Will practice help if, whenever I have tried to audition, I choked? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
In my experience, if you have a tendency to ‘choke’ in auditions, practice will absolutely help — but that means audition practice — because auditions require a very different mindset than performances do.
Generally, actors early in their careers approach auditions from the belief that if they ‘do it right’ or are ‘good enough’ they will get the job. They try to intuit what the decision-makers are looking for and do their best to deliver it, under the mistaken belief that the job is a reward given to the person who delivers the best performance. That’s death for an audition. It leads to general, impersonal choices and a fearful, needy energy that is a huge turnoff for casting, producers, and the director and can lead to a ‘choke.’
Over time, actors learn how misguided that is. Everyone at the audition is ‘good enough’ — casting doesn’t have time to waste seeing people they don’t know are capable of doing the job. Auditions are about choosing which interpretation is the best fit, given the producer(s) and director’s vision for the project and the other elements already in place, none of which the actor is privy to. So if there’s no way for you to know what they’re looking for, all you can do is give them the solution you think is best. That approach leads to specific, personal choices that reflect your unique perspective and experience.
This is the irony of auditions. The only way to give the decision-makers what they want is to stop worrying about what they want.
Here’s how I think about auditions. (This perspective is inspired by a great casting casting director I know.) The decision-makers have a problem; They have a role that shoots soon and they don’t know who’s going to play it. They desperately want someone to give them a great solution, because they have a million problems lined up and they can’t move on to the next one until this one is solved.
I’m there to offer a solution to that problem — as are any number of other people. If casting has done their job, any one of us could fix the problem. The decision-makers’ job is to choose the solution they like best. My job is to show them my solution to the very best of my ability. If they want it, great. If they don’t, also great. Either way, I’ve had a successful audition because I’ve shown them my best work and will be back next time they have a problem I can help solve.
I auditioned for Shameless about a half-a-dozen times before I booked the role I’ve recurred in for three seasons. The reason I didn’t book those previous roles isn’t that I wasn’t good enough — if that was the case, they wouldn’t have kept bringing me in. I just wasn’t quite the right fit. But each time I read, they learned a little more about me as an actor and I learned a little more about the show — so eventually, we found the right role.
The more you audition, the better you will get at focusing on delivering your best work rather than striving for a result you can’t control. When you do that, you’ll find you’re no longer worried about ‘choking.’
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