Auditions. We put so much emphasis on them, and it’s more often than not that you’ll leave this brief foray into your beloved craft only to feel emptier and more lost than before you went in. What gives? Well, if you haven’t heard it before, here’s the fact: Auditions are not Acting. Auditions and self-tapes are a skill unto themselves, and you need to prepare accordingly.
Auditions are not ideal acting conditions. They have a time limit. They have the unusual pressure of the audience knowing more about your character than you do. They are judgmental and measured, rather than expressive and emotive. All of these limitations create an environment altogether removed from actual acting. The best way to approach this situation differs from actor to actor, but here are a few options to play with if the mere prospect of auditions leave you in cold sweats.
After the requisite vocal warmups (that we’re sure you are in the habit of doing daily) and a bit of a physical limbering up (Yes, this is non-negotiable even for shoulders-up self tapes. Casting directors can tell a tense performance from one that is free and uninhibited by some pesky hip tension.)
There are a few things you can incorporate to mentally prepare. For one, know your material back to front. Be able to recite your lines in your sleep. Beyond this, do your due diligence in regards to character. Don’t just research, go further and make your own decisions. They may not be “correct” or even “appropriate” but whoever is casting doesn’t need to read your notes. This is similar to giving your character a secret. If you get nervous before auditions, then over prepare and create an entire narrative for your character. Even if they only have a brief introductory scene, they will be more fully realised in your mind, and you won’t slip up and make those generic choices that every other actor is presenting. This foundational work can be fun, too. If you work visually, sketch out some wardrobe options your character would wear in each different season, artist ability not required. If you like words, write some diary entries from their perspective. And remember remember remember that no one but you ever needs to see these!
On the flip side, another option is to engage in something completely unrelated to acting that you absolutely kick ass at. If you are an amazing soccer player, juggle a ball in your living room for ten minutes before you go to the audition. Nail some air guitar. Belt a show tune in your car. Do anything that makes you feel like you don’t need to get this job after all. The more confidence you have in your abilities that don’t revolve around acting, the less ‘Now Or Never’, ‘It All Hangs On This’ attitude you’ll convey. That is a tense attitude. Tension is the enemy. If you walk in with an aura of competence and success, it will read as magnetism both on camera and in person.
The more you audition, the more comfortable you will be, swanning into the waiting room, filling out your wardrobe form, delivering a knock out audition scene, and then treating yo’self afterwards, whether that’s with yoga, a beverage, cake, or Netflix. Auditions are rough, and it’s a job in of itself to try to land a job. Be kind to yourself, indulge in something successful, and over prepare.
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