Tag Archives: audition

Actor Advice, Part Two: 4 Tips for Nailing an Audition

Hopefully you’ve read Part One of ‘Actor’s Advice’ – and maybe it even helped you get an audition. Now, here are a few tips for nailing your audition once you’re in the door.

1. Go back and re-read the breakdown.

Read it carefully.
Carefully.

Wherever you applied, there must have been at least a basic description of the character. Chances are, though, you apply for multiple auditions each day and these descriptions blur together. So to avoid confusion – go back and re-read the break-down for the character! The words used to describe this person are key words for what you should convey in your audition. Read them over and over, and take them to heart.

2. If you get the sides in advance – know them! 

Make this much progress in a week.
Make this much progress in a week.

If you’re doing a ‘cold read’ – seeing the pages for the first time – it’s one thing. If you’ve had the pages for days, it’s another.

Not only will studying in advance keep you from burying your face in the pages as you audition, which is bad for multiple reasons (the camera won’t get a good shot of your face if you’re being filmed, it’ll be harder to act natural, etc.), but it tells casting you come prepared. It’s good to keep your pages in hand, but really, they should practically be memorized.

To hammer this home, let me say there’s nothing more annoying than an actor who is clearly reading sides they got in advance for the first time. Recently, I was auditioning actresses for a short. An actress came in and she looked and sounded the part. I was already putting stars next to her name. Then, she read. She’d had her sides for two weeks – and couldn’t get through one line without stumbling. We had to start over FIVE times. This wouldn’t have happened if she’d prepared. Her name went from being starred to being crossed out.

Likewise, IF you screw up, keep going. You won’t be grudged one flubbed line if you’re truly right for the part – but flubbing EVERY line and having to start over will over-shadow any talent you might have.

3. Hit the basics.

One thing at a time...
One thing at a time…

There is a brief list of things to do when you first arrive to show you’re professional.

Being friendly when you come through the door is a must. If the character’s hostile, don’t come in brimming with hostility – save it for the audition. Introduce yourself first and foremost as a person who’s great to work with.

Also, if you have a REAL question about the part that will help your audition, don’t be afraid to ask. It shows you’re giving this thought. (But don’t pull a pretentious question out of thin air for no reason! Example: “Can you tell me any background for why the character feels so strongly about X?” FINE. “Is it safe to assume that the character’s feelings are strongly rooted in an existentialist training not mentioned here?” NO.)

Pretentious: Not a good look on you.
Pretentious: Not a good look on you.

Then, once things are really ready to roll, remember to do the following:

If it’s being taped, ask “How am I framed?” This gives everyone confidence you know their language and how to play to a camera. Also, knowing how you’re framed will help you figure out some basics: for example, how much should you be moving? If you’re in close-up, the answer is: not at all.

Next, make sure to slate. Slating means looking into the camera and saying your name before you start.

4. Take direction!

Go left. LEFT!
Go left. LEFT!

How well you take direction is often the deciding factor in whether you’ll be cast. Your first reading might have been great – but typically, you’ll be given a few notes and asked to do it again. This is either because the notes are genuine or because the powers that be want to see how well you adapt.

Feel free to ask questions when given notes. Brush up on improv or do whatever you have to to get good at applying notes quickly. One thing’s for sure – if an actor’s given notes, then proceeds to do the scene in the same exact way they did originally, their chances of success are drastically cut.

What other things do you do in auditions that you think are important? Please share in the comments below!

Bonus resource: http://mightytripod.com/actor-tips-how-to-nail-your-next-on-camera-audition/

By Digital Film Academy Blog Manager Sara McDermott Jain

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Actor Advice, Part One: 3 Tips for Getting the Audition

Acting is probably the hardest field to break into in the already very hard world of film.

This really hit home for me when I posted a casting call for just two characters (unpaid) and got over 450 applicants. With numbers like those, anything you can do to get (and improve) an audition is well worth it!

This is Part One of a two-part series. Below are some helpful tips for getting an audition. Granted, for well-know actors, this isn’t a problem. But for anyone just starting out? You need all the help you can get!

Learn from this flower and stand out.
Learn from this flower and stand out.

