The Amateur’s Guide to Auditions

Words by: Miko Insame

I’ve always been taught that the job of the actor/performer when it comes to auditions is to just show up and do the audition, all that comes after that will be up to the casting director.

While this is true, I’d hardly recommend that you attack the audition you’re going for unprepared. A lot of different auditions take a lot of different forms. This helpful little guide is here to show you what those different types are and what you can do to be able to 1.) prepare to the best of your ability and 2.) be able to put your best foot forward now that you have an idea of what to expect.

Essentially, auditions will require 1.) a picture of you, 2.) a piece or act they’ll ask you to do and 3.) a ton of patience because the lines will probably be long and the rejections are gonna come more often than not. In cases where you don’t get the call, it’s important to remember that you already did your job, you went in and gave them who you are and what you can bring to the table, it’s more likely you didn’t fit their vision than any shortcomings you may have. Remember, you can’t have or be everything. We’re only human so accept that these kinds of opportunities will sometimes or often result in an invitation to further refine our skills and keep auditioning.

Here are the different types of auditions you’ll run into and how to deal with them.

1. Modeling


A sample set card featuring me! (Photos by: Miguel Mendoza)

The essence of modeling is that the still image of you is supposed to highlight a specific characteristic that a caster wants you to fill. Depending on the brief, casters will be looking for specific agesheightsbody types, and skin colors.

When auditioning for a modeling gig, the primary thing that casters will ask of you before anything else is a setcard. A setcard is a collage of photos showcasing your best angles. It also contains vitals that would be relevant to the caster, such as age, height, and weight as well as certain body measurements, so it’s best to know measurements for your waist and hips as a bare minimum.

After you’ve sent your setcard and passed the first screening, more often than not the caster will ask you to come by the office for what’s known as a go-see. This is when you come by their office/studio and model for them, giving them a view of what they might put out there. When it comes to these things, keep in the theme of the product or brief in mind. If the product or brief is something that calls for a bright, sunshine-y person, don’t show up with black eyeliner looking like a member of the black parade. You want to show them that this specific need they’re looking for can be filled by you.

Lastly, keep in mind not all modeling gigs are studio shots that eventually turn into centerfolds and billboards. Modeling can also be considered being ambassadors of a certain brand or product, so be sure to prepare your measurements and photos and be ready to show off what made them call you back in the first place.

2. Film/TV

helenmurray NYT Acting for Screen Masterclass 201

Photo by: The Stage UK

This is somewhat related to modeling as you’re still gonna be in front of a camera. The difference now is that you’ll be given a structured narrative to follow onscreen. Now, casting calls for screen projects are plentiful and will probably ask their auditionees for a lot.

A normal casting call will have character traits and personalities that you can use to narrow down which one you want to go for. From here, the casters will usually ask for an artist’s CV. A one-page summary of everything you can bring performance-wise. In the CV, put everything that you think will help you get the role, but limit it to concrete things that will translate to your performance.

Things like the ability to play guitar, being able to handle pets and children are good examples. Keep your CV up to date with the latest projects and productions you’ve done over the past five years, organize them latest to earliest and include the title of the productionwhat role you played, the year it was producedwhich company produced it, and your director.

The next thing you have to prepare is your headshot. Headshots are a staple of an actor’s arsenal, they will end up giving the casters a short snippet and view into who you are and what they think you can bring to the table based off of one photo. The same principles apply here: keep your caster’s brief and character theme in mind and play around that. Structure your headshot over giving off the vibe and aura that you want to resonate with the character or role you’re going for. Be careful though as there is such a thing as wanting the role too much.

Once you got that done, there may be points where the crew will ask you to perform on camera. They’ll hand you a script and you’ll have to perform on camera so they can gauge how comfortable and experienced you are. Don’t overthink your lines, what most casters look for is a mix of solid comprehension and understanding of the character and the ability to be open and creative with it relative to the script.

Lastly, one thing that caster may ask from you is a video audition. It’s not common, especially for professional projects but there will be times where you’ll be asked to film yourself. If that’s the case, keep it simple but professional. Don’t overedit your video, but make it look good. This also applies for compiling a film reel of yourself once you get more experience in front of the camera. Compile your best scenes into the video reel so that future casters have more on you to go on than just your headshot.

3. Theater


Photo from: Pinterest

Going onstage is considered a whole different animal than doing it in front of a camera. While I’d like to stress that there should be no hate between those who act for film and those who act for the stage, there really are differences. Not just in the presentation, but also in rehearsal and preparation, and that goes all the way into how auditions are held.

For theater, casting calls are still posted ahead of time. This time, however, you’ll be contacting the stage managers and production managers in order to reserve a slot in auditioning. Once you’ve done that, you’ve given yourself a date and they’ve given you the info need so it’s time to start preparing.

The most basic necessity for theater auditions is the monologue. I don’t think I’ve ever done a theater audition that did not require this. Monologues are solo speeches that should highlight similar traits and attitudes that the character in the show would have. Casters and directors usually will only need between 1-3 minutes of your monologue so be aware of when to stop.

Auditions here will give you some real time with the people you hope to be working with so be professional since you’ll only have the 10 minutes to show them what you got.

The second part of auditions is, if you’ve done well enough, is being called back. Being called back means the casters and directors have shortlisted you for a specific role and will invite you back to the theater for a more intensive screening process.

Callbacks usually mean script-work and character work that will test out how you can embody the character but will also let the casters know how well you mesh with the other characters there. Scene work with other actors will usually happen so you’ll need to be able to not only bring out the best of yourself but be comfortable to be in tune with other actors. Remember that it’s probably not a one-man show, so it probably won’t be all about you.

From there, you wait until they contact you for the verdict.

4. Musical Theater


Last on our list is musical theater. Auditioning for these means another set of variables you have to consider before you step in front of the casters.

Obviously, you need the monologue. These will range from different languages, lengths, and genres. Sometimes, directors will ask for auditionees to prepare a Shakespearean monologue.

Monologue aside, they’ll be asking you to prepare a song. Sometimes a Broadway song, sometimes a contemporary pop or rock song and sometimes both, the length of it usually last between 16-32 bars. Do I recommend using a song from the show you’re auditioning for? No. It makes it seem like you want the role too much. If you’re boxing yourself into a role, the message that goes to casters is that you won’t accept any other, and will leave you out of the cast if you weren’t considered for the role you wanted. Sometimes, they’ll ask you to bring in sheet music or accompaniment. In that case, make sure you studied the song really well and marked down the specific places on the sheet music for the accompanist to play should there be one. The point of the song is to get a feel for not only your vocal range and technique but to see if how you sing fits into the vision of the casters for the character.

Bigger productions will also ask auditionees to prepare a movement piece. Movement pieces are usually short, between 30-60 seconds long and will feature a song from the musical. The point here is to make sure you are physically able to perform choreography and that you are comfortable moving around the stage without the aid of your voice.

Lastly, callbacks for musicals are also like how it’s described for theater except for this time, they’ve added the dimensions of choreography and musicality to it. Musicality means screening who can harmonize along with other people and how well you can perform the assigned songs for the character. The choreography also allows the casters to be able to see what you offer in terms of being able to follow and master the given pieces in a short amount of time and how well you are able to tune yourself with everyone else. Being able to show that you’ve got it is good, but again, it won’t be a one-man show so you better be able to bring it with others as well.

ALSO READ: Third World Improv and the PETA Theater Center Present the Biggest Improv Comedy Festival in Asia

What auditions will you be getting into now? Let us know!