• Ben Stranahan

Acing the Hollywood Audition

Auditions can be awkward, nerve-wracking, nauseating affairs - but coming from someone with a few auditions under his belt, I’m here to tell you that they don’t have to be. I wanted to share with you a few tips that I use to make the most of every audition:

Be Professional and Personable

Smile! The casting directors know you’re nervous; they meet a thousand anxious people every day. They’re looking for someone who won’t crumble under the weight of that considerable anxiety but instead will be fueled by it. When you walk through the door, you want to radiate confidence, positive energy, and professionalism, but don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through. If you get the chance to forge a connection with the living, breathing person sitting across from you, take it.

Find Your Safe Zone -- and Leave It Behind (Be Bold and Courageous)

If you want to be an actor, you can’t be afraid to look silly or vulnerable in front of others. The boldest choices are often the most memorable; take calculated risks with your performance to leave a lasting impression. Embrace the silliness of the whole venture and have fun with the material. That said, there is certainly such a thing as too much for an audition; you must find the right balance between authenticity and memorability.

Show Some Range

If the material allows for it, show a dynamic range with your performance. If the scene doesn’t have a wide emotional arc, find subtler emotions to play off of. Not every scene is going to move from joy to anger to despair; sometimes, you have to work with smaller shifts. Maybe the scene has undercurrents of both love and jealousy, or anxiety and guilt; portraying these complex emotions authentically can be more difficult than working with emotions like anger, but showing that you understand these feelings and how they manifest can seriously impress a casting director looking for a more nuanced performance.

Know Your Lines

This one is pretty simple, yet it must be said: know your damn lines! You don’t want to waste the casting director’s time, do you? Do everyone a favor and learn your lines before you walk through the door. That said, forgetting a line is not the end of the world; no casting director will throw out a stellar performance because of one missed line. A smooth, impressive recovery can actually improve your chances, so when it inevitably happens to you, focus on the fix instead of the problem and consider it a gift.

Know Your Character

Do some character work. Break down their arc, know their background and beliefs. Figure out what they want and how they intend to get it. Famous playwright Aaron Sorkin calls this “the Altar of Intention and Obstacle”: worship it. Knowing these things about your character and using them to inform your performance can make the difference between a memorable performance and a forgettable reading.

  • Don’t show up to an audition in costume, but you can dress carefully to subtly suggest certain elements of the character you’re portraying. You might wear slightly different clothes if you’re auditioning for the role of a doctor than you would for the role of a construction worker. Most importantly make sure what you wear makes you feel like the character.

  • Find your own personal connection to the character. Maybe you don’t want the same things they want, but you’ve certainly felt something similar, or been in a similar situation.

Know What to Do With Your Hands

Don’t just stand there - do something! How often do you stand totally still when you talk, especially if there’s any kind of emotional weight or tension to the conversation? People can’t sit still. Authenticity is key; don’t force anything, especially in the service of “looking cool.” Please resist the urge to throw or kick chairs. As for your hands, watch out for “acting arms” and other repetitive crutch movements. If you catch yourself habitually repeating an action (gesturing during speech, for instance), put your hands in your pockets or find some other action to occupy them during the scene.

And that’s it - six simple tips to help you ace your audition. Don’t overload yourself with more advice than you can remember. Don’t make things harder on yourself by letting your doubts run wild. Focus on giving an authentic, memorable performance, and make every audition count!

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