The 3 Things Casting Directors Are Looking For

Abraham Lincoln gave you the best auditioning advice ever...if you were paying attention.

He said “give me 6 hours to chop down a tree and I would spend the first 4 sharpening my axe.” He’s talking about showing up prepared for the task.

Think about how this affects what is arguably the most important part of your career: the audition. Being prepared is not simply about knowing your lines.

You have to know what the decision makers (the casting director) is looking for. They have a very specific set of criteria and are highly trained in spotting 3 skills during your audition.

Do you know what they are?...

It’s not enough to simply do a good job and have a good audition. Casting Directors are looking to check 3 boxes. Did you do A, B, C?

If so then you will make it to the next round in the audition process. In fact I have seen actors make giant career leaps, overnight, simply by focusing on these 3 things.

There are so few actors that Casting Directors can check all 3 boxes for, that those that do, can end up being cast immediately. No callback. Nothing!

I’ve even seen actors go in to read for bit part. Because they fulfilled all three categories, they ended up with a major role in the production.

This means you should put a lot of focus into those 3 things that every casting director is looking for. They are:

  1. Your ability to act in the moment
  2. Your ability to react in the moment
  3. Natural eye movements

When CDs measure your ability to act in the moment, they are gauging how “in your head” you are. When you are anticipating the next line, it is blatantly obvious. It degrades your performance and Directors don’t want any of this on set.

Casting Directors measure this in a couple of ways. Part of is by observing how your limbs move. If you’re exaggerating those movements because you feel the scene calls for it, it’s obvious to the audience.

If they ask you to read again, and you repeat the same movements and maintain the same pattern of inflection in your voice and delivery, this is a dead giveaway that you are not acting in the moment at all.

Something that directors say about great actors is “she never does the same take twice,” meaning that no two takes are delivered the same way.

This is because you simply cannot repeat something in the exact same way, if you are acting in the moment. Your mind and body will alter things to a degree, involuntarily.

Practice being in the moment by closing your eyes and clearing your mind before beginning a scene. After you finish, close your eyes again and playback the scene in your mind. This time, scramble the visual as if it were an old VHS tape run amok.

This will clear your previous take from your mind, so you can start fresh.

CDs gauge your ability to react in the moment in much the same way as this, except the process is reversed. There’s a difference in listening to the actor that is speaking, and waiting for him to finish so you can get to your line.

This too degrades a performance and it’s difficult for an actor to self-judge whether or not they are doing this. You should ask a friend to read some scenes with you and tape yourself in a close shot so that you can clearly see your reactions.

The same principle about changing your performance with each take still holds true.

After you finish a take, do the scramble technique again to ensure that you start over fresh on the next take.

The third thing that CDs are looking at is your eye movements. If they dart around the room when they shouldn’t or if they are in a dead stare when they shouldn’t be, you likely will never hear from Casting again.

Pay particular attention to this. It is usually an after thought but the eyes are the window to the soul.

So, if your eyes are not connecting to the dialogue and the action in the scene, your character will not come to life.

Most actors deliver one dimensional performances, even though they do the hard work of building a character story. The reason is that nobody teaches the 3 criteria that Casting Directors are looking for and they happen to be the 3 key things that bring characters to life.

CDs can sometimes watch a reel half a dozen times. They do this when the actor is good...really good and the CD is looking to see whether they meet the 3 criteria before calling them in to read.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a good or even a standout performance is enough. If you want to have long term success in the industry, you must focus on the 3 criteria. After all, it’s what CDs are looking for anyway.

The truth is that, if you can’t get in the room, then most of this doesn’t matter.

Here’s how I can help with that.

Give yourself the best chance at success. When your agent submits you for roles, casting will look into you. If they don’t like what they find, then your headshot is simply tossed into the No Pile.

Make sure your industry reputation matches your goals.

Now that you are prepared to knock any audition or performance out of this world, it is your moral duty to book as much as possible.

Get your talent out to the world where it belongs, instead of keeping it inside.

This all starts with getting into as many auditions as possible.

Do this and I’ll...

See you at the top,