The Actor's Emergency Audition & Meeting Survival Guide
No Time? No Worries! Here's Everything You Need to Get Ready for That Audition or Meeting FAST!
Actors have a habit of freaking out when, out of nowhere, they’re asked to come in for a meeting. There you are, suddenly and frantically trying to answer a gazillion questions you’ve never thought to ask yourself BEFORE this event:
What do I wear?
What do I talk about?
Am I right for the role?
What is my type?
Who do I know in the entertainment world, in case I’m asked?
What is my essence?
Wait, what does that even mean? Nevermind!...
How do I talk about what I’ve done without sounding cocky?
What are they going to ask me?
OMG I DON’T HAVE ANYTHING WORTHY ON MY RESUME, WHAT THE %$&# DO I DO?!?!
These are just a few of the questions my studio's actors are used to addressing in class—before the need arises. So much of what we do here is about preparing to take advantage of every opportunity, in scenes as well as behind them. You want to be sure that, when those opportunities come a knockin' on your door, you'll know how to open it. It's like that old saying, “Where Preparation meets Opportunity, you’ll find Success.” ...or, something like that. You get what I'm saying. Anyway—
Acting audition, agent meeting, casting callback, whatever...it's coming, and WAY sooner than you expected. What are you supposed to do with that? Well, if you wanna succeed, you've gotta get your ducks in a row ASAP! First—and most important—is nailing down your Essence.
Survival Kit Cheat Sheet
What you can do right now to prep for that meeting:
Home in on your actor type and essence
Research potential roles to make sure you'll be a good fit
Get your headshots in order
What you can do to be ready the next time an audition or meeting pops up out of nowhere:
Take every opportunity (or better yet, make them!) to get to know people who work in casting to get—and stay—on their radars
Watch more TV to get a feel for which shows might be right for you
Regularly attend workshops run by casting directors you want to audition for
Invest in your future with comprehensive on-camera acting classes and coaching
The Actor's Essence: Know Thyself!
In my acting classes we do an exercise that helps identify what's known as your "essence", and if there's one thing you need to make a living as an actor, this is it. What is an actor's essence? Well, in our acting exercise, we start by figuring out which industry A-lister (or sometimes B-lister) you remind us of. One of my actors hated the fact that people kept saying he reminded them of Donald Glover, but he seriously looked like he could be Donald's younger brother. We couldn't help it! And fact is, no matter how much he hates it, this is a GOOD thing. I know, I know—you want to be YOU, not Childish Gambino, not his brother, not anyone else. But you've gotta understand something here: casting, agents, managers, directors, writers, producers...they ALL need to know what you’re selling so they can buy it. In layman's terms, if people can compare you to someone in the industry, that gives them a good idea as to how to buy/sell your services. So let em!
The point is, you want to work, right? Having a grasp on your marketing can make all the difference in the world, and this first step can make a HUGE difference in your ability to market yourself.
Essence in Action: Donald Glover and Spike Lee Walk into a Bar...
Okay not really...it's more like they walk into each other. Let's say you look like Donald, but your essence is Spike Lee. We're talking deep down, the way you carry yourself, the "vibe" you throw out there. Now, that's very different energy—Spike compared to Donald—but here you are, Spike Lee's spirit and attitude in Donald Glover's looks. Can you picture it? Good! Now we get what you look like, and a feel for what kind of attitude we're putting into a role. Now it's up to director, producers, etc. to catch on and, hopefully, buy what you're selling.
If you don’t know your type, well that’s where ya gotta start because it has EVERYTHING to do with your business. And I'm talk’n about the business of YOU, the actor. Don't Forget to Play to Your Type So, you’re some kind of Donald Glover/Spike Lee hybrid type. Great. What does that even mean?!? Well, a lot, really! We know who you remind us of…a guy who is kind, funny, vulnerable but strong… the loyal guy-next-door. That's not just your look, because it gives us an impression of you: your type.
But your essence—not just the look of you, the feeling we get when you walk in the room, your presence—is like Spike Lee: sardonic, mysterious, outspoken, pure rebel... You put the two together, and BAM....that's you. Not Donald, not Spike, YOU. Congratulations, you've got your type and essence down pat. "Okay," you say, "what do I do with that, Mel?" I'm glad you asked!
