7 Audition Tips: Prep Advice from a Working Actor and Teacher

With the merger of the SAG + AFTRA in 2012, there are now more than 150,000 actors represented by the mega-union. In addition, there are more than 49,000 stage actors and stage managers in the Actor’s Equity Association. Not counted in these totals are performers in Las Vegas showrooms, comedy clubs, dance reviews and theme parks, who are members of the American Guild of Variety Artists, and the countless non-union performers.

Suffice to say, there is extraordinary competition out there for anyone in the performing arts, but there are jobs to be found – and some of them are lucrative. The vast majority of these jobs will contribute to an actor’s modest living. A small sliver of them will offer exposure critical in leap-frogging an actor’s career forward to much better, larger opportunities. In truth, an actor is always one job away from gaining significant career momentum.

There are several factors, of course, that will contribute to an actor’s success. It starts with talent – natural, but best enhanced with acting school training – and includes appearance, then ends with relentless pursuit of work.

Here are 7 Audition Prep Tips by Glenn Kalison, Chair of the Acting Department at New York Film Academy:

1. Be On Time

…which means be early. Nobody arrives at 9:08 a.m. for a 9:08 a.m. train departure. You arrive no later than 10 to 15 minutes before departure in order to purchase your ticket and get a seat. You don’t want to feel rushed when you enter the casting room so leave yourself enough time to settle and focus on the task at hand.

2. Prepare Fully

If you have material to prepare, prepare it! It is true that everybody sitting on the other side of the table in the audition room wants you to be BRILLIANT. They are trying to successfully cast their project and move on to the next stage of production.

3. Dress the Part

You don’t need to wear scrubs for an ER surgeon, dress like a SWAT team officer, or a fireman. However, your clothes are extremely important because the audition may be the first time the casting team evaluating your tape has met you/seen you. Your clothes should work to help evoke the character you are auditioning to play.

4. Be Pleasant to Everyone

If you are a jerk, everyone in the office will know by the end of the day. The assistants and support people around you are in a position to help you if you are respectful and pleasant. You have to be someone that everyone wants to work with, all the time.

5. Don’t Get Hung Up on the Words

Auditions are not tests to see if you can memorize words, so don’t make it about that. If you are prepared and have made interesting and appropriate choices (this involves good training, maybe a good coach, and time with the material), a look down to grab a word will not kill you.

6. Relax

The stakes are always high for the actor, but you can’t let that fill you with tension because it will adversely affect your performance. Keep in mind that any one audition will NOT represent the end of your career, no matter what happens. Remember you are sharing your talent with those who need it so that they can succeed with their project.

7. Leave Them Wanting More

If they’ve seen enough, get out of there! I like it when I finish an audition and the table is silent. Maybe the director is writing a few notes, followed by a simple “thank you.” This tells me that they are thinking, really thinking about me in that role. That’s leaving them wanting more.

Glenn Kalison received his Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of California at Irvine and has since worked as an actor on films that include Clutter (with Carol Kane and Natasha Lyonne), The Good Shepherd (directed by Robert De Niro) and Mystery Team (with Aubry Plaza and Donald Glover), a Sundance Film Festival hit; and on television productions that include Elementary, Smash, Law and Order: SVU, Law and Order, Law and Order: CI, Lights Out, As the World Turns among others; and many off-Broadway and regional stage productions. He is the Chair of the Acting Department at the New York Film Academy.


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