By Casey McDougal
It’s that time of the year, everyone. If you are an actor, you know what I mean. It’s pilot season! The highly anticipated and somewhat dreaded time of year in which you apply to performance after performance hoping to get a call back. Speaking of which, have you been looking for actor headshots? You should be, as they can help get you noticed by agents and producers alike.
But just because you got called in to perform doesn’t mean the troubles end there. You’ll be acting for 2-3 minutes, using the 2 page sides you were emailed yesterday and pored over for the last 12.5 hours, sleeping with anticipation, your dreams filled with images of waiting for your name to be called in a cramped space where everyone waiting to audition looks exactly like you. So I thought it would be a good time to remind you not only why you need to be nicer to yourself at this time of year, but also HOW to be nicer to yourself and let go of the pattern of thinking you aren’t going to “make it.”
Did that just make you cringe? The number one issue I come across with actors is that they don’t know how NOT to beat themselves up. I’m not saying I’m immune to it, but having worked on both sides of the table and on set, I think it is the one problem that can sabotage your audition before you even start. Actors put too much pressure on themselves that every single audition needs to be perfect – it’s the be-all end-all. But we all know it’s really not. There are so many possibilities of what can happen.
You don’t get a callback. OR
You do get a callback. And another one and another one and another one and you still don’t get the part. OR
You get a callback and make it far enough in the callbacks that you get to step 2. Screen test! But still no part.OR
You make it all the way through to actually filming your scene or scenes. And the show doesn’t get picked up. 🙁 OR
The show gets picked up and canceled after one season.
I could go on and on but my point here isn’t to make you feel bad about the potential of not getting airtime for awhile. But rather, each audition is just ONE step in the process. So you might as well let go all of the “what ifs” and focus on doing a great job in the actual moment of time given to you. OK? So relax. Easier said than done, I know. So here are some tips for getting ready for your audition.
If possible, try to clear your schedule the day of your audition. Some of you may have jobs or part time positions where canceling at the last minute is not an option, but try your best.
Make sure to drink plenty of water and avoid drinking alcohol the night before. This may seem like a no-brainer, but even a small amount of alcohol can dehydrate your skin and make you look tired under all those lights and makeup.
Get plenty of sleep.
As soon as you can, put aside some time for yourself to spend a solid amount of time (whatever that means for you – a half hour, a couple of hours, etc) going over your lines. You’re an actor so I am not going to tell you to memorize your lines. There is a lot of debate about having lines memorized and my personal conviction is YES memorize your lines. That doesn’t mean not holding your sides at the audition. You can and should still hold them, but if you know your lines inside and out you won’t need to look down. More on that in a moment. Anyway, treat this audition as a full performance with a beginning, middle, and end. You want to demonstrate for your audience in that audition room that you understand the building of a scene, as well as the emotional awareness and actions your character needs to take to get what s/he wants.
Plan something to do IMMEDIATELY after your audition. It doesn’t have to be epic, but it could be a visit with a friend, treating yourself to lunch. You get the idea. Anything that will get your mind off your audition. This helps you in preparing because you can remind yourself that your life does in fact go on after your audition.
Be on time. I can’t stress this enough. If you are late you are not only doing a disservice to the people who are waiting to see you, but you are only shooting yourself in the foot. You need plenty of time to get there calmly, in one piece, well-rehearsed, hydrated, and ready to go. If you are late often, you may want to do some self-inventory. The problem of being late generally has nothing to do with time management and more to do with self-sabotage. Seriously. Be on time.
Pick something to wear and be done with it. Worrying so much about how you look takes away from you staying in the moment and being present with your performance. Just a note: no patterns, stripes, white or red. Generally cameras nowadays won’t pick up any interference but white will wash you out or cause you to have a distracting white bounce.
Mind your own business. As soon as you arrive, check in where you need to, sit down, concentrate. Don’t distract others with chit chat and don’t let them distract you. You can always talk to people afterwards, but you only get one shot at this particular audition.
Focus on your breathing. This is a great way to keep you from using an unsupported voice and it also sends signals to your parasympathetic nervous system to keep you relaxed and composed.
Don’t freak out if you are nervous. It’s okay. I’m a big believer that being nervous is just a sign that you care. The more you label it the more trouble you may dig yourself into. Just recognize it and hell, use it!
Don’t rush. When you are called into the room, don’t run inside. This is your time too. Look for the mark and walk to it. Wait for direction and hand your head shot and resume ready to hand off.
When you are reading, keep your eyes on the person who is reading with you, but keep yourself facing the camera. Only look down for one line at a time if you need to. The producers and director want to see your face, not your ability to quickly look down for the next line.
If they ask you to read again, it’s not a bad thing. Just follow direction and follow your instincts. If they ask you if you want to do it again, again, trust your instincts. Only you can know if you can do a better take second time around. Fore more on this, check out this episode of my podcast, “Something’s Brewing”
Thank them and take your time again, walking out of the room. The whole event itself is very fast so there’s no need for you make it go any faster than it already does.
THE AUDITION IS NOT OVER UNTIL YOU HAVE LEFT THE BUILDING. This is something I feel is overlooked a lot. Actors leave the audition room and then start talking to actors in the lobby who are preparing for their audition. It is unprofessional and rude, so don’t be that guy. The MYOB rule applies here too. Don’t say anything about it until you have left the building. The assistants and other people working for the company all have eyes and ears and know what’s going on.
Congrats! You made it! You’re alive!
Now, let it go. Just do it. Let it go. I know it’s hard and you want to do that thing where you replay every nano second of what just happened in the audition room, but guess what? It isn’t going to change anything. I know, right? And you thought you could bend the will of the universe by doing that.
Go do that fun thing you had planned! Meet a friend. Buy a cookie. See a show. Grab a cup of coffee. Anything to give yourself a small reward and also to get your mind off the audition. It’s over.
Don’t wait for a callback. Actors oftentimes agonize over hearing back from CDs, but it doesn’t help. You need to get used to the idea that your job as an actor is to act. Treat each audition as a professional performance. If you book a job, it’s a bonus. But ranking yourself in worth by how many callbacks and jobs you book will only make you miserable.
Remember, your life doesn’t depend on your audition. You want to focus on having the best possible outcome for yourself, which means being prepared and kind to yourself. The rest are just details. I wish you the best of luck this pilot season. If you have any questions or need help with any auditions, don’t hesitate to contact us. Break a leg!
About the author: Casey McDougal is an award-winning writer, actor, and filmmaker. Based in CT, Casey has worked around the country and traveled around the world on behalf of her work. Her vision is to create art that inspires others to live a life of inspired imagination. www.purplekittyproductions.com