I’ve had some absolute shockers. Like the time I was asked if I could read sheet music and said yes (this is a lie) then proceeded to whisper whilst a pianist played a completely different tune to the one I was making up under my breath. As if they wouldn’t notice if I stayed as quiet as possible. Of course, I had to come clean when they asked me to give it more volume and then the room full of baffled people simply said: “thank you for coming in”. Or the time I couldn’t get through a scene with a very famous Welsh actor because I was snotty crying. I wanted the part so bad and felt in my bones I hadn’t got it and was preemptively grieving. It was my birthday. I didn’t get it. There’s one story so bad that I would only tell you in person but it involves a pre-audition outfit change in a public toilet and a 24-hour tummy bug. My boyfriend actually once ate a cigarette (wasn’t even in the script) in an attempt to make an impact and spent the rest of the day throwing up with a spinning head. It didn’t even get him the part.
Auditions are stressful. Everyone knows this. Even the people auditioning you. My friend once said that they are mainly a practice in learning how to utilise and control your nerves rather than being controlled by them.
My amazing acting teacher at RADA always told us to follow our impulses. To act from the gut and not be trapped in our heads. To be present and genuinely listening and responding to what our fellow actor is giving us. I’ve learnt this is definitely easier to do when you’re on stage with a mate you’ve been studying with for 3 years and feels nigh impossible when your fellow actor is actually a casting director reading the scene with you from across a table. Its hard to be connected when you’re feeling scrutinised, tense, needing your 22nd wee of the day (bloody fight or flight) and sweating from every orifice.
A wanky metaphor I like to use it that we are light and the character/script is a prism – if our light isn’t shining we won’t make a rainbow. That means we have to figure out how to go in as confident and shiny as possible. I’ve comprised these tips through a combination of personal experience over the past couple of years I’ve been auditioning and the advice I have drunk in like a thirsty little bird from the wiser and wonderful people I’ve met on my acting adventures so far. Oh, and Ru Paul. Hopefully, they will help to soothe some worries and bolster you so you can feel like a boss (or simply less alone) in your next audish.
LEARN YOUR LINES, GUUURL.
Ok, so I’m really starting with the basics. This may seem obvious and boring but I’m going to unpack because I would’ve liked to have known this shit before I embarked on this treacherous and brilliant journey:
If its TV and film then we need to be completely off book. Whether it’s a self-tape or we’re in the room. There is a camera present and as we all know the eyes are the windows to the soul so we can’t be glancing down every two seconds because it shuts people out. The world wants to take a look at that glorious soul of yours. Look up and dazzle them with those spirit portals.
Everyone learns in different ways. Personally, I can’t just sit down and read the sides over and over again because a) I have a terrible attention span and b) I am an auditory learner so I have to hear things. I will say them aloud and, to amuse myself, do different accents and voices – sometimes if I’ve really struggled to learn something I’ve made it into a song or a full-blown musical.
Preferably I will get a pal to run lines with me because its more fun and I can concentrate for longer when I’m entertained. Some people need to move around and physicalise the lines to get them to go in. Whatever you need to to do – do it! The more confident you are with the lines the freer you will feel and you can focus on being present; listening and responding organically rather than going up into yer noggin and searching for the next word.
Theatre is different. You will usually be given a larger, wordier chunk to prepare so we won’t be expected to be off book but we should be really familiar and comfy so we can connect with the person we are reading with and also not be easily thrown if we lose our place.
