How you take care of your mental health may determine how long you can keep going in such a fast-paced, creative and highly competitive industry. Samantha Marsden asks actors, directors and well-being specialists for their tips
Nearly every actor has to audition, but different performers cope with the casting process in different ways. Keeping your mental health in check is a good place to start.
Actor, writer, and international yoga teacher Adriene Mishler, who has an online community of more than five million viewers, recommends auditionees should “never underestimate how empowering it can be to come in healthy – even (if not especially) when the character is not”. She adds: “This is a new way of thinking for me, as I used to believe that all great artists were rock ‘n’ roll – all the time. When my energy state is good, I am able to do whatever is asked of me with more ease, more confidence, and yes, I never thought I would say this – with more joy. And when there is joy, you do your best, fight for it hard – but if you don’t win, you are still good. You are still whole.”
Amy Jessop, a well-being and performance coach, recommends choosing an intention for every audition. She explains: “If I change my expectation of getting the job to ‘making a good impression’ or ‘singing my song with truth’ and that is the only thing I focus on, I will achieve my intention and I can leave the room with a sense of success.”
Actor Marc Mackinnon, who is currently in Peter Gynt at the National Theatre, says: “Don’t use your work to distract yourself from poor mental health. Our job as performers is to feel and project that on to the stage, so give yourself a chance by tackling those demons with some positive professional help. You shouldn’t have to compromise your mental health for anything, let alone your job.”
Years of dreaming, training and (hopefully) auditions, may have made the word ‘audition’ a terrifying sound! Try calling it by another name. Actor Oliver Stark, who is a series regular on Fox’s hit show 9 1-1, says: “I started referring to auditions as meetings rather than auditions. It helped me think of them in a different, less daunting and pressure-filled light.”
With so many actors it can be easy to lose your sense of worth and individuality in the crowd. Stay true to your core and uniqueness – comparing yourself to others may dilute who you are and your unique selling points. Actor and writer Milly Thomas says: “Comparison is the thief of joy. Don’t go torturing yourself with who got what. Easier said than done, but the best way I’ve found to treat it is to pretend that the audition is the job. Then if you do get asked back for another round it’s always a bonus. And water. Drink more water.”
Nick Moseley, author of Getting into Drama School, says: “Above all, don’t compare yourself with others. It is your compelling individuality that you must recognise and believe in.”
Raffaella Covino – actor, founder and director of Applause for Thought – recommends: “After your audition, we suggest using the SAT method. Self-reflection. Acceptance. Talking. How did the audition go and how do you really feel about it? Accept how it went and about how you feel, then, if you feel the need, talk about it in order to let it go, and move on with your day or week.”
Applause for Thought is a non-profit organisation that provides free and low-cost mental health support, talks, and workshops to all those working in the entertainment industry.
Mim Shaikh, actor, writer, poet and presenter, and soon to feature in new BBC sitcom King Gary, says: “The auditioning process can be detrimental to one’s mental health. The constant rejections could lead to low self-esteem, feelings of unworthiness and lack of acceptance. However, this is what builds your character, helps you grow and learn more about yourself.
“When the right project is presented to you, and you are ready, it will all be worth it. Taking time out for yourself, finding moments of stillness and serenity are key for the fast-paced, always running industry we are working in.”
The audition is not an actor-versus-the-panel situation. The panel cares about finding the right cast. Actor Andy Nyman, author of More Golden Rules of Acting, says: “The casting director, producers and director are desperate for you to get the role. They are willing you to be brilliant and solve their problem. Remind yourself of that before you walk into the audition.”
Adam Morley, director, writer, producer and artistic director of Baroque Theatre Company, says: “Don’t beat yourself up. We want and need you to be good and we’re all on your side. It’s okay to be human and nervous. I get nervous holding auditions. It’s okay.”
For those auditioning for drama school, Tracy Keating, head of student well-being at RADA, has some specific advice: “Many people feel like an audition is an exam, especially if you’re applying to drama school and you’ve got used to taking exams a lot at school. But an audition is not about being ‘good enough’ – it’s about being yourself and an opportunity to show your skills and imagination in the speeches you present and the conversations you have with the panel.
“Use the audition to get a feel of the drama school; you have to want to go there as much as they might want you. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get in first time – lots of people get in after several years of auditioning. It can be easy to let auditions affect your self-esteem, so make an effort to identify your positive attributes and remind yourself of these. Whether you get the place or the role or not, you remain the same person.”
There are many ways to care for your mental health when auditioning. Find techniques that work for you – that way you can keep doing what you love for longer.