Beating the Butterflies: How to Combat Nerves in an Audition

It’s natural to be nervous when you have a big audition coming up. The feeling of the butterflies in the stomach, the excessive breathing, forgetting what you’re about to say, clammy hands, sweat . . . we have all stared nervousness down one time or another. An audition room is a scary thing–you’re faced with casting directors and producers you really respect

and want to work with, and going into the room ready to face them and prove your worth is not always easy. Nerves can even get the best of A-list actors, and when you’re starting out, it’s espec

ially daunting. You want to do your best to conquerthese nerves, though, because they can easily make you self-sabotage your audition, and prevent you from getting the job. The following are some simple remedies to this common epidemic, all of which will help perform at your best and present yourself as professionally as possible, all while showing them how you can totally embody the character you’re reading for:

1. Prepare Your Mind: Know the material inside and out before you walk into the door. Yes, nerves might knock the dialogue right out of your head, but if you are confident you have studied, understood, and interpreted the content 100% before you even get in the door, then it will lessen the fear right off the bat. Know your sides, be familiar with the script and the genre, and don’t be afraid to be aware of who might be in the room with you. Sometimes you’ll be with just the casting director and their associates, other times you’ll be right in the room with the producers or director of the show or film. Often, your agency will let you know about who you’ll be seeing when you get the audition information. Being prepared with your material and being familiar with the room will also help the nerves–you may have already read for that casting director and you know they’re a fan–or similarly, have heard the producers have requested you, so they’re already happy to be seeing you.

2. Prepare Your Body: It happens–dry mouth, teary eyes, sweaty hands and armpits–all physical symptoms of nervousness. Make sure you get to your appointment a little early (10 minutes or so is enough) to prepare yourself before you go into the room. Bring a bottle of water, stay hydrated (but don’t over drink!), and if you need to, and if you know you won’t be called in for a bit, go into the restroom and wash your hands and take a last glance at yourself. Wear comfortable clothes that are professional and flattering, and don’t push yourself too far out of your safe zone with clothing choices and accessories. Being comfortable and confident in your physical appearance really makes a huge difference: if you have difficulty walking in 4-inch heels, then leave them at home. Further, don’t necessarily feel forced to present yourself as the character unless specifically requested by the casting office (see our article Costumes in the Audition for more details).

3. Keep Yourself Preoccupied: If you have a bit of a wait and you’re absolutely sure you’re comfortable with the material, don’t feel pressured to keep reviewing. Sometimes frantically trying to re-read and prepare more right before your audition can cause more anxiety. Bring a book or headphones (but make sure they’re kept low as not to distract fellow actors and to ensure you can hear when your name is called), and if talking to a certain friend or loved one helps, do so–text (again, silenced, though) or go outside of the waiting room where you’re not a nuisance and chat for a few minutes to calm yourself down.

4. Breathe!!  You’d be surprised how much you forget to do that when you’re all clammed up and worried about what’s going to happen. A few deep cleansing breaths (in through the nose, out through the mouth) can really do wonders: it keeps oxygen circulating through your body. This circulation is important for your brain, which will be doing a lot of the work, and it is a natural relaxer. Close your eyes, and take those breaths. Let the oxygen do the work.

5. B-E Positive. You’re a confident actor that can nail this role. It was practically written for you! You can SEE yourself as this character and you know no one else but you can embody them on screen or stage. If you believe in yourself and stay confident and be positive, you can make it happen. It’s inevitable. You’ve got this.

6. FINALLY: It’s a classic saying for a reason–if you have to, imagine the auditors in their underwear. Doing so casts the them in a more vulnerable light, humanizing them, and lets you take back a little bit of power (and confidence) for yourself. You’ll be surprised at how much this technique makes the process significantly easier and less stressful.

Break a leg!

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tara McGrath started her career in entertainment mainly because she couldn't see a life where she wasn't surrounded and inspired by actors in some way or another. After graduating from SUNY Purchase's Conservatory of Theatre Arts and Film with a degree in Screenwriting, she worked for a year at Roundabout Theatre Company in New York. Interning under their casting department with casting directors Carrie Gardner and Jim Carnahan, she assisted in casting such productions as Spring Awakening, American Idiot and Fox's hit show, Glee. From there she moved 3,000 miles to Los Angeles and for the last year has been working for a well-known boutique talent agency in West Hollywood. She has also worked as a reader and marketing assistant for the Blue Cat Screenwriting Competition and has worked on independent features as both producer's assistant and P.A.

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