I was recently asked for a list of audition advice from a student in the Audition Techniques class at my old stomping grounds, Valdosta State University. I decided to post them here as well, in the hopes that it may be helpful to some other actors out there.

These notes are more from my experience casting my feature film Uncommon Law than from my experiences as an actor. Several of these notes apply specifically to the submission process, before you even walk in the door (while sifting through hundreds of submissions, I was amazed at how much of an opinion I developed based solely on who actually followed instructions.)

  • If the casting notice asks you to send a preferred audition time, please do so, even if it’s just to say you have no preference (this is fine with me, because it tells me I can put you wherever is slow.) If you don’t make any mention of it, I’m going to fill slots with those who followed instructions first.
  • It’s one thing to say which role you’re interested in, but you don’t need to tell me what types of roles you’re normally cast as. I’ll see it on your resume, your headshot, and in your audition.
  • Get professional headshots! Even if you can’t afford a $500 package, you can still get quality headshots affordably. And believe me, it makes a much better impression than sending a photo taken with a camera phone (yes, I had people submit selfies as headshots.)
  • On that same note, get headshots that look like you! I want to know what you’re going to look like when you walk in the room. If your headshot makes you look like an ingenue, I expect an ingenue when I call you in. If you’re a character actor, embrace it! I did.
  • Format that resume! Looking at a resume makes it clear pretty quick who knows what a professional acting resume looks like. Basic format aside, it should never be longer than one page. Also, save your resume as a PDF file when emailing it. That way you can be sure it will preserve your formatting and be read on any computer.
  • A cover letter makes all the difference in the world. I don’t need your life story, but something short, professional, and targeted (specific to my project) does make an impression. Sending a blank email that only includes your headshot & resume makes an impression, too, but the impression is that you’re submitting to everything under the sun without actually reading the casting notice.
  • When submitting through email, name the files for your headshot and resume “Your Name Headshot” and “Your Name Resume,” or even just “Your Name.” I save these to my computer for future reference, and would rather not have to rename all of them from DSCF_001829. I don’t hold this against anyone, it just makes my life simpler.
  • Be prepared! If you are sent sides in advance, READ THEM. I don’t expect you to be off book; in fact, I’d prefer that you weren’t because I don’t want you focusing on remembering the words. But read through the sides and be familiar with them. If you aren’t given the sides in advance, show up early so you can familiarize yourself with them.
  • Make a definite choice for your reading. Even if it’s not what I’m looking for, I want to see that you’ve put some thought into it. It’s easier to direct someone who’s made a choice than someone who’s playing it safe.
  • If you don’t understand something, whether it’s a line or a direction, please ask. I want you to have the best audition possible, and don’t want you to flounder because you’re confused.
  • If you ask to improvise off the script, you’d better be able to improvise. Don’t get thrown off because the reader improvises along with you, and it doesn’t go in exactly the direction you’d imagined in your head. Also, if the reason you want to improvise is because the written lines aren’t things you would personally say in that particular situation, you may want to keep that to yourself.
  • Be friendly & personable! If I like you, I’m much more likely to want to work with you. This factors in more than you may think.
  • That guy in the lobby who signed you in? No, you aren’t paranoid. He is listening in on everything being said.
  • If for whatever reason you can’t make it to the audition, call or send an email saying so. Yes, I keep a list of people who no show on me without notice. No, they won’t be getting an audition slot in the future.

It’s kinda funny when you run into someone after a long time, tell them what you’re up to, and they look at you like you’ve gone completely insane. It probably doesn’t help matters when you kinda agree with them.

My last several weeks have been consumed with auditions, callbacks, responding to hundreds of emails, script revisions, production meetings, and all other manner of insanity that goes into filmmaking when you don’t have anything resembling a budget. On top of that and the usual work load, I shot & edited a music video for Heath McNease (premiering soon!)

The audition process has been incredibly eye opening, particularly because I’ve always been on the other side of the table. I’ve compiled some notes, and when I get a chance I’ll make a post of helpful tips for people submitting for auditions. I’ve already decided that for my next film, I’m going to hire a casting director, because I don’t even know how many hours I spent fielding emails and getting everything prepped for the auditions. I had over 100 people audition for Uncommon Law, with over 200 submitting their information to be considered. I’ve seen a lot of good people, and it’s taken two eight hour casting meetings just to narrow it down to the point where we’ve almost got the whole thing cast. I start making calls to people tomorrow.

Fortunately, my good friend Amy has taken on the role of production manager, which has totally saved my butt. It’s great having someone to bounce ideas off, contact everyone, find locations, and handle the production side of things. Now that casting is just about over, it’ll free me up to focus on the artistic side of things, since I still have little things like revisions and storyboards to worry about (not to mention obtaining equipment.) However, I am taking a reprieve tomorrow to see Super 8. Somehow that feels appropriate, all things considered.

As a side note, I’d like to return to my sleep schedule from ten years ago when I was just fine on four hours of sleep, but I’m afraid my body would rebel against me.