You’ve got an extremely emotional scene to do. You arrive early to your audition so you can get settled and get in your zone.
In the waiting room you overhear the casting assistant talking to CAA about sending a script to Mr. Famous Actor for your role. You can actually hear the actors auditioning in the other room, and they’re getting a great reaction. You’re starting to question all your choices. “Eek! I wasn’t gonna do that!”
You shove your ear buds even further into your ears hoping you can drown out all these distractions that will undoubtedly be your undoing. “I’m good. I’m in my zone. I can do this,” you repeat over and over. You’re calling up your character’s emotional past to grab on to the emotions you’ll need for the upcoming scene.
You’re ushered into the casting office and are greeted by a peppy and excited assistant or a group of people who barely acknowledge that you’re in the room to audition. Then they want to chat. “How’s it going? What did you think of the script? Do you have any questions?” In the background you can hear the distinct sound of your heart beating so loudly that you can barely hear them asking you these inane questions. Then you realize, no, it’s not your heartbeat; it’s the distinct sound of a drill because they’re putting a new roof on the office while you’re auditioning.
Are we having fun yet? No, we’re not. How can an actor give a great audition against all these odds that seem to be set up as an obstacle course to make you fail? Protect yourself. Yes, you have to protect yourself against all these outside elements. Concentration is key, but asking for, or rather telling them, what you need is also crucial. This is what I call “controlling the room.” If you have a traumatic scene to do and you’re all geared up to connect to the character’s pain emotionally, then you come into an office and have to chat first—protect yourself. You can say, “I’d love to jump into the scene first; then we can chat after.” It’s all about the way you ask or tell. If you’re polite and gracious, you can get away with murder in this setting—as long as you’re not a diva about it. Remember, we want you to do well. We want to help you. It’s OK to ask a specific question about the scene, character, or screenplay beforehand, but make sure that you can use the answer in a specific way to inform the way you’ll play the upcoming scene.
If you get lost in the first few moments of the scene, stop and say, “I’m going to start over” and do just that—start over. Don’t ask for permission. You need not make a big deal about it. Don’t apologize, and don’t have a meltdown. Remember, you didn’t do anything horrible—but if you flip out and say, “I’m so sorry—can I please start over? Damn, I always do that!” then you give me pause, and I’m now worried how you’ll be on set if this happens. It’s how you handle these little speed bumps that shows us what a pro you are.
Remember, this is your time. This is your audition. Tell us what you need.
Known for her work in film and television, Casting Director Marci Liroff has worked with some of the most successful directors in the world such as Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Mark Waters, Christopher Nolan, Brad Bird, and Herbert Ross. While working at Fenton-Feinberg Casting, she, along with Mike Fenton, cast such films as “A Christmas Story," “Poltergeist," “E.T. – The Extra Terrestrial," “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," and “Blade Runner." After establishing her own casting company in 1983, Liroff cast “Footloose," “St. Elmo's Fire," “Pretty in Pink," “The Iron Giant," “The Spitfire Grill," “Untamed Heart," “Freaky Friday," “Mean Girls," “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past," “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” and the upcoming “The Sublime and Beautiful,” which she produced as well.
Liroff is also an acting coach, and her three-night Audition Bootcamp has empowered actors to view the audition process in a new light. The class spawned a DVD, which features the highlights of the Audition Bootcamp classes.