Actor Tips: How to Nail Your Next On-Camera Audition
This post is inspired by blogger Ben Hodge’s post, 6 Audition Don’ts. His blog is full of great posts for actors, so check it out and subscribe!
Oh, and by the way (and, perhaps obviously) these tips are from my experience and perspective. Things might work a bit differently in your market/region. So, please do your required, regional research.
I am going to do my darndest to write a quick, down and dirty, compelling, and informative post about WHAT TO DO and WHAT TO AVOID at auditions and callbacks for on-camera productions.
On-Camera Casting Director Auditions
1. You get the materials (“sides” – the portion of the script you will be auditioning with), then you do your “work,” which includes getting REALLY familiar with the words (the words you say, the words which set the scene, the words/ideas that your scene partner says), so you can keep your “face out of the pages” as much as possible. Typically, you will get the materials a few days before the audition, but sometimes you will not see the materials until you arrive at the casting office (this would make it a “Cold Read”). When you get the materials, read EVERYTHING, even the stuff that is crossed out! Sometimes you will even have access to sides for other roles being cast. Read these, too (time permitting), so you are as informed as possible and can make interesting decisions, rooted in the text, during your preparation and audition. You might not, however, get to read the entire script. Sorry.
THE WAITING ROOM
1. Arrive 15 minutes before your call time. You will probably have to sign in. Usually, there is a receptionist. Say hello, sign in, be polite, then do whatever pre-audition “work” that prepares you for your read in the casting room. This is not the time to chat up friends, network, or Facebook, or Tweet. Save all that for after the audition. If you are doing a Cold Read, get the sides and begin working. Find someplace close by where you can work, which includes saying the words out loud. I will not go into “cold reading tips” here. That is for another post. And, don’t forget, you are pretty much auditioning from the moment you step into the waiting room, so be a pro!
Here are some waiting room tips from Los Angeles Casting Director, Marci Liroff:
THE CASTING ROOM
THE 1st AUDITION
Okay, you have prepared as much as possible, kept your focus in the waiting room, and now you are sent in to the casting room. Don’t panic. Remember, they want you to come in, blow them away, and be the solution to their needs. Now what?
1. Enter the room with your sides. Whether this is your first or second or 6th (!) audition, have your sides. Use them as little as possible, but have them. Now, during a screen test, the “rules” might be different, so I will defer to the experts on this point. In our market, the sequence of auditions goes 1. Initial Audition, 2. Callback, 3. Additional Callbacks as needed. It *seems* like some people refer to some callbacks as “producer sessions.” I am currently looking for clarification on this point. Your comments and wisdom are always welcomed.
2. Be friendly and professional. Say hello, make eye contact, be yourself. I don’t recommend “entering in character,” especially if the character is hostile, depressed, or otherwise energetically “difficult.”
3. Go to your “mark” – the area (sometimes marked with tape) where you are to stand for your audition.
4. If you have a question about the role, ask. Also, don’t be shocked if the casting director or casting assistant asks you, “Do you have any questions?”
5. Ask, “May I ask how I am framed?” (Thanks, Colleen Patrick, for this one). Politely asking about framing indicates that you “speak camera language,” and you will receive important information about how to “scale” your audition. And, by asking a few quick questions, you are “taking control of your audition,” and, hopefully, giving you a bit of extra confidence.
6. Slate to the camera (“slate”, means you say your name and – usually – give your agency name). Sometimes, you will be asked to smile and a still image is often taken at this point. Slating is the only time that you should “spike the lens,” (meaning, looking into the lens) unless you are specifically asked to do so or if it’s a device of the script. Exceptions being some commercials, PSAs, and industrials.
7. Begin the audition, connect with your scene partner (a reader, often an assistant), and have the time of your life! You are doing what you love…right? Yes, you do have to learn to love auditioning, IMO.
8. Oftentimes, you will read the scene again, and you might get some direction. Here are a few wise words about from Los Angeles Casting Director, Bonnie Gillespie, about receiving adjustments and direction.
9. When the audition is complete, say thank you, and leave the casting room.
10. Sign out in the waiting room.
Here are some great performing for the camera tips (especially for my Seattle actors with a lot of theater experience and not a lot of camera experience) from Los Angeles Casting Director, Marci Liroff:
THE 2nd AUDITION
1. If you are called back, they like what you did in the 1st audition, so don’t reinvent the wheel and come with a whole new character/interpretation/reading.
