If you’ve found yourself as an actor going on countless auditions and not getting any callbacks, let alone actual acting roles, there’s wisdom to be gained by listening to those who make the decisions as to who gets the part and who doesn’t – the Directors and Producers. Here’s a partial list of some of the top mistakes my colleagues and I see on a regular basis when holding auditions for movie roles:
- Not Having a Current Head Shot: As much as we’d both like to believe we’ll remember you, and fill in the gaps mentally with the discrepancies between what your old headshot looked like and what you look like now, the truth is we’ll probably see over 100 actors that same day who are reading for the same part, and there aren’t too many faster ways to the bottom of the “potentials” stack than not resembling your current self with the picture you’ve submitted. For starters, it creates a question over whether, perhaps, with hair and makeup you look like the person in the photo, or if that person in the photo is someone from the past that will never be seen again. It is especially troublesome for a Director if they asked you to come to an audition based upon the head shot you sent, and you show up not looking like the head shot you sent. That’s the person they’re expecting to see, and what their interest was based upon. Make sure you look like you – and keep those head shots updated at least every 6-12 months.
- Not Being Prepared: If you’re specifically asked to read for a part, at some point we’re going to send you a scene or two (also referred to as “sides”). It is shocking how many actors who are invited to read for a part, bypassing the masses of the “open call”, fail to prepare for their audition by memorizing their lines. If the Director gives you a script, hint hint – he wants to see if you really want the part. Seasoned directors expect professional actors to be able to memorize scenes quickly.
- Using Someone Else’s Monologue: No matter how much better you may have been able to play that famous character in that famous film that everyone in the world has seen, you’re never going to be that famous character in that famous film that everyone in the world has seen – so please stop trying to out perform them, or
worse yet – impersonate them. I once had a woman come to an audition and recite, perfectly from memory, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio’s monologue to Ed Harris from The Abyss. The problem is, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio is an Oscar and Golden Globe nominated actress, and as great as this woman’s rendition of this iconic scene from one of James Cameron’s greatest films was (this auditioning actress really was quite good) – she put herself in a no win situation from the start. You’ll never be better than the actor or actress who already played the role and got paid to do it. Not because you’re not a better actor – maybe you are – but because I’ve already seen that scene the way it was intended from the start.
- Only Having One Monologue: Being able to show a wide breadth of acting skills at a moment’s notice is a sign of a seasoned pro. You should come to an audition being able to show that you’re good for more than one read of one scene. Of course, you want to start with your best monologue, but if you really think about it, you want to stand out from your competition as much as possible. Being the tenth actor to recite from The Vagina Monologues (one of my personal least favorites) doesn’t play well towards this goal.
- Less than forthcoming on the credits: Don’t embellish your resume, or worse yet, lie in your audition. Directors and Producers are more forgiving than you would think about being light on experience if you show that you’ve got the talent. I once had an actor show up to an audition in Hollywood dressed in an obviously fake US Navy uniform. When asked about it, he told us he had just finished shooting on the TV series “JAG”, and had literally “just come from the set to make the audition”. For starters, “JAG” wasn’t even in production then. I knew, because I had friends working on the series. It also doesn’t take a rocket scientist to question why a studio would let an actor wear their “wardrobe” home for the night. He immediately went to the “don’t waste my time” pile.