You get the call to audition. It rings with possibility. This could be it, you think, but then quickly un-think it so you don’t jinx yourself.
If you’re lucky you’ll receive sides in advance, but generally your first glimpse at the goods is at the actual audition. This means you’ll be waiting in some uncomfortable chair trying to absorb every word as quickly as possible, like an eager sponge, before you’re seen.
As humans, we heavily weigh first impressions. We are innately conditioned to remember our primary exposure to any entity. This means that when you first read a script or lines of any sort, you’re going to easily remember it that way on a subconscious level. It’s like when you first meet a friend. Your impression of them may change, but that first one always sticks with you.
Applying this theory to auditioning, let’s saying you’re called in for a pizza commercial. The copy reads as follows: “You can now order unlimited toppings on your pizza for just 6.99! That’s right! Only 6.99 to have everything you could ever dream of on your slice.” Pretty simple. However, if you’re nervous and scan through the script quickly you might first read this: “You can now order unlimited toppings on your pizza for 6.99! That’s right! 6.99 for everything you could dream of.” Of course, you can always go back and reread the line to clearly see you’ve left out some words, but it’s going to be harder to get the line down pat when your first read was off. You might think it’s fine to just “get the gist of it” down, but all of the words were written there with a specific intent. In fact, production can be sticklers for this. Why would they pick someone that can barely remember the copy?
To avoid any trouble, it is vital that you give the upmost attention to your initial look at the material. Here are some tips for nailing your first read:
Be focused. Always be in a place of concentration during your first read. If you’re hurriedly scanning through while simultaneously dreaming of what could happen if you get the role, you’re not going to nail the audition. Simply take a breath and hone in on the page.
Read like an audience member. As actors, we automatically want to read as if we are performing something and in the headspace of the role, but that isn’t always the smartest route. This is why it’s sometimes better to step back and read as an audience member. Study each word carefully and watch what unfolds. You’d be surprised to see how much more you’ll learn about the material when you put the story first. Reading this way will also open you up to understanding how the other characters in the scene feel about yours. They usually reveal essential information about the role you’re going in for, details that you might not have received had you been solely focused on your lines. Seeing the “big picture” automatically gives you an advantage.
Identify the objective. If you do nothing else, be sure to secure a certain way of approaching the text. Since you don’t usually have much time before going in the room, picking an objective is imperative for making specific choices. Read the script and decide what the role wants the most and how each line will play because of it. It helps to write one word in bold on top of the sides so when you look down in the room you are confident in your choice. Try to answer the question: What am I fighting for?
By following these tips, when you actually go back and put all the work in, you’ll have a better foundation laid. These days we’re all used to scanning news feeds with mini headlines, but try taking the time to read something carefully in full. It can save you from stumbling in the room and help you nab that role.
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Robert Peterpaul is an actor, writer, and the owner of RPP, a company that aims to assist talent in the entertainment industry in “honing their craft.” His career highlights include working for NBC’s “Access Hollywood” and “America’s Got Talent in the past, and, currently for, AOL BUILD, the Huffington Post, and his family's foundation, the Thomas Peterpaul Foundation. Peterpaul can be seen next in the upcoming feature film “What Happened Last Night.” Follow him on Twitter @robpeterpaul.
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