How to prepare for a last minute audition

These tips put into practice will fast track your process for getting into character for a last minute audition!

#1 Instantly Print Your Script

Most Actors see they have an audition and put it off until the last minute. But you’re going to print out the script they sent you, straight away. A physical copy is so helpful. It means you can take it to your day job, to dinner, or on the bus and begin your process of working on it.

#2 Instinct Map

Next, you are going to do an initial read and make what I call an “instinct map”. Write down any ideas, questions and insights. Before using any other tools, turn inward and see what ideas just come naturally from the script. Don’t jump straight to strict methodologies—this is a big mistake. You will be amazed at what you’ll find if you begin with your own instincts.

#3 Read, read, read

If they have sent a script, or brief of any kind, READ IT! You are going to do your best to read as much of the source material as possible. But, here’s the thing… You are only going to read as much as you can without it coming at the cost of script preparation. The reality is sometimes you just can’t read the entire script. However, the more you know about the context of the material, the better.

Quick Tip: If you are really pushed for time but have a script, prioritise the scenes leading up to yours, or the ones your character is featured in. These will be most helpful with your script analysis.

#4 Tone Analysis

So you’ve printed your scene, laid out some initial thoughts, and read as much of the source material as possible. You should now have a good sense of the piece, but still need to do some tone analysis. Understanding the tone of the piece and “finding the world” is vital. Is it a comedy? Dark comedy? Mystery? Drama? Pilot?

Quick Tip: To help investigate the style/tone, look up the Writer, Director or Creative Team and this will help.

#5 Unfamiliar Words/References

Next, we want to look up unfamiliar words and references. There is always at least one thing an Actor is confused about in a script. Not only do you need to look these up, you have to find meaning and connection, for all the images and references in the script. Circle all the people, objects, places and events in your script (P.O.P.E.) and find a personal and specific connection with every single one.

#6 YOU are the character

Especially when time is of the essence, don’t focus too much on creating a complex character. Stop over-thinking the character aspect of the audition and make choices based on you. You may have to consider the accent and physical side of the character, but other than that see how personal you can make it. Don’t try to find the character in you. Find YOU in the character.

#7 Beats

One tool we recommend using, even if you have limited time, is beats. Carve the script into “units of action”. Very simply: whenever there is a change of energy or a new tactic, you change beats. We do this because we want VARIETY. We want to see a character working towards something, and responding organically to any obstacles in their way. The main thing we want to avoid is our performance getting stuck in a similar mood or energy throughout.

#8 Why?

Other than beats, when we are in a rush, we aren’t going to be able to throw every acting tool at the text. Instead, we are going to focus on one: WHY. Why is this scene taking place? Why is your character here? You need to find the function of the scene and that will unlock everything. Is your character looking for love? Are they trying to impress the other character? What is it that they are fighting for? Figure out the core of the scene and what your character is striving for and this will give your audition energy, focus, and connection.

#9 Humour and Lightness

Particularly when it comes to screen acting, we love warmth and lightness, but it is so often missed in a last-minute audition. Actors, determined to “get it right” become too earnest. Pull out as much humour, lightness, flirtation, and any of those gorgeous positive emotions in your script. Even the most “evil” or villainous character benefits from a bit of charm and charisma.

Quick tip: To learn more about this idea we definitely recommend checking out the classic acting book Audition by Michael Shurtleff.

#10 Make Choices

Take a swing and make some choices! You will book the job because you put your stamp on the role. They want to see what you do with the character. So have fun, be playful, and see this as a chance to take the character where you want to take it. This was the exact experience with the last role an Actor booked. He just had fun with the audition and did what he wanted to do with the character. That fun and irreverence is what the Director told him they loved!

#11 Learning Lines

But what about learning lines? Isn’t that the main stress? Well sort of… Our belief is that if you do all this work and really understand the script you will learn it quicker than focusing on the words without context. Remember it’s not a memory test: they want to see your interpretation of the character, not that you got the lines word perfect. There is a fine line between interpretation of character and not respecting the writer. Get to know this line.


Now this is the important bit: put some of these ideas into practice. Grab a script, give yourself a time limit and put yourself to the test.

Remember, even if you’ve only been given an hour, the Casting Director doesn’t care. They want to see the best, most detailed, connected work possible. Make choices, lean into your own authenticity and have fun.