Step Your Audition Game Up, Seattle

It is time to deliver better auditions for the camera, people. Myself included.

Let’s talk about preparation, the sides (script material), callbacks, and competition, shall we?

Recently, in a thread on my Facebook Group for Seattle Filmmakers and Actors, a local talent agent reported that actors in the northwest were basically embarrassing themselves (and, quite possibly, the casting director who called them in and their team – agent, manager) by looking like amateurs when compared to Los Angeles talent.

So, what is the problem? Are LA actors just in a different league than their northwest counterparts? Possibly. LA talent surely have more chances to practice their craft, seeing as there are more opportunities for actors in that region. Fine. They get to exercise their skill set more often via auditions. But, what also seems to be at issue is general preparedness (or, lack thereof). And, perhaps, how we, as actors, approach the callback/producer session.

From the feedback given from people I trust in the industry – Melissa Baldauf, Talent Agent, Seattle; Lana Veenker, Casting Director, Cast Iron Studios, Portland, OR; and Marci Liroff, Casting Director, Los Angeles, CA – I have come to the conclusion that we (northwest actors), generally speaking, need to attack auditions and callbacks with more precision.

Here is what industry leaders are saying:
From Melissa Baldauf:
“Here is a note from one of our NW casting directors that is really important for actors in our area to read. Something similar was just noted by another cd in our market: ‘Just fyi – some of these roles are being cast for in both Portland and Los Angeles. I don’t know if overall Portland just needs to massively improve it’s cold-reading skills, or if our talent just needs to make better use of their waiting time in the lobby, but I do know that we are going to lose out every time if our talent is constantly coming into interviews and callbacks with only a cursory knowledge of the sides. There was not a single person on tape out of LA that was standing there with the sides in their hands, referring back to them throughout their read. We received a note from the producers regarding the difference between LA auditions and Portland auditions, and it was not especially kind.'”
From Lana Veenker:
“It boggles the mind, but somehow the LA actors DO have all their pages perfectly memorized that they only got the night before. Have your small, folded sides in hand in case of an emergency, but arrive as polished as possible, because the LA actors are killing us in terms of preparation. If an actor can’t get off book for a callback, how can we reassure our producers that he or she will be off book for the shoot, when script pages sometimes come in the night before or morning of? The TV producers are terrified of NW actors having meltdowns on set.”
– Source:

Here is the (not so magical, but quite practical) formula:

1. Get the sides.
2. Get the script (if possible).
3. Prepare the heck out the material – read it OVER AND OVER again, practice with a partner (or a recording), and pick a scene objective.
4. Keep preparing and reading and interpreting and experimenting and reading and getting comfortable. So you will be confident.
5. Nail the audition.
6. At the callback you are completely off book – yes, you can hold your sides, but keep your nose out of the paper so you can connect with your partner, pursue your actions (which are verbs and are informed by your scene objective), and navigate past obstacles.
7. Listen and respond.
8. Be a pro.

In the very near future, I will be offering Auditioning Workouts for Seattle actors. Stay posted.

And, as always, I encourage your feedback.

4 thoughts on “Step Your Audition Game Up, Seattle

  1. It’s true! The really successful actors down here in La-La Land have a system down. It’s not hard to do either. They get the sides, highlight their lines, get them memorized and then REWRITE THEM. They write them down over and over again until they’re essentially just rewriting the script. Sometimes they’ll rewrite the entire scene, not just their lines, so they have a more intimate knowledge of what’s going on before and after. It gives a much more in-depth scene analysis than just simply memorizing. The actors who’ve done this on my shoots have memorized scenes in a couple hours after having received the script and were then free to focus on character and nuance.

  2. Good piece! Definitely try to memorize the lines, that’s a great tip. My main advice to actors auditioning would be this: take a risk. I think a lot of the time actors are on the fence about the tone of their scenes, about specific lines, about who the character is, about what direction to go, what the director is looking for: If you haven’t been able to read all your scenes or discussed it with the director, there’s going to be tons of questions. And this can lead to a wishy-washy half & half audition, where the actor doesn’t really commit one way or the other to an emotion, a beat, a tone (because they aren’t informed enough, and that’s not their fault BUT) – – don’t be afraid to appear to understand everything. I say kick your fear to the curb, know that one audition isn’t everything, so go all out. I say go with your gut, make a conscious decision to take it one way, and Take A Risk. If you think the character is crazy, make them CrAzY, if you think it’s an emotional scene, fall to the floor, kick over a chair if you want. If you wanna change a line, change it. Make it better. I know it’s not as easy as that – acting is hard work- but don’t think that way. It’s okay to go all out, because directors are looking for endless energy they can help you harness and they are also looking for someone who just has Guts. It’s easier to bring an actor down than up. What I want to see is somebody really go for it! That’s my two cents.

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