How to hold an audition

A uditions. Such a simple word has so much meaning and promise. Whether running lines in the waiting room or organizing the controlled chaos that often comes, the audition process is key for casting.

One way to measure the professionalism of a production is by how well the audition goes. A chaotic audition process usually means you are in for a chaotic production. So how can you run your auditions like a pro?

Let us be your guide. We’ll cover the best way to find talent for your next project. We’ll also give you a free audition form template (a printable sign-in sheet template) that you can download and use for your casting auditions right away.

Table of Contents

Everything you need to know about holding auditions

The Scoop on Auditions

IT ISN’T STAR SEARCH

1.1 START WITH A SCRIPT BREAKDOWN

Create vivid character breakdowns

If you haven’t already, the first action to take leading to the all important audition is to break down your script for the roles you want to cast in your film.

Start with the biggest roles, those with the most screen time, and don’t stop until every role with speaking lines has been listed.

You definitely don’t want to leave out any characters, so carefully reading the script is very important.

Even the best eye for detail can miss something in a script.

When comes time to break down the script, we recommend using production management software. This will make sure you don’t miss any of the characters you need to include in your casting auditions.

FREE DOWNLOADABLE BONUS

Download FREE Audition Form Template

This article tells you everything you need to know about holding auditions. Make sure to grab this free audition sign-in sheet template. Download it now and keep track of everyone you’ll see during auditions.

How to hold an audition

Auditioning people for your worship team can be a difficult task to execute. There are many reasons for this. Some leaders may even refuse to do it. Word of mouth is fine with them. Holding a constructive audition can be a vital step in discerning who is the right fit for your team and knowing exactly what you can expect from them and vice versa.

Often times worship leaders are uneasy about being honest with people auditioning for a role on the team. Maybe it’s because most worship leaders are also volunteers and don’t feel as if they can give criticism to another volunteer. Perhaps it has something to do with not knowing where to start. Or that there’s a generational gap that leaders feel afraid to bridge. Another reason worship leaders may be hesitant to hold auditions is they don’t want to hurt people’s feelings. As worship leaders, we must find the courage to put these fears aside and focus on doing the best job at pointing others to Christ in musical worship. One of the ways we can help assure this is finding the right people for our team.

Where To Begin?

The first thing to do is determine if an audition is necessary.

Let me answer that. Yes! It is necessary! If you don’t know, beforehand, what to expect, then doing it live or with everyone else in the band could get uncomfortable for everyone. This is such an important thing so there are no unpleasant surprises.

Now that we’ve resolved why we do need to hold auditions, let’s look at where to begin.

Typically, there are two main ways people come forward to audition for a worship team. They may be invited to join — such as when an announcement is made for anyone interested, or something like that; or they may just approach you, or be approached by you, with interest. Either way, once you have their info, it’s important to reach out to them or follow up with some instruction on what the next step is. Be clear on your process and when your rehearsals are. This is a great time to be completely open with the expectations before going any further. Different churches do different things in this area, but as long as you’re clear with the process it will allow them to make a more serious decision about joining.

Since there are many ways leaders may audition people, here are just a few that have worked for me and that I’ve seen work for other leaders.

  1. Solo audition video – have them send you a simple video (recorded on their phone or camera) showing a couple of worship songs they’re comfortable singing or playing, whatever their craft is. These need to be songs they feel they know well enough to display as if they were going to lead them or play with a band live. This should give you a good sense of their aptitude and where to go next.
  2. Sit In – perhaps you’re not sure about the person or don’t know them at all. In this case, have them send you the solo video, but take some time before having them come to play or sing at a rehearsal. You can get a sense of where a person is by only letting them sit in on practices for a few weeks. That is, not playing or singing; just watching. This allows them to see how things go on a typical practice night, and to know what they can expect from the leadership and other members of the team. It also lets you know if they are really available during the practice times. Decide how long you want this to go, and don’t drag it out too long. The idea isn’t to waste their time. It’s to allow them to get a feel for what they can expect. You want to be decisive as soon as you can and give them an opportunity to serve if they’re a good fit.
  3. Live audition – Live auditions are good for several reasons. They offer you a first-hand look at how capable the person is at what they do. They also allow you to see how well they handle the live environment — what will subsequently be done in front of much more people on a regular basis. If their nerves won’t allow them to play or sing, it’s something you can address before having them join the regular team. Live auditions also give you, the leader, a chance to express your take on their playing or singing; and to see their immediate reactions. How do they deal with critique and criticism? What is the result of them working on the things you discussed? And so on.

