The Ultimate Actor’s Guide to Audition Preparation for Film and TV

Every actor goes through the terrifying process of auditioning. Prepare for your audition like a pro for film & tv with these expert tips!



About Auditioning for Film and TV

Film and TV auditions tend to be vastly different from theatre auditions. Theatre directors like to spend time chatting and working with you on the character. They want to see what you will be like to work with within the rehearsal room. 

Film and tv directors are much less interested in your acting process. Instead, they want to see the final product. This means that you need to create a fully formed character in your audition prep process. Film and tv auditions tend to last for around five minutes. Within this very short time span, your job is to present the character you’ve prepared to the audition panel as efficiently as you can.

Character Work and Script Analysis

Your audition sides are probably your only insight into the character you will be portraying in the audition. The first thing you should do to prepare is to analyse these sides in detail. You may already have your own textual analysis techniques. If you are unsure about how to prepare sides for an audition, try following these steps:

Read the sides at least five times over. Become familiar with what is happening in each moment.

Define the given circumstances, or to clarify, the who, what, where, and when. This includes relationship types, location, time of day, time of year, and so on. 

  • Look for clues about your character in the script. You may find hints about their age, their job, their temperament, and so on. 
  • Think about the relationship between your character and the other character or characters in the script. Are they very familiar, or is the interaction more formal?
  • Ask yourself what your character wants in the scene. Identify this objective as what you want to get out of the other character or characters. For instance, “I want to…”
  • Most scenes can be split into sections, or ‘beats’. Attempt to determine the natural rhythm of the beats of the scene.
  • Decide on your tactics for each beat. This will help you to give a clear, defined performance. 
  • Think about alternative ways the scene could be played. Some directors will redirect you, so be prepared to present various, clear versions of the scene.

Often, the scene you’ve been sent to audition with has parts of the scenes before and after. There are often, but not always, hidden gems in these scene segments, so be sure to read them. If you have access to the full script, be sure to read it, as this is the ideal situation and is usually a rarity. You’ll find a lot of useful information about who your character is, and whom they wish to become. 

Prepare for the Practicalities of the Audition Setting

In film and TV auditions you will likely be standing or sitting in front of the audition panel and a camera. In most cases, the casting director or an assistant will read the other lines in the script. Your audition preparation should include plans for how to handle the moments in the script that present physical difficulties. For instance, if there’s a stage direction that says, “she runs through the field,” you will need to come up with an alternate, static version of this stage direction that captures the emotion of the beat in the script.

If the scene contains small, simple props, like a phone or a pen, bring them along. As long as these props don’t become a distraction, they can assist bridge the large gap between your audition footage and the final picture in the casting director, or directors mind. 

Some sides will feature more than two characters. If you are speaking to more than one other person in the scene, practice focusing on different spots in the room to give clarity and precision to your performance. 

Practice the Sides as Much as is Needed (but not too much)

Become as comfortable as you can with the material. With rehearsal, you ideally want to be so familiar with your dialogue that you don’t have to think about the next line. With this familiarity, you should then be able to find a sense of freedom and playfulness. This will allow you to give a clear performance that also feels fresh and spontaneous. The trap is that if you rehearse how you believe the scene should be ‘acted’ when rehearsing your ‘lines’ for memorisation, you will more than likely lock-in certain ideas and deliver rhythms which will hinder your performance’s spontaneity. So rehearse the lines, not the performance. 

Learning Your Lines

Some casting directors will ask for the sides to be memorised. Others will not specify. After doing your audition prep, you will probably be pretty familiar with your lines already. It isn’t usually necessary that you learn your lines, there is even an argument against going to auditions without a script, however we’ll address this in another article. Lots of actors choose to keep their sides with them in the audition room so that they don’t have to worry about forgetting their lines. Unless your lines are ingrained in your mind, it’s recommended you hold onto your sides during the audition. Grasping for the next line will take you out of the scene and will likely ruin your performance. The casting directors want to see your best work, not your memorisation skills. 

If you’re still struggling, many recommend line repetition as the best memorisation technique, however, studies show this not to be the best advice. Testing your memory recall is one of the best ways to cement your lines in your mind. To do this, try recording the other character’s lines (on your phone) with gaps for your lines then practice recalling your lines after your cue lines. 

