What does it take to audition for a movie and make it to the big screen? Here, acting teacher Liz T. shares six important tips for success…
Are you an actor interested in learning how to audition for a movie? Now is the time to get started! Many major movies are filmed in major cities such as Los Angeles, New York, and London, and now even smaller cities are starting to boom with filming. Whatever cities you are closest to, research the local film office. Every state also has its own film office, which will have all the information about what is filming in the state, auditions, and so on. To find yours, a simple Google search usually works. For example, if you search for “Massachusetts State Film Office”, you should see a website like this.
Find Your Role
For most films, it may sound superficial but looks really are everything! You will need to try to assess which characters you could play on film. For example, do you look like a high school student? Could you portray a daughter, or a sister? Or could you play the dreamy boyfriend? Think of all the different character possibilities you could portray, and start looking for auditions! And when you see an audition notice for your character type, audition!
Find Smaller Productions
If you are diving into film for the first time, you don’t necessarily have to try for the major, commercial films. You probably don’t realize it, but whatever city you are in there are many independent and student films being created and filmed all the time! This is a great way to start out, and see what it is like being on a film set! If you’re a college student, I also encourage you to get involved in your school’s film department. Many students will need to make films for their majors. These won’t really pay, but it’s a great way to start learning about film, and how to act on film. Also, low-budget independent films and short films are a great way to get a speaking part!
Find Background Work
If you have done your acting training, maybe taken some acting lessons or classes, and want to pursue it even further, don’t be be afraid to go for the big budget films! Films are being made everyday, and usually need tons of extras. Extra or background work is fun – you will learn so much about film, get a decent paycheck, and perhaps even be featured on film! Having done extra work a lot myself, I thoroughly enjoy it, and have worked with some amazing directors and actors. The part may be small, but you never know – depending on your look, and how you act on the film set, and being at the right place at the right time, you could get bumped up into a featured or speaking role. I have seen this happen a number of times!
If you want a speaking role, or a main role in a film, doing extra work is essential before you can hit these goals. Extra work will help you become comfortable on camera, get used to the terminology, and learn how a movie is made. You may or may not need to audition for extra work. I encourage you to research online for local casting directors – try searching for something like “Background Casting Directors” and a list should come up near your city. You then can register to have your headshot and resume on file, and if they have a role open for your type they will get in touch with you. You may or may not have to pay to register for them.
Keep an Eye Out for Audition Notices
Many audition notices are posted online on sites like Playbill, Backstage, Actors Access, and Casting Networks. Some of these trade websites require a monthly fee to subscribe to, and some of them even allow you to “audition” by submitting your materials online, rather than going in person. Your materials should include a headshot and acting resume, and perhaps a reel of video footage. With the industry changing so much these days, it’s easy to get headshots taken and get some film footage with YouTube, Vimeo, Vine, and so on.
What to Expect at an Audition
At a film audition, expect a lot of other people auditioning for the same role as you. There is going to be a lot of competition. Sometimes the writer or director may be present in the room, or it could be interns from a local film office, who will film a quick take and send it out to LA for more consideration. No matter who is in the room, you should always remain professional and courteous at all times. A film audition will usually consist of you reading lines from the actual movie, say with another actor, who they are also considering for a role. Sometimes you will have seen the script before, and other times right on the spot they will give it to you! The casting team has many people to see, and are usually tired from auditions, so you’ll want to make their job easy for them – being prepared and not asking too many questions is the way to go!
Work Your Way Up to the Union
Working in film and TV, you will eventually need to be part of the union, which is called SAG/AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild, and American Federation of TV and Recording Arts). The union will make sure you are paid fairly, have health insurance, are not working under unethical circumstances. Many of the main roles and speaking parts in major films are cast with actors represented in the union, and usually only actors in the union can audition for that role. If you are not in that union, you are then considered non-union. Non-union actors are paid less, and some movies that need 1,000 actors will hire non-union actors only. So now you are probably wondering, how can I get in that union? It will take some time, work, and dedication!
You will need to do extra work for a few years before getting into the union. If you audition for a film as non-union actor, and are offered a union role right away, the production will grant you the opportunity to join the union. No one can just join, you have to earn your way up! Also by doing extra work, sometimes you can earn “waivers,” which are given when the role is meant for a union person, but they cannot possibly find a union person to fulfill it. For example, if they need a set of identical twins on set! Each day you work on set, you will be given a waiver, and once you earn three waivers (three days on set), you become eligible to join! Hooray! All your hard work has paid off! However there is an initiation fee of approximately $3,500 to join, and once you join you can’t do work that is not covered by a SAG/AFTRA contract, meaning you can’t do non-union work.
Knowing these tips for how to audition for a movie is your first step, but keep in mind working your way through the film industry will take time. But with hard work, patience, and persistence it will pay off, and you will have fun doing so. As always, best of luck!
Liz T. teaches online singing, acting, and music lessons. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M in Vocal performance and currently performs/teaches all styles of music, including Musical Theater, Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country. Learn more about Liz here!
Photo by Nic’s events