likely take an actor out of consideration for a job. For example, when auditioning for a soap opera, there’s a necessity for easy conversational realism along with deeply fluid emotionality. If missing, that would most likely not land you a role. In studying soap operas, it’s apparent what’s specific to the tone, style, and acting so just acting well isn’t enough. It’s acting with a clear understanding of the specific requirements of the individual production.
The same is true of procedural shows and crime dramas as well as sitcoms. You may be doing some great acting, but does your audition fit into the show or is it just not part of the fabric of it? Think of a fantastic opera or musical comedy singer auditioning for a pop singing show. The performer may sing well, even better than other singers, but is the style, song choice, and interpretation right for the specific platform and show being auditioned for?
Maybe you research who got the job and, in comparing, recognize something you need to change or work on in your skillsets like your voice or physical relaxation. Maybe you’d prided yourself on approaching a role with a unique, surprising, or different interpretation but now see that different isn’t always truthful or a fit. Just because it’s memorable doesn’t mean it’s right for a particular project.
There may be even more subtle elements in an audition that can mean the difference in booking a job. Perhaps the key is inhabiting a clear romantic connection in the reading because the whole storyline depends on it. Actors may just not see that so obviously in the character description or material itself and miss a moment of flirtation and fun that demonstrates where the storyline will be going.
Even less obvious issues may lose an actor a job like costume. I remember waiting outside for a “Mad Men” audition with other actors and everyone was dressed so differently than me. When I entered the audition, the first thing the showrunner Matthew Weiner said to me was, “you understand this part.” That was solely based on my clothing choice. The same thing happened on “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
The choices you make must always be truthful and great training brings the skill to do that. But when equally talented and skilled actors compete, pay close attention to the requirements of the particular production and bring those elements in so the people hiring see the perfect marriage between you and their project.
Become a student of your auditions and keep refining them, getting to the bottom of the subtle reasons you might get cast or not!
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