I don’t want to get too much into the heavy theoretical discussions just yet, so let’s embark on something you’re probably very interested in: auditions.
As an actor, a large percentage of the work you get is going to come from auditions. So you have to know how to do them well – but before that, you have to know how to get them at all.
I will dedicate a future post to agents and how to get one, but if you’re just starting out, or you want opportunities you don’t usually get offered via your agent or your networks, then you need to know where to find auditions.
The easiest way to find auditions for freelancers is online. There are certain websites you should be frequenting as an emerging actor, and they are generally easy to find. Below are some of the Perth-based ones for my WA readers. In other cities, you can easily do a few searches on Google and Facebook and follow, follow, follow.
The auditions on these pages are quite often unpaid, but you will find paid work occasionally. Unpaid work is great to start you off when you need stuff for your showreel (or just need experience) – but if your time is precious (and whose isn’t) then it is important to be discerning as to quality. Research which companies are doing the types of plays/films you want to do and what sort of accolades they are receiving, and even better – research directors you have heard good things about and see what they’re directing next. Research is always impressive and it means you’ll really get the most out of each experience.
There are a surprising number of opportunities out there, of varying quality, so here are my personal tips for sorting the wheat from the chaff:
It’s ok to say no.
Always weigh up what you’re going to get out of the experience and decide whether it’s worth what it will cost you – that’s time, money for petrol, peace of mind… especially if you’re not getting paid! If you audition for a role and are offered a smaller part than what you’d hoped for, it’s fine to turn it down if you feel the exposure or learning won’t be worth the time you’ll have to put towards it. It’s better to say no now than to pull out 2 weeks from opening. Just be diplomatic when turning down roles – you don’t want to close any doors forever. And that leads me to…
Don’t burn bridges. Ever.
Whether it’s turning down a role or posting comments in a forum, you always need to be careful not to… well, piss people off. The arts industry is small enough that you will get a name for yourself if you are unkind in person or online, or if you conduct yourself unprofessionally – like demanding the prettiest costume or not showing up to auditions or rehearsals (believe me, it really happens). Pretty soon, people won’t want to work with you – before you’ve even met them! Always, always, always be professional.
Do your research.
Unfortunately, at some point, you will be involved in work that you’re not exactly proud of. Sometimes things go wrong that you didn’t expect, but other times it could have been avoided with a little research. Before you go into any audition, do yourself a massive favour and research the company you’re working for, the director, the actors, and any other creatives you know to be involved. The more you know, the better. This is not to be used for brown-nosing at the audition, but so you have an informed opinion of what sort of work you are really auditioning for. Generally you can use this information predict the style and quality of the work before you even walk into the audition – and yes, that will help you do a better audition as well. And if you decide the style is something you really dislike or the quality isn’t what you’d like it to be (no shame in that – everyone’s on different levels), consider whether you really want to audition at all. If in doubt, ask a few (carefully phrased) questions at the audition. You may be surprised.
Do it anyway.
Auditions are great practice. They really are. There’s nothing better than having ten monologues at your fingertips at any given time, simply because you are constantly auditioning. Every time you audition, your fear will slip a little further away. It’s a great way to meet people, it’s great physical and vocal practice, it builds knowledge and confidence, and it increases your employment chances – after all, you’ve got to be in it to win it! Audition, audition, audition. Do as much as you can, and don’t take anything personally – think of the audition as a work in itself, a chance for you to perform. If you get the role, it’s a bonus! I can’t say it enough: audition, audition, audition.
There’s so much more to be said on auditions, but for now I think it’s out of my jurisdiction to talk about audition technique. I would recommend keeping an eye out for classes and books on audition technique, because they will really help you to make the most of each opportunity. I will, as promised, soon write about doing up a CV (which you may need for a freelance audition), and headshots. Stay tuned, and best of luck with audition hunting.
For my Perth readers:
I can’t say enough good things about The Blue Room Theatre. If you’re starting out as an actor in Perth, The Blue Room is where you should be hanging out – particularly for stage actors, but it is an amazing place to meet people and to see what exciting things are happening in the Perth industry. If you’re a student, it is extremely cheap to become a member, and you get so many benefits from membership: cheap tickets to shows, discounts around town, free workshops, advice, and the best e-newsletter you’ll ever come across. The staff at The Blue Room have their ear to the ground and they’ll keep you informed of workshops, grant opportunities, job vacancies, and auditions, all via their e-newsletter. Go and become a member now. Just do it.
Film and Television Institute of WA (FTI) – Website & Mailing List
I specify ‘website’ because that is where you will find the audition notices, but it is also an actual school in Fremantle where you can attend classes. They have a great free e-newsletter too, so sign up for that while you’re at it. Obviously this is focused on screen work so if you want to do stage as well then you’ll need to check out the two suggestions above. Membership is a little bit expensive but worth considering once you’re further steeped in the film industry.