I’ve known hundreds of talented, gifted actors who never had the careers they should have—all because they never mastered the art of getting the job. They looked at auditioning as the artistic stepchild to “real” acting. It was the “necessary evil” they had to endure before they were allowed to act. I always had the feeling they felt it was somehow beneath them.
This has always been untrue, and never more so than today.
Auditioning has become a more dynamic, creative process than ever before, and necessarily so, given the level of skill and creativity it takes to book a job in today’s ultra-competitive job market. Your way of working has to help you to go deep—to discover shades in yourself and in the text that will not only help you to book the job, but will also make you a better actor.
A great audition strikes the perfect balance between preparedness and flexibility.
The people in the room want to see who you are and what you have to add to the role. They do not want to see a set finished performance. This is the job interview, not the job.
If they like what they see from you, they will want to work with you, adjust you. You won’t be able to adjust, however, if you have “set” your work. You need to have prepared so that you know your intent, your relationships, and the different parts of your emotional mapping that will be become your choices.
But you can’t lock down the manifestation of those choices. Nailing everything down takes away any chance of anything interesting or spontaneous happening in the room. This is the whole story of auditioning and what so many have trouble with: You have to be prepared and know what you are bringing into the room and what you want them to see, but you need to leave the details of how it all happens to the moment. Your awareness of how you feel in the moment will provide the color and texture that is honest and appropriate for each choice.
Many actors tell me that when they perform a role it’s easier because they can prepare all the way to the finish line. But is that really the right way to go about it? How about taking the lesson from auditioning that flexibility can bring spontaneous moments of transcendence, adding energy and immediacy that can so easily be eliminated by over-rehearsing.
All performance-based disciplines carry an element of leaping in the dark. If you have a solid technique, your preparation will weave the net that will always catch you. Knowing this will help you to leave room for magic in your auditions and your performances. A winning audition in today’s marketplace also requires the actor to go deeper into themselves than ever before. It’s not enough to just scratch the surface, and generic doesn’t cut it. Jobs are going to the actors who show the people in the room the detailed specificity that turns the words on the page into a dynamic three-dimensional person.
I’ve found that sometimes when actors have the role and are readying to give the performance, they cut back on their personal investment and count a bit too much on the director, other actors and knowledge of the scene to carry them through. They’ll never be bad, but they’ll never be great.
The art of film/TV acting is the art of expression. You’re not so much creating a role from the outside as you are going deep inside to give the role your own unique heartbeat.
Once you’ve booked, it’s time to keep exploring and working to find the truest intersection between yourself and the words.
There are whole careers that have been made by actors going further into themselves and making a seemingly ordinary role—no matter the size—extraordinary. These performances catch the eye of the casting executives and higher ups who can make sure that you get the opportunities you deserve if you’re doing that level of work.
Whether you’re auditioning or performing, you’re still acting. By focusing on what the two disciplines share, the need for deep exploration and flexibility among them, you will not only get the job, but also be able to give a much more dynamic, layered, and winning performance.
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