Passing My Own Audition

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Passing My Own Audition

Postby Justin D. » May 10th, 2013, 1:30 pm

I originally posted this as a Facebook note, which inspired some conversation here. Feel free to check it out.


Someone asked me a question about auditions, and after a little talking, I asked if I could tell her an anecdote that helped me out. What I intended to be a few sentences turned into the following. So, I thought I'd put it up for everyone to see.

A few years ago, I was going to a lot of auditions and not getting any of the roles. Specifically, I auditioned for multiple shows in a row for one theater company. And I killed it. That’s not just ego talking either. The auditions were held during mixers so a room full of people would see everyone’s audition time. I had people come up to me after the auditions, email me, text me, send me messages on Facebook, and even comment in public view on Facebook about scenes I did that they loved. Multiple people, including some of the people in charge of shows, would tell me that I fit perfectly into what that show was doing. I went home each time quite proud of myself and glowing from the praise. Then, days would go by with no response from the director until I’d receive the mass email that alerted everyone who didn’t get in the show about who did get cast. Every time, and I mean every time, it would tear me down.

I’d get angry. I’d get depressed.

No one liked my performances. Were people lying to me? Were they just being polite? What the hell were those directors seeing in those other people? They’re the same damn people every time. Maybe I missed the point of the show and audition. No, I got it right. I know the material. Hell, I know it better than so many others who auditioned and some of them got cast. And that one person? She stunk it up during the audition. I guess it pays to be friends with the people casting the show.

No one likes me. No one wants to work with me. What had they heard? Are they right to not want to work with me? Am I not just that bad of an improviser, but am I that bad of a person to be around? No, I’m a nice guy. Wait, am I too nice? Do people just walk over me all the time because of that? Fuck.

Then, one day, I just stopped feeling like this. Okay, that’s not quite true. I had taken an assessment of my life and realized I needed to make a few changes, because I didn’t really like who I was at the time. There’s a whole lot more here involving loved ones, work, writing, and more. Mostly, I needed to adjust my state of mind to look at everything with a different perspective. Luckily, I’m trained to do that as an improviser and a writer. (Not that people who aren’t those things can’t also do that, but the concept should’ve come easier and faster to me than it did.) So, I reached a conclusion about all of those auditions that changed me, in relation to my feelings about auditions at least.

I simply didn’t fit the aesthetics they were looking for. Whether that was the individual directors or the theater as a whole, I didn’t have a certain look or attitude being sought out. Even if I did fit into the worlds the directors were creating, it turned out that someone else also fit them and the other person was someone the directors either knew well from working with before or they were giving a brand new person a shot. I didn’t fit the aesthetics they were looking for, and that freed me up to no longer be angry or depressed.

Since then, I’ve auditioned for a lot of shows. Some of them I’ve gotten cast in, and others, I haven’t. I still get bummed out when I don’t get in shows I’m excited to be in. That, I’ll freely admit. But I move on much faster than I did before. That one audition doesn’t determine my worth as a performer or a person. I do that.
Last edited by Justin D. on May 10th, 2013, 3:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Passing My Own Audition

Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » May 10th, 2013, 3:17 pm

excellent perspective! I think the two best things a performer can do to move past such feelings or generate that perspective shift are, first and foremost, audition MORE! throw yourself at everything. and yes, there's something to be said for casting a wider net, but the real reasons are that auditioning is a skill like any other (and usually separate from the ACTUAL skills you're wanting to get cast for) and the more you do it the better you get. and at a certain point, rejection becomes like white noise. you develop a thin sheen of emotional armour where you just don't take it as personally anymore. it's a job. you didn't get this one. it frees you up for the next one. move on...

the other, which is not as simple to do but I highly recommend, be involved somehow in the OTHER side of casting. experience what it's like on the other side of the table. direct or AD a show, work in a casting office, offer to read with the auditioners (I did that a couple of times in LA, and to be in the room after each audition and hear the discussion without actually being involved was truly eye opening in the best of ways). casting is one of the very first things you do, and it's (to my mind) the most crucial, and will bless or doom a project right out of the gate. I often call it a strange alchemy (as opposed to the mundane kind. :p ), because you're trying to bring together this perfect mix of elements from several different people and figure out how they fit together before you've ever had a chance most times to work with them. sometimes the look isn't right. sometimes the person who had the best individual audition doesn't fit with the overall ensemble. sometimes your spidey sense just starts tingling and you feel that it's THIS one and not THAT one. and you will sweat and swear and pull at your hair and shuffle forms and headshots and draw up diagrams and in the end you STILL have 15 people for seven spots and you have to CHOOSE! and that's what it comes down to. not a vendetta. not someone think you suck as an actor or a person. they just had to make a choice, and the coin didn't flip your way (not a literal coin...i'd never cast that way. and I know no one else who ever has. cough.). it's a job. you didn't get this one. it frees you up for the next one. move on... 8)
Sweetness Prevails.

-the Reverend
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Re: Passing My Own Audition

Postby Spots » May 10th, 2013, 5:23 pm

With the advent of the internet and connectivity, let's acknowledge the history of how talent used to be "discovered".

The old models:

Film executives
Television executives
Record executives
SNL's Lorne Michaels
Talent Scouts
Casting Agents
Theater owners


These are traditionally thought of as "gatekeepers." They are the folks you need to either impress OR sleep with in order to get noticed. Because it used to be difficult to distribute talent.

You know... You needed a gatekeeper back then. How else would your talent be spread across the country like jam on a piece of toast?

But the idea of a "gatekeeper" is more than outdated. There is no such thing. Get it out of your head. I think we all preserve the idea because we want to feel loved. We want to feel wanted.

But this only holds us back.

If you need any further proof, help a student filmmaker. Agree to be his casting agent and sit on the other side of the table. Let the hundreds of actors come in and "try to be discovered."

You will quickly realize that the point of a gatekeeper is fucking redundant. It's like a mating ritual. A gross one. You will never cast the person who comes in trying to impress you. You will end up casting the person who makes a bold choice because they are freed from living in their head. You are doing a simple job of calling talent what it is. And who are you in the first place? Are you the modern day Lorne Michaels? Is Lorne Michaels even the modern day Lorne Michaels?

There is no such thing. It's done. It's in the dirt. I'm sorry to yank this carpet out from under you. But it's kind of true.

Forget gatekeepers. I never want to be a gatekeeper. Never. Gatekeepers are a thing of the past. Look at standup comics who tour and travel a hundred days out of the year. They aren't looking "to get discovered".

They're just doing the work. Because they love the work.

You can't make people like you. But you can enjoy the process and just do it day after day because it's something you do. Right? Tomorrow we could all become gatekeepers and open auditions ourselves. But gatekeepers are a total illusion.

It's an illusion. It's an excuse not to reach your full potential. Think of your favorite actor or actress. They didn't become talented because a gatekeeper said so. That never ever happened.

But do go out with your friends and make a movie. That alone will get SXSW's attention and make you famous.

And every online contest you come across. Those are all legit.

Hey, call me cynical but this is why my perspective is a positive one: We create our own gates. Be your own gatekeeper.
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Re: Passing My Own Audition

Postby Spots » May 11th, 2013, 6:18 pm

On a softer note, maybe you've heard this story.

Years & years ago...

Dustin Hoffman & Gene Hackman were once roommates and took acting classes together. Both had been told by their teachers they would fail as actors. They were instructed to quit.

To this day they are both somewhat insecure in their own abilities. But they enjoy the challenge and the process.

About 3 minutes in you'll see what I mean:
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