6 Ways to Impress a Casting Director

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Auditioning is never easy, especially when your casting director seems unimpressed or altogether disinterested—we’ve heard horror stories! Before heading to your next audition, read up on the six quick tips below Backstage’s team of Backstage Experts that are sure to get your next CD paying attention and sitting a little straighter in their seat. Time to impress!

On demanding casting directors’ attention—literally.
“This should be done at an opportune time before you begin your read. The baseline state of most casting people is boredom. So wake them up with a loud noise. Slam the door on your way in if possible. Not in a hostile way, make it look accidental and then make light of it. Perform a jarring vocal warm up. Try a very long silence. Obnoxious? The point is these things are a bit obnoxious. Try to be likeable all the same, but realize nothing is worse than missing their full attention. It goes without saying that doing excellent work in the room can create a positive change in casting people. But in the smart phone era, you need to do something to make sure they are awake enough to watch you work in the first place. Fortune favors the bold. I have seen thousands of actors audition; I work with some of the bold ones to this day.” —Ryan R. Williams

On remaining present in the audition room.
“It’s sometimes harder than it sounds to remain totally conscious and completely present when your brain is racing around taking in all of the new stimuli and your heart is beating faster with excitement and anticipation. I have heard many actors tell me they lose their confidence when they walk into the room, and all of their work goes out the window during the read. They feel as if they weren’t really there. This is when you can lean on the body stabilize you. When you walk in and take your place, take a moment and feel your feet on the floor. Gather strength from the grounded sensation of being firmly rooted to the earth and then take an energizing breath that expands the upper chest, opens the shoulders, and straightens your posture. Now you’ve truly taken your space and are ready to work.” —Craig Wallace

On having a good headshot.
“A good headshot is when there’s a photo and it actually looks like you. For the most part, people in New York, actors, are getting better about it, but I would say there still are a lot of glamour shots out there. They seem like they are pictures that are more appropriate for Facebook or OKCupid or Tinder, and you should use those pictures for those websites, that’s awesome. Score some dates. But you need to have a photo that actually looks like you because it’s such a disservice [when that’s not the case].” —Benton Whitley

On the importance of spontaneity.
“When you prepare your audition, you decide on exact responses and exact reactions at exact moments in the scene. You plot and plan to turn your head on this line, to raise your voice on this line, to show anger, and to take a pause of the correct length at the time the script tells you to so. And if you achieve all of that, you have delivered a pitch-perfect audition. Just like the last guy who was in the room, and just like the next guy. Do not plan responses. Allow relationships to happen.... You grab our focus by finding magic moments, small unfathomable unpredictable pieces of spontaneity. What is the key to the success of major film actors? They keep us guessing. We do not know what is coming next. We sit fascinated because they always amaze us. To achieve this, do not plan your reactions. Plan the relationship between the characters. If you know the relationship rather than the reaction, then every moment of your audition is flexible. You are prepared to discover the reactions when you arrive at that moment. Sure, unpredictability is scary. Very scary. But right now, you are fearing mistakes. You must fear predictability more.” —Greg Apps

On self-taping and being off-book.
“If you aren’t 100 percent off-book by the time the camera is rolling, do not be worried about using the script or whether it is in the frame. Many actors spend so much energy trying to appear off-book they end up stunting their portrayal of the character. It is far better to freely refer to the sides and be in the flow of the scene than to be mentally reaching for the lines. You don’t want to appear on camera like a deer in the headlights.” —Brad Holbrook

On giving as much as you take.
“In a conversation with a casting director, don’t just talk about you, your career, your problems with your agent, and your last or current job. A conversation is a like a good tennis game: an enjoyable, lively give and take. Taking the time to listen and be interested in another person is invaluable, and it shows that one has excellent manners, too.” —Ilene Starger

Ready for your next audition? Check out our film audition listings!

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Craig Wallace
Craig Wallace is the creator and award-winning teacher of the Wallace Audition Technique, an audition preparation system that he developed based on his years of experience as a studio executive, talent agent, and casting consultant.
See full bio and articles here!
Greg Apps
Greg Apps is one of Australia’s most respected casting directors. In a career spanning 30 years, he has cast over 65 feature films.
See full bio and articles here!
Ilene Starger
Ilene Starger has been a casting director in New York and Los Angeles for nearly 30 years and was the vice president of casting for Walt Disney/Touchstone Pictures.Starger is also a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
See full bio and articles here!
Brad Holbrook
Brad Holbrook is the founder, chief cook, and bottle washer of www.ActorIntro.com, a Manhattan studio that creates video marketing tools for actors. He also trains and coaches actors in the skills required for performing on camera, privately and in group classes.
See full bio and articles here!
Ryan R. Williams
Ryan R. Williams has directed three award-winning feature films with appearances by Brad Pitt, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jodie Foster, Owen Wilson, Tracy Morgan, Kristen Bell, and Kevin Smith. Williams is currently directing pilots and episodes for network television and regularly casts members of “Screen Actors System,” his Los Angeles-based film acting school.
See full bio and articles here!