auditions

4 Essential Poses for Actor Headshots

Every actor needs headshots, and often it’s a good idea to have more than one look or pose. But which poses?

Headshot
When getting your headshots done, it is very important to be aware of your everyday look, your “types” for future auditions, and the goal behind getting these photos taken in the first place. Headshots can be expensive, but they’re worth every penny if you get them done right.

First and foremost, make sure you sleep well the night before your photo shoot, and make sure you arrive early enough to be fully relaxed and ready to shine!

Headshot

Poses will vary depending on what you want to play and the career you are targeting. But the following essentials are some go-to poses that may help you get more auditions:

  1. A smiling pose: It is key that you genuinely smile for at least one of your poses. If smiling doesn’t come naturally to you, make yourself as comfortable and relaxed as possible. If it helps you to lean casually against a wall, or stand on your toes, do it! And remember: smile with your entire body!
  2. An everyday pose: Usually when someone tells you to “act casual” you struggle to do anything but. However your casual, everyday pose — the look you might have if someone saw you lost in thought or reading your phone — says a lot about you and your screen presence.
  3. An emotional pose: Explore what you know is your most challenging emotion. Treat your photo session as it’s an audition, or even a scene, and don’t hold back. Feel free to be vulnerable, loud, and truthful. Even if you don’t think this will play well for photo stills, there’s a very good chance a talented photographer will capture a few perfect moments for you. Get intimate with the lens.
  4. A neutral pose: A neutral pose is what it sounds like — a resting, unemotional look. You might think this is the same as your everyday look, but for most people, the two poses can be very different. Unlike your everyday pose, which is you out of your own head and acting naturally, a neutral pose usually means you’ll need to actively contort your muscles and cancel any emotions on your face. Become a blank slate that casting directors can fill with their own ideas for the role. Remember: neutral doesn’t mean natural!

Headshot

There are countless expressions that fall on the spectrum between these poses (and many  that are completely out-of-the-box.) Explore them all, practice in the mirror until your face is numb and you’re sick of looking at your face. The work will pay off and soon acting for your headshot photographer may just turn into acting for a film or stage director!

If you’re interested in taking classes at NYFA’s acting school you can find more information here.

4 Ways Movie Casting is Different From TV Casting

With television’s creativity and talent blossoming in recent years, it’s becoming more usual to see A-List actors and big budgets gracing the small screen. In terms of production value, there’s not a lot to distinguish a show like Game of Thrones from major theatrical releases. Even so, casting for film and television can make different demands on an actor. Just as on-camera acting differs from stage acting, television acting (and hence casting) is different from that of casting for film … and even within television, there is a are a variety of factors casting directors have in mind.

We’ve created this list to help you make intelligent decisions when you get called for your next big audition.

  1. In film, the script is complete.

Sure some films will demand improvisation and require some rewriting during production, but in general the outcome of the film is determined long before an actor is called to audition, which means that the director and producers have a good idea of what they want for the part.

  1. Television scripts are waiting to be written.

On the other hand, television — and in particular television pilots — are an opportunity for actors to create a role, and your personality will at least in part determine the arc of the character as the show enjoys years of success! The viewers will be tuning in to see you, and the writers will be writing for you, so your personality needs to shine through in the audition.

  1. Not all television casting is created equal.

Of course, even casting for pilots in prime time shows is different than for a recurring role in an established show and different again for casting for a guest in a single episode.

Casting director Marci Phillips lays it out in The Present Actor: “One And Done Episodic roles are trickier. When we’re casting Series Regulars, we’re looking for Stars. This usually isn’t so when we’re looking to cast the rest of the episode. With an Under-5 or small Co-star TV role, you are usually there for exposition. You are there to serve and support the story, so they don’t necessarily want someone unique or fascinating unless that’s what the role specifically calls for.”

  1. Network casting vs. cable.

Cable shows have become increasingly filmic in recent years, and hence the performances of the actors more nuanced. Scenes are allowed to unfold without regards to commercial breaks, so it’s important to think about the kind of show you’re auditioning for: network or cable.

As this article at Cast It Talent suggests, network performances tend to be more condensed: “Television programs are built around commercial breaks, and to make sure you don’t change the channel, that’s when the victim tells the detective they know who the killer really is. A dramatic pause, music cue, and the camera slowly inches closer to the detective’s astonished/puzzled/worried face. Cut to commercial.”

