OK, I have done literally thousands of auditions throughout my illustrious career in theatre, film, tv, radio and animation, and I basically have discovered a code which I will share with you, to overcome having a horrifying experience. I call it the four P'S: how you PREPARE, PRESENT, PARTICIPATE, and PLAY is how to PLEASE the auditioners and yourself. (I will try and share with you some of the key ways to keep auditions from getting spooky!)
Know that you learn from every moment spent in front of a camera, microphone and artistic team. You can never predetermine the outcome and rest assured, you will make mistakes as well as brilliant discoveries if you are open to my three favorite ingredients- LOVE, JOY and RISK which = PLAY (one of the four P'S)! Manifest your desires and outcome before you do anything, know with complete confidence where you are expecting to arrive in your career. Celebrate every opportunity.
When coming to the audition waiting room, don't waste your precious creative energy chatting, catching up with other actors or making small talk because of jitters. Check in. Find a quiet place to review your lines and set the emotional tone required. Do not over review your lines as this will make things spookier. Have your lines top of mind, not which actor just got a series! The quickest way to disconnect with you and your character is to take on another person's energy through chit chat, ZIP IT! If you have to wait a while, take your mind off nerves by reading, writing or playing a game on one of your personal devices. Internalize your energy and be one with yourself! Become a ghost in the room! If you see an actor you'd like to network with, ask to go for a coffee after the audition or make a date. When leaving the audition waiting room after your audition, the same rule applies. Silence is golden. Don't chat with actors waiting to audition as they should be preparing as well. Don't discuss your audition with other actors as each of you are unique and if you laughingly share a moment you created that made the auditioiners laugh, it might undermine another actor's choices. Thank the secretary and wish everyone in the room a great audition, break a leg or knock ‘em dead!
Vanish into thin air and your graciousness will linger.
Come to your audition knowing everything possible about the team you'll be working with. The company you are auditioning for, recent commercials done by them, and recent successes that you might congratulate them on. If auditioning for film or TV and some radio, know the director, their style and what excites them (If a director likes you they are the one pushing for you at the audition and putting in their two cents. I am asked for by writers, producers and directors who I have made it my business to compliment and be up on their latest projects). Know everything about the casting director and recent castings you might compliment them on (Craig Alexander was directly responsible for me getting a lead in Flash Forward, a Disney television series, because he liked how much I liked him and his role and years later he has returned to Canada and become an agent and wants to represent me). Introduce yourself to the reader and field their energy. Do your homework! Know your lines inside and out. Repetition is key. Associate responses with the line previously given, so know the whole script even if you only have a few lines. These lines must be ingrained so that you could recite them backwards. Consider the lines you would like to personalize and embellish. YES! You can improvise, as long as you say everything written and connect it so that the listener doesn't even realize you improvised something clever (little gift for the auditioner) this is how you will be remembered. ( I won a McDonald's national commercial because the woman in the add had eaten the new BIG meal or something and the take on it was her voice had gotten really big and booming and large and her friend was surprised to hear how changed her voice was and my character had to say something to the effect of "oh don't worry it, it always comes back" which is said in the low, deep voice I had affected but as I got to "comes back" I let my voice slide into my signature register and giggle without a beat and said "oh there it is now" and no one else thought to do that) You can only be spontaneous if you know the basic map of the lines! Let them haunt you!
How you enter the room and engage the auditioners is key. Your slate can make or break your audition. Confidence is imperative. (I always say "how ya doin' it's Elley-Ray" that's my natural relaxed greeting) Your are meeting your teammates. We all play the game of storytelling, we just have different positions on the field. We are a money making TEAM. Head held high, straight back, chest forward. Remember, auditioning is FUN! Never leave an audition beating yourself up-LOVE the opportunity to perform and engage every single time. If you are loving, joying and risking~so is your auditioner(s). Don't overcompensate and bring too much EGO into the room.
