Years ago, while meeting with a soon-to-be-new talent agent, I was told something that I had long come to know but never actually considered so clearly: “The job is auditioning,” he offered, matter-of-factly. It was not a surprising statement – as actors, we are always having to prove ourselves – but ever since hearing that obvious and straightforward fact there has been a crystalline clearness to my career. The job is auditioning, so I had better be damn good at it. And for all new talent, understanding this blunt assessment will be a key factor in your success. So, learn to love auditioning!
Whether auditioning from home our out on a call, you’ve got to learn to employ a set of skills for online and in-person castings that will put you in the best position to book the gig. Most auditioning these days is done from your home studio, so mastering the online submission is critical; but, equally important is being able to nail auditions done out at casting offices, studios, production companies, etc. Though a small percentage of casting calls, in-person auditions are often for higher profile and more lucrative bookings.
There are similar skills required and different things to master for both kinds of auditioning. When it comes to online submissions, here are some tips to help maximize your chances of bookings. You should have completed your initial coaching sessions, have your demos in hand and be able to deliver pro-audio quality recordings from your home studio efficiently. This means that you should be well-practiced editing tracks before starting to audition so that when the time comes, you are adept at the technical aspects of recording, editing and delivering audio files.
Create a professional template cover letter that can be easily customized and quickly sent, as most online submissions, whether they be through pay-to-play sites like Voices.com or direct producer contacts, usually must include a note that provides bio details, experience, etc. As you get more experience across a range of categories/genres (i.e. commercial, web video, promo, political, etc.) create tailored templates for each. Be ready for rapid responses. Check your email frequently for new casting notices and correspondence following submissions. When auditions come in, try to submit reads ASAP. The ideal is to turn things around within minutes or hours, but if that’s not feasible do it before the day is over.
Be selective for which jobs to audition, and only submit for ones that are a close match or well within your range. When performing the read, demo the entire sample script, unless there is a concern about the credibility of the producer (i.e. you think they might use your audition for the production without compensation) in which case demo only a portion of it or change key words. Where appropriate, submit multiple takes: one take for longer scripts, over 30 seconds; two takes for medium length copy, between 15 – 30 seconds; three-in-a-row for the shorties, under 10 seconds. Then fully edit the tracks, removing breaths and other noises as well as alternate lines. Then submit your audition along with a detailed and concise cover letter highlighting specific experience, home studio capabilities and turnaround time if booked (the quicker the better). Don’t exaggerate (much) and ensure that what you promise you can deliver. Presenting yourself professionally is key, especially when you’re starting out and have little experience to recommend you.
When it comes to live auditioning there are some different/additional things to focus on that will help you thrive in that arena as well. Upon the call, do as much research into the casting office, production company or studio as the internet allows. Figure out where you’re going (so that you can accurately time your arrival); what the place looks like (so when you go in there you can act like you’ve been before); for whom you’ll be auditioning; as well as any other interesting facts about the office. All of this prep work is intended to make you feel comfortable with the situation and eliminate unnecessary and unhelpful distractions at the audition itself.
Arrive early to look over the copy. Plan to be there at least ten minutes before your call time. While en route, engage in exercises that help you relax. Try deep breathing, listening to music, reading or anything else that puts you at ease. Upon arrival, scope out the room to see how many other actors are waiting. If there are a lot, sign in, look for talent/script specifications or storyboard by the copy and grab your script. If you’re the only one there, or one of just a couple, try to review the sides before signing in so as not to get called in before you’ve had enough prep time.
When reviewing, prepare the script as you’ve trained to do. Before rehearsing out loud, read it intently to yourself to get the story you’re telling, to whom and why; taking into consideration the specs detailed. Keep an open mind though, so as to be flexible when you’re given specific direction during the audition. One of the main skills to in-person auditioning is the ability to take direction in real-time. If you’re able, rehearse out loud once or twice. But don’t overdo it. Then just relax. Once you’re prepared, put the script down and get back to being at ease.
Once in with whomever is running the session, ask any questions about the story you’ll be telling. Once you are set-up on the mic, make sure you are comfortable and can see the copy clearly. Don’t be timid about addressing any issues that may distract from your performance. When you’re cued, slate your name with a smile, then let it roll with confidence and joy. When you’re asked for another take understand that your first one may have been great, they just want to hear another read with new or more specific direction. So be flexible, listen, interpret and knock out another one. And keep doing it like that until you’re done. If you have a bad take, or fumble on some lines, don’t sweat it. Just brush it off and crush the next one. Then bid adieu with minimal chit chat, make a mental note about how it went to enter into your audition log later, and move on to the next one – because that’s your job!
Alan Schwartz is a nationally recognized voice over talent who has served as the voice for Sprite, Verizon, Smirnoff Ice, and “Alex” from the Mac Operating System, among others. You can find more of his work at ajsvoiceover.com.