In my work, I find that actors often cling to common misconceptions about the auditioning process—or myths as I like to call them. Believing these myths is potentially very damaging because they can poison an actor’s mindset and ultimately their performance.
Disavowing the following audition fables is helping our clients win more roles:
Myth #1. Casting Directors Make all Final Casting Decisions
Bear in mind that the production team has hired the casting director to help them find the best actors. This is similar to how the production team will hire location scouters to find the best filming locations. In this case, the casting director is just another person who is trying to complete their job as best as they can so they will be hired again. Yes, casting directors do push certain actors forward, and weigh in behind closed doors about who they think is right for the role, but the writers, directors and producers always have the final say in casting.
Myth #2. You Must Obey all Character Descriptions and Stage Directions
Character descriptions and stage directions are meant to be used as a guideline, not a gospel. When too many actors treat these things as absolutes that they must incorporate, then you get too many auditions that look identical over and over again. Furthermore, actors forget that some of the descriptions writers put into their work are solely to help the producers better visualize the story. These descriptions are not meant for you to be a slave to them. Allow the character descriptions and stage directions to help guide and inspire you, but don’t feel shackled by them. You must still add your own paint colors to the canvas.
Myth #3. The Audition Starts After You Slate
The audition never starts the moment you start acting or start uttering the words from your sides. The audition begins the moment you enter the building—the moment you put your car in park. Once you set foot on the property where the audition occurs, you are “on.” I’m not saying that you have to already be in character, but you have to start being the person who is the solution to the casting puzzle of filling the role. You need to step foot on the property completely prepared, focused and ready to begin at a moment’s notice.
Myth #4 Don’t Get too Big
Being big is often not a bad thing! The fear of being “too big” is perhaps one of the biggest fear and source of anxiety I hear from actors before their big auditions. “Are you sure they won’t think I’m too big?” “Shouldn’t I throw it away more?” and so on. Bottom-line: If you’re afraid to look like an asshole or a freak, you will. Moreover, a note I continually hear from production and casting is that, actors can always be pulled back, but it’s impossible to pull something out of them they never demonstrated at the start.
Myth #5. When Auditioning for Co-Stars Don’t Make a Meal out of a Snack
I hear this all the time from actors—when auditioning for these smaller roles, they’re supposed to know their place, say the line and not attract too much attention. The myth behind this mindset is that the powers that be want small parts to be a bit utilitarian and thrown away. The only truth in this is that you’re not supposed to belt out your lines Broadway style on bended knee, projecting to the back of the imaginary theatre. For co-stars and other supporting roles, where you just have one or two lines, you still have to come in emotionally loaded and alive in the reality of the character as possible. If the series regular comes in, orders a pint of beer from you, and your one line is “What kind?” (i.e., what kind of beer?) you still need to make a brave and visually obvious choice. You need to know what hour of your shift this is, how many days you have worked in a row, your emotional relationship to your job and to the patron, etc. In this manner, you can deliver your line, “what kind?” with the authenticity of a real, working bartender. And yes, while you might not be memorable to the person watching their favorite show, you will stand out to the producers during the audition process from all the other actors who think they just need to be blank slates delivering utilitarian dialogue.
I would never tell actors there are no rules when it comes to auditioning, as there are some: make a choice, be memorized, bring a headshot, be prepared and emotionally full, etc. But these myths outlined here are potentially damaging to the success and originality of the actor in the audition room.
This article was originally posted on Backstage