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Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Auditioning Blues

We've all been there. And there are multiple refrains; one for each stage of our career.

The first one goes a little like this: auditioning for anything good is next to impossible without an agent, but I can't get an agent to look at me before I've gotten work. Welcome to the business' wonderful catch 22. Pretty much anyone that's ever attempted an acting career knows about this one.

There's some good news and there's some bad news. Actually, there's just information, whether it's good or bad is just in the way we choose to look at it. The "bad" news is that there is definitely some truth to the old catch 22. Another little corollary to that... are you prepared? Getting an agent doesn't necessarily mean that you'll get more auditions. Yikes. It totally depends on the agent in question and the market you're stepping into. You may find that having an agent only means that you'll have fancy letterhead to print your resumes on and 10% less of any money that comes in.

You may now be reeling from the "bad" news. Here's the "good" news.

It's possible.

Doesn't seem like that quite offsets the negatives, now does it?

But take a second and realize that the obstacles that are in our way are not there to keep us from the career of our dreams. They are to teach us how badly we actually want it. Do we want to act enough that we're willing to overcome what seems to be extremely unlikely, if not impossible, odds?

In other words, what's it worth to us?

In a later blog, I can go into some strategies for seeking representation in Los Angeles (they are location specific, but a lot of the same principles would apply to any market). That's not really the focus of this post. Just know that IT IS POSSIBLE. Knowing that it's possible puts us in a place where we can move forward with hope, and keeping hope alive is pretty much our primary concern as actors.

Now, once we have auditions coming out our ears (pardon me while I stifle a slightly hysterical urge to giggle), we enter into a completely different stanza of our bluesy journey. It's the "now I have to book" stanza. We have an agent, or a manager, or good relationships with a few casting directors, and we're getting out there. Now it feels like the pressure becomes enormous to get the gig. If we don't get callbacks or book the jobs, we fear that we'll lose our representation, or the CD's will give up on us, yada, yada, yada.

And sure, there's a kernel of truth there. But what's more true is that if we go into auditions with that kind of fear and pressure on us, the likelihood of us connecting and turning in a good audition plummets.

So, what do we do? If we go in reeking of desperation, anyone with any sensitivity (and trust me, CD's pretty much all have it) will be turned off. But how do we turn off the fear? How do we ratchet down the NEED?

Well, if we really care about acting as a career, it's not easy. But once again, it is possible.

There are some stratagies that can help. First, keep remembering that no one audition will make us or break us. Take "booking the job" off the table. That's not really what we're there for. We're there to connect with new CD's, directors and producers. We're there to, hopefully, make a positive impression on them. We're there with the hope that we'll be called in for the next audition, the next producer read, the next screen test. It's a marathon, not a sprint, remember? Keeping in mind that there will be other auditions after the present one will take some of the pressure off of each one individually.

Second, remember to breathe. I know it sounds silly, but when we get stressed out, our breathing becomes really stiff and shallow. It's really difficult to open up and connect when our breath isn't moving through our body. Taking voice classes, learning relaxation exercises or practicing yoga can all help with that.

Finally, find your tribe. Having a support group not only means that there are people to commiserate with after a bad read, it means we have people to call to help us settle before we go in. People that know us and love us and will support us no matter how the audition goes. Also, that love goes into the room with us. Knowing that there are people that respect our work and care about us helps us go into the room with added confidence.

Okay, this is quickly turning into the next not-so-great American novel, but we're entering the home stretch. The final stanza of the auditioning blues is when we get to the point that we're getting offered jobs, many times without auditioning at all.

Awesome, right?

Yeah, sure it is. Here's the thing. If you get to that point, I can almost promise you that you'll miss it. Because one of the main things we forget about, due to all of the stress and nerves, is that auditioning is FUN! We're getting to go in and perform new material, make choices on the fly and PLAY! What is cooler than that?

Other than booking the part, of course. :)


  1. Great post! I connected as a writer, and I imagine that published authors go through the same thing with getting and keeping representation as well as the pressure of it all. Yes, right now being an amateur is fun. :)


    P.S. I have a new writing blog. Would love to see what you think.

  2. Great post.

    I often get offered parts without auditioning in smaller productions and shoots now, which is awesome, but I can't wait until the day when I'm getting big pro parts without auditioning. I can't imagine missing it, but you're probably right ;)

  3. Nicely put. I'm on the same wavelength as you on a number of things, but I'll emphasize one...

    It's a marathon, not a sprint.

    Looking forward to your next novel... er, post.

    +++ Joe +++