You’ve heard the saying, “Honesty is the best policy.”

Well, it’s true. And the same goes for being honest with those who are auditioning for a place on the platform. You never want to mislead someone by giving them fake feedback. I have heard it over and over. The auditioning person is seriously struggling through the audition; or just really isn’t that good at what they’re doing. Perhaps they can’t hear the notes or are poorly versed at their instrument. Whatever the case, at the end, the leader says something like, “Ok! Good job!” But what they really mean is, “I don’t know how to tell you that it was rough. It really wasn’t good.” And they slowly draw away from the person in an attempt to avoid giving them an honest review. This doesn’t help anyone. You can be honest and constructive while maintaining a sense of quality you’re trying to preserve on your team. On the flip side, I’ve also been to auditions where the leader is perfectly honest and just lets them know it didn’t quite meet the expectations they have, and that they need to work on developing their voice more, or to begin working with someone on improving their playing. This is much better and usually works out best for all parties involved.

For the auditions that don’t’ work out, what may seem like rejection to someone is a critical opportunity that can benefit them in two ways. Being honest [for someone who doesn’t meet the expectation] saves that person from future humiliation and gives them a chance to see where they need development and keeps you accountable as a leader. The other side of being honest can be incredibly encouraging to the person if they are, in fact, meeting the expectation. It may be the word they need to hear that confirms their feelings about being a part — albeit an easier one to deliver.

This next thing will require some preparation on your part, if at all possible. It’s an optional thing too. But being upfront with someone who doesn’t meet the criteria can open the door for them to continue developing their craft. If you have to tell them it’s not working out, being able to offer them a solution that helps better their skill level is always a good option. That said, it does take an avenue of preparation on your part. But this can be vital to their development and beneficial to the team too.

The Power of Encouragement

One of the best things you can do for an aspiring member of your team auditioning for a part is to give them words of encouragement. In most cases, they’re already nervous and can use all the affirmation they can get. Prepare your team for it so they can also offer encouraging words. This can go a long way and should be a practice you take part in with everyone on your team.

However you choose to audition people for your team, choose to actually do it. You can discover a lot about people by getting to know them before, during and after the audition. Be genuine, honest and be an encouragement. Your team will thank you. And I believe it will enhance the effectiveness of your worship moments as you continue the journey of leading your worship team.

A queasy feeling settles into your stomach. You are surrounded by a group of gossiping men and women who sip cafe mochas while complimenting each other's headshots. Suddenly, the casting director calls your number. "What monologue will you be reading for us today?" she asks.

"Oh, sorry," you reply. "I didn't know I was supposed to bring one." Her annoyed expression tells you everything. You won't be getting a callback.

This scenario can be easily avoided by following these simple audition tips.

Read the Audition Notice Carefully

Actors should arrive at auditions fully prepared, not just ready to perform, but also to present any requested material. Examine the audition notice. Should you prepare one monologue? Two? Make certain you match the material to the play. For example, if you are auditioning for Oedipus Rex, prepare a scene from Greek drama, not The Odd Couple.

Finally, based on the audition notice, make certain you are trying out for an appropriate part. If the casting director is looking for a tall, bald man in his 60s, don’t show up hoping that they will change the script for your short, frizzy-haired, thirty-year-old self. Follow whatever guidelines are offered to ensure that you arrive at the audition as organized as possible.

Be Professional

Show the casting director how reliable you are by showing up at least fifteen minutes before the audition. Be courteous, but don’t be too talkative. Don’t pester crew members or fellow actors with idle conversation. Spend your time privately readying yourself.

Most casting directors expect you to bring a headshot and resume. This might not hold true for community theatre productions. However, if you are committed to a career in theater, you may want to bring these along just to make a favorable impression.

In general, think of an audition as a job interview. Avoid inappropriate behavior, whether its chewing gum, using profanity, behaving too shyly or brashly, or making long-winded speeches as to why you are perfect for the role.

