There’s a wealth of literature out there on how to beat audition nerves, along with a ton of anecdotal advice passed along from actor to actor. There’s a good reason for this: Auditions are a huge obstacle/opportunity in the high-stakes game of industry success, and actors need to be able to use them as a tool for launching their careers. Actors get this. They get how much is riding not only on their ability to book, but on their ability to be memorable and to leave a mark.
Rule No.1 of the audition: Stop trying to guess what they are looking for. Assume you are who they’re looking for and bring yourself to the piece with a specific and fun choice.
One major element which helps to create an internal environment of audition anxiety is the irrational desire to be perfect—to be what “they want” or what “they are looking for.” This is so futile because quite often the producing team will have only a vague idea of what they’re looking for. Thus, in trying to figure out if you are what “they want,” you’re trying to answer a question to which they don’t even know the answer.
Your job has a basic role: Like a hired assassin whose one job is to pull the trigger, your one job is to make a goddamn choice. In trying to guess “what they’re looking for” you set yourself up for imminent failure and you prevent any sort of artistic development from occurring. By making a fun, brave, deeply emotional, and impactful choice, you force yourself to leap into the red mist of dangerous change-effecting acting. I’m not promising that everything will be OK if you do this (and anyone who does is a liar). What I am promising is that you’ll be taking a worthwhile step in your own evolution as an artist. You can’t control the outcome, but what you can control is the fact that you’ll be selling your life and your time at a higher price than the sad, flimsy alternative of trying to fit into some preconceived notion of what is “right.” With 85 clients booked in major film and TV roles (including six series leads) in the last year, I help actors make the truly courageous choices that ignite their performances with attractive confidence so they can go into the room and win the role.
Furthermore, the mental gymnastics of trying to be what the producers are “looking for” puts you in a disempowered position as an actor—no wonder it creates such audition nerves. The moment you cross the threshold of the audition room you need to emanate the platinum light of utter confidence. That is simply not going to happen if you are in the mindset of, “Gosh, I hope this is right” or “Golly, I’m going to try and be as perfect as possible.” You need to walk into the room lit up with the attitude, “I’m the answer that you’re looking for.” If you can’t walk into an audition room and truly own that point of view, then you need to do some very real soul-searching before you accept another audition.
Creating physical confidence within your own body leads to mental and emotional confidence. One of my students likes to say the words, “You’re welcome, mother f**kers” to herself before she enters the room. These words, in conjunction with her consistent success, previous failures, and accumulated auditioning hours, have helped her to always audition with confidence. This is so important because, quite often, the actual audition is preceded with the “conversational audition” where the producing team attempts to “get a sense of the person” via chitchat. If you’re not projecting confidence, or if you’re trying to be the person that you think they are “probably” looking for, you’re not setting yourself up to win. You’re helping to create a truly tepid scenario where you become as memorable and desirable as a commercial for something like “Ted’s Furniture Warehouse.”
I’m not saying that any of this stuff is easy, but if you’re truly serious about launching your career and reaching your Oscar potential on set, you need to have the willingness to cast aside any notion of what the producers want. Have the inner bravery to decide that you’re what they want and allow this adage to jumpstart your entrance into the audition room with genuine charismatic confidence.
This article was originally posted on Backstage