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March 12, 2013 / Amy Bradney-George

Thoughts on auditions

The other night I was catching up with another actor and the topic of auditions came up. The more we talked, the more I realised I had to say about auditions, and she actually suggested I blog about it (thanks Cara).

A bit of background to the conversation: we’d both just been to an industry seminar with writer, producer, director and mentor Bobby Galinsky, where he had voiced observations around how actors often treat each other at auditions.

While you’re fast friends with actors you have to work with, often you see people at auditions “competing” with each other. Like Bobby, both me and Cara feel that is a problem.

For one thing, it’s not up to you who gets the part. Usually the casting agent or director will have an idea of what they are looking for, or what they want, and you may or may not be right for that. It has very little to do with who else is going for the same role.

I’ll admit I’ve been intimidated by other actors in auditions before, and that there have been times in the past when I would only half-jokingly say something about “the competition”. But since moving to Melbourne, training and auditioning more here, I’ve come to apply my community values to the arts industry. Including audition settings.

The last two group auditions I had, for example, included actors that really impressed and inspired me and I made a point of telling them. I wanted to share with them how much their work had affected me, because it did and that’s always a good thing.

But another part of this whole “audition competition” rhetoric is that who you are is always going to be different to who the other actors are. Cara and I have been to the same auditions, and I’ve run into other actors I know a few times as well. Sometimes we even go for the same parts. But even if we’re reading the exact same part, it doesn’t matter. We’re different people, with different approaches to the work, different circumstances and life views…it shows up in the work.

An audition scene from CW show The LA Complex...the kind of audition synonymous with "competition".

An audition scene from The LA Complex…the kind of audition synonymous with “competition”.

I think at some stage you can get to a point with your acting where the focus isn’t on giving a “good” or “bad” performance, but an honest one. That could (and maybe should) mean it’s different every time, even for you. So how can you compare yourself to someone else? How can you compete with them when what you’re doing is 100% truthful to you?

If anything, I think that maybe the bigger issue is competing with ourselves. I get nervous before auditions, even though I enjoy them for the most part. I know that nerves are a sign I care about what I’m doing, but it doesn’t help.

The first time I met Cara, actually, I was doing a workshop with David Coury, a voice expert, teacher and the Howard Fine Acting Studio’s Voice Director. I told him my current problem was that I rushed through auditions, particularly after I’d done the monologue/scene etc. I felt like it was hindering me. He showed me that seeing the entire thing as one whole experience (not a segmented process with a “performance” element) could help things flow more freely. He also reminded me that I’m not there for the casting director, director or anyone else, but for myself.

I understand that so much more since reading Howard Fine’s book on acting. In the chapter on auditions, he says you shouldn’t go into an audition needing something from the people there.

“You must actually walk into the room and not need anything from anyone. One of the biggest mistakes actors make is that they walk into rooms and send their awareness around the room, and try to figure out what people are thinking about them…You have to be able to walk into a room and not be the needy person.”

The way I see it, auditions are another opportunity to act, to play. Yes there are stakes, but there are always stakes in this industry and I’d rather go into an audition with the goal of expressing, enjoying (and maybe impressing) myself, than worrying about everyone else. If you are free, that speaks for itself and gives people the chance to see what you are like as an actor.

After auditions

Something else I’d really like to touch on in regards to auditions is how you see the process and how others see it. At the moment I go into auditions feeling like it is (as I said above) an opportunity to play. It’s a part of being an actor.

It’s also an opportunity to make connections with people in the industry, and to expand your networks. In that sense, I am excited to get auditions, and for me the desired outcome is to give 100% in that moment. If I do that, I’m happy because I know that more opportunities and growth as an actor comes from giving 100%.

So with that perspective in mind, I feel that there are a number of positives that can come from any audition, whether I get the role I’m going for or not. I’m still new in Melbourne, after all, and directors may not know how invested I am in my career, or whether I’ll put in the hours, or that I treat unpaid work the same way I treat paid work (because I LOVE the work).

Similarly, I don’t know what directors are like, or how I would fit into theatre companies or film productions here until I meet them. So I want to get to know these people in the industry and show them my work, and auditions are a great place to do that.

I’ve had a few really inspiring auditions over the last six months, ones that have left me buzzing for days. None of them have led to me being cast in the roles I went for yet, but I’m still happy and excited when I think about them and the feedback I got from them. When people take the time to call you and give you in-depth feedback and say with sincerity that they want to work with you, that to me is a win.

But not everyone sees it like that or understands this perspective. A lot of my friends who are not in the industry (or only peripherally), give out condolences when I say I didn’t get cast. The intentions may be good, but it’s hard to swallow sympathy when you don’t feel like you need it, and easy to dwell in those initial feelings of disappointment when others are expressing them for or with you.

I think if you invest in an audition 100% then you are bound to feel some disappointment when you don’t get cast, but it is fleeting compared to the inspiration and motivation that can come from a good audition. I’m in this forever, not for a moment and I’m realistic about the industry.

Where I stand with the audition process at the moment is summed up particularly well in Howard Fine’s book, where he stresses that “you only have one chance to make an impression”.

“You are not going to get every part, that’s the way it works, but you want to go in every single time, firing on all cylinders, and do the best possible work you can, and having a positive attitude, you will get some attention.”

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