Dress Appropriately

Usually, it is best to wear “business casual” attire. You want to exhibit charm and professionalism, but you don’t want to look like a stock-broker or a banker. Remember, many new actors make the mistake of wearing costumes to audition. Perhaps they say to themselves: “Hey, I’ve got a great pirate outfit from last Halloween! I’ll wear that!” Sadly, this is bound to cause casting directors to chuckle under their breath. They might be amused, but they will definitely not take the actor seriously.

If you are auditioning for a dancing part in a musical, wear dance attire. It should not be anything flashy or expensive. Any choreographer worth her salt will focus on your dancing ability, not your sequins.

Perfect Your Monologue

If you are asked to bring a monologue, make certain that you have rehearsed it completely. Do not just know the lines, know the character you are becoming. Let the directors see a striking difference between the person that just said hello to them and the character that is now coming to life on the stage.

At the same time, be flexible with the audition material. They might have you read the lines over, asking you to take on a different personality. Sure, you may do great when you perform the monologue with tears in your eyes, but be prepared if they ask you to do the same lines in a calm, icy voice or a whimsical British dialect. If given the chance, show them that you can interpret the role in many different ways.

Get to Know the Play

Many auditions involve reading “sides.” Sides are small, hand-picked portions of a script. Sometimes they are a brief monologue. Sometimes they are short scenes involving two or more characters. Most of the time, you won’t know exactly what scene you’ll be reading. In that case, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the play in general.

If you are auditioning for a popular play feel free to buy a copy of the script online or at your local bookstore. Better yet, visit your local library. Watching a film version of the play might help as well. Don’t simply mimic the movie actor’s performance, though; casting directors want to see what you can create, not what you can imitate.

Practice Cold Reading

If the play is rather obscure or brand new, it may be difficult to purchase a copy. In that case, you’ll want to polish up your cold reading skills. Cold reading is the act of performing lines as you read them for the very first time. It can be a nerve-wracking experience, but with practice, most actors can become quite adept at it.

The best way to become a fluent cold reader is to read aloud as often as you can. When you cold read during your audition, do not worry if you stumble over a word or two. The important thing to remember is to stay in character. Create chemistry between you and your fellow actor. Make the casting director, and anyone else watching, believe that you are thinking and feeling the words on the page.

Don’t Apologize

After an audition, an actor becomes his own worst critic. Often times, hopeful thespians are tempted to explain themselves to the directors. They provide excuses or even apologies in hopes of gaining sympathy. Avoid this as much as you can. Thank the casting director and leave the stage knowing that if you are right for the part, they will contact you. If not, know that you did your best. And remember: there are many other wonderful roles out there just waiting to be filled.

Casting the characters for your film is a crucial process. The actors you and your team select will be the faces of your project and will carry the production to the next level with their performances. The choices ahead are hard to make and, sometimes, the process itself can be tedious when it comes to coordinating the logistics of the casting call.

How to Hold Great Auditions

There are many factors to consider when starting to look for actors for your film and it all can be a little overwhelming if you have little experience in this department. For that reason we are about to go over some tips and tricks to help you hold a great audition for your next movie.

Where to look for actors?

Finding the right person to portray a role in your film is no easy feat. It can be a little easier if you already have a profile in mind, but even then, other factors come into play like location, budget, experience, and others.

If you don’t have many resources and can only offer experience to the potential protagonists of your film, you can try your luck at local drama schools and film schools. Some of the people there are honing their acting skills and might be willing to participate in your project if it provides them with a credited role in a serious film production.

On the other hand, if your budget allows it, you can take this same approach but looking for professional actors directly. You can also get access to your local actors guild and contact people in your area according to what you have in mind.

How to hold an effective casting call

Casting calls should be quick and simple, but to make them that way, you need top-notch organization. If you are holding open auditions, you need to make sure that you schedule actors for different windows so you don’t have a crowded waiting room full of nervous actors waiting for their turn. This way, you also avoid unnecessary waiting for the next person to show up.

Give the actors the casting call location and information only if you have previously approved their submission or application. In the casting room, be sure to give them enough room and make them feel comfortable by not having too many people watching them go over their lines.

Things to avoid during auditions

Try not to ask the actor to do anything unusual that would make them feel uncomfortable. Nothing inappropriate or rude either. You want actors to be in their best mindset possible so they can give you their best performances and accurately show you the extent of their range and acting chops.

