June 4, 2024

Reelarc logo

How to Audition for a Movie or TV Show

Do you dream of seeing your name in lights? Or at the start of a title sequence? Maybe you've wanted to be part of the film industry for a long time but had no idea where or how to start. You're not alone! Thousands of people try their hand at acting every year, but not everyone is as prepared as they can be. Before you can claim your spot on screen, you have to master the art of the movie and TV audition.

Auditioning isn't just about talent—it's about preparation, persistence, and a dash of luck. Whether you're a seasoned actor or a fresh face, understanding the audition process can make all the difference in your acting career.

So, ready to step into the spotlight? Let's delve into the ins and outs of how to audition for a movie or tv show and start your career out strong.

What is an audition?

Auditions are where casting directors assess whether you fit a specific role in a movie or TV show. Remember that wording—"whether you fit." Often, auditions are not about being "good enough." Yes, being a skilled actor certainly helps. Still, a casting director is also checking if your look is right for this particular job, if your availability fits shooting times, if your features work with other actors already cast, etc.

During an audition, casting directors will scrutinize your physical appearance, presentation, and acting abilities. This process is your chance to showcase your talent, and it's crucial to impress the casting team with your best performance.

Every audition is unique, but you'll typically perform a short scene or monologue. Sometimes this will be a cold read- meaning they give you the script (or "sides") just a few minutes before you are expected to perform them. Other times, you will be sent the sides ahead of time. It's best to memorize all (or as much as possible) of any scenes you're sent. This shows your commitment and memorization ability to the casting director, as well as frees you up not to have to hold a paper script. Remember- never share sides you're given online or with friends.

In some auditions, you may be asked to perform a monologue of your choosing. Make sure to select a piece that suits the character and genre you aim to play. (For example, don't prep a zany stand-up monologue for a dramatic period piece audition.) It's best to also choose a speech from a character who fits in or is near your age range.

Your performance of a scene or monologue gives the casting director a taste of your skill range and a glimpse of how you might fit the part. It's important to prepare thoroughly. Control what you can in every audition, and it will prepare you for what you cannot.

In addition to your performance, casting directors look at your acting resume and headshot. Therefore, you must involve yourself in various film projects – from student films to short films – to build a decent resume. Taking acting classes or working with an acting coach can improve your technique and increase your chances of getting that dream role. Invest in a professional headshot that presents you in a light befitting of the role you're auditioning for.

Finally, remember to dress appropriately for auditions. While you shouldn't dress in a costume, your clothing should reflect the character's spirit. If you're auditioning for a hardened steel mill worker, it won't make much sense to show up in a three-piece suit. If the show takes place on a snowy mountain resort, choose a chunky, cozy sweater over a sundress. Always be clean and presentable, never a caricature. Not only does proper dress demonstrate your understanding of the character, it also makes it easier for the casting director to envision you in the same role.

What different kinds of auditions are there?

There are several different types of movie and television auditions-

  • Traditional auditions occur in an audition room in front of the casting team. For larger auditions (think major films and network TV), you usually need an agent to get one of these slots. However, many independent films and smaller, non-union shows will look at self-submissions (actors who submit their information independently, without an agent or manager).
  • Open casting calls are public invitations to all actors, providing mass opportunities. You may have to wait a long time and may only be seen very quickly, but it's still possible to wow anyone sitting behind the casting table.
  • Self-tape auditions are also growing in popularity. For these, you record your performance and send the video footage to the casting director. This method can be especially advantageous if you find auditions in major cities hard to attend. It also allows you to give as many takes (performances of your audition) as possible and then choose your strongest to send in.

How do I audition for a movie?

Join Casting Sites

Discover roles fit for you by browsing casting sites or getting in touch with local casting directors. Large casting websites like Actors Access, Casting Networks, and Backstage have tons of postings for a large array of acting jobs throughout the country. You can often self-submit to these jobs and do not require an agent or manager. Casting directors will view your submission and respond directly to you.

Join Smaller Productions

Start with smaller productions like student films or independent short films. Beginning your acting career in local auditions for these modest film projects offers valuable advantages. Practicing in a less pressured setting hones skills builds up your acting resume, and familiarizes you with the audition process. You can also make important connections with directors, producers, and fellow actors early on in their careers.

Find Background Work

Practically all TV shows and movies need background actors. Background work is an excellent way to learn the ins and outs of a professional film set. Any time on set, no matter how small, helps you be more comfortable in front of a camera.

Moreover, embracing background work fosters even more connections with casting directors, film crew, directors, and other actors. Remember, in show business, every opportunity counts.

Keep an Eye Out for Audition Notices

Keeping a vigilant eye for audition notices is an ongoing task. Be proactive, regularly check for new listings, and use email alerts on your preferred audition site. Someone in your network may post on social media, or someone in an acting class you're in may have an in-person with a casting director. You never know where your next audition or acting job might come from! The more casting calls you attend, the more chances you give yourself.

Work Your Way Up to the Union

Becoming a member of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) is a significant step in an actor's career. SAG-AFTRA is a professional acting union that provides many benefits, including working protections and health insurance, but what stands out is its credibility in the industry. Building credits through smaller productions and background work paves the path toward the union. There's no rush, though! Once you join SAG-AFTRA, you cannot work on non-union projects. Most actors will not be a part of the union, but that's perfectly fine!

