400 Auditions: Inside the Numbers
My first audition ever was for a drunk driving PSA back in early 2009. Last week, roughly eight and a half years later, I submitted my 400th(!) audition.
I’ve always been a numbers guy and as a sports fan, I’ve loved looking at box scores for as long as I can remember. So, I thought I’d celebrate this 400 audition milestone with a deep dive inside the numbers and examine the “box score” of my career for the past 8+ years.
Before we start, let’s talk about where I’m pulling these numbers from. I created a detailed spreadsheet that I have been updating since the day of my first audition. Some may call it nerdy, others may call very nerdy. Either way, it has allowed me to document each and every audition I’ve ever had and keep track of my progress over time, all while feeding the numbers loving beast that lives inside of me.
If you’ve never kept track of your auditions this way and are looking to start (I highly recommend it), here are a list of columns that I have on my spreadsheet.
- DATE – Pretty self explanatory
- JOB – What the audition was for
- JOB TYPE – Commercial, Industrial, Film, TV, Short film
- CASTING DIRECTOR – Nice way to keep track of how many times you’ve been seen by a certain CD
- AGENCY – Added this column after signing with a second agency back in 2014
- STATUS – Left blank if I don’t hear anything. Otherwise “callback”, “avail”, or “booked”
- AMOUNT PAID – All about the Benjamins
- NOTES – Any specific notes about the audition worth remembering
- DID NOT WORK – I used this column to keep track of booked jobs that, for one reason or another, I was ultimately not able to work
I have tweaked the spreadsheet quite a bit over the years. The current format still isn’t perfect but it gets the job done. I’m able to filter by each column so the tables you see below are a result of filtering by DATE and by JOB TYPE, respectively.
OK, lets crunch some numbers!
Total Auditions and Bookings by Year 2009-Present
|2017 (through 8/29)||96||19||19.8%|
Breaking Down the Auditions by Year Table
That booking rate is kind of nuts. Yeah, that booking rate is kind of nuts. I’d love to sit here and say that it’s because I’m the best actor in the world and all my auditions are perfect. But those that have known me a while know that I actually SUCK at auditions. All kidding aside, let me try to provide some context for, what appears to be, an abnormally high booking rate.
Cleveland, Ohio is a very small market and everything from 2009 to 2015 on that chart is Ohio. There was not nearly as much competition in Cleveland as there is in Atlanta (where I currently live). Cleveland, as far as I know, has only two major talent agencies whereas Atlanta has… 20? That’s an order of magnitude difference and a huge reason for why I was booking one out of every four auditions.
I’m Asian (surprise!) and that has played a significant part as well. Being an Asian actor is kind of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, there aren’t too many roles written specifically for Asians. “Open ethnicity” has been in the character breakdown for the vast majority of my auditions. But, on the other hand, when that one elusive Asian character did come along, I found myself auditioning against two or three other actors MAX (in Ohio).
I also had the benefit of EXCELLENT training at The Houde School of Acting before I ever went out on a single audition. There is no substitute for hard work and I’m proud to say that I am where I am because of the literal thousands of hours I have spent in class – first, at The Houde in Cleveland and now at Drama, Inc. and Pralgo’s Acting Class in Atlanta.
Only nine auditions total in 2012? Yep, and only ten in 2011. That’s the Cleveland, Ohio market – very small, indeed.
What happened in 2014? The uptick in auditions in 2014 was a result of two things: 1. I signed with a second agency in southern Ohio and 2. I learned how to self-tape my auditions. I’ll be honest, learning that I could start self-taping all of my auditions felt like I was given a cheat code. I realized that I would be able to submit auditions for jobs in other cities and other states and that’s exactly what I did. Since 2014, I signed with five more agencies in different markets and have booked work in 16 states and counting.
What happened in 2016? Got representation in Atlanta. That huge jump in auditions in 2016 is a direct result of signing with an agent in the Southeast. Of course, a bigger market also meant more competition so that’s also the reason for the drop in booking % in 2016 and 17.
