Top 5 Mental Mistakes Actors Make When Auditioning
Hi everyone. Jeff here from M2C2 to talk about the top five mental mistakes actors make when auditioning. Whether it’s for a particular play, an entire season, a movie, a commercial, or anything else, many actors have funny and often misguided ideas of what an audition is, what’s going through the director’s mind, and other things that don’t serve them well when they have to put their best foot forward. This mindset can mean the difference between landing the part and being unhappy and unemployed so let’s get to it.
Number 1. Thinking that the director is looking for you to fail.
A lot of young actors have a pretty strange idea of what is going on in the director or casting director’s mind behind that table. Many actors are terrified of auditions because they just know that the director is waiting for them to fail and on the brink of telling you to get of the room and never audition for them again.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Directors don’t want you to fail. Well, some do. But those are bad people and we’re not talking about them. Most directors really, really, really want you to succeed. Why? Because they have a vested interest in having as successful a show as possible.
There’s an old saying that 90% of good directing is good casting and I disagree with it a little bit. I’m not the best with numbers, but let’s say 112% of good directing is good casting. If I, as a director, have miscast even one essential role, I can irreparably damage the production. Truthfully, I am looking for the perfect person to cast in each part. A person that not only looks like the picture of the character in my head, but also embodies that character perfectly. I am also looking to be surprised. To find someone that I couldn’t have even imagined that character being before YOU walked in the door. I am also looking for a miracle, the next superstar who will make my work better than it could ever have been without them.
To sum up, this is what is probably going through the director’s mind prior to each audition.
Ohgodohgodohgod. Let this be the one. I don’t want to be here anymore. I want to find the perfect cast and go home. Maybe get a drink, take my shoes off, relax. But I can’t! What if I can’t find the right cast. I’ll be fired. I’ll be destitute. Homeless. I’m doomed.
Good directors want you to succeed. You know you are in a room with a good director when they are kind and attempt to create an atmosphere for you to give them your best work. But don’t sweat it too much if they are writing a lot of stuff during your audition. They might be writing “Hire this person immediately. They’re the one I’ve been searching for.”
2. Thinking an audition is about quantity over quality.
A lot of actors think that if they are given three minutes that they have to hit as close to those three minutes as possible without going over. In their minds, an audition is something like Price is Right and if you hit 2 minutes, 59 seconds with an introduction then you have the absolute perfect audition.
Again, this is not so accurate. Honestly, it’s better to have a minute and a half of amazing audition material, then three minutes of “ok” audition material.
One One-thousand. Two One-thousand. Three One-Thousand. Four One-Thousand.
4 seconds. That’s all it takes for someone to form an opinion about you. After 15 seconds a person can pretty much have all the information they need to have a fully-formed opinion about you, your work, whether they are going to like you or not, and so on.
File this under “F” for “Fair-comma-life-is-not” but that’s just the facts of the situation. The first 15 seconds are absolutely vital in your audition. That’s pretty much you walking through the door and introducing yourself. By the time, you get to your audition, I, as a director, am already pretty sure what parts I want to consider you for and how seriously I am considering casting you in those parts.
That doesn’t mean that I’ve fully made up my mind and a lot of other factors will sway my decision one way or another. Your headshot. Your resume. Whether you’ve worked with anyone I know. And, yes, to a large degree, your actual audition will have an impact on whether or not you are called back and eventually cast. But those first 15 seconds: a lot of good can happen in that time as well as a lot of bad. So, make sure that when you are walking into that room and introducing yourself that you are truly making the best impression you can.
3. Thinking of an audition as a competition.
This one is pervasive even in older actors sometimes so please listen carefully. Auditions are not competitions in which the biggest part goes to the best actor, the second-biggest part goes to the second-best actor, and so on down the line.
This is simply not how casting works and the sooner you disabuse yourself of this notion the sooner you will be a happier actor and person. Casting is not meant to be a commentary on anyone’s talent. Auditions are a showcase in which you present yourself as an option from which the director can choose their cast. Your job isn’t to “beat” anyone. Your job is to do your best, play the part as truthfully as you can, and go home. It’s about finding the best fit for each given role in the project. Most of the time that has absolutely nothing to do with you.
