What To Do When You Tank An Audition: 3 Steps To Moving On

Ask any working actor to tell you a story of tanking an audition + most likely they will have a few.

Here’s one of mine:

A few years ago, I had an audition where I definitely put a lot of pressure on myself to do a great job.  I was perfect for the role (a mom in a comedy) and I was definitely too focused on how much this job would change things for me.  ( I call this Forward F@*%ed-Up Thinking + I don’t recommend it.)

I also thought I was walking into a room to audition for the casting director + the director, and there ended up being 18 people at a huge long conference table and all eyes were on me.

The overwhelming surprise of this moment caught me like a deer in the headlights.  I got through my audition, barely remembering one line, but ended up getting laughs on the lines I made up.

I went to my car + bawled my eyes out.  What just happened?   I had an out of body experience.

Present moment awareness?  Out the window.
Breathing?   Probably not.
Focusing on the needs + wants of the character?  Not a chance.
Looking at my script to grab a line?   Didn’t allow myself that luxury.

I tanked it.  There was no way around it.

I thought about writing to the casting director and apologizing for my lack of coherence in the room.

I actually contemplated quitting the business. (If I can’t ace the auditions that I’m perfect for, how can I compete?)

I stayed bummed about it for days, then a friend set me straight with these wise words:

Having a bad audition happens is okay. Bringing that energy to your next audition is not.  Forgive yourself.  Learn from it. Begin again. 

Here’s exactly what I did to begin again:

3 Steps To Moving On (After Tanking An Audition)

1) Relax about “missing your boat.”
Letting go of this one moment in time was really the key to me moving forward.

YOU: Remind yourself that another ship (audition) is always coming in + that you didn’t “miss your boat” with this one specific job.

2) Don’t apologize for your work.  
I never apologized for my performance to the casting director, but instead, weeks later (after relaxing about it all), friend requested her on Facebook.  We now comment on each other’s success (in career + parenting) often + I’ve been back in that office many times.

YOU: By apologizing for having an “off day,” you are bringing negative attention to what could have been perceived as “just not right for the role.”  How many times have you thought you nailed it + heard nothing?  I’ve had off days + gotten callbacks.  No need to apologize.

3) Let yourself off the hook.
Maybe my version of “tanking” an audition wasn’t quite as awful as it felt that day.  Maybe me at my worst came across better than I thought?  I’ll never know, but I decided to let myself off the hook.

YOU: Letting yourself have off days + off auditions are part of being a creative artist.  Beating yourself up for it will zap the creativity you hope to bring to your next audition. Let it go.

Here’s the deal: You may walk in an audition for a role you are perfect for + simply blow it.

If you do, I urge you to find the gift in it. (Once you’ve gotten over the initial shock, pain, frustration + anger)

Within this challenging moment is the gift of forgiveness, trust, faith, perseverance + the ability to get up, dust yourself off + begin again.

You’re gonna need all those traits in full force to have a long-term career as an actor.

Allow the times that don’t go your way to strengthen your purpose, deepen your self-compassion + expand your courage to begin again.

Here’s to a week of reseting, relaxing + reminding yourself that you are a courageous artist + the best is yet to come.

Love + Gratitude,


P.S.  Leave a comment below + share your audition story + what you do to move on? 

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4 thoughts on “What To Do When You Tank An Audition: 3 Steps To Moving On”

  1. great stuff as always Wen! nothings worse than beating yourself up after an audition because you want it so bad. There’s definitely something to be said about “trying to hard”. my last callback, the casting director said…”um you’re doing it differently now” I made an excuse joke in the room and didn’t book it (foot went into mouth). I had no attachments when I first went in, then inbetween that and the callback, I decided to work on it some more which completely changed my read and I couldn’t readjust back. lesson learned. I wonder if there’s a pre callback mantra/meditation/affirmation or something that can psyche yourself out of wanting the big ones.

    1. Thanks for sharing this Anzu! Such an important lesson to realize that whatever gets us a callback is what they want to see! Changing our read, interpretation etc isn’t necessary at a callback unless they director asks us to do it differently. Experience is really the best teacher! My audio I AM ENOUGH might help you to manage the inner critic that loudly tells you all the reasons this job is too “big” for you. Here’s the link: http://actorinspiration.com/shop/single/enough/

      2 mantras that I like to use to detach myself from needing the job: This or something better. I am divinely guided. That way I release trying to control the outcome focus my attention on playing in the room At the end of the day, that’s our job. How fun! Good luck!


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