Stay in the know

Get the latest product and management insights.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

How do you audition for a movie with no experience?

Diving headfirst into the acting world, especially the movie industry can be daunting without prior experience. However, there are numerous ways to navigate the beginning of an acting career successfully. With the right prep work and patience, you can start nailing auditions and impressing casting directors like it's your job- and soon, it will be!

Network within the Industry

By attending industry events like Q&As, film premieres, and workshops, you can learn the ropes, receive audition tips and tricks, and leave a first impression on industry players (like a talent agent or casting director) that can truly help your career take off. Where do you find these events? Reelarc often hosts them virtually! Join our mailing list to make sure you never miss out.

You can also ask other actors what classes they've taken and liked. Google to find agent and casting director workshops near you- websites like Actors Connection are a good starting place.

Engage in Projects like Student Films or Short Films

Venturing into student films or short films offers invaluable practical experience in the initial stages of your acting journey. Their casting calls are usually open to amateurs and provide an ideal platform to make mistakes, learn, and grow comfortable on camera.

Sign Up for Acting Classes

Invest in acting classes from reputable acting schools and teachers. The right classes will make you a sharper, more agile actor — ready to respond to your scene partner, able to take a correction or note and apply it right away, and not afraid to experiment on camera. All these skills make a successful audition more likely every time.

And remember- a "successful" audition doesn't necessarily mean you land the role. It means you made a positive impression on the casting director and they want to call you back in the future.

Good classes make you better at cold reads, and they make you better at preparation. Acting until it becomes second nature to you improves your performance, comfort, and confidence in the audition room.

Create an Impressive Acting Resume and Headshot

Even without many acting credits under your belt, an up-to-date headshot and well-structured resume detailing classes, workshops, or any acting-related experiences are vital for a successful audition. Invest in professional-level photography and retouching for your headshots. Keep your resume clean, sleek, and easy to read. There's a standard format most actors follow for their resumes with basic physical descriptions, your past credits/work, any education or classes you've taken, and special skills you have (think juggling, playing hockey, speaking another language, etc).

Prep Your Self-Tape Set Up

As an increasing number of auditions are conducted online, it's important to streamline your self-tape audition process and invest in any gear you might need to make your submissions as professional as possible.

  • Backdrop — Some actors have purchased pop-up green screens or similar backdrops, but a non-cluttered, clean wall will also suffice.
  • Lighting — Natural light is great, but it's not always available! You don't need to purchase full-studio lighting. There are many affordable options online, and you can always use lamps you may have on hand. Your face should be well-lit and not in shadow. On the other hand, don't overlight yourself to the point where the camera can't fully pick up your face! Good lighting enhances your performance.
  • Camera — Your smartphone records footage that is nice enough for self-tapes. There is no need to buy an expensive, specific camera.
  • Appearance — Keep your hair and face clean with makeup that befits the character. What you choose to wear should also work for the role and enhance your natural appearance, but it shouldn't be so bold as to make you the star of the show. You want CDs to come away thinking about your performance, not what you wear.

Can Anyone Audition for a Movie?

Absolutely! Anyone can audition for a movie (and should!) no matter their experience level.

Casting directors sometimes even seek fresh talent, wanting to discover the next big thing through open casting calls or nationwide submissions. These moments are rare, but they happen. Casting sites are also open for anyone to make a profile on and start self-submitting to jobs.

The truth is, you don't need permission to start making your dreams a reality. If you want to audition, then do it! So, the question isn't "Can anyone audition for a movie?" but "What do you need to do to prepare for an audition?" Persistence, networking, and constant learning form the bedrock of a successful audition and an acting career.


You did it! You've learned all about what's needed to start auditioning for television and movies. Remember these highlights:

Join casting sites like Actors Access, Backstage, and Casting Networks to see possible auditions. Submit to roles that make sense for you as an actor. Check back regularly to find casting calls and self-submissions.

Work on smaller productions like student or short films. Also, apply for background work. These all provide valuable on-set experience.

Network at every job you get with the cast and crew. Find industry events to meet people and form connections there as well.

Invest in a high-quality headshot and resume, as well as a nice self-tape setup. These will improve your chances during an audition.

Take classes to hone your skills and expand your comfort in front of the camera.


Is there a fee to audition for a movie?

Typically, no. Investing in your craft, whether through classes, headshots, or networking events, is an essential part of the journey and will cost money, but you should never "pay to play." If someone is offering you a dream audition for a fee, then it's a scam, and we strongly recommend you walk away.

What are the biggest mistakes people often make in auditions?

Many people don't do enough research. You should know as much as you can about who and what you're auditioning for—what other projects have they cast? Did you enjoy a TV show or movie they worked on? What information about the source material do you know? This intel can greatly inform how you do in the audition room.

Another big mistake is not being familiar enough with your audition material. If you are sent sides beforehand, try your best to memorize them completely. It's a level of professionalism that casting directors respect and point in your favor. Constantly having to refer back to your paper script breaks your energy, focus, and chemistry—both in the room and on a self-tape.

Will I hear back about my audition results?

Most casting directors are very busy people. You likely will not hear anything after you audition unless they want you for the second round of auditions (a callback) or offer you the role.

Don't be discouraged if you don't get a callback or feedback. They may have loved you and can't wait to call you back again. You probably just weren't right for that particular part.

Don’t let your moment pass. Without quality demo reel footage.