The Audition Waiting Room – Friend or Foe?

**This blog was written by John Haynes, NUTS agent, exclusive on-camera talent, Director of the Creative Institute at The Actors Theater of Minnesota, actor, teacher, corporate trainer, writer, and director**

You walk in and there it is: the audition waiting room, filled with talent just like you- holding a headshot and resume’, sizing one another up and seeing if there are any friendly faces.  You go through the steps: sign in, receive further instructions, and then what?  This is the crucial moment. Is the room friend or foe?  I’ve spent a lot of time in these rooms as a talent. I have also been behind the door as a director and producer and now I watch it happen as an agent.

 The waiting room can be your foe in two ways:

 First, it can become social hour.  The first question to ask is why am I here?  Am I here for social hour or am I here to nail an audition and get booked or cast in a show?  Now I’m not saying we shouldn’t greet those we know or share a quick catch up with someone we haven’t seen in awhile, but make sure to not lose focus.  I have a theory, a somewhat cynical theory admittedly, but it has been proven true over the years “the only reason some actors ask you what you’re doing is so they can tell you what they’re doing.”

 When we are swept away in socializing we lose focus.  It’s easy to get caught up in the rumors, the gossip, and the general “I know something you don’t know” banter.  But let’s be honest; we can post and find a lot of info on Facebook or Twitter. 

 Second, you can get caught up in the comparison game.  You know, the one where you look around the room to see who else is auditioning.  In doing so you run the risk of being caught up in your own ego or self judgment as you compare yourself with others.  You begin to move away from the task at hand and fall into a trap of doubt or even worse over confidence.

 So then, how can the waiting room be our friend?  Remind yourself why you’re there, you’re there to land a role or book a gig.  Stay focused.  Get yourself in the audition mindset, think of the audition like a job interview. Here are some action steps :

 Know your role

This is about two things.  Know the role you are auditioning for and what it’s about.  Take time before the audition and look up the business or product you are representing.  What role are you playing in this commercial or industrial?  Make strong choices and be open to the direction given by the client or casting director.  Also, know that your role at the audition is to be professional, courteous, and focused as if it were a job interview…because it is.  When I run auditions, the first person I speak to when they are finished is the person who checked everyone in at the auditions.  How were they treated by the talent?  That tells me a lot about the people that I just auditioned. 

Know your point of view

I’ve sat through countless auditions and wondered, “if I asked this person right now what their point of view is would they be able to tell me?”  I’ve often thought no.  Your point of view is a filter by which everything you hear, see, do and say passes through.  This is especially important in auditions where you are asked to improvise.  Often I see actors approach improv with reckless abandon and they have no focus or point of view.  Make strong choices in the waiting room: assess the storyboard or character, have an opening and direction for where you’re planning to take things, while staying in the improve spirit of yes, an openness.  Ask yourself, “What is this person about?” “What do they want or hope for?”  In other words what is their point of view?  I’ve booked a number of gigs  I’ve auditioned for because I always make clear strong choices that are fueled by a strong point of view.

Walk in knowing you have something to offer

You are at an audition for any of a number of reasons.  Most of those reasons revolve around someone- be it your agent, casting director, or client wanting to see you for this project.  I have something to offer in every audition I attend.  Why would I put myself through audition after audition if I didn’t believe I had something to offer the client? Knowing you have something to offer is not about arrogance but about ego strength.  It’s time for all of us to break out of the needy, brooding, self-deprecating stereotypes we’ve been handed and show some confidence in our talent and ability. 

Don’t compare, compete!

This has been my mantra for years.  When I walk into the audition waiting room and start sizing everyone up I spend my time comparing myself with other talent rather than competing with them.  Competition is a good thing; it can and should be a motivator.  When I compete, I stay focused on my role and why I’m there instead of drudging up self-doubt or finding reasons why I won’t get the gig.  Also competition helps motivate me beyond the audition to get additional training and seek out opportunities that give me the competitive edge I need in every audition.  I have witnessed the gaggle of actors at a bar complaining about how they never get cast or booked for projects.  My first question is: what have you done about this except complain?  Allow me to share one of my favorite sports stories about staying competitive.  Dennis Rodman, former Chicago Bulls power forward, holds the record for consecutive seasons being the leagues leading rebounder.  He did this by watching hours and hours of film of players in the league shooting the ball.  He observed where the ball went if the player missed the shot.  He was able to predict with a high level of accuracy where he needed to position himself in order to have the best chance to get the rebound depending upon who was shooting.  I like this story because he dedicated himself to one aspect of the game that made him invaluable in his role on several championship teams.  What have you dedicated your time to become competitive?

 So there you have it – now go out there focused and ready to book that next gig with your new found competitive edge.

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