Humility is key. Leave your critic and monitor outside the room. No self-judging allowed. Also, leave your emotional baggage outside or bury it. If you are having a bad day because you fought with your spouse or got a parking ticket or lost your walle -no one cares (a wonderful audition example that completely blows this theory out of the water however, is when on my third call back for a national American Fabreeze television commercial, my best friends husband was in the critical burn unit at Sunnybrook hospital, not expected to live and I hadn't slept in four days, living with my dog at the hospital. I informed my agent I was in no condition to do yet ANOTHER audition, however, they insisted. I arrived wearing clothes I'd been in for five days, hair in a ponytail, swollen face from crying. I begrudgingly jumped through hoops in front of a 13 member audition panel, who talked on cell phones, ate their lunch and belched, after waiting an hour, while 14 other women also waited patiently to re audition. I barely escaped two hours later, down the stairs when a poor apologetic assistant ran up to me asking if would mind coming back and trying another line for the writer. All I remember is seeing red and storming past the waiting throng of actresses, throwing open the door to the audition room and screaming "I DON'T KNOW IF ANYONE HERE AS EVER EXPERIENCED LOSING A LOVED ONE, BUT FABREEZE DEODERIZING SPRAY PALES IN IMPORTANCE, SO GO F@%#$*K! YOURSELVES" I turned on my heels and swept out the door past the throng of agog faces.
I called my agent now in tears, I was so angry saying she'd be getting a call, but I had warned her I was in no emotional state to be auditioning. I got a call all right. I got the part! Apparently they loved my spunk and honesty! )When you finish your audition smile with confidence and thank everyone: directors, reader, producers, casting agents, and scene partner(s) if applicable. How you treat them is how they will treat you. Remember these people all want you to do a good job. They are on your side, no matter what you think, so first impression is key. Polish your confidence!
When entering the space find your mark. Generally an X taped on the floor for on camera auditions or a microphone and music stand in the booth (don't touch the microphone as the engineer will do that). Again, don't chat with the folks in the room as it wastes time and money, they will ask if you have any questions or tell you specifically what it is they are looking for..give it to them. If auditioning for theatre in a room, don't stand too close as the auditioners like to write notes and compare. They also like to refer to one another so beware talking directly to the auditioners.
Best to pick a spot above their heads. Don't be afraid to use the space and move, actors too often freeze in one spot and stare. The camera man will follow you, perform and have fun, surprise the viewer. If there is a two way mirror as there often is, play for all sides front and back. Don't stop and start over again - ever. If you make a mistake, acknowledge it by making a joke like "rented teeth", incorporate the mistake by repeating it three times like a manic stutter or ism thus pushing the mistake or just play the mistake naturally by laughing at yourself and moving on.
Don't act like it didn't happen, have FUN and PLAY. You have only a certain amount of time. Present your choices and then wait for a re-direct. If they say 'thank you', smile and thank them and leave. It doesn't mean they don't like you but rather, time is a ticking and the meter is running. Don't stay explaining other ideas you have or how you think you could do it better. The auditioners have generally made up their minds in the first 30 seconds (another wonderful audition experience that supports this idea - I was called to the third call back for a series of TD BANK commercials with an exclusivity contract.
I hadn't been to the first two auditions and didn't know the lines or character or anything, I was just told to get over there in 15 minutes if possible. Again, I looked like crap. Wearing sweat pants and flip flops, no makeup, literally walking into the waiting 14 person audition team, having to read the sides cold beside the camera, goofing around and screwing up but laughing at myself thinking this is nuts, I saw all the gals outside looking the part and knowing what great actresses they were. I shook the directors hand leaving with confidence but still writing it off, when suddenly the casting director stopped me on my way out saying, the director wants you because I showed him a rough cut of the commercials you did for Zellers and he said, “that's my gal.”
So based on another performance he chose me and the audition was just for the clients to meet me and agree with him, which they did, I had the job before the audition.)(Similarly, I went to an audition many years ago for a large animation series, a choice gig at that time and of course, they were two hours behind. It was a great project but I had to leave because I had a gig. This was long before self taping and the digital world. All the actors were shocked that I was going to leave and not come back and audition with the crème de la crème.
