How to Audition: The Casting Director’s Point of View

I’ve been running Sketchual Misconduct auditions for 4 years straight now. Being in the ‘casting’ point of view is very different from the ‘auditioner’ point of view.

Here are some things the typical auditioner wouldn’t know about what their casting director is thinking.

We decided if we liked you in the first 30 seconds of your audition.

Many auditioners think they need ‘more time’ to appeal to their director. They worry the director hasn’t seen enough. That is almost never the case. The director knows what they want to see. When you first walk into the audition, we size you up. For sketch, we aren’t looking for any particular ‘look’, but we usually have a boy-girl ratio in mind. Then, we see how prepared and confident you are. If we want to see something else, we will ask. And believe us – we give you as much a chance as we can for you to show us all of your potential in our limited time.

We want to decide if you’re the kind of person we would want to get a beer with.

I’m 21, I can drink. You might not be able to yet, but when casting for a group like sketch comes along, we are looking for the long-term. Once you’re cast, we’re stuck with you for 4 years. Even for a show, the casting director is aware that they have to deal with you the entire run of the show.

We don’t want to be stuck with you if you’re…well…rude. If we’re working in close quarters with you, we want you to be a cool person.

Your audition starts the second you enter the room to fill out your form. If you’re rude, even to the person giving you the form – believe me –  that information gets handed down. Be professional and polite.

Don’t forget you’re at an audition, even if it becomes laid back and conversational. 

We like our comedy auditions to be laid back. The reason? In comedy, you have to be feel comfortable enough to make mistakes.

Some of our auditioners seem to forget, because we joke around with them, that we are still on the other side of the table.

Auditioners can get too buddy-buddy with the casting director, and that is a huge mistake. While we want to work with cool people, we aren’t going to make any decisions based entirely on that – we’re still looking for talent and reliability. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen an auditioner make is getting too comfortable and saying to our group, when asked if he had seen us perform recently, that he loved one of our sketches, but didn’t understand a second one. Did your casting director really need to hear that you didn’t think a scene they wrote was funny? No. That didn’t help him in the long run.

Make a mistake? Move on.

Casting directors have a long day in front of them. Over 4 years, I have seen over a hundred auditions for Sketchual Misconduct. Current members will occasionally turn to me and joke about their audition, and quite honestly, I can’t remember most of them. Even the good ones. Chances are when you make a mistake, your casting director won’t hold it against you unless you hold it against yourself.

I’d even be willing to bet that most directors actually like to see you make a mistake. Reading the wrong line in a cold reading, telling a joke that doesn’t get a laugh, singing a wrong note…these are things that can happen to any of us when we’re nervous. What makes the director forget this happened is how you handle it. Embrace it, forgive yourself, move on. If you forget it, we will too.

Your audition might not be what you think it is.

Some auditions are sneaky. You might not realize how sneaky.

I’ve had some fun auditions where we had some auditioners play in a group and improv a scene. Everyone in that group tried to show off their funniest side, and be the star of that scene.

…But we aren’t always looking for stars. That exercise wasn’t to see how each person performed in the group. It was to see how they WORKED in the group. Did they command the stage? Did they follow and play ‘supportive team member’? Did they listen to others and try to incorporate ideas together? All of these parts are necessary to a key cast member. The director is trying to see who you are and what you’re capable of.

Did you take our direction?

Sometimes, this is what puts a meh-audition into the ‘yes’ pile. Like I said before, we don’t want to work with anybody who isn’t a nice person.

Taking our direction is extremely important in proving to us that you are going to be easy to work with. Did the casting director ask you to do the first part of your monologue a different way? Do it, and follow what they asked for as well as you possibly can. You might not know what the director is thinking, but they are thinking something. They might be picturing you in a different role, but their ability to project something onto you during your audition is important.

Did you try?

In sketch auditions, we’ll often ask our ‘auditioners’ to do an accent/impression, or something of the sort. Most of the time, we aren’t judging this by the quality of your performance here. We know we just threw something at you that you hadn’t prepared for the audition. What we want to see is that you tried. It could have been the world’s worst impression of Kim Kardashian eating cake with an elephant, but your confidence to give it a shot is what we cared about. The more a performer is willing to try when asked, the more we know we can push them when it comes to the real game.

How many times did you try?

Since we have held auditions annually, Sketchual Misconduct has seen some of the same auditioners more than once. They might not have gotten in the first time, but we give them a lot of credit when they come in the second time. We might not remember original auditions, but we will remember faces.

Coming in for another audition after you’ve been “rejected” just shows us that you are enthusiastic about the group and not crumbled by previous rejection. It takes serious balls to do this. As casting directors, we don’t forget that. If you’ve put in the time to improve your audition from the previous year, we will notice.

We’re nervous too.

What does your casting director have to be nervous about? They aren’t the one being judged!

…As it turns out, plenty. We’re nervous the perfect person for the role won’t show up. We’re nervous about the upcoming show we have to be prepared for. We’re nervous we’ll cast you and you’ll decline the part and we’ll be left trying to scramble to make the show work again.

So, there’s no need to be nervous for your audition when the person on the other side is just as nervous as you are. Go out and nail it.