How to Handle a Last-Minute Audition

Auditions can be tough. This is especially the case when you are notified of the audition right beforehand. It is common in this industry to get an audition the night before or even the day of and have to be in the casting office within a few hours. You are frantically preparing your lines, while worrying about the parking situation and how in the world you are going to convincingly portray this role that you just read for the first time an hourago. You have to get the sides, run through it with your roommate, and be calm, collected, and convincing in front of the casting director. But how do you accomplish this feat when you’re in a mad rush to the casting office? Luckily, there are some helpful hints to get you on the right track to acing that last-minute audition.

The key is not to stress out about memorizing the lines. It is not important to be “off-book,” or to know all of the lines by heart in a last-minute audition. The casting director is looking for more than how well you can memorize. They are looking to see if you have the essence of a character and how well you slip into and hold character (see Auditioning Your Personality). They know you just received your lines and that half-page monologue is not going to be perfectly locked in your mind. Instead, they want to see that you understand where the character is coming from and what you are trying to convey.

When you are scheduled for an audition, you are often given nothing but a few pages of “sides,” or pages pulled from the script that include a scene for you to perform. These are key scenes that help judge not only your acting ability, but also how well you fit into that role. You are not usually given a script or much information about your character other than what may be in a breakdown. You are left with a few lines and no idea what the film is about, and they expect you to go in there and give the performance of a lifetime. Therefore, acting takes more than reciting. Think of yourself as a detective. Your first job is to decipher as much as you can about the script. Gather all available information in the sides, such as the period in which the film or show takes place, the location, the relationship between the characters, etc. Even the title of the project gives clues that can help you understand as much as possible to perform a successful audition. Look at what page number your sides are coming from. That will tell you where in the story your scenes are coming from. For example, if you have pages 12 through 15, you are at the beginning of the story and are establishing relationships and characters. If you have pages 83 through 87, you know you are at the climax of the story. You should also read through ALL of the sides, even what was crossed out or is not a part of your scene to perform. Those sections provide clues to what the film is about, who is involved, characters’ backgrounds, etc. It is okay to ask questions as well. Find out from your agent what the title is ask them for the breakdown ,or ask them for the name of the director. Try to get as much information as you can.

Next, you want to read between the lines. Infer everything you can about what is taking place. Go through each individual line in the sides (both for your character and all others in the scene) and think about what the intent is for every line written. Think of an action verb for each line that best describes each person’s intent. That will help you understand exactly where each character is coming from and what they are trying to achieve. Your character is always trying to accomplish something, whether it be to discover the truth about a murder, or to eat grilled cheese because he is hungry. There is ALWAYS intent, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. Seek it out and absorb it so it becomes your own.

If you go in the audition having deciphered the intent and understand what you and all other characters are trying to accomplish, you are a giant leap ahead of most. Instead of stressing, go in there with confidence knowing you are not only a great detective, but a great actor as well.


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lauren began her casting career as an intern for Sarah Finn Casting on films such as Captain America, Cowboys & Aliens, TRON: Legacy, and Faster. After her six month internship, she returned for her final semester of college, where she went on to become a casting director in Wilmington, NC on various independent films. She also spent over a year as a casting assistant with an independent casting director and acted in multiple films. She is currently working with Marcia Ross & Erin Toner Casting and also works as an actor and in production.

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