For auditions that explicitly require something unusual or inappropriate, reassure them that nothing will ever get out from the casting room. You can make them feel more comfortable by not recording them in those cases, or have the casting room located far enough from the waiting room.

Don’t ever give negative feedback to the actors after they finish reading for their roles. You want to let actors know that you appreciate their craft just as much as they appreciate yours and the potential opportunity you will have of working together. Courtesy is free, and ensuring that everyone got something positive out of the experience can help you get a good rep in the industry.

Ever wonder how to hold your script at an audition? Whether it’s the first time you’ve seen the copy or the director’s just handed you a script change, you may need to work off a page in-hand. Even the best actors need to glance at script for a line now and then. When you’re holding copy, it’s still most important to show your performance and personality as opposed to your script or the top of your head.

Whether it’s a cold-reading or a callback, Casting Directors want to see you! And with so many casting decisions based on recorded auditions, it’s important to let the camera see you. If you can instantly memorize lines, fantastic. For the rest, good script-holding habits will keep the attention on you and not your page. How you hold your copy can keep you framed for camera and help you connect with people in the audition room to make that great impression that books jobs.

In this acting video lesson, Mae Ross, professional actress, coach and owner of 3-2-1 Acting Studios, demonstrates the best way to keep your script reference-ready and out of your way in the audition room.

You can practice skills like these on your own at home. Or if you want learn more about acting and making connections in the audition room, classroom, and beyond, consider taking acting classes.

How to hold an audition

Hi there! I’m Ms. Mae Ross from TopHollywoodActingCoach.com. Welcome! We’re glad to have you here. Today’s lesson is going to be about the best way to hold your script at an audition. But first of all, I want to introduce these wonderful students here at 3-2-1- Acting Studios right here in Los Angeles, California.

And first over here, can you slate please?

Eric : Hi, my name is Eric, and I’m ten years old.

Good. And can you slate please?

Morgan Bories: Hi, my name is Morgan Bories and I’m nine years old.

Jayka Noelle: Hi, I’m Jayka Noelle and I’m ten years old.

Nice! And how about you?

Griffin McLemore: My name is Griffin McLemore and I’m five years old.

Nice. And how about you?

Natalie Butler: Hi, my name’s Natalie Butler and I’m seven years old.

Joseph Sanok: Hi, my name is Joseph Sanok, and I’m ten years old.

Amanda Ruiz: Hi, my name is Amanda Ruiz and I’m seven and a half years old.

Alina Sanok: Hi, my name is Alina Sanok, and I’m ten years old.

And what we’re doing here today is we’re showing you how to hold the script at an audition where you keep your face up towards the camera, and then if you need to get your line again, your script is in a good place so you can look at it, get your line, bring your face back to the camera and say your line to camera. Everybody, let’s hold the script the not so good way.

Everybody, do you see what’s happening? Our face is down, you’re missing our faces here. (laughs) This is a funny one.

And now we’re going to show you where to hold your script that’s going to be really, really wonderful.

And so if you need to go to it, you look at it, and back to the camera. All right? Has everybody got their script in a good place?

How to hold an audition

Regardless of how many auditions you attend as an actor, from time to time you’re likely to experience one that you just don’t feel too great about. Feeling like you’ve had a “bad” audition can leave you feeling low and discouraged. However, it can also be a time to learn some valuable lessons, and here are some of them!

Don't Be Hard on Yourself

How to hold an audition

Claudia Burlotti/Getty Images

At any point in your acting career, including when you feel that you have had a bad audition, don’t be hard on yourself! Actors deal with many challenges that are difficult to handle on a daily basis—including rejection—and treating yourself in any way other than with kindness will not be beneficial. If you attend an audition and leave thinking that you didn’t do your best work—possibly you made a mistake or forgot your lines—take a few minutes to relax and simply clear your mind. Treat yourself as if you were your own best friend. Do you think you’d say to your best friend after they experienced a bad audition, “Wow that was HORRIBLE, you should just give up!”? Probably not! You’d likely reassure and comfort a friend, not beat them up after a tough experience.

