If you’re anything like me, you walk out of the audition room head first into a hurricane of thoughts, particularly if it was something you were really excited about. As actors, we obsess over the smallest details, whether they noticed you said “this” instead of “that”, or you start listing all the things you wish you had done differently. Sit down in a room full of actors and you’ll realize you’re not alone.
Everyone has their own form of the classic tailspin, but the one thing that we can all agree on: it’s not healthy! This issue won’t go away overnight. Just as the tailspin is different for everyone, so too is the key to stopping it. Here are a few ideas to try in order to avoid sleepless nights of self-critique and to help you let it go.
1. Don’t Tell Anyone
Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself by telling everyone about your potential role.
It’s great to be super excited about a role and as much as we may want to tell everyone we know about our possible projects, it’s not always the best idea. While all the well wishes and positive vibes being sent your way are great up front, the inevitable follow up questions after the audition are something we all want to avoid (especially from non-actors who don’t necessarily understand the ins and outs of our career).
It’s great to have a supportive team backing you up, but the constant “Have you heard anything yet?” or “How did that audition go?” makes it tough to stop obsessing over what could have been or remaining positive.
2. Throw it Away
As soon as you walk out of the audition room, throw away the sides, delete the script and the email from your agent (or at least move it to a separate folder from your inbox). This way you won’t be able to read it over and over while fantasizing about booking the role. The best thing you can do is forget about it. If you get a callback or an offer, they’ll send everything over again anyway. There’s something quite cleansing about purging everything to do with an audition. It means that any further movement on it will simply come as a pleasant surprise.
3. Set a Timer
Thoughts and feelings are inevitable when it comes to the audition room, but we can’t let it take over the rest of our day (or in some cases our week). Set a timer on your phone for 5-10 minutes. No more. Allow yourself to reflect on what happened, first focusing on the things you liked about your performance then moving on to things you would have changed. Sometimes scribbling it down in a notebook can also help to release the thoughts. Once that timer goes off, tell yourself it’s time to set it aside and get on with the day.
Try to be firm with yourself on this time limit to practice mindfulness. If you find the thoughts keep coming back to forefront of your mind, try to steer yourself away from it. By training your brain to push away those thoughts, eventually it will learn to do it automatically.
4. Make Plans for Afterwards
Make sure you have plans for immediately after the audition to take your mind off of it.
The hours that directly follow an audition are the key time for the self-doubt to manifest itself. Make yourself busy by putting your attention elsewhere. If you don’t have to run right back to work, go see a movie or grab a bite to eat with a friend. Enjoy a relaxing coffee or tasty donut, rather than over-analyze the tone in the Casting Director’s voice when they said, “Thank you”, which leads me to my next point…
5. Treat Yourself
Regardless of whether you booked the role or not, the fact that you went in and did what you love most is an accomplishment in itself. Treat yourself by give yourself a little gift for getting into the room. Hundreds of other aspiring actors were passed over for that opportunity, let alone the role. Have that ice cream with an extra topping or buy that shirt you’ve been eyeing in the mall. When it comes to our job 95% of the time is spent training, preparing and auditioning, and today you put in a solid day’s effort, you deserve it!
6. Don’t Project
The human brain (or more specifically, an actor’s brain) has a tendency to blow things out of proportion (what can we say… we have a flare for drama). It always feels worse than it really was. The way that you perceived that experience in the room is going to be completely different than how those on the other side of the table perceived it. Unless you’re a mind reader and know exactly what they were looking for, you have no way to know what everyone else got from your performance, so don’t confuse your own thoughts and feelings with that of casting’s.
7. Stay off of IMDb
Don’t check up on the project to see who got the part! Why torture yourself?
In our industry, there could be hundreds of factors that led to the final choice, there’s no need to compare yourself to whoever got it. It only leads down a rabbit hole of questions you’ll likely never get an answer to.
8. Don’t Hassle your Agent
If they hear anything, they will contact you.
Agents have many clients to attend to and it’s in their best interest for you to book work. Any news that you need to know, trust me…they will reach out to you. They are your agent, not your therapist. The more time they spend emailing you about this project, the less time they’re spending finding you that next opportunity.
9. Focus on a Hobby
Having a non-industry hobby can be a great way to step outside of your “actor” brain for a while. Find something completely different that makes you happy or at least keeps you occupied or entertained for a while. Allow yourself to mentally check out of the industry and all the competition that goes with it. I have a friend who learns languages to take her mind off of acting, while others play instruments, cook or go to the gym. The list is endless, and who knows, you may find another passion you never knew you had.
10. Be Realistic
With each audition, our imagination is stirred up with fantasies about what this could lead to. The idea that our “Big Break” is right around the corner. The feeling that you could “steal the show” with that one line and be written into the show for good. Dreaming big is what propels us forward and makes us great artists, but it can sometimes be helpful to think more realistically about the opportunities we’re going up for. It means you won’t attach as much weight and meaning to the outcome.
Treat each audition as a puzzle piece getting you one step closer to seeing your dream role. It’s a chance to do something you love in the audition room. Time on set should really just be a bonus.
11. Put Things into Perspective
Did you know that Eddie Redmayne completely blew his audition for The Hobbit, or that Meryl Streep was passed up for the original King Kong? Check out this article from Rappler.com full of actors that have had horrible audition experiences. I don’t think it’s keeping them awake at night any longer. Can you imagine if Meryl had carried those comments with her going forward, or worse thrown in the towel all together? Some of the greatest stories ever told on screen would have been drastically different.
There will be a story that you were meant to tell on screen. Don’t let this audition cloud the opportunities waiting just ahead for you in the next audition room.