Exercise: What Makes A Good Audition?

by Kenji Maeda on August 27, 2009

Post image for Exercise: What Makes A Good Audition?

I was doing my usual browse across some websites people were sending me recently and came across a site for a film project called, The Baby Cliff.  The project, “a series of fictional comedy shorts,” is collaborative in nature.  The public has the opportunity to participate in three different ways:

  1. Vote on what lines to include in the script. (“Writer”)
  2. Submit an audition tape for some of their characters. (“Actor”)
  3. Vote on those audition tapes to help create a short list of the Actors. (“Casting Director”)

You can read more and participate with the project on their site (http://thebabycliff.com).  I’m bringing this up because I saw a valuable learning opportunity, particularly for you Actors out there, to take a look at some auditions and critique them with an objective eye.

I took a look at most of the auditions they had available and there’s a mixed bag of experience with those actors. It even looks like part of the marketing and promotion for this project was to set up a tent at a public event where guys and gals put themselves on tape.  Others submitted auditions using their own camcorder from home, web cams, and even some where the actors did the taping in an acting studio.

Despite the fact that the image or audio quality between one video to the next might be different, try to ignore the technical aspects and focus on the acting.

The Exercise

I’ve embedded the audition submissions that are available on their site along with the character descriptions for the character. I would encourage you to watch some of the auditions with inexperienced actors (and you will know which ones those are within a few seconds) just as much as you watch other ones.  You can learn a lot when you see what doesn’t work.  Then find the ones that do work and figure out why.

Some things you can look for:

  • Are they making strong choices?
  • Do you have an idea of who they’re talking to? The relationship between the characters?
  • Do you understand the general story of the scene?
  • Where’s their eye line? Is it working?
  • Do their actions/movements feel forced or natural? Too big or too small for the screen?
  • What’s working for you and what’s not?

Remember, this is an exercise on breaking down the components of an audition.  Not simply to say “Good Actor / Bad Actor.” Figure out what you need to work on.


Female, age 48, an angry mother of a lazy teenage boy. She’s just about given up and has a bone to pick with Storkie-man for glamourizing the world’s toughest job. If her energy wasn’t already spent, she might manage to slap a bra on her sagging breasts before heading out of the house.


Male, age 27, loves the action and the adrenaline rush he gets from his job as a bomb-tech. His mission, to save men everywhere from a lifetime sentence to the old ball and chain.


Male, age 35, a no-nonsense bomb-tech who knows he’s making a difference in the world. He sees himself as a mentor for his younger partner.

Did you discover anything for yourself after viewing those auditions? Let us know in the comments below.

You can also read our blog post: 7 Core Elements to Improve Your Audition

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Michael Coleman October 3, 2009 at 4:15 pm

I think there are a few recurring problems with many of these auditions —

Trying to say your lines in an interesting way and not really staying with the scene when you aren’t talking. Several of these actors go immediately to reading and prepping their next line after speaking instead of listening to what is being offered back by the reader.

Clear objectives are missing. Many people look awkward as they wait for the reader to finish so they can say their next important thing. A great audition should look exactly like a close up of a scene. You need a clear objective that you relentlessly pursue from the very beginning and you can’t stop until the end of the scene.

The business looks forced and planned. Don’t be “interesting” just do what your objective has you doing. When is the last time you tried that hard in real life to convey what you were doing?

A good audition should make me feel like a voyeur seeing real life happening not an audience member watching an actor tell a story. If I am aware – the magic didn’t happen.

You can tell a lot of the actors planned some really cool ideas at home and then tried to recreate them perfectly for the audition – unfortunately this attempt to have the perfect audition often supersedes the attempt to simply go after your objective. Sounds like it will be less interesting to watch but being interesting isn’t what we’re trying to do — we just want to be interested in pursuing our objective. That’s when the real magic happens.

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