Audition Dos and Don’ts
When an audition comes in at the last minute, you might feel unprepared - but actually, the short notice can be a blessing. Instead of your nerves keeping you awake all night, you can be at your rested best when you step inside the audition room. Just remember these simple Dos and Don’ts…
By Samantha Rea
Breathe: In times of stress, our breathing can become restricted due to tension – but a calm breath means a calm mind, so it’s important that we check in with our breathing. Emma Mills author of the Penguin book Inhale, Exhale, Repeat, says: “When people are nervous, they tend to hold their breath, so doing a breathing exercise can be helpful.”
Emma advises sitting down and counting the length of your inhale and exhale. “You might find it’s quick and sharp,” says Emma, “but when you focus on your breathing, you’re not worrying about anything else, and it’s nice to have this awareness before you make any changes.”
Emma suggests doing this with one hand on your stomach, and the other hand on your chest, because, “if you’re nervous, and you’re in your head, putting your hand on your body gives you a real feeling of what’s going on.”
Do check for any last minute messages from your agent before you leave for the audition.
Do this for three or four minutes, then focus on taking more measured breaths. “The traditional advice would be to breathe in for seven counts, and out for eleven counts, but I find that’s too long, and I don’t think it’s wise to strain,” says Emma. Instead, she recommends gently lengthening the breath. “When you let the air out, do it slowly. Make the out-breath equal to or longer than the in-breath, even if it’s just by one or two counts. This is relaxing for your nervous system, so you’ll feel calmer.”
Eat: You might feel as if you don’t have time, but no one wants to be hungry at an audition! Nutritionist Clarissa Lenherr explains: “When our blood sugar levels fall, we can become fuzzy-headed, dizzy, and we lose energy.”
So you should definitely eat – but you don’t need to start setting the table or pre-heating the oven. A banana, which is cheap, and easy to throw in your bag, is a great option. “Half a banana before an audition will give you a sweet boost of energy without the crash you might get from chocolate or sweets,” says Clarissa, who warns that you should stay away from the Pick ‘n’ Mix. “The last thing you want before an audition is to jump on the blood sugar rollercoaster, where you peak and trough very quickly!”
Nuts are also a great choice. It’s easy to keep a stash in the cupboard, “and they’re a fantastic source of good quality fats which can keep us full without feeling bloated or lethargic,” says Clarissa, who recommends grabbing a handful to tide you over.
If you suffer from digestive discomfort when you’re anxious, “choose something that’s good for your gut and simple for your body to process, like a live probiotic yogurt or a smoothie you can sip slowly,” suggests Clarissa.
Focus: Getting an audition is exciting stuff, so it’s tempting to WhatsApp all your friends, announce it on Facebook, declare it on Twitter and broadcast the news via an Instagram story. But if the audition is in two hours, you need to use your time to mentally prepare - so put your phone away.
“The blue light from the phone triggers anxiety,” says psychologist Hope Bastine “Every time your phone bleeps or lights up, it distracts you and depletes the energy resources in your working memory. And because our phones go off continuously, we’ve trained our brains to keep looking at them in expectation, so even if you put it on silent and turn off notifications, if it’s in your eyeline, it will still cause distraction.” The answer? “Put your phone completely out of sight!”
However, you can still share your good news. “Social media is inherently part of our culture, and you don’t want to suppress your positive vibe,” says Hope, who suggests putting one post on social media, and tagging everyone you want to share your news with. Hope explains, “if you WhatsApp all your friends, there’s a continuous expectation of replies, but a single social media post is different – as long as you then put your phone away.”
Coming back to the post after the audition has two benefits. “If you don’t get the feedback you hope for on social media, it can trigger negative feelings,” says Hope – and you don’t want those dampening your spirits before your audition. On the upside, the enjoyment you’ll get from everyone congratulating you will be even greater if you wait until the responses have stacked up. Or as Hope puts it: “The dopamine hit will be even bigger!”
But remember: do check for any last minute messages from your agent before you leave for the audition.
Leave at the last minute: As soon as you get the news, plan your journey to make sure you know how to get there. Even if you’ve auditioned at that studio before, double check your route in case of road closures or disruptions to public transport. National Rail can keep you posted on every train line, and Transport for London can keep you updated on whether there’s a good service on your tube or DLR. If there isn’t, you’ll be able work out an alternative route. No matter how tight for time you are, always check online to make sure it’s a genuine venue and feel free to call up. If you have even a seed of doubt, take someone with you (and don’t be afraid to walk away if it doesn’t feel right). Allow as much time as possible for the journey, aiming to arrive early so you’re not running around in a panic.
Drink coffee: Caffeine-induced anxiety disorder is a recognised syndrome, and caffeine is also a diuretic – which means you’re more likely to need the toilet during your audition! Nutritionist Clarissa Lenherr says: “Although you might want the extra alertness and energy that can come with a cup of coffee or tea, it can actually make you feel anxious and jittery, especially if you haven’t eaten enough. The caffeine sets off a stress response in the body, and when we’re already stressed for an audition, this extra stress can tip us over the edge and lead to nervousness, anxiety, headaches and even nausea.” Instead, says Clarissa: “Try a green tea, which has less caffeine.”
Round up all your friends and family
While it’s fantastic to have supportive people in your life who want to be there for you, bringing them all to your audition can be counterproductive. Of course, anyone who’s under 18 must have an adult with them, but it should ideally only be one where possible. Bringing an entourage means more phones going off, more people asking if you’re nervous (which doesn’t help!) and more chatter and clattering about, which adds to the busyness. This can increase your anxiety, and also the anxiety of the other actors auditioning.
Don't leave at the last minute. As soon as you get the news, plan your journey to make sure you know how to get there. Even if you’ve auditioned at that studio before, double check your route in case of road closures or disruptions to public transport.
The extra bums on seats can also be an issue. As Zita Zutic Konak, Casting Associate at ET Casting points out, “most studios don’t have waiting rooms that can accommodate hundreds of people.” She explains: “If the waiting room is filled with family members and friends who are tagging along, it means the actors who are there to audition have to stand up, or sometimes even leave and come back when there’s more space. It’s our job to make everyone feel comfortable so they can deliver their best performance. Not being able to sit down and take a breath before your audition can put actors on edge, and we definitely don’t want that.”
Samantha Rea is a journalist whose brief foray into acting may be familiar to connoisseurs of low budget ads for weight loss equipment and dodgy dating sites. She still has flashbacks to sobbing in a basement (aka studying Meisner) and she is now very happy to lock herself in a room with her laptop. Her journalistic feats include interviewing a bounty hunter in Las Vegas, and hunting down good food in Guernsey. She can usually be found drinking cocktails at a press launch (subject to a guarantee of unlimited canapes).