Why That Casting Director Won't Look at You

Sara Glancy

  • Featured Columnist

If I could just get into that audition room—If I could just convince them to SEE me, I know I could make something happen!

We’ve all thought that, right? As actors, we tell ourselves that we want to be seen and heard. Holy hell, that’s ALL WE WANT.

Sarah 2.jpg

…And then we get in that room. Finally. And somehow that dialogue changes to:

Oh God, this is awkward. Is he watching me walk to the piano? I wish he’d look at my resume instead. Damn, these shoes are so loud! I sound like a Clydesdale. Let’s just get through this song and get out of here.  

And then we walk out of the room. Finally. And we lament to ourselves:

I didn’t make half the choices I meant to. Why couldn’t I get into my body?!?

So we try to comfort ourselves with:

Oh well, it’s not like he was watching me anyway. He was on his phone literally the whole time.

Does this sound familiar to anyone?

(Hopefully it’s not just me!)

Well, dear reader, I have a theory:

Maybe the Casting Director isn’t looking at you, because on some level you don’t want to be looked at.

Sure, it’s possible the CD is just a jerk who needs to catch up on a game of Candy Crush—but I seriously doubt it. I think it’s more likely that the people behind the table are picking up on those subtle (possibly unconscious) signals of “DON’T LOOK AT ME!”

So, where the hell are those coming from? Here are a few possible diagnoses, WebMD-style. (And, like WebMD, I STRONGLY encourage you to get a second opinion. I am a matchmaker, not a therapist.)

Diagnosis 1: You’re Underprepared:

If there is ANY aspect of your audition that you don’t feel totally prepared for, some part of you won’t want the casting director to watch that bit. Whether you’re unclear on what your objective is during the bridge of the song, or you’re unsure how to communicate your tempo to the pianist, you are going to shrink away from that part of your audition.

You don’t get to be selective about when they pay attention to you. You can’t ask them to tune out during the bridge but then be totally present for the coda.

Fortunately, this is a totally easy fix! Prepare your material. Prepare how you talk to the accompanist. Prepare how you prep yourself in the holding hallway. Don’t rehearse your material to death—but walk in that room knowing that you want them to watch every second.

Diagnosis 2: You’re Afraid to Get the Callback

This one is definitely more insidious and unconscious. But if you walk into the room thinking, “Oh God, if I nail this, they’re going to ask me to _______ (dance/sing legit/play guitar/ do a dialect/ do those sides where she cries on cue/etc),” you very well may sabotage yourself in that first audition.

And sure, some of this is a preparation issue. You want to make sure you’re keeping up with all the special skills on your resume. But at a certain point, we all have to deal with the reality that we can’t control everything. Yes, casting may ask to see an element of our audition package that is not as polished as we’d like. And at that point, we need to trust that casting directors are rarely interested in “perfect.” Perfect is boring. They’re looking for people.

I’m not saying you should go audition for A Chorus Line if you’ve never taken a dance class in your life—but don’t go sabotaging your audition for Oliver just because your cockney is a little rusty!

Diagnosis 3: You’re Afraid if You Go Big, You Might Fail

I bet you make big bold choices with your material all over your apartment. And I bet you kinda sorta commit to all of them in the room.

Because you don’t want to look like an idiot.

Guys… we’re actors. It is our job to look like idiots.

It’s our job to be vulnerable and open. And how the hell do you bring vulnerability into the room without bringing some element of risk?

Preparation is the key to feeling safe. Taking risks is the key to feeling vulnerable.   

Risk looking like an idiot.

Risk failing.

Is that really what you’re afraid of?

Or is it really Diagnosis 4 that ails you?

Diagnosis 4: You’re Afraid if You Go Big, You Might Succeed   

Thinking beyond the callback, is there some part of you that’s afraid you’ll actually get the part?

I know, that sounds absurd, but take a second to think about it.

Is there some small voice way in the back of your mind whispering, “If you get it, you’ll let them down. You can’t pull it off. They’d be making a mistake.

Or maybe there’s an even quieter voice even further back whispering the bigger fear:

“If you get it, you’ll be great. You’ll launch your career to new heights.”

And the terrifying conclusion to that thought:

“More people will want to see you.”

Maybe you don’t relate to this.

I didn’t until fairly recently, when I started noticing Diagnosis 4 creeping up in my freelancing career. (Bit of context: When I’m not doing the acting thing, I pay the bills as an audition rep coach under my superhero alter-ego “Audition Rep Matchmaker.”)

A couple years back, I launched my first ever webinar with Backstage University on how to find great audition material. It was my first time partnering with a company with such name recognition. It was a huge step for my business.

But as excited as I was, I also found myself experiencing dread as I saw my name plastered at the top of Audition Update. My stomach tied into knots when I received a blast email from Backstage with my headshot in it.

I felt exposed. Vulnerable. Visible.

And I realized that it wasn’t exactly an unfamiliar experience. It’s a sensation I’ve experienced in countless audition rooms, as well as every stage of my business’s growth.

In fact, if I’m being completely honest, I’m feeling that sensation right now as I submit this blog article.

Being seen is wonderful and terrible.

Let’s embrace it. There’s nothing wrong with being vulnerable and visible. In fact, it’s a good thing. It’s what we all ostensibly want to be in every audition room.

So go ahead: Prepare. Take risks.  Know that you are capable of surviving failure and embracing the discomfort of success.

They’re ready to see you now.

Are you ready to be seen?

Photo by Jessica Osber

Photo by Jessica Osber

Sara Glancy is an NYC actor and the founder of Audition Rep Matchmaker, a service that helps match actors with the audition materials that will book them jobs.