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Four Casting Directors Share Audition Advice and Audition Mistakes Actors Should Avoid

Whether you’re in the room or submitting a self tape from home, the audition process can be stressful. And although you’re making sure you hit your mark and deliver a strong performance, there’s a chance you’ve made a mistake without knowing it. Here are some tips from four casting directors about the audition process and mistakes that actors should avoid. 

Kim Williams on advice for the audition process:

“Make strong, confident choices. If you go a little bit bigger than necessary, it’s okay. We can pull you back from that, but at least we know there’s something there that can be worked with. And it’s important to come in with the right mindset. There are so many things that are outside of your control as far as booking the role, but your job is to give a good performance. If you do that, the producers, directors and I will remember you and think of you for future projects. Rushing is a huge thing too. I find myself often giving the note to slow down and think of what you’re saying. Remember to take your time so you can listen and be in the moment.”

Jessica Sherman on common mistakes she sees actors making in the room:

“I think the big one for me happens before they even come into the room. It’s a lack of knowledge of the casting process. The idea to keep in mind is that by the time you book the role, especially for TV roles, there’s been approximately 30 people that have had to sign off to say that you’re the person. So the best person may not always be the one who gets the role. The person that everyone can agree on gets the role. Having that background information is a huge asset to actors because it kind of takes the pressure off a little bit as far as their experience in the room.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the relationship between an actor and a casting director is a long-term one. If you come in with that mentality, every audition is not so precious and not so stressful. There’s a clear difference between somebody who comes in with a sense of desperation and someone who comes in to do the work and have fun with the opportunity. And if someone is fighting direction or just not being a pleasant human being, I probably won’t want to bring them in again. It’s our job as casting directors to create a safe environment in the room, and it’s your job as an actor to bring in a good energy with you.”

Joey Paul Jensen and Christine Sheaks on audition mistakes actors should avoid:

Joey Paul Jensen: “The biggest mistake you can make is allowing room for doubt. Doubt leads to insecurity, and insecurity will lead to mistakes. Small mistakes, such as forgetting to print your sides or leaving your belongings in the room after auditioning, are really just manifestations of the root issue of doubt. The antidote is to connect to your identity as a storyteller. When you’re auditioning, you’re a part of a bigger story being told. As long as you can make strong decisions about your piece of that story, then you can feel complete and whole. When you feel that way, you’ll trust yourself and be grounded, and those are tools that performing artists require to do their best work.”

Christine Sheaks: “Don’t come in unprepared. If an actor has 10 auditions that day and then takes two seconds to look at the material, it’ll show. I always tell actors to have their agents call me if that’s the case. If I can give them a later time or another day, I would rather do that than have them come in unprepared. Also, actors should never bring in a prop. The only exception is a cell phone, which is okay because it’s not distracting. During an audition for the series ‘Moonlighting,’ we had an actor take a toy gun out of his pocket, pick up one of my producers and throw him against the wall. Most actors know they shouldn’t do that, but they should avoid bringing a prop, in general, because our focus will be drawn to it.”

Casting director answers were compiled from interviews conducted by author Cat Elliot.

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Chris Butera is a voice actor specializing in commercial, eLearning and corporate narration voiceovers. When he’s not helping clients achieve their goals, he’s playing guitar and bass.