5 Surefire Ways to Tank an Audition (And How to Avoid Them)

Man showing thumbs down signIn a career that often seems subjective and ruled by the idiosyncrasies of those in power, avoiding audition pitfalls can seem like an impossible task. The good news is, there are certain things almost no one wants to see in your audition. The better news is, I’m going to tell you how to avoid them!



  • Bad Lighting/Sound/Film Quality: We’ve said it before. Production quality is important. Lighting, sound and camera quality are the basics, and getting sloppy about it can make your self-tape look amateurish. How to Avoid It: Find out what taping services your agent prefers. If you have to do it at home, film in a brightly lit room and test the sound quality before you submit. Consider creating a home studio space: lay some rugs down to soften the sound, paint a section of wall a muted blue or gray, and invest in some professional photography lights. (They can be found on Amazon at prices that won’t break the bank).
  • Whiffing on the Tone of the Project: This is a big one. If you misread the tone of the show you’ll end up looking wrong for the project.  How to Avoid It: Research the project before taping. If you’re unfamiliar, watch episodes, trailers, take not of the network and how they market the project. Mold your performance to the world of the project.
  • Having an Unprofessional Slate. While the perfect slate might not make or break an audition, a rough slate can leave a bad first impression. How to Avoid It: Pay close attention to the taping instructions, if they were given. Certain projects call for additional details (such as whether or not you’re a local hire), and neglecting them looks shoddy. Be relaxed and professional and resist the temptation to go off-roading and include gimmicks or personal messages.


  • Not Knowing Your Lines. Lack of preparation is  not a look good look for anyone, pure and simple.  How to Avoid It: Y’all. Learn your lines. You’re probably reading two pages at a time, max. Of course there are certain situations where a teleprompter can come through in a pinch, but at minimum you should be very familiar with the material. If you don’t know all your words, don’t let them see it. But. Know all your words.
  • Skipping a Reader. Neglecting to use a reader in a self-tape scene robs you of opportunities for genuine reactions. It might sound cliche, but it is true that so much of acting is reacting. Don’t miss this opportunity to showcase yourself! How to Avoid It: If at all possible, read with another actor. The reader should refrain from fully acting, but should be able to deliver the text with reasonable timing, at slightly lower volume than the auditioner, and without fumbling the text. They should be able to blend into the background while also supporting your audition.
  • BONUS: Overthinking it. If you’re too in your head, or trying to please everyone, you’re going to kill the organic connection to the text. How to Avoid It: Resist the temptation to obsessively over-refine. If you’re like me, no take is going to look perfect. Learn how to spot the takes that hit the requirements of the project and showcase an honest connection to the text. Check your boxes and move on to the next.


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Rachel Rachel Frawley is an actor living in Atlanta. She holds a B.F.A. in Theatre from Michigan State University (with cognates in Music and Professional Writing) and is an Apprentice Company graduate from the Atlanta Shakespeare Co. She also works as an education artist for local theatres, which have included the Shakespeare Tavern and Aurora Theatre. For more information, visit her website at www.rachelfrawley.com

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