When actors describe to me the methods and techniques they use to prepare for a role, there always seems to be so much interesting work going on! These methods address the text and the actor, and they give the actor tools to look deeply into themselves and into the role. Then there is sense memory, emotional recall, and all sorts of exercises and steps to aid the actor in creating the most complete character possible.
Most audition techniques rarely go anywhere near that deep. Many go no further than giving you some help in preparing the words and a few tips on how to appear professional.
I’ve always found this gap perplexing. If you land the role, you’re going to apply all of your acting skills and methods to bring it to life. So, how can you expect to get the role with a technique that deals with little more than vocal manipulation and outward appearances? It doesn’t make sense, but it does hit the nail on the head as to why so many talented actors don’t book roles—they are using a one-dimensional technique to book the role of a three-dimensional human being. Their preparation is short changing them. They need a complete technique that is invigorating, creative and puts them fully in charge of their process.
Here are five of the things a complete audition technique can help you be.
1. Well-directed. An effective audition technique has components that cover both the creative and the technical aspects of auditioning. It isn’t a series of short cuts or tricks or band-aids. It’s a process, and like any acting process that’s worth anything, it guides you to the places you need to go to find where your heart and mind intersect with those of the character. Like being led by a good director, the initial steps of your technique should safely and gently encourage and enable you to dig as deep as you need to uncover your best self for the role.
2. Non-judgmental. An effective technique gives you the tools and the inner strength to take down the walls of your personality and get to what’s true. Before any honest work can be done on a piece, all of the different faces you show the world, all behaviors that aren’t really who you are, and all of the things you do to be accepted and to be seen as special have to be exposed and dropped. Like peeling an apple layer by layer, your technique should give you the tools you need to safely and courageously lay bare who you are at your core.
3. Courageous. After you have broken down the walls and re-established contact with the heart of who you truly are, it’s time for your technique to help you explore the depths and edges of your personality so that the choices you add to the piece are the strongest and most connected to you. Here again, your technique directs you to where the gold is inside of you. You can examine the colors and textures of your most elemental qualities and discover what makes them entirely unique to you. This skillful exploration can provide the job-landing specificity some actors search their whole careers to find.
4. Perceptive. At this stage, you need to apply all of the wonderful qualities you’ve found to the piece. A complete technique gives you the steps to organize your emotional discoveries into choices—choices that bring the material to life in a singularly resonant way. It can also help you to find your job getting moments within those choices as well as in the silences. Finally, your technique should allow you to take all of this fine work and put it into the rhythm of conversation—not a reading or a performance, but a dynamic, two-way, connected conversation. Now you’re at full strength—your technique has united your entire instrument, and you can drive through the piece with passion and commitment.
5. Present. When your choices are firmly rooted in your body and your heart, your mind can relax and get out of your way, leaving you free to release all of the work into the room with total confidence. You can take whatever risks feel right for you in the moment, knowing that the various steps of your technique have woven a net that will always catch you. Most importantly, this feeling of total security allows you to be your true self in the room, and when all is said and done, you will be seen as the most honest, interesting, and compelling actor auditioning for the role.
Like painting over a crack in the wall, an incomplete audition technique may make you look prettier, but ignores what really needs to be addressed. A complete audition technique takes that same wall down to the studs and builds it back up, step-by-step and creates a strong, sturdy structure that will never fail to support you.
Craig Wallace is the creator and award-winning teacher of The Wallace Audition Technique, an audition preparation system that he developed based on his years of experience as a studio executive, talent agent and casting consultant. In his 14 years of teaching, he has seen the careers of hundreds of his students take off. He is also the author of the best-selling book, “The Best of You – Winning Auditions Your Way.”
Craig is currently teaching his audition technique classes and his Meditation for Actors classes in Santa Monica, CA. For more information visit www.wallaceauditiontechnique.com.