"He has the amazing ability to take an idea and expand on it in a way that not only improves the script, but enhances the story"
To the Frustrated Actor,
In 2018, I started my career within the entertainment industry as an actor and would like to share a bit of wisdom on what I learned on the process of obtaining roles. I am not pretending to let you in on the secret of landing your big break because there is a no secret. There’s only opportunity and like my father says, “opportunity is when luck and preparation coincide.”
As an actor, 90% of the time, in order to obtain a role you have to proceed through an audition and with haunting fact of opportunity being based on the convenience of other’s availability, here is what I learned. The goal of an actor during an audition should be to simply apply for a job. Now, this does not mean you are allowed to walk in to the unrehearsed. Unprofessionalism will get you kicked out. It should be assumed you will present the best version of yourself before, during and after an audition. Now, let’s talk about how the actor can get a job by instituting a simple change of perspective.
THINK OF THE FOREST BEFORE THE TREES
Most people think about the immediate, surface level desire instead of the long term, invested need. It is the same philosophy in wondering whether it’s better to be given a fish or a fishing rod. If the actor believes the audition is only a place where memorized lines are recited they’re destined for failure. I used to be this close minded. I would go into auditions with three page monologues memorized thinking, “If I do not get this one part, I will quit and get a full-time desk job” (which there is nothing wrong with), but this kept me from getting cast. So, I did what any diligent actor does and started researching. I dug within my past auditions and found something hidden in plain sight. All of my auditions offered different characters on different projects for different studios putting out different material. The fact that I was going on multiple auditions meant I was not trying to get cast on one project so I could be an actor at one point in my life. I went on numerous auditions to be hired to practice a long-term craft. So, the big question. “How do you maximize the chances of getting a job?” The answer can be summed up in one word, “NETWORK.” Like the humble actor Paul Rudd puts it, “I’m not actively seeking stardom. I just go to auditions, and I knock on wood.” I can confidently say, once I applied this simple tactic of treating the audition process as a networking opportunity with the primal intention of getting a job, I started getting cast!
UNDERSTAND YOU ONLY HAVE INFLUENCE
When an audition is over and the actor is sitting in their car developing emotional reasons why they did or did not obtain the part, they start a self-evaluation. This is utterly the worst thing to do because you are dealing with elements outside of your control.
On its primary basis, the casting director or whoever is running the audition is wondering two things when you’re reciting lines. First, “does this person look the part?” which is a lot of the reason why particular talented actors do not get cast (…not my words) and second, “can this person follow direction?” which concludes on whether or not they can work with a particular actor. Then to complicate things even further, sometimes after the casting director submits their final decisions, someone higher up could replace an actor because their contract gives them final say on casting. Again, it’s out of your hands.
Don’t blame yourself if you don’t get a part! All you can do during the audition is present yourself as a professional. Sure you can make physical self-improvements like dressing up as the character, but this only goes so far. For example, I am 5’5 in height, currently weigh 135 pounds with a receding hairline and no matter how much I would love to play Superman, I’ll probably never be cast because I will never be 6’8, weight 200 pounds and have a full head of hair. However, this does not mean I shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to audition for Lex Luthor! You have to be okay with the way you look too. The best thing an actor can do during an audition remind themselves, “this is who I am, this is what I can do and I am taking every opportunity to learn” while leaving the audition with you head high even if you know you did a terrible job.
*One thing I personally do when an audition is over is toss the script in the nearest trash can. This is not meant to be spiteful of how I thought my audition went, but is simply a physical ritual which tells me, “Okay, it’s over, I’ve done all I can do, I’m not going to emotionally carry it with me after I step through the door and now it’s time to prepare the next audition.”
COME IN READY TO NETWORK!
The audition process is strenuous for everyone, even the professionals. During his Acting Master Class, Michael Cane said, “My auditions when I was young were not that hot… they showed fear.” The pressure is high, nerves are at their peak and the idea of messing up can be smelled within the room, but actors have to knowingly allow judgement upon them and subconsciously welcome it because this it is their only of earning employment. So, come in relaxed and ready to network… especially with the casting director.
Despite what you think about him and his life choices, Kevin Spacey is a credible individual when discussing the networking process during an audition. He says, “What a lot of actors tend to do is focus on the wrong thing… if an actor is able to walk into a room and begin a relationship that may not payoff they are going about it the right way… If the actor comes in thinking they need the part in order to pay rent, they are not truly being in the moment [because] they are too focused on the end result.” When you behave in relaxed manner during an audition the casting director notices this and advertently thinks, “I understand this actor may not be right for the part, but they are serious about their craft and I am going to remember them for it.” It is all about the relationship because at some point your phone will ring and your agent on the other line will be inviting you to audition for a part some casting director thinks you are perfect for!
Here is a fact that may take the pressure off… casting directors want you to do a good job because it makes their job easier. It is no different than the audience watching a stage performance during a live-theater show. We are comfortable when the performer is comfortable and when the actor is sweating bullets in front of the camera, the casting director will scratch you off the list.
*A personal piece of advice: before you do anything whether it be acting or building a business plan for a Fortune 500 company, do the absolute best job you have the ability of doing while knowing you can quit at any point and not give a shit. Now, I do not recommend quitting a job because this will result in burning bridges and bad repercussions, but knowing that you have the ability to walk away should be enough to numb the pressure.
MAKE FRIENDS, NOT ENEMIES!
Networking incentivizes the need for the investment in people. It is not what you know, it is who and the casting director is just one gatekeeper that holds the key to one door of employment! The most abundant resource available to every actor during the audition process is the collection of other actors in the waiting room. Yes, believe it or not, you can network before and after an audition. There is only one casting director you have to make a lasting impression on, but when you choose to see the person sitting next to you as a working acquaintance rather than your competition, the gates of employment multiply. Think on this, would your life change if you knew you were sitting beside the next Daniel Day Lewis or Audrey Hepburn?
However, there are two catches with this networking method you must adhere. First, it is never a good idea to talk to someone before or after an audition if they have a script in their hands. Think of it this way, if you were trying to cram (which is never recommended) you would not want someone trying to talk to you. Second, if someone does not have a script in their hands, but has a “piss off” sign on their face, do not bother them.
What I am trying to say is this: Do not force a connection with anyone. If you go into the waiting room with your lines memorized and your confidence level at bay, remain open and let a conversation come to you. However, if you do start a conversation never boast! Never talk about the expectations of the audition, who you know, what projects you have been on and how talented you are… nobody wants to hear it. What you should talk about are commonalities. I have an actor friend named Raymond Roberts who lives across the country and I met in the waiting room before an audition while talking about breakfast. When he was called in, I wished him luck, he did his thing, came out, I gave him my business card (and yes, you need to have a business card) then I was called in. To my recollection, we were going after the same part, neither of us were called back, but if in fact one of us did obtain it, neither of us would be not spiteful of the other. Some of your best working acquaintances will become lifelong friends simply due to fact that your relationship happened on its own.
Friends in this industry are a rare and valuable commodity. Here is what will happen when you make friends. You go to an audition and not get cast, but your friend does. You have a hint of resentment, but suck it up because you do not have time for negativity and you are a better person than that. Then one day after you have forgotten about the whole thing, your friend who got the role calls you and says, “Things aren’t working out well here. We lost our co-lead, the director pulled out his hair and the production has been set back a bit… hey would you possibly be free this afternoon to meet the director? I think you would be a good fit for this character we lost.” All in all, as the old saying goes, when one door shuts another door opens.