The Audition Spectrum
As the wise Forrest Gump once said, "auditions are like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gunna get."
I say I'm an "actor", but more often than not, I really feel like I should just call myself an "auditioner." It's one of the only careers I'm personally aware of where there is a shit ton of work & dedication with very little or no return. But, every once in a blue moon, there is that moment when your hard work, blood, sweat and tears will pay off and you will book a role - and this one moment is critical because it is the one moment that us actors live and die for.
I get asked a lot by non-actors what the audition process is like, so I thought I would share what my weekly audition experience has been like as an actor. I never share my audition tapes or my process, so bear with me and be gentle :)
Allow me to introduce to you, what I refer to as the "Audition Spectrum:"
I actually love to film self-tapes. They're not as big in CA as in-person auditions are. In fact, the quality of the self-tapes I have seen come out of the Atlanta area are pretty unparalleled, and this is because many roles out in the southeast region are booked simply off of your self-tape. I remember before I moved to Atlanta, there was an agency that was looking at me and they wanted me to send in a tape so they could see what kind of quality work I would be sending out. I sent one in (I tried to find a screen grab of it on my computer, but I'm so embarrassed by it that I probably trashed it at some point) and the agency responded pretty quickly saying that they were going to pass, simply on the basis of my self-tape being "not up to par" with other tapers in Atlanta. It was a huge wake up call for me as I realized I was entering an entirely new playing field. I was visiting Atlanta to find an apartment, and was at dinner with my friend Elyse, when I got the rejection email from this agency. Elyse didn't even wait a beat before she said, "You're coming over first thing in the morning, and we are re-taping at my studio in my apartment, and we are resubmitting to this agency. This is the kind of person that lives in Atlanta. Without even asking, I have found that most people are willing to do pretty much anything to help you out. We re-taped, I resubmitted, and I still never heard from them. I've learn to face the philosophy, "man's rejection is the universe's protection." Here's a screen grab of the second taping:
So why do I love it? MANY reasons. I get to tape with my friends (you have to have a reader most times) which usually results in us laughing really hard at the mere situation: pretending is our job... playing pretend is totally normal to us. And finally, these tape sessions usually result in drinking wine or watching Harry Potter with my friends after we finish taping. The best part, and I think most would agree, is you get to push that record button as many times as you want until you get it perfectly right. So, the casting director is getting my very best shot. I'm not nervous, I'm not distracted. In fact, I'm probably the most relaxed I can possibly be.
God, it's such a good feeling. Not only did you make it past the initial headshot/resume submission by your agent, but you've sent in a tape or had an in-person, and now the CD wants to see you AGAIN. They think you can do it. They're not positive. They're going to bring you in, along with possibly 50+ other people that look just like you. Or, if they aren't sure what they want, you may be in a room with a ton of people that look nothing like you. I've been in a room now twice with girls from my group of friends out here that look nothing like me, for the same role. We actually get a kick out of it, and it calms us down a little bit in the casting room to see a familiar face.
Callbacks give me a lot of stress and anxiety, to be honest. You get only one chance, this time. Most recently, I had a callback for a recreation-type show, where I was playing a crazy girlfriend that ultimately tries to murder her new boyfriend. I spent a few hours each night the week leading up to the audition, by breaking down the sides I was given and working on memorization of the lines. The last thing I want to be thinking about when I'm in the audition room are the words. The night before, I spent hours watching videos on youtube about crazy wives that murdered their husbands or killed their kids so I could begin to get inside this twisted character's head a little more. It really messed me up to be quite honest and made it hard to sleep that night. The day of the audition, I started playing music that I think my character would listen to. I put on some Alt-J and got emotional and started thinking about all the people in my life that have hurt me that I would want to hurt if I were a crazy girlfriend. I'm telling you, it really messed me up. Then I went in the room to audition and I had an incredible time. It was FUN. My reader was amazing, the CD and director were supportive and nice, and when I left the room, I felt like I had killed it! I had done everything I could have possibly done to prepare. The moment I left, it was just up to the CD and director to decide whether I would be the right person to cast. It could come down to me being 5'10" and the male lead being 5'8", so that wouldn't work. Or it could come down to me looking or acting too young. Or, since it's a recreation show, it could simply come down to me not looking enough like the character did in real life. Whatever the case may be, as soon as I leave that audition room, I have done everything in my power to do my very best. I always have to remind myself what Bryan Cranston says about auditions: you can't go in that room and expect ANYTHING. You go in, you give the casting director something, and you leave.
"The 1st Refusal":
You're almost there! It's such a tease. You want to be excited because this basically means it's down to you and just one other person! You are this close to either paying your rent in one day, or spending the next week picking up as many shifts as you can at your part-time job. I've trained myself to not get excited too soon anymore. In fact, you shouldn't even get excited until you have physically seen your project air with your own eyes. There are so many things that can happen and you will be much better off just waiting to get excited/ tell people about the projects that you're attached to until they have aired.
I recently booked my first project since moving to Atlanta! I can't say what brand the commercial was for, but I can say that it felt so good to finally book something for my agent! It's been a long summer submitting auditions for them each week, and it felt so good to finally get both of us paid to do what we love! Here's my improv-style audition for the commercial I shot this past Tuesday. My friend Elyse shot it with me, and I was asked to simulate a coffee shop scenario. (I was also asked to show my hands).
The audition process can seem daunting and very frustrating because it sometimes feels like I am just pushing a gigantic boulder up this massive mountain and I can't even see what's in front of the boulder. Is it everything I ever dreamed of? Is it just a cliff that I will fall from once I reach the top? I don't know, and I won't know. And, I kinda like that. All I can do is follow my gut, chase that high that I feel when I'm doing exactly what I love and was born to do, and know that what will be, will be.