Your knees are weak, your palms are sweaty, you have not long to get prepped and ready, script spaghetti. If you have ever felt this feeling, you’re either having a very weird dream or you have just been notified that you will be doing your first ever audition! After your heart rate returns to normal and your head starts to clear, you’re probably asking yourself: “How on earth do I prepare for an audition?!” Well it’s funny that you ask, cause we actually have guide for that. Right here. You’re reading it! So let’s get into it, and prepare for your first ever audition!
The outcome of your first ever audition will hinge on preparedness. This counts for the performance itself—script analysis, character work, knowing the scene and learning your lines—as well as wider preparation for things such as what to wear and proper audition etiquette. Developing these tools will help you feel confident and combat nerves. However, remember that auditioning is a skill: all skills can be learned and improved. So consider your first audition as a chance to practice a skill rather than a means to an end. If you don’t book your very first role, you will at least have an edge on the next.
First Time Prep
As you may presume, we have quite a few articles on auditioning, being an acting website and all. So this article will be going over the basics for our first timers and honorary newbies. If you want to be studious, I will be sprinkling articles throughout for you to read. The first thing you have to do is just relax and breathe. Unless you’re one of those crazy people who can stay cool, calm and collected in new situations (people I am super jealous of), then there’s a good chance that you are nervous. That’s okay! It is perfectly normal to have nerves, especially when you care about something, and you’re off to do something new.
Hopefully, for your sake, that you have at least a few days to get ready. So much of this advice applies to the assumption that you have a bit of time. If not, we have an article on how to prepare for a last-minute audition you can check out as well. So whether this is your first time, or you just want a quick guide to refresh on the fundamentals of auditioning, let’s dive in.
What to Wear
People often refer to this industry as one that only cares about looks. This is not the whole truth, as talent, skill, and hard work still matters. With this in mind, you’re going to want to look your best. I have seen some wild to straight-up-sloppy outfits during my time as an actor (I still cringe when I think about the time I wore flip flops and a singlet to an audition.) A lot of actors think if they look casual, this plays as confidence. In actual fact, you end up looking like you don’t care about the job—no a good look to a potential employer.
So what to wear? A classic-go to is a plain, simple top that fits well; nothing too baggy, no crazy logos or memes and preferably in a block/jewel tone (navy, emerald green, dark purple, ruby red, black, white.) It depends on your complexion. Due to my complexion being comparable to that of a 1800s Victorian Era Ghost—with blonde hair to boot—white does not look good on me. Especially on camera. However, navy blue does wonders and makes my eyes pop.
Depending on the character you are portraying, you may want to wear something that nods or hints to your character. For example, if your character is a lawyer, wear a suit jacket. Just something simple that nods towards your character, so that the casting director can picture you in the role a little better (and know that you put some effort into the audition.) But at the end of the day, they are there to see you! You and your potential talent, so don’t stress too much over what you’re wearing. When in doubt, wear something comfortable, but appropriate. The same applies to makeup: as minimal as possible is usually best.
An Actor Prepares
Got your outfit picked? Great! Now it’s time to prepare everything else. If you want to prepare for your very first audition, and prepare well, you are going to have to call on every tool in your actor’s toolkit. Some of these skills may be new to you, or things that you’re still finding confidence with. That’s fine, this thing of ours is a marathon not a sprint. But let me rattle off a few considerations, along with some links to our other sites that go into greater detail.
Keep in mind:
- Learn your lines! There’s no way around it: you need to know exactly what your character will say so you can stay present in the scene and act accordingly.
- Analyse your script. Knowing your lines is one thing, knowing why they are there is another. This is one of the most important things an actor can do to improve their audition chances.
- Work out what your character wants. What is their objective: the thing they want in the scene from the other character? This will give the scene momentum and drive.
- Do your research on the project. What’s the show? Is it new, recurring? Who else is working on it? Has anybody you know ever worked with the director? If it’s a play, can you read an existing copy of the whole thing?
- Figure out how you are getting to and from the audition. Plan for traffic and no street parking, and be pleasantly surprised to arrive early with zero stress. Prepare for the worst.
- Practice your performance. If there’s a few scenes you must perform, you won’t get a feel for them until you do it out loud.
- Have a monologue prepared just in case (not a huge deal if you don’t, but always good to have if you can).
Remember, the casting directors want to see you in the audition. You don’t have to be perfect or “get it right.” because they are looking for your version of the character. So try not to act as the character, but be yourself in the character’s shoes.
The ‘Before’ Moment
What you do right before your audition can have a big impact on your performance. We’re not talking about lines, or any other acting business, we are talking about you as a person. The 24 hours before an audition can make or break your performance and your ability to do a great job. Here’s some small tips and tricks that I find help me big time.
- Hydrate. Sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how many times I’ve tired and felt crabby because I forgot to drink water.