I also want to point out that the numbers in 2016 and 17 are combined auditions from all of my agents. Just because I moved to the Southeast does not mean I stopped auditioning for work in the Midwest. Would be pretty dumb to just stop submitting for work in markets with much less competition. If I single out just the auditions that I’ve had in the Southeast, my booking rate is roughly 12.5% since 2016.
How man of the 87 bookings were “DID NOT WORK”? Ten. Reasons ranging from “the commercial got put on hold indefinitely” to “the scene was omitted from the movie and the character was cut” to scheduling conflicts to the production company changing the job terms post-booking forcing me to decline the gig on principle (this only happened once).
In previous posts, you said you’ve booked over 100 jobs. Now you say 87. You’re a fraud! Wait, before you burn me at the stake, let me explain. The 87 number represents the bookings that were a direct result of an audition. Those initial jobs also resulted in 42 repeat bookings from clients and/or production companies that have hired me again without another audition. In recent years, I have also been booked 15 times directly off of my demo reel (mostly for industrials). I have also been booked 19 times for print work, six times as a commercial extra, and one time as a stand-in. So, in total, 170 bookings since 2009 but only 87 of those were a direct result of one of my 400 auditions.
You haven’t mentioned anything about income. Ok, I’ll share the total income rather than breaking down by year because my numbers for income (of all things) are not exact. I’ve been punching in the dollar amounts on every check I get in the mail but some of those are pre-tax and some are post, some are pre-agency commission and some are post. So the income number is going to be somewhat of an approximation. Also, I want to be clear that this is total income from all 170 bookings, not just the 87 from auditions.
Total earnings from acting: $134,472.79
Keep in mind that is spread out over eight and a half years so I’m not exactly buying Ferraris over here. But still, that is a pretty nice chunk of change. Also, over 90% of that is from non-union work. So, if you ever want to explain to someone why they shouldn’t join SAG-AFTRA too early, please feel free to point them to this blog post.
Total Auditions and Bookings by Job Type
|JOB TYPE||AUDITIONS||BOOKINGS||BOOKING %|
Breaking Down the Auditions by Job Type Table
Soooo many commercial and industrial bookings. Indeed. Ohio is very much a commercial and industrial market. Sure, there would be the occasional movie but the bulk of the work was in commercials and industrials. If you are good at speaking into the camera and proficient with a teleprompter, you can do very well in Ohio and the surrounding states. Just be prepared for some cheesy writing. One time, back in 2010, I played a marketing consultant for an industrial video. My character’s name was Mark E. Ting. Get it? GET IT?? Hahahaha… ugh.
But you’ve also had quite a few auditions for film and TV. That is thanks in most part to my representation in the Southeast. Out of my 161 total film and TV auditions, 146 of those came in the last 18 months. I really didn’t know what to expect from the Southeast market before moving here but, needless to say, I’ve been pleasantly surprised.
Hmmm… maybe “pleasantly surprised” is too mild of a reaction to 146 film and TV auditions. Bursting at the seams? Yes, that’s better (if you know me, you know that my “bursting at the seams” is probably equivalent to most everyone else’s “pleasantly surprised”).
That booking rate for short/student films is unsustainable. Challenge accepted.
Man, it has been quite the journey since January of 2009. I remember my very first booking was an industrial video for Macy’s. I was so nervous at the shoot that when the director accidentally called me Kevin instead of Kurt, I didn’t correct him because I was afraid he’d get mad. He called me Kevin for the rest of the day. 🙁
I was extremely lucky to have started my career in a place like Ohio. I doubt I would have had anywhere near the same amount of success if I had started out in a bigger market. Proving myself and gaining invaluable experience in the Midwest gave me the confidence to hit the ground running in the Southeast. So, for any actors that live in a a small market and are looking to move out, let me be the first to say: Don’t Rush. Make sure you’ve exhausted all of your resources in your current city before you make the leap.
Ok, many have asked, “Out of all 400 auditions, do you have a favorite?” Yes, I do. That one down in Miami.