The term “hurry up and wait” was practically invented for the film/TV actor. As actors you’re often in a holding pattern, whether it’s waiting to go in to audition for a great part, waiting to see if you got it, being put in avail, being on set waiting to get in the makeup chair, sitting in your trailer waiting for your scene to be shot, waiting for all the technical elements to be put in place, and then finally…GO GO GO!!
Being ready is one of the most important skills for an actor to have in their toolbox.
If you ask 100 working actors how they got where they are, you’ll get a wide variety of answers. For most, it starts with an audition, so we’ll focus there, but no matter how their opportunities presented themselves, they were ready.
Here are three things you can do to make sure you’re always audition ready:
1. Take classes. I’m a teacher, so, yes I think this is an important way to stay sharp! But, I’m also a student and take many classes myself. I see how powerfully they guide me and I count on them to keep me focused and at my best.
A good class should remind you why you wanted to act in the first place, it should encourage and uplift and leave you better than when you started it. Acting is a heart centered art form and an open heart is essential to your success in moving people and making them feel. A good acting class should make you feel safe enough to risk being exposed and raw—it should care for your heart. Class is also a great way connect with your peers. It’s easy to feel cut off and alone on this path, and being with others who are striving to be the best they can be is a wonderfully supportive thing to do.
Finally, make sure the teacher of the class isn’t someone who thinks they have the answer and loves nothing better than hearing their own voice tell you the truth. There is no one answer on how to act or audition, a good teacher knows that and will have the skill, through whatever technique they teach, to guide you to your answers and help you find your truth.
2. Exercise your imagination. It’s easy to get caught in the reality of day-to-day life and to see everything from the flat one-dimensional lens of someone just trying to get to the end of the day. That is death to the artist. You can add excitement and fun to even the most boring day by using your imagination.
For example, you could pick a person and watch them closely. Notice all of the details of what they’re wearing, their hair, the pitch of their voice, their laugh. Now, imagine where they would live. House or apartment? How is it furnished? Do they have a lot of dishes or just one or two? Are there pictures of people in the living room? If so, who are they? What job does this person have? Do they like it? What kind of money do they make? Are they comfortable or do they need more? Are they lonely or do they want more time alone? What do they dream of at night? What do they long for? And on and on; as many questions you can think of asking until that person comes alive for you in a specific, real, and heartfelt way.
Now, do it again and again until your eyes and ears are razor sharp from observing and your brain aches a bit from the exertion of all of your imagining. You are now awake, alert, and expansive, ready for whatever artistic challenge that may come your way.
3. Set aside time to practice. No matter what is happening in life or how hectic a survival job might be, every actor should set aside at least one hour a day to feed their creative souls. The activity is up to you and should be based on what you need that particular day—rehearse a scene, prepare a set of sides as if you had an audition that afternoon, read an acting book, watch an interview with an actor you love, etc. Life is busy and sometimes it’s hard to find time—I know because I do this as well. I am a teacher and even on days that I teach, I take my hour or so and hone the exercises I teach, create new ones, read a writing book, study the philosophies of the great teachers, or whatever wakes me up to the joy of my profession in that moment. I never miss a day and you shouldn’t either. And if you can’t find one hour to devote to the thing that you claim you want to do the rest of your life, then it’s time to take a good hard look and perhaps reassess your goals.
Ultimately, you want to gain control of your life to the extent that you are living as an artist 24/7. So obviously there’s a lot more to it than just these three steps, but they’re a good start. I actually teach an entire course on this because I know that if you’re auditioning correctly, your work and your life are one…and a flat unfocused life can kill even a well prepared audition piece.
This work is essential to the health of your soul and the quality of your work.
So, instead of running around in circles obsessing about how you’d like the future to go, spend time in the present working on the one thing you can actually control—being ready.
Like this advice? Check out more from our Backstage Experts!