Tyler Kekewich

An audition is an actor's job interview, a chance to show a director what they've got.

When Heidi Tan first started going to auditions, she had no preconceived notions of what a director wanted so she experimented with different approaches, trying to figure out what worked and what didn’t. This helped her to expand her skills and build her resume.

"It was my time to get creative in the audition room," explains Tan, a student in her final year at York University’s Schulich School of Business. "I really didn’t get nervous, it was more like having fun.”

Tan was lucky enough to be able to work right away. Her first agent needed “Asian-looking" actors and found her work without any prior experience. But she decided to hone her skills with some training before fully diving into acting, so she added some extra- curricular education to her already full-time university timetable.

She enrolled in classes at the Sears & Switzer Acting Studio and Professional Actors Lab. Both are well-known Toronto schools that offer classes in acting fundamentals, on-screen acting, screen study and voice training.

One of Tan’s earliest roles was a murder victim on a show called Forensic Factor. The audition took place in a sweaty, downtown tae kwan doe studio with a bunch of gym mats on the floor.

“They’re not at professional casting studios," she says of the low-budget, independent auditions she used to attend. "Sometimes it would be in someone’s house or in some really obscure building."

Tan went into the Forensic Factor audition cold, not knowing anything about the part she was auditioning for. She got the role because the director liked her scream.  What followed was hours of make-up to make her look like the part of a corpse.

More recently, Tan has become a card-carrying member of ACTRA, the Canadian acting union. She's noticed a big difference in unionized auditions.

A personal trailer, catered food and hair and makeup artists are a far cry from her early experiences. She says blind trekking around Toronto was "really sketchy areas where you don’t know if you’re going to be safe." 

Tan says she would love to one day be able to support herself through acting alone, but as a business student, she's realistic about the economics of the Canadian film and TV industry.

Still, she plans to use her marketing knowledge and understanding of the industry to get ahead in the acting world. “Acting is just so much fun and you kind of get sucked into it,” says Tan. "It just kind of snowballed."