It’s okay to acknowledge your feelings if you think that you did not do your best work, but keep everything in perspective. You’re human! Things don’t always go completely smoothly or perfectly, and mistakes happen. And even when a mistake occurs in an audition, it is typically not a bad thing. After all, as Carolyne Barry explains, “mistakes are gifts.” We can learn from mistakes, and in an audition, we can use them to show a casting director how we would handle a mistake as a professional performer. (A mistake just might land you the job!)

Keep a Good Perspective About It

How to hold an audition

PhotoAlto/Eric Audras/Getty Images

It is certainly understandable that it’s not always easy to keep a good perspective when you’re not feeling great. But it’s important to shake negative thoughts as quickly as possible! Recently, I auditioned for a role in a film, and I left this audition feeling disappointed in myself. As I was walking from the audition to my car, I kept thinking over and over, "I could have done better." I aim to stay positive at all times, but I was feeling very frustrated with myself, and I began thinking in a negative manner. I pondered such thoughts as, “Am I really a good actor? Will my agent drop me after that one?!” and, “Is it even worth my time to keep pursuing acting when I just auditioned so horribly?!”

As I approached my car, I looked to my left and I noticed a cemetery. When I looked at it, I almost instantly snapped out of that negative mindset. I was reminded while looking at those gravestones that, hey—I’m still here—I’m alive! I have the opportunity to do better, because I’m still here. This may seem quite obvious, but it can be easy to lose sight of how precious every moment is if we don’t take the time to stop and look around at all that we have. Life moves fast, and it’s important to keep a good perspective. I survived an audition that didn’t go so great, but so what!? I’ll work on doing a better job tomorrow. And that is what we all should strive for every day, isn’t it?

Consider What You Can Work On

How to hold an audition

Betsie Van Der Meer/Stone/Getty Images

After a “bad” audition, ask yourself why you think that it went so “bad?” What could you improve upon? I put quotes around the word “bad” because in reality, you probably did much better than you thought you did!

On the other hand, if you really did something awful in the audition room and feel like you need to explain yourself, consider sending a short note to the casting director. Thank them for the opportunity, and explain what you learned from your experience! Most casting directors are wonderful, kind people and will be understanding.

As an actor (and as a person!) you are a work in progress, and you have the opportunity to grow all the time. Being constantly enrolled in an acting class and an audition-technique class can help you to better prepare for your auditions. Note what it is that you’d like to improve on so you can sharpen your skills. Since my tough audition involved improvisation, I was reminded of how important it is to study improv as an actor. These insights can further your growth as an actor.

The Activities Network Executive expects that you abide by the following when hosting auditions for theatre productions or for any other auditioned events.

Do

  • Publicise widely – use new methods of publicity to reach as many as possible. Don’t be content with just your regular members, look for new members. More people auditioning means a greater chance of finding the best people.
  • Make them accessible – choose venues and times that suit as many as possible and sign-post people to the rooms if necessary. If possible, have someone there to meet them before the audition.
  • Be welcoming to all – auditions are intimidating, and they can be made worse if new people are made to feel as if everyone else there already knows each other.
  • Check student status – make sure all auditionees bring their student ID with them to audition. You need to be aware from the start of the audition process if they are a current UCL student or not (see below for policy on non-UCL students).
  • Check membership – check if they are already a member of your society or not. The society president or treasurer can download a list of current members from the union website in a matter of moments. Guidance on how to do this can be found in the ‘How to check my Membership List’ guide. Please remember that non-society members can audition but, if successful, they must purchase society membership prior to taking part in rehearsals or further society activity.
  • Be consistent – make every person do exactly the same things in the preliminary auditions. This is the only way they can be fairly compared.
  • Keep detailed notes – for every person who auditions you should keep detailed notes about what you did and did not like. These are useful if someone questions your judgement later on.
  • Keep an open mind – when making your decisions and judge people based on whether or not they would be good for the part. Don’t always automatically give parts to people you know. Take risks, give people a chance!
  • Contact everyone with the results – always start by contacting the successful candidates, preferably by phone. If someone turns down a role, you can then contact your second choice. Always follow up with an email so the offer and what you discussed is in writing. Once roles have been accepted immediately email the unsuccessful candidates. (Delays mean they could hear the news from other sources). If people ask for constructive criticism then provide it using your notes.

