Category Archives Audition Tips

An Actor’s Audition Checklist

MG_0062

There are actually 2 phases of audition preparation.  The first is what you do BEFORE you get to the audition and the 2nd is what you do in the waiting room once you are AT the audition.

When Emmy winning Casting director April Webster is asked what tips she has for actors auditioning for her, her first response is “Have your preparation done.”  What does that mean?  If you don’t know… then you might not be ready to be out there auditioning with the big boys. Get into a class and develop a technique and a process.  But if you need a reminder – a process or ritual to follow for each audition – here’s a little checklist:

PHASE 1

When you get the script:

  • Read the audition sides multiple times.
  • Research the show (read the entire script (if film or theater) if possible, watch episodes of the show (if for TV) to understand the tone and genre.
  • Make any character choices that are necessary – however, most of the time the character will be pretty close to who you are – that’s why they are bringing you in. .. make sure you honor any physical, vocal or psychological differences to your own natural state.  Practice with those from the beginning! (ie: if the character is drunk – rehearse her drunk from the get-go)
  • All the basics – where are you, what’s your relationship, where are you emotionally at the top of the scene etc. This is really your opportunity to do a short performance for the Casting Director – I found that thinking of it as a performance helped with nerves.
  • Memorize as best you can, and get comfortable auditioning with the script in hand.

Night before:

  • Decide what you are going to wear – make sure it fits, it’s ironed, that you can move in it etc. Do NOT dress as the character but make sure you dress appropriately for the character.  For example, do not audition for a prisoner in a tie.
  • Find out how to get to the audition (don’t rely only on your GPS the day of – they aren’t always correct), where to park etc…
  • Pack easy snacks and plenty of water. Auditions infamously run late – and you want to sustain your energy.
  • Pack your script and extra headshots and resumes.
  • Schedule something to do right after the audition – so you can move on and not ruminate on what you could have done differently.

PHASE 2

At the Audition

      • Before you leave your home, make sure you have warmed up physically and vocally.
      • DO NOT LOOK AT YOUR PHONE. Once you are in the waiting room – don’t look at it – turn it completely off.  Screen time takes you away from being present.  There are studies that show that the auditory receptors in the brain start to disengage when all the information is being brought in through the eyes and that it can take up to 30 minutes for your listening abilities to return to normal.
      • Don’t change your crafting in the waiting room. This isn’t the time to second guess what you have worked on –  it’s the time to commit fully to your choices.
      • Don’t “chit chat” with the other actors. Be friendly but stay away from small talk.  It may be disruptive to other actors and might hurt your focus.
      • Stay loose and be present. Mindfulness is really helpful at these times!
      • While waiting, use your imagination to build the world and environment of the scene. Get emotionally available to the triggers of the scene. This is more important than running the lines in your head another 10 times. The CD wants to know that you can act – not that you can memorize.
      • If the audition is for something small– treat it as such, stay light, and relaxed – no CD wants to see someone brooding over an audition for a one liner. Just be yourself.
      • Smile and show ‘em what you got!

Elizabeth MestnikElizabeth Mestnik is an award winning, actress, director and teacher. Elizabeth founded EMAS to bring her New York style of professional actor training to the west coast. -She received her MFA in Acting from Rutgers University under the tutelage of William Esper, Sandy Meisner’s associate at the Neighborhood Playhouse for over 17 years, and New York’s leading Meisner teacher.

What You Do Between Auditions Matters… A LOT!

EMASLA-Blog_2176

When actors are just starting out, there can often be a long time between auditions.  What are you supposed to do with yourself as you wait for that next opportunity?  I am here to tell you that what you do between auditions will determine your success at the audition.  Too many actors wait forget this and wind up NOT showing what they are truly capable of.

So what should you do while waiting for you next audition?

Be in class
If you don’t know this by now, you should… acting is like a muscle, and if it is not exercised, it gets weak.  If you are auditioning, you should already have a strong foundational technique, but there is no harm in learning new approaches.  Or, you can get yourself into a good scene study class where you can put your skill set to a weekly workout.  Just be sure any class you join, you work every class and you rehearse in between.  You must be at the top of your acting game so you are ready when the big opportunities present themselves!

Learn a new skill
As an actor – the more you know, the more you have to bring to any role.  Take ballet, enroll in a history class at the local community college or learn to cook.  It doesn’t always have to be something performance based…you just need to keep expanding who you are and what you know, expand what is interesting to you. This also makes you a more 3-dimensional person, which makes you more attractive to those who can hire you.

Volunteer to be a Reader
A reader is the person that reads opposite the actor who is auditioning. Even though you aren’t auditioning for the part, it’s a great way to have someone see what you are able to do as well as to create a more personal relationship with the Casting Director.  Call Casting offices that cast the shows you are right for and ask if they need any volunteers.

Go to see plays
Movies are wonderful, but plays really allow you to study other actors.  Good plays or bad, each experience is a great way for you figure out why a performance works, or doesn’t.

Study movies
Be familiar with today’s directors and their styles – from the Coen Brothers to Kathryn Bigelow, you need to be familiar with their work.

Read plays
You need to be familiar with plays and playwrights.  Playwrights like Neil Simon were the origin of our modern sit-com.  Writers like John Patrick Shanley and Theresa Rebek now write for film as well as television shows like Law and Order and Smash.  You also need to know the iconic writers so when they are referenced (ie; this is very Pinter-esque, or this has a Tennessee Williams quality) – you know what that means.

Go to Casting Director Workshops
This is a great way to start meeting the casting directors (or their assistants).

Stay mentally healthy
If that means daily exercise, meditation, getting a pet or going to church… do it.  You need to stay positive, optimistic and happy to get through the slow times.

What you do in between those precious auditions can make or break what you end up doing in the room – so stay busy and be prepared for your big break.