1. Have a reel.

450 actors. Let that number sink in. 450. I was able to audition 20. So I needed a way to cut that 450 down to its most promising 20, ASAP.

The easiest way for me to do this was to cut anybody who didn’t have a reel. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Of the 450, maybe 200 had reels, and watching their reels gave me at least some idea of what they could and couldn’t do. Why would I opt to audition one of the 250 people who didn’t have a reel and who only sent generic headshots and resumes listing obscure credits which, for the most part, meant nothing to me? Not only did not having a reel indicate that they were less experienced, but I had no way of telling whether or not they could act their way out of a paper bag.

Little help?
Little help?

Just starting out and don’t have any footage to put a reel together? That shouldn’t be a problem. Find local film schools or recruit your film-loving friends to help you. Chances are you’ll find people to help on the cheap, or even for free.

Make sure you include a wide range of emotions in your reel. Pick  dramatic scenes, comedic scenes, scenes with tears, scenes with laughter, laid back scenes, etc. That way, no matter what part you want, you can point the casting folks to the right moment on your reel. (Yes, literally – tell them to go to minute 2:55 on the reel to see you cry if what they need is someone crying. They don’t need to see the first 2 minutes and 55 seconds of you singing or dancing or doing handstands or whatever if it’s not relevant to their needs.)

This stamp comes out fast.
This stamp comes out fast.

2. Write a real cover letter.

Ok, you might have to weigh the pros and cons of doing this one. I’ve done most of my casting through sites like mandy.com and I understand that it’s common practice to send a pre-written form letter to tons of potential jobs at once, to up your chances that a few reply back.  From the perspective of the casting people, though, this can be really annoying.

They wade through hundreds of letters from ‘interested people’ who clearly didn’t even glance at their casting notice. Actors will talk about being great comedic actors when applying for a drama. They’ll talk about their rates when the notice already said the role is unpaid. They’ll be 25 years old when the role is for someone who’s 75. You get the idea. (An extension of this rule is that you should only apply for roles that are right for you.)

Not the right shot to include if you're applying for the role of a carefree babysitter.
Not the right shot to include if you’re applying for the role of a carefree babysitter.

This wastes people’s time. (Remember, they have about 450 applications to get through.) For that reason, stuff like this leads to an instant delete.

What does impress? Someone expressing a clear interest in a role. And these letters don’t have to be long and daunting – just a few lines will do it.

Last fall, I was looking for a hard-partying, tough-as-nails, blue-collar woman in her 30s. A woman in her 30s applied and wrote: “I love playing gritty, blue-collar roles and this one sounds amazing.” She was in for an audition, and ultimately got the part. She had a genuine interest in THAT character.

Make sure your pictures have... pictures.
Make sure your pictures have… pictures.

3. Pictures.

This is one that I don’t see many people doing, but it is helpful. Every actor has (or should have) a basic headshot. But the basic headshot is usually a ‘blank slate.’ The actor’s expression is a faint smile or totally blank, and that’s it.

It’s good to also have pictures of yourself expressing a wide range of emotions. That way, depending on the part, you can attach the one that best suits the character.

Hope you enjoyed my air-brushed headshot... now, just in case this picture's helpful...
Hope you enjoyed my air-brushed headshot… now, just in case this sobbing picture’s helpful…

Attach your headshot too – but right next to it, attach a photo that lets the casting person ‘see you’ in the part. As these pictures usually appear in the body of the application email, they are the first thing casting people see before clicking to view a reel or looking at a resume. And it doesn’t need to be as dramatic as Dawson sobbing above – but just one innocent-looking/dangerous-looking/capable-looking photo can help.

Overwhelmed by the number of applicants, there were definitely actors that got shut out of my casting process because, at a glance, they just looked wrong for the parts they were applying for. Having these extra photos can help solve that problem.

There you have it – what I think are the top three rules for getting an audition. Apply these, and I promise you that your chances of landing an audition will greatly improve.

Share what you done that helped you get auditions down in the comments!

And stay tuned for Part 2: Nailing the Audition

 By Digital Film Academy Blog Manager Sara McDermott Jain

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