I was talking to some casting friends at lunch a few weeks ago and, as it usually does, the conversation turned to actors we love and why they get hired, as well as who gets left behind and why that happens. I can sum up the entire three-hour discussion in one sentence:
It’s the person who gets hired for the role, not the work.
To help explain this, let’s look at the three criteria used by most industries in deciding who to hire:
Does the candidate have the required education and skill set?
Do they bring something unique to the job?
Do I like them and want to work with them?
It’s no different for actors in our industry. Actors who book the job tend to be the ones who have a way of working that integrates these three requirements. They make personal, specific choices that emanate from deep within; they have the skill to make those choices work with the words on the page; and finally they have the confidence that allows them to let go and simply be in the room.
Actors who don’t book aren’t prepared in a way that allows them this freedom. Their uncertainty can lead to pushing and selling, and the person that we need to see and like is obscured behind a wall of effort.
When you’re watching the audition of the person who understands what it takes to get the job, you see no gaps between the actor, the work, and the role. Their technique has given them a way to draw the words into themselves and instill those words with their richest and most compelling qualities. When the words are spoken, they have a clear, specific heartbeat and what was a role is now a living breathing person.
When an actor is working at this high level of skill and creativity, they have an effortless magnetism. When it’s time to decide who gets the role, this actor will be undeniable because they’ve made the role theirs to the degree that all the people in the room can see is them in the role. They’ve wrapped themselves around the role and there is no pulling the two apart. In addition, these actors have no need to second guess or police their work when they’re in the room, because it’s all inside them. Their minds are then free; they can connect to the people in the room with no distractions. This gives them the captivating, winning presence that people want to be around. In short, these actors give the people hiring them several reasons to like them. And remember, people hire people they like.
This was confirmed to me again and again when I worked at Halpern & Associates Talent Agency. When we got great feedback on a client, the work was never mentioned. The feedback would sound something like this, “I loved so and so! They were so funny, warm, edgy, risky” and on and on. It sounded like they had gone to dinner with the client but in fact they had the same two minutes in the room that everyone else had! This actor simply prepared in such a specific and intimate way that the work disappeared and all that was seen in the room was a thrillingly alive and interesting person. And who doesn’t like that? On the other hand, whenever I would receive feedback that included the word work (even if they liked it), I knew the person wasn’t getting the job. Casting would say that the audition felt too much like an actor showing their work and that because of this, they had trouble connecting to the actor as a person.
If an actor doesn’t connect in a deeply personal way to the piece and in a deeply personal way to the people in the room all he’s really doing is saying, “Here’s my work, take a look, I hope you like it.” Well, the memory of that work will fade quickly and with it, the memory of the actor, because he left nothing but his work to remember him by. But the actor who has done the work before he entered the room, whose connection to the piece is specific and rich with personal resonance, can let it all go in the room. This actor will be seen as an effortless, three dimensional human being—someone who everyone likes and will want to see more of.
This actor sparks a passion that transcends the material and becomes impossible to forget. This actor, we love.
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.