There are so many reasons you can find yourself not cast. You might be too tall or too short compared with the lead who was cast months ago. You might remind the director of his ex-girlfriend who cheated on him with his best friend and broke his heart… DAMN YOU LISA!!!
You might be too expensive. Equity Actors run into this problem a lot. The producer might want the director to cast his kid in that part and if he doesn’t, no dinero.
Again, auditions have very little to do with you or your talent. The only thing you have control over is whether you do your best. Coming in friendly, prepared, and ready to showcase your best work isn’t half the battle, as far as you’re concerned, it’s all the battle.
No other actor in that waiting room with you is your enemy or even your competition. The only competition is with yourself. You have no control (zero, zip, zilch) over how another person does in their audition good or bad. So why spend any energy worrying about it? You only have control over yourself. Did you prepare? Did you eat breakfast? Get enough sleep? Brush your teeth?
The auditions I think about that I didn’t get are the ones that I could have done better at but didn’t. For some, I was over-confident in my ability to memorize. Maybe, I didn’t find time to really sit with my sides or my monologue. Maybe, I stayed up too late with my friends the night before. I didn’t get cast and I may have had I done a better job at making sure I put my best foot forward. The auditions I never think about are the ones in which I did my absolute best and I just didn’t get the part for whatever reason. Sure, I can always do better, but all things considered, I did the best I could at the time and that’s got to be enough. No one beat me at the audition because I know I wasn’t competing with anybody. It’s just part of the job.
4. Thinking that you are only auditioning for that specific project or role.
Ok, so you are auditioning for something that you’re kind of, maybe, sort of right for but not exactly right for. Maybe you think that there’s not a chance you’re going to get this role especially because you saw a million other actors in the waiting room that are way more “right” for the role than you are.
Look, go in and do your best anyway.
First, you have no idea what’s in the director or casting director’s head. You have no idea whether you are going to be exactly what they are looking for but had no idea until they met you. This can happen, has happened, and will continue to happen a million times over so do not sweat it.
Second, even if you’re not right for the role, unless the director or casting director is retiring tomorrow, you are basically auditioning for every future project they will ever be involved with from here on out. If you do a great job, go in friendly and well-prepared, give a dynamite audition, then they WILL remember you the next time you are in front of them. If you continue to be your awesome self, they WILL begin to actively try to cast you in something in the future. They’ll probably feel bad for not working with you sooner. No director doesn’t want to work with a talented actor who might be good to work with. And even if they can’t cast you, they may know a friend who is looking for someone exactly your type. Directors talk to each other believe it or not.
Oh, and there might even be another part in the same movie or play that they might think will be even better for you.
In short, no audition is a waste of time if you prepare and put your best foot forward. By going to that audition, you might be simultaneously auditioning for something awesome a year, two years, five years down the line and not know it.
5. Thinking that the director is the only person auditioning you.
The biggest mistake you can make as an actor is thinking that the audition only starts when you begin your monologue in the audition room. Please, listen to me now, your audition begins in the parking lot. Once you step on the property where the audition is being held, the chance of running into someone who has a say in whether you get cast or not is extremely high.
Casting directors love to tell stories of the times they were or the client was sitting in the waiting room for some reason and some actor was being a fool, trying to intimidate them, being openly arrogant, or some nonsense or other and then that same actor found themselves on the other side of the table from them sweating bullets because of how they just behaved in front of the person in charge of casting them.
Think you can be mean to the receptionist with impunity? WRONG! The casting director will often talk to them to ask about how you behaved in the waiting room. Do you really want the receptionist talking about you as the gross guy who was hitting on her the whole time?
Think you can be a jerk to the other actors waiting with you. Maybe intimidate them or give them misinformation like you see on tv? Go ahead and try, but today’s actor might be tomorrow’s director and if you screw someone over, they will remember you if you ever end up auditioning for them. You just blew a job because you thought that person didn’t matter.
Look: in theatre and film, EVERYONE MATTERS!!
If you get a reputation for being a jerk, whether to an intern or to a producer, that rep will follow you and cost you work. Don’t do it. Be nice to everyone. Nice guys finish first in Show Business.
So that is my five mental mistakes actors make when auditioning. Did I miss something? Do you agree with my five? Let me know in the comments. And we’ll see you guys later.