Take Your Headshots Seriously I don't care how much of a rush you're in, if you don't already know a photographer or two whose work you truly love—not like, but LOVE—do some research until you find a good fit!
I can't stress enough how important this is. You’ve got one day to shoot with this person and get what you need to sell yourself to casting. This is about more than just getting your beautiful or handsome face in glossy form; to casting directors, your headshot is your introduction, your calling card. You NEED someone you really jibe with on the other side of that camera so your type and essence shine in the end result.
What should actors look for in a photographer? You want to be able to say, “Hey listen, I know I look like Donald and act like Spike, so I want photos that really show and sell that." Find someone whose work not only conveys a sense of essence in the examples you see, but shoots in a style that suits your type and essence, too.
And for Buddha’s sake, don't make it hard for them. Bring a look to the shoot that represents what you’re selling! I've seen so many actors invest in costly photoshoots and then fail to really plan. The photographer can't do everything for you. You need to know what you're going to wear, how to style your hair, and show up as your most comfortable and confident self on the day of the shoot.
READ – "The Right Way to Communicate with Your Headshot Photographer" on Backstage.com Work on Your Relationships
Booking auditions is, a lot of the time, based on whether the casting director knows your work, and likes it. It really is in who you know, but that's not necessarily a bad thing! Whether it's you yourself or through your agent/manager, you want to build solid working relationships with as many people in casting as you can, so they can get you in the room.
If you don’t have representation, don’t fret! You can still consistently build those relationships on your own. How? When casting gets a headshot in their inbox, or goes through actors access looking for actors who fit what they need, they tend to choose actors they know OR someone with a good “type," one that fits what they're looking for.
It’s kinda like life: you’re more apt to ask someone you know for advice than someone you don’t, because you trust them to give you what you need. Failing that, you look to people who look like they know what they're talking about. Stay in Your Lane
You know your type and essence, which means you've got a fix on what you’re selling. You have have a professional headshot that reflects that. You've worked on networking and building healthy working relationships with casting directors through workshops and whatnot. So what do you do next? Start watching TV. I'm serious! This is research. Watch shows that shoot where you want to work. Looking to build your career in NYC? Great! Which shows film there? Who's casting those shows? Which shows are you right for? If you’re selling Donald Glover meets Spike Lee, you should make sure you're looking at something with a little more gravity than a sitcom, something with more grit.
Don't Cut Class Knowing who you are and what you'd be good at alone isn't enough. Are you truly ready to work on the set of these shows? Can you walk into a casting directors office and go “off book” with good, strong choices that match the tone and genre you’re reading for? Can you handle taking direction and talking to the director during callbacks and on set? Can you professionally handle yourself if shit hits the fan and you forget lines, drop lines, or have a reader totally jump your lines? On-camera acting classes prepare you for those kinds of events, which can easily turn into opportunities with casting if you know how to handle them. Obviously, this is more long-term prep for the next time you've got a surprise meeting, but that's exactly the point! With a good class and method, a sudden audition or meeting isn't an emergency, it's pure opportunity! Acting classes are a great way to network, too. You want to look for a class that teaches current material, has actors who are auditioning for TV/Film and either have rep or are seeking rep. These are people headed in the direction that you want to head in, too, right? Plus, working on camera makes you look professional vs. green. Use Workshops for Even More Insight Once you’re in a great ongoing TV/Film class, start to put feelers out for those shows you know you’re right for. Which seemed like good fits for your type/essence? Who are the casting directors? Are they teaching any workshops? If they are, sign up ASAP. Once you've gotten that out of the way, take time to prepare the sides they give. Pay attention to whatever they're teaching, but also pay attention to them. If you want to know what a casting director is really looking for in their audition, you want to watch them in action. Casting director workshops are obviously a great place to do that. Sign up, show up, participate, and watch. Note their direction in the room, and anything else that might come in handy when opportunity knocks.
Then what? Go back, at least twice, within that same year.
This is about more than just learning from the casting director and scoping out the scene. This is a way to get in front of them and become a little more familiar. It also adds some depth to what they see in you. From their perspective, the first time will be like a pre-read, second time they get to know your work is solid and, if you've got your ducks in a row, the third time will be “I hope I can book this actor!"
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