Sound confusing? The only way to really grasp the differences is to perform many scenes and practice auditioning for a variety of roles. The New York Film Academy (NYFA) is a great place to learn the subtle and not-so-subtle differences in technique required for film and television acting, so that, when you get to your big-break audition, you will nail it.

Ready to learn more about acting for the screen? Check out our acting programs.

Unexpected Places for Finding Your Next Monologue

Whether you act primarily in theatre or on camera, there will come a time when you are asked to perform a monologue. Instead of dusting off that old piece you’ve been performing for years, or turning to a book of monologues that every other actor you’re up against is also clutching, why not look for something fresh? Not only will it be more engaging for you, but an unexpected monologue will be more likely to impress and delight that important casting director or agent.

How to avoid the expected:

Of course there are no hard and fast rules in auditioning — what works for one actor, casting director, agent, and so on, will likely vary vastly. But in general, it’s probably a good idea to steer clear of overdone monologues. If the person you’re auditioning for starts mouthing the words with you, it may prove disheartening.

So perhaps you might check in with the lists of overdone monologues at MonologueAudition.com, before you commit.

Look to your favorite films:

Sometimes actors pick monologues that are overdone because they feel like only a classic scene will prove one’s talents. But pretty much every movie has a scene when someone talks for a minute or two — and that’s a monologue. It’s often an important moment in the story when the character is wanting something desperately from the other character and in the process they reveal their most private feelings.

We often don’t notice monologues as such because they are in the context of conversation. If the conversation is interesting, you’ll not notice that one person has had center stage for a minute or two. Try it! Watch any movie you love, and pay attention to the key scenes. There will likely be a monologue in there!

And never fear, if the interlocutor interjects with an “mm hmm,” or “right on,” you can just accept that kind of encouragement as nonverbal, or simply cut it out completely.

So the first thing to remember is that monologues can be buried in plain sight, and the second thing to remember is that you can often find a good one simply by doing a little editing.

 

Don’t limit yourself to plays and screenplays:

In this persuasive article called Why You Should Have 20 Monologues, Karen Kohlhaas offers some examples of unexpected places to look for monologues — including interviews with famous writers, artists, astronauts, or even everyday people who might be in the news or interviewed over the course of a documentary. But she reminds us, “Make sure you end up with a clear beginning, middle, climax and end.”

Importantly, Kohlhaas urges actors to embrace the challenge. “Looking to someone else to choose material for them puts actors in a passive position — which they are in too often in this business!”

It might take a little more work to look for monologues outside the monologue sites and books, and to do a little editing to make them right, but the process will likely make that monologue meaningful for you and special for your audience.

In what unexpected places have you found your best monologues? Let us know in the comments below! Ready to learn more about acting? Enroll at the New York Film Academy’s Acting School today.

How To Prepare For A General Audition

If you’ve read our guide to finding an audition, you know hundreds of these auditions are posted online every day.

Once a year, most cities host a cattle call audition session that lasts for days and includes dozens of theater companies and hundreds of actors. In Seattle there’s the TPS Generals, in San Francisco they have the TBA General Auditions, and in Toronto they have the TAPA Generals. The various acronyms are not important, but what is important is the preparation, because general auditions are a little bit different than regular, invitational auditions.

What makes an Audition General?

Generally, auditors narrow the field of actors before they begin the audition process. They have characters in mind for the play or film they are casting and use those character types to select actors that might fit. If you’ve read our guide to finding an audition, you know hundreds of these auditions are posted online every day. In contrast, general auditions allow anyone, of any skill level or type, to audition, usually for a small fee.

The benefit of general auditions is the exposure. Because they are planned far ahead of time by a reputable organization, general auditions attract attention from theatre companies large and small who are searching for talent. In many cases, the audition room will contain film producers and agents as well.

What to Expect at a General

Actors typically sign up, pay their fee, and receive an audition time and place. The most important thing is to show up on time, ready to go. The time will probably be odd as they are scheduling auditions back to back, all day long. If something happens and you cannot make the audition, be sure to cancel in advance so you don’t look like a flake.

When you arrive, there will be a line. It’ll be full of actors of different ages and looks, unlike most auditions. You will get in line and wait. When you are on deck, you will be shuttled into an empty room and then you will be summoned to the audition. You will walk out on stage and have hundreds of eyes silently staring at you. People will scribble on their pads. They may yawn, because it’s a long day for everyone and you are just one of the hundreds of actors on the auditor’s list which has its advantages and disadvantages.

