How to stand out at auditions, but without putting the casting director off
As an actor and director, I have been on both sides of the casting table and, I'm entirely sure, I have made every mistake possible in both situations.
So, first things first, the mistakes can be survived. Now, exhale.
Auditioning, in my experience, is the most nerve-jangling part of the job we have all chosen. You have invested time, energy, emotion, not to mention cold hard cash in training to become an actor. Whatever stage of your career you have reached, you carry with you a bundle of insecurities that in any other profession would undoubtedly lead to a medically-enforced long lie down in a small, quiet room. You know how stiff the competition is. You know how subjective casting can be. You know that there is a huge possibility that for some time, even if you're lucky, your finances may increase your need for, at very least, semi-permanent hair dye.
Yet, something in you tells you, "I can do this. I am good at what I do, and given the opportunity I will prove this to the world."
But first you have to prove it to casting directors. Over and over and over again.
So, how do you stand out? Without - and this is key - coming across as arrogant, unpleasant or, worst, unprofessional?
The answer is in the question. Professionalism is a word that gets bandied about, but it really is the cornerstone of any career in the arts. Of course, it's essential to know your abilities and your business, but often it's much more important to know and respect the business of the people who have decided that you are worth seeing for a role.
They don't have a lot of time. They are seeing, most likely, a lot of people for this role. They will have and will be seeing some people who still believe that swanning in like they own the place is the best approach.
Be punctual. This may seem obvious, but it's key. It shows respect for the casting director(s), the project and shows your commitment to your craft and your understanding of the business side of it.
Do your research. Find out everything you can about the role, the director, the producer, the casting director. Here, deep in the internet age, there is a lot you can find out about what they like, don't like, what puts them off but more importantly it will take the edge off of the nerves that come with strutting your stuff for strangers.
Be polite. Introduce yourself. You probably won't be relaxed , but hey, you're an actor, seem like it. The best kind of confidence, from a casting director's point of view, is quiet confidence. Act, don't show off.
Be prepared. If there are lines, have them nailed down. If there are more detailed notes about the role in the casting sides, study them. Try to read between the lines, either to ascertain what performance they are looking for, or at least what aspect of your performance range might best match up with what they're looking for.
Take direction and be flexible. You've prepared a performance for them and, suddenly, they stop you, ask you to try something different. Do not let yourself get flustered. If they want to see something else, do not think of it as a criticism of what you were doing, but rather an opportunity to show them what else you can do. They are trusting that you are a professional actor and capable of showing them a variety of takes on the part. And, of course, taking direction is a huge part of any job you do get.
Most of all, this is your audition. Don't think about who has been in the room before you, or who is yet to come. Take a deep breath and show them exactly how good you are and how seriously you take what you do.
Then thank them for their time. Leave as you came in: calm, cool, collected and professional.
And then it's just about the waiting. Which would require an entirely separate, much longer and more frenzied article.