2. This time, the casting director will definitely be in the room, and, usually, the director and/or a producer or two will be there, as well. There might be three people watching, there might be 10.
3. As before, keep your energy up, stay friendly, and professional. Remember, these folks want to cast someone who can not only act, but who is enjoyable to be around.
4. As above, do steps 4. – 10.
I want to spend a few minutes addressing this, please.
1. If you are doing a Cold Reading, you will have the sides in your hand. Unless, perhaps, it’s one line of dialogue. But, even then, I, personally, I would hold the script, but have it at my side and out of the frame.
2. For a 1st audition, you will have your sides. You can keep your eyes and face up (which the camera loves) if you hold the sides up and away from your face (which will probably be out of frame – and you should ask before you begin if you are going to hold the sides “up and out”). Remember, get as familiar as you can with the text, then use the sides as needed. If you mess up a word, don’t worry (and don’t stop or apologize), just keep going.
3. During a callback, you will have your sides, but REALLY stay connected to the scene and your reader. You should “know” when the page turns are, so you can turn them without looking at the page, and you should not have your nose in the book. Holding the sides will not prevent you from getting cast if you are right for the part. And, if you are not right for the part, it’s not a reflection on you, personally, or your talent.
As I mentioned, Ben Hodge has a great list here, so check out his post.
1. Don’t bring a lot of baggage (emotional or real) into the casting room. Hand them your headshot and bring in your sides. And, no props!
2. Do not make physical contact with your reader. This is especially true if your reader is next to the camera. Leaving the frame is never advised. 😉
3. Once you are on your mark, do not turn away from the camera and “take a moment to get into character” before starting the audition.
4. Don’t cover your face with the sides.
5. Don’t put “business” behind you which will make you turn away from the lens.
6. As mentioned, don’t get scattered in the waiting room. Stay focused.
7. Don’t rush the scene. This will often happen as a side effect of nervousness.
8. Don’t stop the audition or break character because you mess up a word, a line, or have to find your place in the script.
9. Don’t be a jerk!
Have something to add? Have a point of contention? Please leave a comment, we love to talk!
Thanks for reading and sharing.
When you are doing an audition (self tape), can you change up the words to make it sound more natural. Like basically have the idea of what you are saying but not saying every word.
In more circumstances, no. Screenwriters work very hard on their material before sharing it with the casting team, so do your best to make things sounds natural with the words they have provided you.
Break a leg,
When my voice is on camera it sounds different than my voice off – camera. Is their any way I could change that?
P.S. This Article has helped me a lot Thanks for the advice
Hello. I am glad that the article helped. There are certainly vocal training exercises you can do to improve your range and modify your tone. However, it might just be how your ear hears your voice…Or, you might be listening to your voice after it was recorded with a low quality microphone.
Liked your article! Very informative and helpful. Great tips on how to nail an audition.
The sides for the video auditon I am doing tomorrow have 3-4 characters per scene, so it’s not a back-and-forth conversation between another character and myself. How do I do that with only one reader? Or should I have more readers?
Hello, Esther. Thank you for your question. You only need one reader, and they should read for all the characters that are in the scene except yours. Does that make sense?
Break a leg,
I just wanted to thank you for going over some tips to use for an audition. I’m glad that you mentioned that you should ask any questions you have about the role. I can definitely see the benefits of this, especially if it can help you understand more about the character. Plus, it could show the director that you want to make sure that you will act appropriately.
I have an audition tomorrow with just a reader, the director, and the camera. It is a three-person scene that starts in a car and then moves outdoors, then back into the car. How should I handle this situation on camera?
Hello, Kayleigh. Thanks for your question, and congrats on the audition. I am going to assume that you will be standing on a mark, which is the case for almost all on-camera auditions, so you won’t be able to move much, but you will have the opportunity to express your emotions and objective through your expression and use of the dialogue. Since you have more than one scene partner, you might want to put one of the characters on the side of the camera opposite the reader’s position. By doing this, your eye-line can shift, which is often helpful for me as an actor. I have also watched auditions where the actor gave the entire performance to the reader, which also works. Do what works best for you.
I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any questions.