For an actor, the most uncreative environment on the planet is the film and TV audition space—hot lights, strangers, often windowless, and always airless.
You enter this infertile cavern, fully focused on your character. You stand on the mark, taking an eyeline to the reader, just off camera. The reader—they work with you, they help you achieve your character. In your moment of terror, they are the supportive sight in the space.
You take a singular eyeline because you can concentrate solely on delivering a great audition. You find it strangely relaxing, and you don’t have to worry about anything other than the dialogue.
Take a moment to think of this: How many conversations do you have in real life where you look at someone never moving your eyes off theirs?
Now see it from my where I sit—from the perspective of the casting director.
The frame size is the same for every person auditioning for a role. We shoot every audition for a particular character in the same way. Consistent framing allows us to compare auditions and actors effectively.
If you adopt a singular eyeline to the reader, then you have one point of focus. The character you have created is stagnant.
When we view auditions, we see actors of the same sex, the same age, the same look, doing the same dialogue, and we shoot them from the same angle and in the same frame. If you add to all those similarities, the same eyeline as every other actor, now all the auditions start to look… well, the same.
You do not ignore the reader’s gaze. You don’t need to look all around the room. Simply be aware that the defense mechanism of many actors in the heat of the audition is to look solely at the reader.
All the time, I see actors place their toes obediently on the mark, face the reader like they were a firing squad, and then attempt to relax and deliver dialogue in a natural manner.
Take five nanoseconds before you start your audition, close your eyes, picture the setting of the audition scene. See the trees, or the cars, or the other restaurant patrons.
See them on both sides of the camera.
If you can see things in the room other than the reader, and if you establish other eyelines, you will perform in an environment that transports you and us to the location of the scene.
Greg Apps is one of Australia’s most respected casting directors. In a career covering 30 years, he cast over 65 feature films including “Mission Impossible 2,” “Queen of the Damned,” “Knowing” and James Cameron’s “Sanctum.” In Australia, he cast the career breakout roles for Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Eric Bana, Sam Worthington and Hugo Weaving. His latest film, “Felony,” with Joel Edgerton and Tom Wilkinson opens in 2014.
He recently created The Audition Technique, which allows actors to peek inside the closed doors of the casting process, and is the culmination of Apps’ career spanning acting, producing, and casting. By embracing these techniques and concepts, you will change your audition methodology and you will book more work. You can see what a casting director sees, what they think, how they view screen tests—how they judge your work. It allows you to sit in a casting directors chair.
You’ll see auditions not as a test of your ability, but as an actor friendly creative environment empowering you to experiment, explore, and excite.