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Modeling in Japan 101: Audition tips


So you’ve gotten your head shots, set up a basic web page, and registered with the agencies. Then one random day, you get the email. An audition. In this article, I will cover some of the do’s and dont’s of your first modeling audition in Japan.

Before I get into tips, there’s a quick distinction I want to make between go-sees and auditions. Go sees are exclusively for print work. They are usually very quick and require almost no preparation. You show up in the look your agent has specified (fresh faced, casual, business) and take a photo series. I’ll talk more about this is a separate post, but for now let’s focus on auditions for commercials.

Auditions in America, whether for commercials or industrials, usually require some script work. Memorizing lines isn’t difficult when you know how, but one of the bonuses of the audition in Japan is that you’re not expected to run lines. (This is assuming you don’t speak Japanese). So preparation is way easier…but you still have to prepare:

1) Look the part: for Japanese auditions, because you’re not required to speak, this is about 70% of the client’s criteria. If you don’t look the part, you won’t book, no matter your experience level or acting ability. This is exactly why new talent has a great chance of getting work here.

2) Bring the right energy: ask your agent about the project and what the client is after. Do they want super genki tech gamer? Content young mother? Professional yet friendly businessman? Blue collar beer drinker? Have your character in mind and build it’s personality before you get in front of the camera.

3) Know the process.

Here in Japan, your agent takes you to the audition and acts as a handler. She’ll fill out your audition form, answer any questions for you or the casting people, and make sure you’re at the right place at the right time.

When it’s your turn, you’ll be asked to state your name and give profiles. Relax and be natural. My last audition was an unusually long process: I did several scenes, worked with half a dozen kids, shot multiple sets of profile photos, and had a solo audition that required improv. They wanted an actor, no question. They even had a makeup artist who changed my look mid shoot – which in all of my time in this business, I’ve never seen.

Once you’re done, be sure to thank the producer in Japanese. As a show of etiquette and professionalism you should try and use as much Japanese as you know, but chances are the casting people speak some English.

A Few Don’ts… and one Do

-- Don’t ask when you’ll hear if you have been booked. Let your agent deal with it. -- Don’t try to cozy up or be extra friendly to the casting staff. That’s cheesy in any language. -- Don’t be nervous. Channel that energy into excitement for the project. Focus on hitting your marks and relating to the camera. Practice at home with a camera if you must. Don’t practice in front of a mirror - every acting teacher will tell you this creates inauthenticity. No bueno. -- Have fun. Smile and work it like a boss.

Oh, that crazy long audition? I booked it. On set tips coming soon.

See related story here.

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