Don’t

  • Pre-cast – auditions should never be a formality. Don’t just cast your friends and peers. As per clubs and societies regulations, all society members should be given equal opportunity to audition. Failure to do so could draw complaints against your society or individuals and lead to a disciplinary investigation from the union.
  • Create false hope – this can lead to serious hard feelings. If you give people the wrong impression before auditions and then don’t cast them, it can be very upsetting for people.
  • Have too many people on the panel – this can be intimidating, and it is quite frankly unnecessary. A maximum of 3 people should be on a panel.
  • Discuss results until after they are released – everyone deserves to hear about the results at the same time. Do not call friends or start gossip until the results have been confirmed.

Consider carefully:

  • Overlapping or consistent casting – Be fair; don’t give a part to somebody who has already got several other parts in other shows. It isn’t fair, and it will ultimately affect their quality and commitment if they have too much on their plate. Clubs and Societies are there to provide the greatest opportunity to the greatest number. If you really want to cast an individual who is in other productions, you have a right to make them choose between your show and other shows, so long as that decision is theirs to make.

Non-UCL Students in Performances/Productions

Most union funding is charitable income and must be used to pursue our charitable aims and objectives. With this in mind, casting non-UCL students, to the detriment of UCL students, could constitute a breach of Charity Law, therefore we have implemented the policy below to make sure the benefit of UCL student members is always at the forefront.

Policy

Non-UCL students will only be permitted in union shows if:

  • The role cannot be filled by a UCL Student. This assumes that an open audition of UCL students has been held in line with the guidance above.
  • An opportunity is not being taken away from a UCL student who could do the role.
  • The non UCL students not taking part would reduce the opportunity provided for UCL students.
  • That the role is not the lead or major cast member within the production.

Decisions on whether non UCL students are allowed to take part:

  • All requests for non-UCL participants must be put in writing to the Chair of the Theatre Users Board/Activities Officer a minimum of one month prior to the start of the production/first performance, via email [email protected]
  • Any requests less than a month prior to the production will be refused, except in extreme extenuating circumstances
  • All requests must be accompanied by detailed evidence of previous efforts to recruit a UCL student in the role

Please note that a non-UCL student being ‘better for the role’ or having a more successful audition will not be accepted as a reason for casting a non-UCL student.

Aaron Marcus is a full-time actor and commercial model who has worked for over 30 years and his new book, How to Become a Successful Actor and Model is an Amazon Best Seller. He has also delivered his seminar Book the Job over 600 times spanning three continents. Here Aaron offers great advice on how to hold sides during an audition, to Mandy News readers.

24th April 2018
/ By Aaron Marcus

How to hold an audition

AARON MARCUS

There are many ways that actors hold their sides (the short portion of the script they are given by a casting director) during an audition. Many are good and many not so. Regardless of the way you’re currently holding your sides, do definitely have them to hand!

Why hold sides?
Some actors always memorise their sides but, even if they have their lines locked, and actor should always have the sides in their hands in case they get stuck during a casting. We’ve all been there. If you think you have your lines down, and then for some reason, in the middle of a read, you go blank, it can be very hard to recover. You will simply be in a daze trying to regroup and remember your next lines. The best thing to do is learn the art of holding the sides properly, in a way that benefits you.

How to hold your sides during an audition
The first tip for holding sides during an audition is not to hold them down in your lap. When you head is down, the camera can’t see your face. People want to see your face. They want to see your reaction. I hold my sides in my right hand at head height and shift them to the side of the camera. What that allows me to do is glance over to grab a few words. Of course, know the sides but this position allows you to take a sneaky look at the sides whenever you want without completely breaking your engagement with the camera.

If it’s a commercial, you might be asked to look straight down the lens. If it’s film or television you’re auditioning for, never look into the lens of the camera. Normally you’ll look camera left, or your right. I’ll take a look, take a few words at a time and say what I need to say. That way it seems conversational. When you’re talking to somebody you don’t necessarily stare into their eyes for the entire time you’re talking – that might be a little bit creepy. You talk to them, look away, talk to them some more and look away – that’s how conversations work.

Also, don’t worry too much about the sides being seen from time to time – as long as they’re not covering your face, you’ll be fine.

Watch Aaron’s video on How to hold sides during an audition – with an example – below:

Auditioning for a commercial soon? Check out our three tips on how to audition for commercials.