We’ve all got to start somewhere. That’s the thing to keep in mind if you’re a newbie actor just getting started in this delightful and looney business. Everyone had their first audition, and everyone booked their first role somewhere along the line. So there’s nothing wrong with being green.
In fact, if you have the courage to dive in to this at times intimidating and challenging world, you should start off by congratulating yourself–that’s a mighty brave first step you’re taking!
Now let’s get to work helping you overcome some of the common hurdles new actors face. Here are a few errors almost every rookie makes that you should avoid, and a few tips on how to overcome them.
1. Being late
Being late is simply a cardinal sin in the acting biz. Sadly, the rule is: they can make you wait; you can’t make them wait. It’s not only bad manners to keep a casting director waiting–or anyone, for that matter–it’s a sign of disrespect. Casting directors are some of the most harried, busy people in the business, and your allotted time slot is time they could have been using to see another actor, one who was interested enough in the role to show up on time.
The fix: Help yourself by planning your route the night before. Use Google maps or the wonderful public transportation app Moovit so you know exactly where you’re going. And don’t cut it too close; the fact of the matter is, even if you breeze into the casting office two minutes before your appointment, you aren’t really going to be ready to give a good read right then anyway. Give yourself at least 15 minutes to center yourself and relax.
2. Shuffling around
We talk a lot about intention and objective in acting, and that applies not only to words but also to movement. There’s nothing more infuriating than seeing a play in which the actors seem to drift about the stage for no real reason. Same applies to auditions: wandering around or shuffling closer to the auditor’s table or your reader is distracting and makes you look indecisive and lost.
The fix: Stillness is your friend. There is tremendous power in simply planting yourself and focusing on getting what you want from your scene partner or monologue. If you are going to take a step or two somewhere along the way, make sure you do so deliberately and with purpose, but truthfully it’s best to avoid moving around much.
3. Being fearful
Auditioning is indeed a nerve-wracking process, no doubt. But the fact is, barring an earthquake or some horrific fire, you are not going to die here, no matter what happens. So behaving like a frightened rabbit in a roomful of hungry wolves is a little ridiculous, when you think about it, isn’t it?
The fix: Directors are looking for competent, confident collaborators with whom to create something, so show them a confident actor in the audition! Remember that this is just one of hundreds of auditions you will attend throughout your career. Another trick to taking the pressure off of yourself is to think of some reason why you DON’T want to get cast in this particular piece. Desperation is raw and ugly and very, very apparent, whether it’s in dating or in auditioning. So trick yourself: think about how long the drive to rehearsals would be, think about the fact that there is another part you’re up for that would conflict with this one, or that the material isn’t your favorite–anything. You don’t have to actually hate the idea of getting cast; just have something in the back of your mind about how it would be better if you didn’t get the role. You will be amazed at how it changes your perspective from one of desperation to one of calmly accepting whatever comes.
4. Is it too late now to say sorry?
Yes, Justin. Yes it is. Whether your singing voice was a little rough because you have a cold, or you didn’t get your sides until the last minute, or you flubbed the dialect–whatever. Don’t apologize. The only time you should apologize is if you are late–which you won’t be, because you read tip number one above–or if you spill the casting director’s latte and ruin her Macbook Air. And for god’s sake, don’t ask them how you did, or say you would have done better, were it not for factor A, B, or C.
The fix: Remember that this is your job. You are a professional, so act like one. You won’t hear a librarian or a construction worker or, god forbid, a cop at their workplace saying something like, “Hey I’m sorry, that wasn’t my best work. I’m a little under the weather today…” Be prepared, go in with confidence and do your thing. Then say thanks very much and go on to the next audition. And leave the self-doubt and neediness for the amateurs.
5. Meet the new boss: you
One big error that many newer actors make is treating the casting director or director as if they were a revered, god-like authority figure. This is the sort of attitude that leads to the “I’m sorry” error mentioned above: placing the director on a pedestal and giving away your power.
The fix: Granted, you should be respectful–not only of the director and casting director, but of everyone involved in the project. However, you should also remember that in an audition you’re not so much submitting a job application and interviewing with a potential new boss as you are conferring with fellow professionals in your field about the possibility of a collaboration. Your energy, point of view and unique ideas are the tools you bring to this potential creation that you and the director’s team might make together. You are not a vessel for the director to fill; you have agency and are being assessed as a potential member of a creative team. Be truthful to yourself and your singular vision, and let them see who you really are. After all, there isn’t anyone else you can really be, right?
Most of these tips have something to do with confidence, which obviously comes with experience. The best thing the beginning actor can do to build experience and therefore confidence is to work, work, work, and that means taking classes as well as auditioning and performing as much as possible! So get out there and break a leg!