Many major movies are filmed in big cities such as Los Angeles and New York. Whatever big city you are closest to, you should start by looking up the local film office. For example, if you search online for “Massachusetts State Film Office,” you should see a website like this.
Every state also has its own film office, which will have all the information you need about what is being filmed in that state, local auditions, etc. Keep reading for more helpful tips to nail your next audition.
How to Audition for a Movie: 6 Steps
1) Find Your Role
This is a necessary step for those interested in how to audition for movies.
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 the most appropriate auditions.
2) Find Smaller Productions
If you’re diving into film for the first time, you don’t necessarily have to shoot for the major, commercial films.
You might not 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’s like being on a film set.
If you’re a college student, you should also get involved in your school’s film department. Many students will need to make films for their majors. These won’t pay well, 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!
3) Find Background Work
If you’re wondering how to audition for a movie, you’ve probably already done some acting training or taken acting lessons. If so, don’t be be afraid to go for the big budget films! But films are being made every day, and they 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. The part may be small, but you never know – depending on your look and how you act on the film set, you could get bumped up into a featured or speaking role.
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 character type they will get in touch with you.
4) 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, and some of them even allow you to “audition” by submitting your materials online.
Your materials should include a headshot and acting resume, and perhaps a reel of video footage. With the industry changing so much, it’s easy to get headshots taken and get some film footage with YouTube, Vimeo, Vine, and so on.
5) Expect Competition at Auditions
At a film audition, you should expect a lot of other people auditioning for the same role as you. Sometimes the writer or director may be present in the room. Other times it will be interns from a local film office who will film a quick take and send it 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 they’ll give it to you on the spot. The casting team has many people to see, and are usually tired from auditions. If you’re wondering how to audition for movies in the best way: be prepared and don’t ask them many questions.
6) 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, and 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, so you’re probably wondering, how can I get in that union? The answer is: 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 a 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. Once you earn three waivers (three days on set), you become eligible to join.
However, there is a pricey initiation fee 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 that working your way through the film industry will take time. With hard work, patience, and persistence it will all pay off, and you will have fun doing so!
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