Being a professional working actor means having to interview for nearly every job opening that comes your way. Auditioning is the doorway into this process.
It usually consists of at least two rounds, more if it’s for a series regular. The process ranges from easy to grueling. It may start with a casting director and their assistant and end with a room full of anyone from the director, producer, client, marketing team, etc.
At least, that’s how it used to be before 2020.
Now, we actors help with the auditioning process by submitting “Self-tapes.” We have become casting directors, directors, producers, and editors as we analyze the breakdown, storyboard or sides, set up lights, background, and camera, make adjustments, re-position said camera, and do take after take until we’ve landed on what resonates with our interpretation.
Even many callbacks are in the privacy of our own space, connected to the director via Zoom or the like.
The competition in the acting world is so immense that it’s considered an honor just to be selected to audition. Because the rejection rate is usually much greater than jobs booked, acting coaches and casting directors have touted the phrase, “Book the room.”
Booking the room can be defined in different ways:
You gave your all, leaving with no regrets.
You were present, you listened, and you reacted honestly.
You gave them what they wanted, what they were looking for, or didn’t know they were looking for.
You had a fulfilling experience as an actor because you were immersed in the character.
You touched the people in the room, and there was some connection, some response.
It’s almost like you just gave a fantastic private performance for a select few, and the world will never know that you did this free of charge.
But how do you know if you’ve booked the room if you haven’t booked the job? Answer: you don’t.
Your agent may tell you that you’re in the running or that you were 2nd choice, but getting feedback from an audition is incredibly rare, especially when the room is your bedroom at home with only a phone staring back at you.
God knows that your next paid gig could be dozens of auditions away, so should this be your end goal? Is this what is supposed to fulfill you as an actor? Bread crumbs from an audition?
It’s not like booking the room is a terrible thing to say or that some positive things can’t come from it. We all need motivation to keep up morale and continue doing our best.
But it strikes me as still being very focused on me. My need to “sell” myself as the character. My need to get some stamp of approval. I focus on that proverbial question, “Did I give them what they want?”.
I like to think of auditioning, instead, as a storyteller. Auditions consist of such a small part of a larger story that we often forget that we are a missing piece from that puzzle. I’d like to take my mind off of myself for a minute and off of the people in the “room” as well.
I’d like to enter the world of my character and explore. Explore and navigate within the confines of the story I’m given and simply serve the story.
I’d like to forget how much is riding on this audition and how it could help me pay my bills.
I’d like to forget that too many opinions and variables go into the decision-making process that I will never be able to control.
I’d like to take that self-tape or that in-person audition and make it my story.
And I’d like to string all these auditions together and make it part of a larger story. One that leads me to decide if I want to keep taking the bread crumbs, hoping that this will lead to a better meal, or if I want to continue to be the casting director, director, and producer and create my own stories.