How to Prepare

Most importantly, take the time to prepare and be aware of the audition rules. Generals usually have a strict time limit around two minutes and actors must prepare appropriately. That is enough time to perform two, short, well-rehearsed monologues that show type and range.

Choose your audition pieces carefully. Avoid monologues that are overdone or contain offensive language. The overarching goal is to make a bunch of strangers like you, so try to make them feel happy and entertained. Your two audition pieces should be specific to your type and specialty. If you are a Shakespearean actor, do your best Shakespeare. If you aren’t, do a couple contemporary monologues. Whatever you choose, make sure you are comfortable and confident, because it will rub off on the auditors.

Take the time to thoroughly prepare for the audition. Read the entire play, research any words you do not know, and analyze your monologues intensely. Make interesting, motivated choices with your actions and words. At a general audition, the audience is full of professional artists who know good acting when they see it. Strong choices are an indicator of preparation and confidence, two qualities that casting directors want in their talent.

Remember, a general audition is an audition for the future. The audience is looking for type and ability to act. It is the opportunity to earn an invitation to audition for plays in the upcoming season so relax and hit it hard, you have nothing to lose. And, if you do mess it up, you’ll be forgotten in minutes and have the chance to make up for it next year.

Learn more about the School of Acting at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

How to Prepare for a Dance Audition: Eight Keys For Success

Auditions are a fact of life for the dancer. They are your chance to show your skills and talent to a panel of judges. Whether you are auditioning for college, a dance company, or an entertainment position, they can feel overwhelming to prepare for. Here are some tips to help get you on the right track.

1. Practice Regularly

Take dance classes in different styles consistently. During your classes, take your training seriously so that your technique is in peak form. Perform each combination in class to its fullest potential and take corrections in stride, employing them immediately. This will help condition your body and mind to the rigors of the audition world.

Know what style of dance you excel in, and then try something completely different. You never know when a choreographer is going to throw some ballet into a hip-hop routine these days. Versatility is a sought after quality in a dancer.

It also helps to take new classes regularly; that way you are continually testing your mental ability to pick up choreography quickly.

2. Gather Your Information

Be informed about what you are auditioning for. Are you auditioning for a Swan Lake role, or a music video backup dancer?

Learn as much as you can about the role or company you are auditioning for beforehand. Find out if there is a fee to audition and be sure to bring it with you. Then, find out if you need to bring or submit any documents. If the audition requires a resume and headshot, start to prepare the required documents.

Make sure your resume highlights your strengths and recent accomplishments, and includes your name and phone number. Also be sure to mention where you have trained, who you have studied with, and performance experience.

Your headshot should be a professional photograph. Some auditions may also require a full body photo. They may require you to apply and send this information in advance; others may want you to bring printed copies that they can keep.

3. Cross Train

Become a stronger dancer by cross training.

Increase your cardio health through running, biking, or swimming. Lift weights to increase your strength for partner work. Do yoga or Pilates to stretch, strengthen your core, and focus your mind. Be patient to find what works for you.

This will help you get through a long audition. Cross training also keeps you in physically good shape, so that the judges are seeing your best self when you audition.

4. Be Healthy

Get plenty of sleep in the week and night prior to your audition.

Maintain a plentiful and balanced diet. Focus on eating whole foods rather than processed foods as much as possible, especially the night before and day of the audition. Have a good, healthy, and filling meal the night before your audition, but don’t overdo it.

Eat a light meal an hour or so prior to your audition. This is very important so that you can function to your highest ability when auditioning. Drink plenty of water regularly.

5. Dress Appropriately

Be smart about knowing what you are auditioning for. A ballet role is going to want to see you in leotard, tights, ballet slippers, or pointe shoes. A hip-hop role will allow you to express your personality through your outfit.

If appropriate, wear something that helps you stand out in the crowd. Be edgy, but, keep it clean and neat. Inquire if you have any questions about the dress code. Bring the correct dance shoes as well.

6. Be Prepared for Anything

This may mean choreographing a short solo piece, participating in a group class, or performing an improvisation.

Find out if the audition will require a solo, and prepare by choreographing in advance. You can choreograph it yourself or have someone else choreograph it on you if you are more comfortable with that. Make sure your choreography suits the style of the audition and also shows off your technique and artistic ability. Practice your solo regularly.