DO YOUR RESEARCH BUT THEN FUGHEDDABOUDIT
This is subject to opinion. Some people say you should try and cater yourself to who you’re meeting/go in as the character but so far I’ve learnt that doesn’t work for me. I think it’s great to look up the director, writer and casting director for context and to expand our knowledge but once we’ve done that I don’t think we should try to make an educated guess about the type of person that group wants to see. I don’t advise trawling their IMDB pages thinking “ooh they seem to like quiet and brooding acting; I can do quiet and brooding!” or “ooh they seem to like Rami Malek; I can be Rami Malek!”. No, you can’t. You can only be you which leads me on to my next point:
YOU ARE ESSENTIAL AND ENOUGH
You are a complete and utter individual. There is nobody else like you in the whole world. It bothers me when people try to fear monger by saying, “you’re going to be up against a group of other actors who are exactly like you ”/ “You’re going to be sat in the waiting room looking around at people who are just like you”. BULLSHIT. BOLLOCKS. FANNIES. That mindset just breeds competitiveness and jealousy. You have an essence that is completely unique. Let your nuanced you-ness radiate. Ooze that essence. Reveal yourself; be vulnerable. If we try and be what we think they want we will reduce ourselves and this is counterproductive because then we probably will all come across the same: like little acting androids with eyes full of desperation and fear. They want to see a human being.
WE’RE ALL BORN NAKED AND THE REST IS DRAG
My friends and I like to think that we are going in as the Drag Queen versions of ourselves. I’m going in as “Aimee Lou Wood” not as “Aimee”. “Aimee Lou Wood” is still me but more courageous. Embrace and embolden the qualities you already possess. If you’re naturally a direct and assertive gurl then be that. If you’re naturally quiet and low key but then unleash and glow whilst your acting then own that. If you’re like me and deal with nerves by being louder and chattier then roll with that. Although, I would say take a breath before you speak just to stop yourself from doing something ridiculous like telling an important casting director you just did a poo. I’m talking from personal experience here. Be you but maybe skip out the bowel commentary. You don’t need to be totally expulsive with that you-ness.
Arguably the most important tip on here. Go in with bold choices but then don’t be rigid in your ideas of who the character is and how the scene should go. Listen to the notes you are given and take them on. Be impulsive and instinctive and feed off what you are being given at that exact moment rather than trying to recreate what you did in your bedroom. By all means go to Rymans and bind that script; annotate and highlight it to your heart’s content. As my aforementioned acting teacher says: go in with ammunition. Preparation is ammo but also prepare to yield. Sometimes people do so much work and have such a clear vision in their own head that they can be completely frazzled and inhibited by feedback.
BE ON TIME
You don’t want to enter the room apologetically. It will be hard to shrug off that feeling of embarrassment. Chances are you’ll still be irritated with yourself long after the people auditioning you are over it and moved on. You don’t want to be preoccupied with guilt for the whole audition. Like Ru says, “don’t be sorry be fierce”.
LET IT THE FUCK GO
This is so hard to do. See an audition as an opportunity to act and engage with different scripts and industry people and then once it’s over say goodbye. Of course, we’re only human. We should totally go ahead and have that vent/rant to our best mate but then we have to release it. Let that shit gooooo. Like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says: “What is yours will always come to you”. If something goes away from you it was never really yours to begin with.
You can ask your agent for feedback but the chances are you didn’t do anything wrong. Its all down to alchemy and sometimes a beautiful thing happens where at that exact moment everything connects and you happen to be the missing ingredient in a huge and elaborate recipe or the perfect cog in a much bigger machine. Keep your hopes high and your expectations low.
You will get better and better at moving on the more auditions you do. In my first year trying for drama school, I got to the final round for one particular school but then a big group of us were all told we didn’t get in (after spending two days in our leggings doing workshops). Everybody else was composed and mature and I honestly burst into tears like a toddler. I then ran all the way to the tube station in the rain listening to “Fix You” by Coldplay. I’m not kidding. It was only when a homeless man asked me what was wrong that I snapped out of it. As soon as I started to explain why I was so distraught to a person who literally didn’t have a place to sleep I realised how ridiculous and embarrassing I was being, bought him a Mcdonalds and vowed to never be so dramatic ever again. Perspective is a wonderful thing.
It is just an audition. It is just an acting job. There will be more. Don’t let it all define you or affect your worth. We shouldn’t let being an actor get in the way of being a human being.
I feel you, gurl auditions are hard. Everyone has triumphs and everyone has fuck ups. The good news is that the fuck ups make waaaay better anecdotes.
Break a leg.