Conquering the Audition: An Inside Job

Actors at audition

If you’ve been acting long enough, I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: “ There is no acting without auditioning.”

The goal for all of us is to get to a place where we don’t have to audition but can be given roles off of our body of work. I truly do believe that every actor and actress has this potential, yet until this happens we have to dominate every audition we are fortunate to have.

Although dominate is a strong choice of words, your ability to walk away from every audition feeling your absolute best about your performance will determine the type of career you will have starting out. This starts more importantly as an inside job.  When I say inside job, I definitely mean having the confidence and creativity to be your best, but it also comes down to knowing what the people who are hiring you are looking for when you walk into the room. I’ve consulted some of my closest friends and industry executives to give you an inside glance of what they need from you to offer you a role in their production. Before I get into these nuggets of wisdom, I want to share everything you can do to help yourself before the audition happens.

MEDITATION. If you’re an actor, there’s no question that you should be meditating. Reason being is that meditation has the unique ability to widen your playing field of creativity. It opens you up to unorthodox ideas and techniques that most won’t even think about. To show you how valuable these ideas can be, check out this story from two of the greatest performers to ever walk the planet.

Michael Jackson once said that when he received creative inspiration, he knew he had to act on it or Prince surely would when given the chance.

Both were fearless when it came to acting on the hunches they received through meditation. It’s no different for you as an actor. Find time to meditate at least 15 minutes in the morning and at night. When you’re going into the audition room, you may get the intuitive urge to read your script differently than planned. This could be the choice that lands you the role. As an actor, you can ill afford to not meditate. Being in the right place at the right time could possibly be the difference.

FEARLESSNESS. One of my favorite actors of all time is Denzel Washington. Aside from his talent, charisma and leadership, his fearlessness stands out the most. On the acting side of things and on the business side of things, he goes all in!

I was working as a stuntman in Louisiana on a movie set around the same time Denzel was shooting a film. One of my good friends was working production on his movie and raved about his kindness and professionalism. Just then I received a call later that day about how Denzel scolded a production assistant who was acting out of place. Come to find out, this P.A. was the son of a big executive producer. It didn’t matter. Denzel’s fearlessness allowed him to trust in himself and to know that he was doing the right thing, regardless of his status. You’ve seen this same level of fortitude from him in his interviews, business and relationships, even in his younger years before being a huge star. He didn’t think twice and there was never a peep out of that production assistant from that point on.

So how can this help you conquer the audition room?

It helps because when you are fearless you trust in yourself and your choices. When you are fearless you’re willing to ask to do your scene again, but in a different way even when you know they want you to be on a time limit. When you’re fearless, you exude courage in the face of being afraid, as it relates to the business of your acting career.  When you walk into the audition room fearlessly, everyone can feel it and that can only benefit you.  In a previous article, Yahya Abdul Mateen, discussed the importance of not succumbing to the pressure we all face to book the job. Pressure can go one of two ways: it can make you a superstar or it can kill your career. Choose to use it in your favor, because as a great man once said, “On the other side of fear lies the greatest experiences of our lives.” Let that quote be a catalyst that not only leads you to being a fearless actor, but a more confident one.

Meditation and fearlessness are two irreplaceable components for every actor, but once we’ve done all that we can do for ourselves, we need to find other ways to give ourselves an advantage while auditioning.

Enter two of the brightest producers and directors I’ve had the pleasure of being around.  Jack Piatt is a respected producer and director in the Greater Los Angeles Area. He is also head of content for Jammcard Productions. Jack has been in the industry a number of years and has produced and directed hundreds of films and music videos. He had some great insight on what he feels are staples that the majority of casting directors, directors and producers look for when hiring an actor. Here’s what he had to say about his process:

1.) Look/Fit (do they pass the eye test? Does this person feel like they fit the role you have envisioned?) The Cohen Bros are well known for meeting each and every background actor that works on one of their movies. The right look matters. If they don’t fit the role visually, why go to the next step?

2.) Chops (can they act? Do they have range? This one is par for the course with any serious filmmaker)

3.) Authenticity/Uniqueness (do they come across as deeply authentic? Do they have that special something that jumps off the screen and sets them aside from the rest of the cast?)

What I find amazing about these three tips is that we can get better at each of them everyday. When you put in the time, you better believe it will pay off one way or another in the long run.

This next guy is one of my favorites. He’s a big reason of how I decided to become my own agent at one point in my career. Best part is, with his style of teaching there’s never a dull moment. Ryan Basham is a producer, director, screenwriter and CEO of The Basham Company in Los Angeles. Ryan is a veteran in the film industry, he’s worn the hat of producer numerous times and is also a former successful talent manager.  He is well known for his honest, direct, yet supportive advice to actors. When asked about what he looks for the most in hiring an actor, here’s what he had to say:

It’s tough to pick just one thing, but I’ll put it this way: The one thing that is a deal breaker, more than fitness for the role, preparedness, or anything else, is, do I believe they are reliable and won’t suck to be around for however long we’ll need them. You’re a great actor, great! So are fifty million other people. But are you a good person. One of the things overlooked a lot in Hollywood, that isn’t really taught in acting school is that people want to work with actors they like. Everything runs so much more smoothly when we can have a great time on set while we’re working hard.

At first glance, you might think that you already know this, but it’s so easy to fall into the trap of becoming self centered. In a world of acting when the majority of time it’s all about you, we have to be careful that we are giving as much as we’re trying to receive.

It all starts with not only being a great actor but being a great person.

If you’re going to conquer the audition room every time, you have to be prepared. It’s an inside job in the sense of being confident, fearless and bold enough to trust your intuitive nudges that you receive from meditating.

Inside job also means putting yourself in the shoes of the director or producer and asking yourself, what are they looking for?

Ultimately it’s about being the best person you can be around everyone you meet in this industry. People will applaud your good acting, but they will cherish and never forget the fact that you’re a great person.

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