How to Stand Out in an Audition
You are enough. Fail gloriously. Keep calm and carry on. Just breathe. Don’t look back, and my personal favourite; ‘just keep swimming’.
A list of lovely sentiments, that are utterly unhelpful in most situations.
This article is about how to stand out in an audition, but the trick is, you really shouldn’t be thinking about that at all when you’re in an audition. So it’s going to be more like a motivational piece, which may or may not change your life. So, you know, ‘stay open’.
The word ‘confidence’ gets thrown around a lot, and talked about as if it’s a rare gem that one can find whilst mining in the desert for an acting career. But I don’t think that’s quite it.
Funny thing is, as soon as we try to be confident, to compensate, we are inherently pointing out to ourselves how insecure we really feel. And no matter how great an actor you are, people will be able to smell it from a mile away. Time and time again, casting directors have to babysit nervous actors through auditions, trying to make them feel comfortable, and hoping that they’ll get something good out of the whole process. This is exhausting! The actors that stand out in auditions are cool as a cucumber, and ready to rock and roll, the casting director’s don’t have to worry about a thing.
So, what to do? I love a good game plan, so take inspiration from what’s below, and plan your own attack:
#1 Remember why you’re here:
First of all, the casting director asked for you, otherwise you wouldn’t be there – that means they already like something you have, and see potential. You’re here because you’re an actor, a human being, and you have something to offer.
#2 Remember who you are:
What have you got to offer this role? Just go in there, and do that. Is it that like Luke Skywalker, you also have a difficult relationship with your father, is it that like Walter White, you would do anything to protect your family, do you identify with Sookie Stackhouse, and fall into bed with every chiseled, yet fatally-flawed supernatural creature that crosses your path?
The only way you’ll be able to focus on the work, is if you clear all of those other unhelpful thoughts from your mind. Meditation, music, mantras – whatever works for you. We all love to watch those people who are focused and calm and disciplined in their work, it excites us and we want to get behind them.
Oh my god, be grateful! This is an opportunity to do what you love, so go in there and do it for you, not for the casting director, producer, network, writer and most importantly, not for the money. Bryan Cranston was probably one of the first actors to really expose this notion, and get people talking – it’s a brutal process, but it’s just how the industry works.
Don’t hate the game playa.
I cannot, cannot, cannot relax unless I know I’m totally prepared. So do whatever you have to do to prepare for your audition. Whether it’s working out a parking strategy, what you’re going to eat before you go in, script analysis, character breakdown, rehearsals, filming it on your phone and watching it back, research etc.
#6 Let Go
There are countless ways to figure out this ol’ chestnut, and there’s no one size fits all approach. You’re going to have to navigate this one out on your own. But it will be something along the lines of trusting yourself, trusting the work you’ve done, and remembering to have fun.
Now don’t even get me started on the word ‘energy ‘.
Ok, fine just quickly – if you’re breathing, you’ve got energy. It’s not another rare stone that you find next to ‘confidence‘ whilst mining in the desert for an acting career. I know it, your mum knows it, and you know it. So, how about we all just be ourselves.
The last thing I want to say is, forget about the nerves. Let them be there. Use them, accept them, appreciate them. They’re nothing but signs letting you know that this is important to you, and you care about it. As soon as you’re comfortable with being nervous, you won’t be.
Casting directors not only see nervous actor after nervous actor, they also see the same generalised idea of a scene, over and over again. This interesting thing happens when we first read a script, we say the lines, either out loud, or in our head, and they come out in a kind of sing-song way. For example, the line “Fine, but don’t say I didn’t warn you” – there’s a certain rhythm that comes to mind when you say that line. I challenge you to challenge that, in a challenge. I call it, creativity. How many different ways can a character express themselves with the words they’ve been given by God (the writer)? Casting directors love to see something different, and even if the reading is inappropriate or not quite right, they can always give you direction. In fact, they’d love to give you direction.
Tom Holland, who we now know as the latest (and most attractive in my opinion, but that’s for another article) Spiderman, begged his agent to get him an audition for the latest remake, Spiderman: Homecoming. In his self-tape, Holland did multiple backflips, whilst introducing himself, and no doubt, also nailed the scene. If anyone has this footage, please send it to me. Multiple call-backs later, he found himself opposite Chris Evans, where he continued to backflip and exhibit his acrobatic prowess. I think the core lesson about this story, is not that Tom Holland is athletically gifted, but he trusted what he had to offer, and probably just didn’t give a darn.
Some wise person, not me, talks a lot about going deeper than your first instincts for the scene and the character. Everything seems quote simple on the surface, but what happens if we keep asking ourselves, “what else?” What else is there in this scene, with this character? You’re bound to get some interesting answers, if you’re willing to go there and give it a go.
Everyone is unique, unless you’re a clone – sorry about that.
Every character will become a part of you, and you apart of it. I know, hold back the cringe. But honestly, a character is an idea, a shell, an outline, and it’s our jobs as actors to fill that, and bring it to life. Forget about what you think the casting director might want, and bring your unique, diverse self to the role. Sometimes they’re not sure what they’re looking for, and they won’t know until you show them.
Less whimsical, more practical tip: make a list of all the similarities between you and your character, and then all the differences – it helps you define what you are bringing to the role, and also identifies what challenge you’ll take on. Here’s where the fun comes in, perhaps you’re not a linguist who’s haunted by glimpses of your future, but here’s your chance to pretend for a little while.
The main thing to take away from this long-winded love-letter to Casting Directors, is that you don’t need to try so hard. Forget about ‘standing out’ and just do the work, trust the work, then kick-ass.
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