What are “Sides” in Acting?

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  • What are “Sides” in Acting?

    A definitive guide to audition sides

    (By Tonya Tannenbaum)

    Audition sides are portions of a script that are selected by casting directors or producers for actors to perform during auditions. These sides are usually excerpts from the actual script of the project for which the auditions are being held. They are chosen to showcase the actor’s talent, suitability for a particular role, and ability to embody the character.

    Audition sides can vary in length, ranging from a few lines to several pages, depending on the requirements of the audition and the complexity of the role. Actors are typically provided with these sides in advance of the audition so they can prepare their performance.

    Sometimes, audition sides may not be directly from the script of the project but could be similar in tone or style to give the casting team an idea of the actor’s range or abilities if the script is not yet finalized or available.

    Why are they called sides?

    The term “sides” in the context of auditions originates from the theater world.

    In theatrical productions, a full script is often referred to as the “book.” When actors are given portions of the script to rehearse or perform during auditions, these portions are literally “taken from the side” of the full script or “cut out” from it. Hence, they are called “sides.”

    The term “sides” has stuck around even in the film and television industry, where scripts are typically bound and not in loose leaf form as they are in theater. Despite this, the term has persisted, likely due to its familiarity and convenience in referring to audition excerpts.

    How long are audition sides?

    Some auditions may provide relatively short sides, consisting of just a few lines of dialogue or action. These short sides are often used for initial auditions or for minor roles where only a brief showcase of the actor’s abilities is necessary.

    For more significant roles or projects, audition sides may be longer, spanning several pages or even multiple scenes. These sides provide actors with a more in-depth look at the character and their journey within the story, allowing them to demonstrate a broader range of skills and emotions.

    What do audition sides look like?

    Audition sides typically consist of the portion of the script that casting directors want actors to perform during auditions. They can vary in format depending on how they are provided, but here’s a general idea of what audition sides might look like:

    Script Excerpt:
    The sides will include a portion of dialogue or action taken directly from the script of the project for which the auditions are being held. This excerpt could be a scene involving the character(s) the actor is auditioning for or other characters with whom they interact.

    Character Names and Descriptions:
    The sides will usually indicate the names of the characters involved in the scene, along with brief descriptions of their personalities or physical attributes. This helps actors understand the context of the scene and their character’s role within it.

    If the sides include dialogue, it will typically be formatted with each character’s lines preceded by their name or initials for clarity. This allows actors to easily identify their character’s lines and the lines of other characters they are interacting with.

    Stage Directions or Actions:
    In addition to dialogue, audition sides may also include stage directions or action descriptions to provide context for the scene and guide the actor’s performance. These directions could indicate movements, emotions, or reactions that the character(s) should convey during the scene.

    Page Numbers:
    If the sides are taken from a longer script, they may include page numbers to indicate where the excerpt fits within the overall story.

    Audition sides can be provided in various formats, including printed copies handed out at auditions, emailed as PDF attachments, or accessed through online casting platforms. The specific layout and design may vary depending on the preferences of the casting team or the format of the script.

    Where do you go to get audition sides?

    Audition sides are typically provided by the casting director, casting agency, or production company overseeing the audition process. Here are some common sources from which actors can obtain audition sides:

    Casting Websites:
    Many casting websites and platforms, such as Casting Networks, Backstage, Actors Access, and Breakdown Services, list audition opportunities along with the corresponding sides. Actors can often download sides directly from these platforms after submitting for a role.

    Casting Notices:
    When casting notices are released for a project, they may include links to download audition sides. These notices are often posted on casting websites, industry newsletters, social media platforms, and industry-specific forums.

    Agents or Managers:
    Actors who are represented by talent agents or managers may receive audition sides directly from their representatives. Agents and managers often have access to audition materials before they are made public and can provide guidance and support throughout the audition process.

    Directly from Casting Directors:
    In some cases, casting directors may email audition sides directly to actors or their representatives after they have been invited to audition for a role. Actors should ensure that their contact information is up-to-date and regularly check their email for audition notifications.

    Open Calls and Workshops:
    During open casting calls or audition workshops, casting directors may distribute sides to actors on-site for them to perform during the audition. Actors can also sometimes find sides posted at audition venues or provided by casting assistants.

    Should you memorize your audition sides?

    Some casting directors prefer actors to have the sides memorized, as it demonstrates dedication, preparedness, and a deeper understanding of the character and scene. However, others are more understanding and may not expect actors to have the sides fully memorized, especially if the audition is short notice or if the sides are extensive.

    Related: Memorize Your Lines in 5 Easy Steps

    In general, it’s a good idea to be as familiar with the sides as possible, whether that means fully memorizing them or being extremely comfortable with the material while having the sides in hand. This allows you to focus on delivering a compelling performance and connecting with the character, rather than worrying about remembering lines.


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