The Actors' Guide to Audition Prep
The insider guide to successful preparation, to ace that upcoming audition.
Acting auditions can be sudden and stressful. Here are Katie Redford's top hints and tips to making the most of that precious audition prep time - whether you've got only got a few hours, or have been blessed with a few days!
One of the first bits of advice my dad ever gave to me was this: “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.” He was actually referring to my first ever interview that was at my local hairdressers… [but] it always stands me in good stead. Cheers dad.
Set the scene: it’s a Tuesday afternoon. Acting work is quiet. All you’ve had in the past month is a Dyson hoover call back so it’s safe to say you’re feeling a tad restless. Suddenly, your phone rings. It’s your agent. You’ve got an audition for an exciting new project. Hurrah! They need you off book. Obviously. Oh, and it’s for tomorrow. Aaaaand panic.
Ok, so there are the obvious tips on how you can prepare for your audition:
- Do your research;
- Print your sides off to take with you;
- Familiarise yourself with the lines;
- Read the entire script (if it’s possible to get hold of) not just your scenes;
- Plan your journey/outfit.
Recently, Spotlight published casting director Kate Rhodes-James’ suggestions on audition prep. However, from one actor to another, I thought we’d take a different route and look at the not-so-obvious tips. I’ve collected together advice that has been passed on to me from various people that I’ve actually found to be really beneficial.
One of the first bits of advice my dad ever gave to me was this: “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.” He was actually referring to my first ever interview that was at my local hairdressers, Choppy Chops and I’m still not entirely sure how much I could have prepared for making tea and sweeping up hair… but anyhow, I’ve continued to apply his advice to auditions and it always stands me in good stead. Cheers dad. So, here are my top 5 tips on how to successfully prepare for an audition. Love from me, Bryan Cranston and my dad.
Inspire yourself silly
Apologies to the person sitting opposite me in Costa at Waterloo station last Wednesday morning for having a mini breakdown. It’s just that I was watching Beyoncé and Alexandra Burke duet on the 2008 X-Factor and got a bit caught up in the moment.
Whilst we’re on the topic of mind-blowing inspirational footage (if you please) if you haven’t already, give Bryan Cranston’s Advice to Aspiring Actors a watch. There’s something so comforting about him reassuring us not to worry about the outcome and to just simply enjoy the audition, doing what we do best. Walter White, you absolute babe.
Watching certain footage can really inspire me just before an audition. Whether it’s your favourite sitcom, actors’ audition tapes or certain talent show auditions. There’s something about watching someone else performing at the top of their game that makes me just want to do exactly the same. Now, obviously it depends on what you’re auditioning for, so tailor it to your needs. A few months ago, I auditioned for a part in a really gritty drama where the character I was up for has to hear some gut-wrenching news. I thought back to moments in my life that absolutely shook my world. So I YouTubed the moment in ITV’s Cold Feet where Rachel got hit by a lorry. Honestly. I can’t even.
Break into a sweat
I’m not suggesting Tough Mudder, but doing something to energise yourself before an audition can be extremely beneficial. A gentle jog always helps me to not only feel more alert but also helps to relax me. When you’re in the audition room, you need to be present. The feeling I get post-exercise always helps me to achieve that. Or you might prefer a physical vocal warm up. Shake your arms and legs like your life depends on it, whilst jumping up and down and reciting the alphabet. Do whatever floats your boat. Just do us a favour: perform your warm ups in the comfort of your own home. There’s something about an actor lunging into downward dog in the Spotlight waiting room that feels, well, wrong.
Move to music
Depending on what sort of text you’ve got, listen to a piece of music that resembles it and say your lines/perform it over the piece of music. This not only physically frees you up when rehearsing for your audition but it also helps with getting those lines nailed too. Experiment with the tempo and use the music to help you find stuff that you might not have found before. ***WARNING*** It is worth mentioning what you’re about to do to whoever you live with, so that you can get some privacy. I learnt the hard way and assumed everyone was out, so thrashed myself around the living room to No Doubt’s Don’t Speak whilst reciting lines, only to open my eyes to one of my flatmates staring at me, deeply confused (she works in advertising). You can’t explain that stuff to anyone with a 9 to 5. In the end, I just said I’d had a bad day. And now she thinks I’m unstable. Ah, the price you pay for the love of your art, eh?
Do yourself a favour and take the pressure off where you can. You’ll enjoy the audition more. Wouldn’t it be great to go into auditions and just enjoy the process without the dilemma of not getting the job? Be honest, when you have an audition, do you ever think the following things?
If I get this…
- The money will make a huge difference to my life. Keep perspective by knowing that one minute, you’ll have money and the next you won’t. That’s just how it’s going to be. Yes, money will always be great, but without it you’ll do alright. You’ll make it work, just like you always do.
- It will give me a huge confidence boost. Keep perspective by finding something else that gives you this! If you get your confidence from acting jobs, God help you. Do something that allows you to see your own progression: dance classes, language classes, knitting... literally anything other than acting.
- If I get this job, I’ll make my family proud. Keep perspective by knowing they’re already proud. Everyone who knows you, deep down, admires you for going after what you want to do. Even if you don’t think you’re doing that well, you’d be surprised at how well everyone else thinks you’re doing.
So keep things in perspective and don’t lose yourself in the chaos of it all. Stay rational and prepare as well as you can. You’ve done brilliantly to even get in the room. And if this audition doesn’t ‘go your way’, something else will. Just take it from Bryan. And my dad.
Plan something for afterwards
A director once told me that there were always 3 auditions:
- The one you do in your bedroom;
- The one you do in the audition room;
- The one you do on the way home (which is always the best one).
Sometimes, I actually can’t remember my journey home after an audition, as I’ve been too busy replaying the audition in my head and going over how I could have done things differently. I remember in one audition a few years ago, I was so nervous that I ended up talking about trees. The audition had absolutely nothing to do with trees. No-one asked me about trees. I just started talking about them. How big and… green they were. I hated myself afterwards. Couldn’t look myself in the eye. I went home and watched endless episodes of Gogglebox and devoured my own body weight in tiramisu. Anything to erase the memory of the whole tree business. So, get a coffee with a friend, go to the cinema, go to an exhibition, do anything to prevent yourself from the mental torture of wishing you’d said the line “But how?” differently. No-one else cares, so neither should you.
I’ll wrap it up now. But good luck! Just stay focused, don't talk about trees and you’ll smash it.
And just in case you need it, I’m gonna leave Beyoncé and Alexandra’s inspiring performance here.
Katie Redford is an actress & writer originally from Nottingham, now based in London. She recently won BBC Comedy Writersroom and has also just joined the cast of Radio 4's The Archers. When she's not in work, you can find her in the soft play centre in Epsom where she takes the children she nannies for, so she doesn't have to do any actual work.