To Hold the Script or Not to Hold the Script?

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To hold the script or not hold the script—is that the question?

This may seem like a fairly technical question and one you might just gloss over or alternatively obsess about. No need to do either. The thing is, the answer to the question speaks to more than just holding the script. It’s not really about that at all. There are absolutely reasons to hold your pages during an audition and we’ll identify those first, but “to hold or not to hold” calls for a bigger answer.

The basics: If you forget a line in the middle of your scene, you want to have the page right there. And you can—you must—get used to glancing down without losing the connection to the reader or your story. Be patient. It takes both practice and fortitude.

Now you’re very likely going to think, “I spent all that time memorizing my lines, I am off-book. I have to be off-book.” But why put that pressure on yourself? Having memorized every word does not guarantee a great experience for anyone. Nobody was ever cast because they got all the words perfect. It’s crazy to put your main focus on knowing every word and then wish you had the page in hand. Having a map to refer to offers support so why not support yourself? Especially when you’re showing up with strong choices, comfortable in your own skin, with the confidence of knowing who you are and what you want in the scene. Plus, doing that kind of prep work ensures you know your words far better.

Holding the script reminds us all what this is. While we want you to come into the room and do your work at the highest level, having your pages solidifies that we are in the early stages of our collaboration, that this is your take on it, that we are all in discovery, and that you’re available to direction. It also allows us to relax, knowing you have your pages if you need them. This is not the final take.

And this might not seem huge, but it’s great to have something to hold; pages are a prop of sorts. It’s grounding to have that thing right in there in your hand.

READ: How to Be Present in the Casting Room

But here’s what’s most important. Focusing on the “should I” or “shouldn’t I” regarding a script in hand is focusing on that which undermines your power and talent. It undermines your confidence in yourself and thus our confidence in you. You give up your talent when you concern yourself with what you should or shouldn’t do in anything you bring into the room. We’ve said this before: If you want them (the studio, the network, the producers) to put millions of dollars and their careers on your shoulders, you have to show up in command, rock solid, knowing exactly who you are and what you want. And your pages are then just extension of you. You hold them as needed, you use them if you have to. You know what you’re doing, you’re deep in the work with your own clear, strong point of view. You're in the driver’s seat.

If you’ve done your prep, if you’ve made clear decisions about everything and everyone you’re talking about, if the words come from a real, specific, and personal place, the pages are just there to guide you if at any point you’re not 100% sure of a turn. Imagine driving on a dark, winding dirt road in the rain. Your GPS is spotty and you don’t want to take your eyes off the road. You have to navigate the route, but you’ve driven the road before and you know your way. You may need to slow down, be extra alert, glance at the map as needed, but you are clear and secure in your driving.

When you’re deep in the work, when your confidence comes from how much you trust your instincts and your preparation, then and only then are the pages secondary. Doing that kind of bold work is what you strive for, not focusing on whether or not to hold the page. Focus on what’s truly important. Then we won’t even see the pages. We won’t be focusing on whether you use them or not. Who cares? We’re so engaged in you, in your story, we can’t notice anything else!

Solidify your practice. Get deep in the work on a weekly basis. Join us at The BGB Studio for ongoing classes.

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

Author Headshot
Risa Bramon Garcia
For the past 40 years, Risa has worked as a director, producer, casting director, and teacher. Having directed two features—including “200 Cigarettes”—she has also directed for TV and dozens of plays in New York and Los Angeles. Her casting résumé includes more than 80 feature films and shows, and includes “Desperately Seeking Susan,” “Fatal Attraction,” “JFK,” “The Joy Luck Club,” “The Affair,” “Masters of Sex,” and the original “Roseanne.” She is a founding partner of The BGB Studio, known for revolutionary acting training.
See full bio and articles here!
Author Headshot
Steve Braun
Steve Braun is an acting coach, teacher, and communication consultant, drawing on years of acting, Buddhist practice, and martial arts training to help his clients discover and express their unique emotional truth. When he pursued an acting career, he starred in movies, was a series regular many times, and guest starred on numerous TV shows. He is a founding partner of The BGB Studio, known for revolutionary acting training.
See full bio and articles here!

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