Film and TV auditions are the big ones when it comes to career progression as an actor. More than anything else success here can have a roll-on effect to other jobs. As with all auditions, preparation is key. These auditions can be extremely daunting. The opportunity that they present can be a challenge in itself, as well as staying on the level, sticking to the scene and not getting ahead of yourself is a difficult thing to do. This guide is going to step you through the process of a film or TV audition as a general progression.
Before the audition
The first thing that will happen is your agent will email you with a casting location, time and the sides to learn. It is incredibly unlikely that you will get the full episode or the full film script. They don’t just hand those out willy-nilly. More often than not you’ll get a one to three-page scene featuring your character and maybe a short character description. After you have read it and mined it for all the information possible, research the director and the writer. Between now and the audition try and watch some of their other work and get an idea for the style and tone of their work. Research the world of the piece particularly if it’s certain historical period.
Now learn your lines, and learn them into the ground. My old housemates and I would learn lines separately, then come together and do scenes while engaged in difficult physical activity like holding bridges or squats or while doing burpees. This sounds weird when I write it, but the idea was that in the audition you’re going to be under stress, if you can practice those lines under physical stress and get through them it might provide a bit of psychological preparation for the mental and emotional stress of the casting room.
How ever you go about it, as long as it works for you, make sure you prepare extensively. The trick is, prepare – don’t plan. By that I mean, know every line, every beat, every moment but have no idea how you’re going to do it. Be prepared to surprise yourself and the reader. Camera loves spontaneous action on screen. If you’r surprising yourself you are probably doing it right.
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Also be prepared not to get a scene from the actual project you are auditioning for. Particularly for high profile projects, they will likely give you a scene from a totally different TV show or movie with a similar character or themes to get your take on that before they give you the actual material. Additionally, if your scene is from the project you’re auditioning for take a note of the page number of the script. The further along, generally speaking the higher the stakes for the characters involved.
The waiting room
These either go one of two ways, either you walk into a casting waiting room, 10 – 15 minutes ahead of your time and it’s empty except for one other actor dressed alarmingly similar to you and you give each other a curt nod. Or it is packed to the rafters with mildly anxious humans muttering to themselves trying to get their lives together. Whichever way it goes, do whatever you have to do to focus yourself on the job at hand. However that manifests for you, don’t be a jerk to the people around you. Doing a loud vocal warmup, is probably an inappropriate option at this point. Look over your notes, your materials maybe listen to some music. Do what you need to to get in the zone.
Your initial audition will just be with the casting director and potentially a reader. Group auditions for film are rare but not unheard of. Be friendly and polite, but keep it professional, you’re there to do a job not to impress anyone. If you have any questions ask them before the camera starts rolling, you don’t have a lot of time so keep it concise, but if anything came up in your preparation that you were unsure about, this is the time.
Once the camera is rolling, you’re on. Try and connect with the reader as much as possible, stay alive in the moment and really genuinely listen. If you surprise yourself, you will probably be surprising and interesting for the camera. Please make sure that if you are going to physically engage with another actor or the reader, you get consent from them first. The casting director will then offer you some feedback and redirection. After all this build-up and the intensity of the scene, you might find it difficult to really hear what they are saying. Letting your last performance go, and taking on what they have to offer is what is going to get you this job. Assume you are only going to get two takes, if you get a third then happy days, but work for two and do everything in your power to ensure they are your best two takes.
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Thank everyone and get on your merry way. Especially after big auditions, I like to make sure I have something lined up to do straight afterwards. It doesn’t actually matter what the activity is so long as it doesn’t allow you to ruminate on your performance and all the things you could’ve done differently. No of us have a time machine, once you are out of the room it’s time to drop that audition, let it go and move on with your life. Go and meet some friends in the park, head off to your day job, hit the gym or go for a swim. It can be worth a call to your agent just to check in and say hi, if you don’t have an agent and would like to get one, you can read our handy guide here.
It’s hard, but try and not think about it anymore. You have done everything you can do. Now it’s out of your control, onto the next.
Callbacks are a mercurial beast. They might take place days, weeks or months after your initial audition depending on the project. The script may be the exact one you initially auditioned with or it could be entirely different. You may not even get called back for the same role as the one auditioned for! Literally anything can happen at this point. Return to step one and get back to preparation. However at some point you should receive at least your episode, if not a your character arc or the whole film script, potentially still in a draft or final draft form. Analyse these materials extensively. Make sure you look at some of the directors’ other work because highly likely they will be at the callbacks to meet and chat to you. For some big American projects, you can find yourself in front of a panel of up to 10 people by the late stages. Keep your process the same, take on notes when they are given, keep surprising yourself, keep putting down great work.
So that is a general overview of what to expect at a film or TV audition. It’s a little different to theatre or commercial work and requires a slight adjustment in your process. Hopefully this guide has been a useful tool for you and all the best next time you are in the room!