One of the biggest mistakes I made early on in my career involved coaching. I went to a big film audition to read for an important casting director. She liked what I did at the initial meeting and so I was given a callback to meet the director & producers. I was really excited and wanted to be the best I could so I decided to hire a private acting coach and work on the material before the callback. We rehearsed the sides to the point of exhaustion and talked at length about the role. I was thinking about the part very differently now and was looking forward to bringing this new take on the role back to the casting director.
The next morning at the callback session, I did my audition and felt good about it. The casting director wasn’t friendly, but I just assumed that she was busy and preoccupied with all the actors she had sitting in the waiting room. I had a personal manager at the time and he was really good about getting feedback, so he called her office to inquire how I’d done at the callback.
“I don’t know what happened,” she told him. “Anne was excellent at the audition but when she came back, it was very different. She changed everything and it was all wrong.”
After thanking her, he hung up the phone and called me.
“She said you did something completely different at the callback. What happened?”
“I went to an acting coach.”
“Well, don’t ever do that again. She liked what you did at the audition. That’s why she brought you back. She didn’t want you to change it. She wanted to show the director what you had done for her.”
“Oh,” I said, taking a deep breath. “I thought what I did at the callback was better.”
“It wasn’t,” he said.
We hung up and I didn’t see that casting director again for over fifteen years.
When I finally saw her again she still wasn’t friendly. There were about twenty girls sitting on the floor in the long narrow hallway outside her office door. The few folding chairs were filled with bodies and there were women standing, leaning against the walls, and sitting on the floor, all waiting their turn to audition. She was behind schedule casting another big feature. After taking a long break, where we all started wondering what was going on, she came out of her office and passed out new dialogue. All of the actresses had learned a lot of dialogue for the audition, but she handed us completely new material, and I was up next. As actors, all we can do is roll with what we’re given and do our best. Then let it go when we leave. And that’s what I did. Months later, when I saw the movie, a male actor had been cast in the role. Good thing I didn’t waste time and energy dwelling on that audition.
A casting director friend of mine told me recently that most actors don’t do as well at the callback session. When I asked her why, she said she wasn’t sure, but that it was almost always the case. “Maybe the actor feels there’s more at stake because they’re closer to getting the role,” I volunteered. She thought about it for a minute and then replied, “Maybe.”
When I think about making changes, I think about a high school girlfriend who signed my yearbook. She wrote in really big letters right in the front, “Don’t ever change!” I took one look at it and thought, “God, I hope I do!” I was heading off to New York City to study acting and, more than anything, I wanted to change, and I anticipated big changes occurring in my life.
Change is good, for the most part. But to make big changes between an audition and callback was a mistake. I’m not opposed to private coaching. After all, I teach private hosting. It just needs to happen from the start.
Holly Powell, an LA-based acting teacher and former casting director for twenty-three years said in the August 18-24, 2011 issue of BackStage West, “When you choose to become an actor, you have really chosen a career as a professional auditioner.” It's our job as actors to get good at the audition process. When we're put in a difficult position, we need to flow with whatever comes our way.
I learn something from every experience. Here’s the wisdom I gained from this one.
When going to a callback session:
Do the same thing you did the first time around. (If you’re going to hire an acting coach, do it before your first audition.)
Wear the same outfit, if you still feel good in it.
Go with the flow. Flow with what you’re given, including direction, comments, amount of time spent waiting to go in the audition room & the waiting room conditions, and any changes that are made.
Do your best.
When you leave the room, let it go.
Get feedback when you can, listen to it, and apply it.
Don’t beat yourself up. Learn from your mistakes, and apply the lesson to your next audition.
Onto the next . . .
I did my best that day. When I got the feedback, I didn’t beat myself up. I took it in, digested it, figured out how to apply it to my next audition to make it better, then let it go. It takes practice, but letting go is key.