The other day, I was at Starbucks picking up my morning dose of rocket fuel when I noticed a young man sitting off to the side. He seemed to be talking to himself. Curious, I wandered a little closer and watched as he glanced down at a piece of paper before continuing the one-sided conversation.
And that’s when it hit me. This kid was an actor, and he was working on his sides.
Just then, his cell rang and he answered it. Here’s what I heard: “Hey, man. I can’t talk right now. I’ve got this amazing audition for ‘The Mentalist’ in two hours, and I still have to get my lines down. I’ll send you a text when I’m done.”
My gut clenched. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. This kid’s agent had worked hard to score that audition, and his client was waiting till the last possible minute to prepare the material. And worse, he was doing it in a public place, surrounded by a hundred distractions.
Something snapped inside me. Without thinking, I charged over, slapped the sides out of his hands, threw my coffee in his face, and demanded an explanation for his unprofessional behavior. The poor actor started to cry like a little baby. He never knew what hit him.
Actually, that never happened. It’s just one of the many fantasies that get me through the day.
Guys like me burn a lot of calories submitting and pitching clients for all the roles available on films and television shows. Auditions are the bread and butter of the agency business. I can sign the most talented actor in the world, but if he doesn’t get a chance to read, nothing’s accomplished and no one makes any money. That’s why it kills me when a client doesn’t do his or her best to prepare for the moment of truth.
I used to work with an actor from Sydney who might be the most dedicated client I’ve ever represented. Every time he had an audition, the guy would rent a private space for an hour so he could prepare the material without any distractions. I’m talking no cell phone, no laptop, nothing. And then, on the day of the audition, all he had to do was fine tune his choices at home before heading out the door.
Naturally, I don’t expect every actor out there to follow his example, but the idea is a sound one. The bottom line is you need a space where you can do your thing. Maybe it’s your bedroom, the one your roommate isn’t allowed to enter. Or maybe you have a friend who’s never home during the day. The choice is yours. Just find a place that allows you to focus.
If your living situation is impossible, think about finding a private spot in a public space. This is easier than you think, especially during a weekday when most sane people are at work. And if you’re not comfortable reading lines out loud where strangers might see you, then save that part for later and use the time to really examine the material without interruptions. An hour of this will help you make all kinds of discoveries.
I would also suggest you get to every audition at least 30 minutes early, so you have time to center yourself. There’s nothing worse than arriving at a casting office late and having an assistant tell you to go in right away, before you have time to catch your breath.
Remember—when you audition for a casting director, you’re not just reading for the project they’re working on. You’re also reading for every single project they’ll be casting in the future. That’s why every audition is important. Keep that in mind next time you decide to prepare at Starbucks, surrounded by loud music and drones working on screenplays.