Preparing to Meet the Team

Your acting performance is only one element of the audition. As part of your audition preparation, be sure to do some research on the team you will be meeting in the audition room. This may include the casting director, the director, and the producer. Make sure you try to decipher exactly who is involved in the project. Find out what other work they’ve done in the past, and watch it! If the director has a notable style, take this into consideration when performing your performance. Directors and producers are people too and want to work with those they like, and respect.

The Day Before the Audition

On the day before your audition, prepare as much as you can to make things less stressful on the day itself.

Choose an Outfit

An audition is both a performance and a job interview. As such, you should aim to dress for both elements. Try to find an outfit that complements the character. While you shouldn’t be arriving in costume, try to find an outfit that ‘works’ for the character. 

For instance, if you’re auditioning for a period piece, you may choose a long skirt and a vintage blouse. Or, if you’re auditioning to play a lawyer, you might choose a suit shirt and tie. However, your clothes shouldn’t distract from your performance. For example, if you’re auditioning to play a swimming instructor, don’t show up in a bathing suit! Use clothing to help assist but not convince the viewer of the audition tape that you are indeed the character. 

Plan your Journey

Be sure to:

  • Plan your journey to the audition venue. 
  • Schedule your journey and prep time. Plan for delays and give yourself extra time. 
  • Get your audition bag ready. Be sure to include everything you need. This includes printed and highlighted sides, a phone charger, makeup, directions to the audition location and any props. Most casting directors in the UK don’t require printed headshots and resumes anymore, however, it still is smart to bring these along in case they ask.

On the Day of the Audition

On the big day, leave some time for an adequate warm-up. While many actors don’t bother to warm up vocally and physically for film and TV acting, you may discover it to be a hugely beneficial part of your audition preparation. 

If you plan to include a warm-up in your preparation, be sure to include exercises for breath, diction, and vocal quality. If you’re using an accent in your audition, include some exercises that help you prepare for the unfamiliar vowel sounds you’ll be using. Do some physical stretches and movements to open and loosen the body. Having a warmed-up body and voice will allow you to emote more freely and will help to ease any nerves. Ideally, your warm-up will help you to feel a little more present and focused.

In addition to your physical preparation, you will also need to know how to mentally prepare for an audition. Again, every actor will have their own techniques that work for them. You’ll discover these techniques with practice and experience. One way this materialises for example, is that some actors prefer to chat with others in the waiting room, while others need to zone out and get in the mindset of the character. Do what works for you and respect those that have a different process. 

Which brings us on to during the audition, and it should go without saying of course, but be polite to everyone including the other actors and the casting assistants. You may have heard of the horror stories of mistaking directors for a delivery person only to then be introduced in the room. You’ll also be very surprised how often a casting assistant has an influential impact on casting, so not that you need an excuse, but always be nice and respectful. When you’re in the audition, try to be direct, professional, and calm. Show the panel that you’re a competent, intelligent actor who they will enjoy working with, and they can trust investing in. 

After the Audition

After all of your audition preparation, the big moment will come and go in the blink of an eye. Plan a treat for yourself after the audition. Be proud of your work and ritualistically reward yourself for what you’ve accomplished. Your mental strength will almost certainly be tested. Auditioning is fraught with rejection, no matter how talented the actor. 

Be careful about your mindset after the audition. Practice positive thinking. With the adrenaline pumping, it’s easy to replay the audition in your mind. You may find yourself overthinking what you did compared to what you could have done. If you find yourself going over the lines and redoing the audition in your mind, try to let it go. 

We hope this guide to audition preparation has given you some useful tips on how to master the art of audition preparation. Remember, when the big moment to perform finally comes, try to enjoy it. Many actors claim that the harder they try, the worse their audition goes. Let the hard work you’ve done speak for itself. After the extensive audition prep you’ve completed, you can let yourself be relaxed, playful, and free in your performance. Arguably, for actors new to the industry, getting an audition is a great achievement, and is a great opportunity for you to work on your craft in a professional setting. You won’t go far wrong if you consider the audition as the work, and the successful job as a bonus.

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