What’s the secret to a great audition?

Casting Director Bernard Telsey answered the question this way: “When somebody comes in and takes you to an emotional place that the material is demanding, but that you wouldn’t have thought of. What that involves: being completely prepared; making performance level choices. It makes you want to be in the room with them longer.”

In order to make performance level choices, you must first know your craft and then develop the skills to deliver a great audition. By knowing your craft, it means that you know how to create rich characters, you have a strong emotional range and you know how to bring depth, humor and color that goes way beyond the printed page. No matter how attractive, charming and talented you may be, it’s a much tougher go when you don’t know your craft. Every casting director I’ve spoken to talks about how important it is to be prepared and completely present so you are able to really listen to the other person, as well as be able to take direction. When you, the actor, are completely prepared and present at the audition, you honor the work and that speaks volumes to the casting director.

If there are areas of your work as an actor where you feel weak or uncertain, then seek the help of a private acting coach to conquer those areas and get on top of your game.

The next step is to address the skills you need to deliver a great audition in the room. When an actor is performing in an acting class or on set, you have all of the physical elements present – such as props, costumes, make-up and of course, other actors. So you’re really set up to deliver a good performance. When you walk into an office to audition, it’s usually a very sterile environment without any of the artistic elements that would normally support you. So it’s up to you to know how to create the scene believably, without any of those things present, and do so on camera.

You need to visually create the environment you’re in as the character, the emotional feeling of the scene and the level at which you’re speaking. While there are many other aspects of the scene which must be covered, this is one of the most neglected.

Example of visually creating an environment for yourself:

The breakdown of the scene states that Paul, Liz, Ralph, and Steven are having dinner in a crowded restaurant. Paul and Liz are discussing one subject while Ralph and Steven are discussing something else.

After reading the scene over, you determine the following:

Where: In a noisy restaurant
What: 4 people having dinner, 2 characters are talking about a concert and you and another character are having a different conversation involving an important deal.
Emotional Feeling: Tense
Level at which you’re speaking: Hushed or whispered

Many actors would make the mistake of reading the scene in a non-specific way without including the above. Therefore, the intensity and danger of the circumstances are missed and the audition is flat. Remember to stay simple, but establish the physical environment to create the maximum impact.

So there you have it – our first in a series of actor training lessons and the secret to a great audition.

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