How long was your last audition? Two minutes? If you were prepared with a driving intent, connected alive relationships, dynamic choices, and you started with a strong opening beat, then it probably was two minutes.
However, if your first beat was unfocused and weak, it was probably only 10 seconds long.
Ten seconds is about the time you have to make some kind of impression in a reading. At this point in the process, everyone in the room is neutral and ready to be impressed. But, if you haven’t prepared your piece in a way that allows you to get out of the gate fast and engage them from the very start, you’ve lost the room.
I hear actors say too often that their readings started off a bit rough, but picked up after a few lines. Too late. They may let you continue, but you have already been dismissed from their minds and their consideration.
Remember, the people auditioning you—whether in the room or on tape—are logging information as to what you would do if you actually had the job. If it takes you one, two, three beats to get into a piece, what does that tell them? It tells them that when “action” is called, you won’t be able to deliver the opening of the scene. If you need warm up beats in your audition, they will assume that’s what you’ll need on set, and nothing will have them looking for someone else faster than that.
The opening beat of the piece is important for another reason as well. In a performance, the assumption is that if people are watching you, they are paying close attention. Not so in an audition. There may be people sitting in front of you and looking in your direction, but the degree of attention they pay has everything to do with how you open the piece. Your first beat has to reach out and grab their attention. When you pick your eyes up and connect to the reader and to your choices, it has to be so compelling that they can’t look anywhere else. If you aren’t fully present from the first moment, they won’t be fully present with you.
Your opening beat will either draw people toward you or push them away. It will secure their full attention for two minutes, or close the door after 10 seconds.
The beginning of a piece is a real test of your preparation skills and your confidence in the decisions that came from applying those skills. You need a way of preparing that helps you to find an overriding intent that sets you firmly and passionately on your path from moment one—a technique that allows you access to the chambers of your heart that house the most personal and resonant relationships, so that your connections are strong, revealing and captivating right off the bat. A way of working that also brings out the brightest, most dynamic, and original choices that hook them immediately and make them realize they’re seeing something special.
Too many actors are tentative and weak at the start of their read. They appear to be tip-toeing into the piece trying to find secure footing.
Actors who work have the confidence to jump into their read. They trust that the net that they have built during their preparation will keep them aloft so they are free to take the initial leap and then continue to soar.
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.