Actor Auditions from the Director’s POV

As a director, I have sat through some really powerful actor auditions.  And we’ve discussed important things to do when auditioning, whether for a feature film, corporate video or a commercial.  But today, I’m going to mention five things you should never do when auditioning.  I could play you some pretty incredible audition videos, but I don’t think I could ever get the talent releases.

actor auditions rising stars5 Worst Actor Auditions

  1. Face Covered By Sides – I have one audition tape where the whole time, the actor is covering up.  I don’t know if it was his first time, but I hope so.  An egregious error like this from someone with any kind of training is a hope killer for new work.
  2. Trouble Reading – A real painful to watch audition, is the one where the actor isn’t really prepared (hasn’t looked over the sides or it’s a blind audition) and they just can’t read words on the page.  For the Learning Disabled, I recommend that you prepare and memorize if you can and avoid reading.  If you have a genuine disability and I ask you to read something cold, go ahead and tell me you have difficulty.
  3. The Angry Actor – Yes, auditioning is hard.  It’s stressful.  And as a director and producer, I’m not going to make it easy for you (part of what I want to see is how you handle the stress– being on a set is stressful).  I’ve had actors who definitely woke up on the wrong side of the bed and kicked the dog.  Then showed up for their audition.
  4. Tardy Tammy – Never be late to an audition.  Never.  Ever.  Don’t do it.  Be early.  ‘Nough said.
  5. Round Peg/Square Hole Actor – The script calls for a 300 pound black guy and a small 90 pound Asian actor shows up.  Yes, it’s not politically correct in this day and age, but casting for a feature film is a bastion of prejudice.  It comes with the job.  We need a matronly grandmother, we can’t tell the story with a 28 year old tattoo riddled stoner.  I’ve had many auditions where the actor ignored character/race/age descriptors and felt they’d be perfect for the role.  Usually the Casting Director will weed these out before they get to me, but sometimes a few slip through.

Honorable Mention

The Stalker – Not really an audition, but this one gets a mention.  On my first feature film “The Keyman” (shameless plug: available on iTunes and Amazon Prime starring Adam Baldwin), an actor found my home address and drove out to deliver his headshot personally.  I wasn’t home, but my pregnant wife with a three year old child was.  Not good.

What to Do

There are lots of materials out there for how to audition.  Read, study, learn.  If you are working on the craft of acting, spend a significant time on the audition skills.  It will pay off immensely.  Actors get better with experience.  To get experience, you need to land the part.  To land the part, you need to know how to audition.  Let the dominoes fall!