Is there anything more disheartening for an actor? A long, dry spell of auditions—and not even a peep from your agent! It’s something we all feel sometimes, and it can be frustrating. The feeling then is usually followed by an array of questions such as: “Am I no good?”, “Do casting directors not like me?” and “Did my agent die and I missed it?” The final question is always the same, however: “Why am I not getting auditions?”
Asking yourself why you’re not getting auditions is a perfectly valid thing to do. As much as we hate to admit it sometimes, the aloof and mysterious audition “getting” is not as complex as we make it out to be. However, actors do have more power than we might believe, or even admit. There are things you can do to increase your chances, such as revisiting your headshots, speaking to your agent or even hustling for your own professional opportunities.
In this article, we’re going to look at five main reasons you might not be getting auditions. However, before we jump in, let me clarify one thing: I’m going to assume you live somewhere that has some sort of industry. If you live in the middle of nowhere (or simply a place without an arts industry) auditions probably aren’t going to come to you. If you live in LA, or Vancouver, or Melbourne, your changes increase because you are where the work is. It is not impossible to get auditions remotely due to the rise of self taping. However: location is everything. You have to go to the action, you can’t expect it to come to you.
#1 Your Agent
The majority of questions I get in regards to acting and the industry are, without a doubt, focused on agents. For some, they are a shining beacon of hope. For others, they are the person who promised them the world but didn’t get them auditions. Like most things in acting, the truth is somewhere in the middle.
Having a good agent is your best bet to getting auditions, for they bridge the gap between actors and casting directors. You don’t have to have one, and finding auditions on your own is a a valid path. But having one will significantly increase your chances. We have plenty of guides on acting agents, from how to find one, to how to leave one, so I won’t go into too much detail on this page. However, I will say is this: if your agent is not submitting you for auditions, you are not going to get any. This might warrant a frank conversation. And if it continues, perhaps it’s a good time to look elsewhere.
Despite all this, an agent can only do so much. They are not your fairy godmother, who gets you acting roles with a wave of a wand. There is an old acting proverb that says, “if an agent gets 20% of your pay, then they only have to do 20% of the work, which leaves the other 80% up to you.” It’s a controversial take, but I believe it. In business terms, you are a product with skills to sell and the agent is the sales person who is selling you to casting directors. If you are not giving your agent the best product to sell, then they can only do so much.
Headshots are the point of first contact when a casting director is looking to fill a role. They are your calling card, and can be your biggest advantage, or downfall, when trying to get auditions. Make sure that they are up to date, high quality, and that you have a few alternate looks. This means getting shots of you in different outfits, styles, and brands that show your range.
Updating your headshot does two things. First of all, it keeps you thinking about the types of roles you’re going for. You can establish your type, based on the kind of imagery you put there into the industry. The second thing it does is give you new things to throw on your casting profile, or your agent (especially if they need a reminder that you exist.)
Finally, nobody wants to see a headshot that doesn’t look like you anymore. If a photo looks tired, or might have been taken when Netflix was a mail-in business, people aren’t going to take you seriously. Seriously: old headshots make people wonder what the hell you’ve been doing since these were taken.
#3 Skill, Craft and Experience
The age-old dilemma: you need experience to get the job you want, but you need jobs first in order to get experience. One reason why you may not be getting auditions could be a simpler matter of experience and craft. A casting director is more likely to give an actor an audition if they have an extensive resume, and quality training.
The good news is that if you are wanting to become a professional actor, building your resume and working on your craft are crucial steps that you have to take anyway! This path is a little more complicated than “getting an agent” or “updating those headshots”. But here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Take an acting class. Nothing on your talent—it’s a space where you get to up your experience, and also make some fresy industry contacts!
- Consider going to drama school. Obviously, a much larger commitment than a weekly class; but if you’re serious, there is no better springboard for an acting career.
- Work with an acting coach. With industry experience and perhaps a diploma already under your belt, an acting coach can really help hone your skills and give you some direction. You can get coaching right here at StageMilk as part of our Scene Club!
- Do extras work or stand-in/ body double work. While you might not get the most thrilling and complex parts, you’ll get some paid industry experience and some lines for the CV.
- Volunteer for university/student productions. Plenty of aspiring Spielbergs are out there looking for actors; you can even approach the school directly to put yourself in the mix for their current students.
- Do your own independent study. This can include books on acting, masterclasses and StageMilk!
- Create your own content: produce your own film, write a vehicle for yourself or even write a cabaret. It can be tough on the mind, the soul and the wallet … but it’s probably the best way to rack up experience.
- Do community theatre (or any theatre really!)
If headshots are your calling card, then your showreel is like your live-action resume (as opposed to your actual resume.) Are showreels vital to getting auditions? Not necessarily. But a good showreel, like a good agent, will increase your chances tenfold.
Showreels are visible proof to casting directors, that you are, in fact, an actor who can act and act well. This may sound harsh, but there are a lot of actors out there who are not ready yet to audition and play speaking parts, and casting directors sift through many of these beginners daily. Having an awesome showreel that shows that you have the skills to take on the responsibility of a speaking role, will set you high above the rest who are not.
In acting, luck never gets enough credit. Sometimes you can do everything right, hit all of your marks, be prepared as possible, and still not succeed. That’s life. Do not get discouraged, though, because there are other times where you trip, fall and stumble into some of the best opportunities that you could imagine. That’s also life.
So how does this fit into auditions? Well, sometimes you can have the relevant experience, a stunning showreel, crisp varied headshots and the hardest working agents and still have dry periods. Contrary to popular belief, luck can be changed. You can do actionable tasks to increase it (and visa versa.) You’re not going to increase your luck of finding auditions when you are sitting on the couch at home.
Here’s a quick list of achievable ways to increase your luck and find your own auditions:
- Improve the first four factors in this article. If your acting skills are on point along with your showreel, headshots and agent, then your luck if going to be sky high.
- Networking events. There are many opportunities to be found out in the real world, and going to networking events or film festivals believe is where you will find other actors, filmmakers and writers. Acting is actually a team sport, and the bigger your team, the more opportunities you will attract. Be nice, be kind, and make friends.
- Search for auditions online. Whether it be on StarNow, Backstage, Casting Networks, or popular film and acting Facebook pages in your area, there is always a filmmaker out there looking for talent. Be careful of anything that seems too good to be true, and keep your wits about you of course, but if you seek, you shall find.
- Make connections. Isn’t this just networking? Well, yes. But you can make connections anywhere, if you’re open to it. Making genuine conversation and friendships with people you meet at acting classes, film festivals, guild events, theatre shows, social meet ups and on set is the way to go.
- Be open to who you are. Sometimes, actors—especially when we are starting out—get that cheeky old imposter syndrome, and we feel like we are not fit or worthy to say that we are actors. If someone asks what you do, say that you’re an actor, or at least, say that you work/want to work in film, TV and theatre. You never know who it might be asking you.
If you aren’t getting auditions then there is a chance one of these aspects of your acting life are not being optimised. Agents, headshots, showreels, experience, and luck all contribute to the chances of you getting an audition.
Sometimes just having one of these assists work in your favour is enough. Other times, you can do everything right and you might just be in a dry spell. The key is to not panic. Understand that work comes in waves. And you’ll find that next opportunity before you know it.