Who you are—your personality and lust for fun—defines the results you achieve as an actor, and in every other professional life endeavor. Thus, your personality and capacity to have fun needs to be present and accessible when you’re auditioning, and this needs to start the moment you cross the threshold into the audition room. As many of my producer and director colleagues attest to, your audition starts the moment you walk into that room and not—as many would believe—when you start “acting.”
Do not put yourself into an emotional “state” trying to “get into character” before you walk into the room. If you invest in a preparation that must be constantly stoked, fluffed, and “maintained” prior to the first moment of the scene, you’ll miss every moment leading up to your performance. It creates a scenario where you’re in your head—you’re nowhere close to being in the moment, you’re focused on some end result that you feel you must arrive at and which must look a certain way.
I see this most often when clients have a scene where they have to cry at some point.The actor often gets hung up on getting to the emotional point of having tears that he or she makes that the primal focus of the scene. It would be like spending an entire first date focusing on whether or not you will get a “goodnight kiss” to the exclusion of all else that may have happened on the date—clearly this is a recipe for failure. You’d miss out on getting to know the very basics about the person sitting across from you at dinner, and would have no idea whether you two had any real connection or not—all because you’re preoccupied with some end result.
For actors, existing in some contrived state of emotional preparation in the waiting room is just as problematic. It prevents the actor from doing the things that might actually help them land the job.
You’ll miss the opportunity to reveal your personality when you walk in. And God forbid, have a meaningful and fun conversation with the casting director, director, producer, etc.
The whole journey of acting is the act of becoming—if you arrive at a destination the journey is over, and you’ve essentially stolen the experience from the audience by telling them what they’re supposed to feel.
When an actor forces him/herself into an emotion, not only can the audience sniff out the lack of authenticity (even if the audience is just the camera operator and casting director), they also no longer need to feel anything as you’ve already told them what to experience with the selected emotion you’re trying to cling to and present. You close the space for your audience to feel something you never thought possible. You strangle the moment and cut off blood flow, leaving no room for fun, surprise, or to effect change.
If you find yourself getting in the dangerous position of clinging to your emotional preparation, here are some points to remember.
1. Walk in with confidence. One of my exceptionally talented master class students walks into every audition with the attitude of confidence, “I’m the fucking solution to your problem.” And, he can back that up every time by making a specific and fun choice. This is comparable to how, on a date, an average looking person can instantly seem more attractive just by the confidence he or she brings to the table. It all comes down to believing in the product of you and having complete certainty that everyone is going to want to buy.
2. Say hello to the casting director, camera operator, reader, associate, etc. Acknowledge them—however brief—and the work they’re about to do to put your best performance on tape for the director and producer.
3. Don’t be overly chatty or too eager to please Just as it’s important to walk in with confidence and say a quick hello to all the people in the room, it’s also equally important to not walk in with this sense of desperation that you have to win over everyone in the room at the first moment. This often manifests as actors being overly chatty in the room, cracking too many jokes, and awkwardly putting out the vibe of “please like me.” If you walk in with confidence, then you know that they already like you. Furthermore, some casting directors find that an actor who is too talkative at the top of an audition might be too talkative on set.
4. Say thank you and leave; don’t ask for a second read! Make sure you leave your best performance in the room and afterwards simply say thank you. Never ask if you can “try that again.” That shows you weren’t confident in your original choice. Often times the first read was perfect and the second read shuts the actor out of contention. Leave the room the way that you entered it—with cool, collected confidence. It’s the quiet knowing smile that your date flashes you at the end of the night that proclaims he/she knows you want to see him/her again, and you can go in for that goodnight kiss.
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