This also means to bring back up supplies such as hair bands, bobby pins, band-aids, extra water, other dance shoes, knee pads, or anything else you think you might need.

7. Arrive Early

Give yourself time to check-in and warm up. A good, thorough warm up is essential to any dancer being able to perform at their best. Take time to center yourself, stretch, and move, even if they are giving you a warm up in the audition.

This time will also help orient you to the studio space. If you start to feel nervous, take a few deep, slow breaths to calm yourself down.

8. Be Positive

Remain lighthearted and natural if you begin to feel nervous at all. Channel your nerves into enthusiasm for the choreography.

The more you can allow your talent to shine through your dancing ability, the closer you will be to landing the job! Be there for yourself and your desire for the job.

There is no need to compare yourself to others, so leave your judgment at the door. Be optimistic in the time leading up to the audition and bring that passion into the studio with you. Be yourself, relax, and have faith in your abilities.

When the time comes to audition, focus your mind on the present moment rather than what the results will be.

Auditioning is a skill that should be practiced often and will improve over time. Remember to learn what you can from both good and bad audition experiences. Remain hopeful in yourself and dedicated to your craft to continuing growing as a dancer and performer.

Following these tips to prepare for a dance audition will give you the confidence you need to succeed. And remember…you have already done most of the work through your training!

Image Source: Lowell Hendrix

How To Submit To An Audition Notice Via Email

Author: Glynis Rigsby, Chair, Acting Department, New York Film Academy

Casting Notices

From personal experience, professional casting notices are well thought out and built specifically to streamline the process for those filtering submissions. An easy way to make sure that your submission is immediately dismissed is to ignore instructions in the casting notice, so READ CAREFULLY.

1. FOLLOW DIRECTIONS. In a profession in which taking direction is a necessary skill, it is imperative that you demonstrate this immediately. If there are no instructions for the subject line of your email, it should include the name of the character and your name: Submission for Caroline by Samantha Potter.

2. If the reply address comes with a contact name, make sure you address that person in your email and make absolutely sure that you use both the right gender (Ms. Brandon Marie Miller) and the correct spelling. Again, these small details give potential employers a sense of who you will be in a casting session and on set. Also give a brief(!) description of why you would be a good fit for the project or what makes you eager to join this production team. Make sure you send this from an address that you check often. If you will be away from email, provide another means of contact like a cell phone number. Be sure to include your name and a warm but professional closing such as “Thank you” or “Best regards”.

3. The body of your email should reiterate your name and the role you are submitting for, preferable in the form of a short, polite note:

Please find attached materials submitted for the role of Caroline in THE BEAST STALKS ITS PREY. I have admired the work of Director Tony Souza for many years, particularly in the series WHEN ROME BURNS and believe that my experience as a zoologist would be an asset to the role.

Best regards,
Samantha Potter

4. Attach a headshot and resume to your email. You may ALSO provide a link to additional materials and content, but do not expect casting office staff to go the extra mile to retrieve your materials. The headshot should look like you but if you have a new look that reflects a significant change, you can send a second photograph to show this. You should be fully clothed in both photographs. Headshots should be in .jpg format and viewable in the body of the email. Do not attach pictures larger than 400 X 500 pixels. 300 X 400 is even better. The file name should be simply your full name: first_last.jpg. If you send more than one picture, simply add the number 1 and 2 to the file name. If you have a long and complex first or last name, simplify by replacing your first name with an initial. Long, complex file names can complicate the process and crash browsers. Your name should appear at the bottom of the image and be readable. This will help the casting staff if materials are separated.

5. It is recommended that you submit your resume as a .pdf to preserve formatting. The .pdf can have the same file name as the headshot since the file type is different (jameson_jones. pdf and jameson_jones.jpg). This will also help if the files become separated. Resumes should fit to one page. If you have additional credits, list them as “available upon request”.

6. Your email address should reflect your professional self and not include graphic or unprofessional language or ideas.

7. Refrain from asking questions that are addressed in the original post.

8. DO NOT submit if you are:
– Unavailable for the dates of the project
– SAG/Aftra and the project is non-Union
– So significantly different from the description that your casting would change the nature of the story. For example: a 24-yr old actress submitting for a 68-yr old grandmother. Casting notices are written specifically to filter submissions and ignoring those filters will not endear you to anyone in the casting office.