I remember a time - not so long ago – when actors would ask me if they should remove their musical theater credits from their resume when auditioning for a film or TV job. The concern was that upon seeing primarily musical theater credits, casting directors would assume that you’re too “big” for the camera. I don’t believe that “big” is something that you need to concern yourself with, as there are many larger-than-life personalities in TV and film. What you do have to concern yourself with is being organic, honest, and believable.
Whether you have plays or musicals on your resume, there are some gear shifts that need to be made when auditioning for an on-camera role. Here are some adjustments that we as casting directors find ourselves making on a daily basis.
1. Appropriate Volume. Don’t roll your eyes – anyone that’s been doing eight shows a week can start their audition a bit too loud for the camera! You’ve learned a skill – how to be heard at the back of the house – and now you have to leave that outside the door. The volume for the camera is whatever the circumstances in the scene dictate. When you bring your volume down to a more intimate, real place in a scene that requires normal conversation, your performance instantly becomes more honest.
2. Subtleties and Nuances. A fleeting look of suspicion. Hope shining in your eyes. These are the little details that the camera catches so beautifully. On stage, you have to make sure that your feelings can be read by the mezzanine. On camera, the smallest emotion that you’re experiencing is out there for all to see. Sometimes you forget how much the camera effortlessly reveals. We can see everything you do and everything you don’t do!
3. Memorize it! Although you may be able to read all your lines right off of the page in a theater audition, it comes across as being unprepared in an on-camera reading. A film or TV producer is looking at your audition onscreen and trying to imagine you in their movie or show. You make that very difficult for them to do if you’re looking down every few seconds or have your face buried in the page. Also, you don’t want the pace to drag because you’re trying to remember what the heck your next line is. You may have the luxury of measured pauses on stage, but that rarely flies on TV.
4. Show Your Personality. We need to see your personality and be inspired to write for you on TV. At this point, we have no idea where your character will be in Season 4, but your unique personality can lead us in a specific direction. This has no application in a theater audition, as the play is already written and therefore no one is concerned about writing for you over the next eight years.
Don’t let the fear of the unfamiliar get in your way. There are simply a few principles to get down and then, in the end, acting is acting is acting!
Marci Phillips is the Executive Director of ABC Casting. The opinions expressed in this article belong solely to Marci Phillips and do not necessarily reflect the views or endorsement of ABC, Disney or any of its subsidiaries. Marci is the author of “The Present Actor – A Practical and Spiritual Guideline to Help You Enjoy the Ride” available on Amazon.com.