I was saddened but there was enough work to go around and I knew I'd get another offer somewhere. Apparently the auditions went all day and they ended up four hours behind so I was happy I didn't have to wait. My agent called me saying I booked the series two days later because the director wanted me and just wanted the producers to hear me at the audition, so you never know what they are auditioning you for, so have fun and be true to yourself.)
The director might ask for a specific direction in the breakdown but don't be afraid to give them something completely different. Be true to the way you are feeling as that will read as unique and every other actor will be giving the same read with what the breakdown is asking. You may surprise yourself and them and land the job.
Yet another beautiful audition story, I had been waiting for an hour to audition for a new product which I forget even what it was for in 1995, but I was losing my energy waiting and drank too much coffee and read too many magazines and heard everyone else doing completely similar reads for the same copy. So by the time I got into the booth, again for a national tv voice over spot, I jokingly did what became known as 'the Elley-Ray Hennessy read', where I went completely deadpan as if I was medicated on valium, (it is known now as the dry read) saying "I burnt the toast, I burnt the eggs I even burnt my new white blouse", the director howled and said he'd send it but to give him the asked for direction, just like all the other actresses - perky and up tempo. I got the job with the deadpan read and it took Toronto by storm and everyone started doing it.
They would ask for an 'Elley-Ray Hennessy read' and I wouldn't even get the part cause I was triple scale and other people could imitate it for cheaper-gone are those days. However I did a spot last year for Doritos’s bringing in a deadpan hotline switchboard operator, so it's having a comeback!
Actors like to perform. The drama is generally high. Play against this desire. Throw words away, don't give everything the same weight. Play with asides and 'thoughts to the self'.
Remember to play against what the words say. For example, if the direction says "angrily', don't yell and scream, fists clenched. That is what every other actor will do. Try laughing as if trying not to scream or sarcastically with a chuckle, you'll be amazed how brilliantly you'll be perceived.
If you are working with a scene partner (even a reader off camera) don't lock onto thier eyes. We actors somehow think this is dramatic. It isn't, it is unnerving and you look as if you are stunned. We never stare at people we talk to. Be distracted with other observation points while talking. Allow your focus to wander to other things that you may do while you are talking. Be creative ( I auditioned for the Shakespeare Globe theatre and had to do a Shakespeare monologue, I chose Mad Margaret. I did one audition from behind the door to the studio room I was auditioning in, hiding and coming in slightly and then vanishing behind the door again talking but you could only see her hand on the door jam for a fare amount.
The auditioners loved it and asked if I had rehearsed that and I said no, it was just spontaneous. Then they asked me if I could do anything else spontaneously and there was a piano facing the corner against the wall and I did the monologue while playing the only song I can remember, B flat Sonata with my back to them. I got the job but ended up unable to go due to illness. The point is be free of limiting thoughts about what is right or wrong) Make them stare at you not the other way around.
Keep your skills POLISHED. Participate in workshops, acting classes, improv, music, singing, dance, circus - you name it! You must exercise your creative muscle constantly and audition for everything even if you don't want the job. I just put myself through the most grueling full day audition for Cirque de Soliel that left me physically paralyzed at days end but out of 75 circus performers I made it to the final cut with only three men and one woman who remained. I have never felt more inspired because I took on one of my fears and stepped outside my comfort zone and the auditioned said in 27 years of auditioning he had never been left speechless but after my two minute freefall piece he "was speechless". Feed your spirit with energetic conversations and debate verbally. Read, fill your mind, body and spirit with experience. Laugh regularly and LOVE large. Feel as much as you can. Risk being ridiculous and making mistakes for this is how we learn. Live knowing that everything is possible and then you can't help WIN the audition!
Halloween is a time to dress up and ignite the soul inside the pumpkin, to receive sweet gifts and give a smile to those who open the door to hear our delightful screams! It is a bewitching time indeed, let us borrow from this magical time and bring the essence of surprise to our lofty storytelling, and create BOO-tiful audition practices!