- Don’t drink too much caffeine. I love a good cup of “go-go juice” as much as anybody; however, caffeine does have the tendency to elevate potential anxiety or nerves. Also, you don’t want to be bouncing off the walls when you’re trying to focus in the room.
- Have a solid deep sleep the night before. That means no big parties or getting drunk (you can’t give your best performance when you want to throw up.) No staying up til 4am when your audition is at 9am the same day. Having a legitimately good night’s sleep will help you bring your A-Game the next day.
- Learn to breathe. You don’t have to be well-versed in the art of meditation in order to reap the benefits of breath work. It especially helps with nerves and clearing your mind to help you focus. Simply breathe in through your nose for 8 seconds, hold for 4, then release the breath slowly.
- Be prepared. I know we already went through that, but having known that you have put your best effort in, arriving on time and having your audition sides as a back up really will help eliminate those pesky nerves.
An audition is like a job interview. Almost. You want to be professional as possible, but not be too wooden or boring either. If I am auditioning for something smaller like an indie or a student film, and the room has less than five people, usually I will shake everyone’s hand. Auditions for commercials or bigger studio parts, you probably want to skip the formalities, but still be as friendly and courteous as possible. For theatre, well, you’re usually on a stage, so best to just jump up and get to it.
Once you are in the room, try and find your mark: the space where you’re meant to stand and perform. For something being taped, it will usually it will be a few feet in front of where the camera is. For theatre, front-centre of stage is best. When in doubt, feel free to ask if you are in frame or not, or if this is the best space to perform.
Whether you start with a meet-and-greet or not, the next part is always the same. The actual audition. Take a deep breath, feel free to take your time. Be present, be focused and listen. Sometimes they will get you to do a few takes, other times you will be done and ready to leave after one. It’s fine either way. I have gotten roles when I have thought that I did terrible because I only got to perform one take; other times, when I thought I had nailed it, I didn’t get the role. Life just be like that sometimes.
Once you have given it your best, say thank you and leave. Please, for the love of Meisner, just go. Do not dawdle, gawk, chat, stare, and ask for feedback when you are in the room. It reeks of unprofessionalism and it diminishes your chances of getting called back. Smile, say thank you, and leave.
At Home Auditions
Ever since COVID, casting directors realised that it’s actually way more convenient for them to have you send them an audition tape than to allocate you a time in their busy schedule in person. As much as I prefer in-person auditions, I can’t blame them: casting directors are busy people and self tapes are convenient.
Self tapes have become a common practice, so it is wise to get accustomed to how to perform a good one. Here at StageMilk, we spend a lot of time going on about them given how important they are in getting you work. However, considering this could be your first ever go, let me outline the basics:
- Feel free to use your phone. But be careful in how good the quality it is. For a simple self tape you want it crisp and clear, however it doesn’t need to be shot in 4k. Why is this? You don’t want whomever is casting you having to download a gigabyte worth of data just to watch your thirty second self tape. If your file is too big/annoying to download, they may skip it altogether.
- Have a plain background! No crazy paintings behind you, no funny pictures of your cat, just a plain wall or (even better) a dark grey curtain. Don’t distract your viewer from your performance for even a second. Any second you lose them you risk never getting them back!
- LIGHTS! The casting directors want to see your beautiful face! No need to bring out cinema-grade LED banks, but make sure there’s enough light that you don’t look like Nosferatu.
- Angles. You’ll want to be in shot close enough so that your head is just in shot, and the bottom of the frame is around your belly button (what we call a mid-shot.) If your head is too far away from frame you run the risk of looking too small, and visa versa. Then try to get the camera horizontal to your face, and not looking upwards or down upon you. Put your viewer on the same level, and they will feel immersed in the scene rather than as an observer.
- Eyeline. Look just off-camera. Never look into camera. Looking just off helps create the illusion that your scene partner is right there with you. Into camera, and suddenly you’re doing a reality tv show video diary.
- Make sure you put in a slate. What’s that you may ask? A slate is simply your full name, height and location. Always remember that you do not have to give a casting director your age unless it is for a drinking or gambling advert. If this is the case, simply state whether you are over or under 25. Your slate is also the time to show a little bit of your amazing personality, and have that shine through.
If you can, it’d be wise to leave your self-tape set-up set up, because once you get is just right it can be surprisingly hard to replicate it. If you’re like me—you live in a shoe box and have no space—then just do what you can. At the end of the day ,it is the acting and your look that the casting director is focusing on. So don’t stress too much about the production values.
So we have the basics down of what to do, and how to prepare for your first audition. If you want to know what not to do, we have one last article here that you really should peruse.
Final tip? Be kind to yourself. Auditioning is an art form all on its own. Over time, you will start to discover a process that works for you. So don’t stress over it too much. I know from first hand experience how that is much easier said than done. The fact that you have built up the courage and to do something new, and to embark on a new journey is commendable all on its own.
So whether or not you get the part, be proud of yourself for trying, and keep going!