I must confess: If you bring donuts or coffee to an audition, I’ll have no choice but to hold you in high regard and probably remember you forever. But when it comes to actually booking the part, well, you’ll want me to remember you for more than just those crème-filled iced donuts.
Aside from pastries and caffeine, here are a few things that will make even those gluten-free casting directors happy (and in turn will make our clients—who are likely sitting next to us in the session—happy as well). I hope most of you are already practicing these common sense tips, but the truth of the matter is that many actors don’t! Learn from their mistakes.
1. You’re “on time” to the audition/callback/booking.
When it comes to an audition, callback, or booking, on time really means 10 minutes early. Scheduled for 9 a.m.? Arrive no later than 8:50 a.m. If you need to set five alarms to ensure you have plenty of time, do it. Nothing is worse than an actor who is late—just ask any of my clients. Time is money.
Or course, don’t go to the other extreme and arrive too early, either. I’ve had actors camp out for hours before an audition to which my clients ask if you’re homeless. Find that sweet spot of 10-20 minutes “early” aka on time.
2. You bring your headshots/resumes/comp cards to every audition.
Yes, we’re living in the digital age and I’m sure we’ve seen your portfolio online a million times. But my client probably hasn’t. Even more important is that we still do old school casting after the actual session, which includes shuffling printed headshots around the table to make a family, etc. Plus, my client will take all of the headshots back to his/her office to do the same thing. So if you don’t come in with anything, you might be forgotten.
3. You really do look like your headshot.
Sounds obvious, sure, but there are many actors who apparently think otherwise. Yes, I know headshots can be expensive but you need an accurate, current shot to book professional work. If you have brown hair in your headshot and walk in with blue hair (true story), please let me know ahead of time. When I call you into a session and someone other than the “you in the picture” walks into the audition, it makes me look bad in front of a client. By not having a current shot, you could actually affect my business which pretty much guarantees I won’t be rushing to call you in again.
4. You prepare the sides, not excuses.
I think it goes without saying that when you come to an audition, preparation is key. Simply put, know your lines. And please don’t come in saying that “I just got the sides, so I haven’t had time to prepare.” I hear that a lot but it’s likely that everyone else in the waiting room is in the same situation and they all managed to prepare just fine. Instead of thinking a short timeline is an obstacle, use it as an opportunity to rise to a challenge. Own the lines and nail it!
5. You are friendly.
A lot of actors forget that it’s not just about the scene—we pay attention to your personality, too. We need to know if we can work with you for hours at a time, potentially for months. A friendly “hello, how are you?” (like you mean it) goes a long way. I’ve had talent lose jobs by pulling attitude during the session. On top of that, we’ve undoubtedly had a hard day too so a friendly face is a bonus!
6. When you book the job, show up.
I can’t believe I even have to write this, but it happened to me again recently on a TV show I was casting: an actor went completely MIA. If you don’t show up, I get the angry call from the client regardless of whether it’s 6 a.m. or midnight, and I then have to find a last-minute replacement.
An entire crew (100 people or more) plus all the equipment are on set ready to go but they can’t shoot anything because the actor isn’t there. We’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line—even if you’re an extra. The day before a shoot, make sure you have gas in the car, child care lined up, that your dry cleaning has been picked up (someone used this as an excuse, believe it or not), and show up.
Follow the tips above and you’ll find yourself already ahead of the pack. And if you can follow all of that up with your wonderful talent, then you’ll be a serious contender for the role. Mission accomplished. Of course you can always bring donuts and coffee to my sessions, but also bring your A-game!
Melanie graduated from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts with a BFA in acting. She then started her own production company producing feature films, documentaries, and commercials in New York. In Los Angeles, she worked in business affairs at the talent agency Writers & Artists and then went on to work at The Firm, a celebrity management company. She is now head of casting at Mike Lemon Casting where has she cast nearly a thousand films, television shows and commercials, many receiving related awards.
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