A while back I wrote that connection is more than just looking at someone with feeling. There are actually 10 different ways that it’s possible to connect with people when speaking to them. It’s important to know this as an actor so that you can connect with the people in an audition in as many of these ways as possible. I covered eye contact and body energy in the last article and now I’d like to address the importance of facial expressions and emotions.
The Importance of Facial Expressions for Actors
Have you ever looked at someone who is smiling so sincerely that you started smiling as well? Or seen someone crying and had your eyes fill with tears? These are examples of connections through facial expression. The urge to connect this way is so strong that we even create micro-expressions that mimic other people’s faces without them noticing. It’s a very primal way of connecting that started thousands of years ago to show unity and trustworthiness, and it’s still with us today.
Connecting through facial expressions is a way to show the people in the audition room, or watching the tape, that you have the ability to connect to an audience. Many actors though audition with a face that is frozen into a set position, seemingly immovable and definitely not expressive. This is caused, much of the time, by tension. The face contains 57 muscles and as we know, muscles can tense up under pressure. I see actors in waiting rooms stretching their backs, necks, legs, etc. so that their bodies will be energized and support their work in the audition. The face needs that same attention.
It’s not just your back and limbs that carry the tension of your day, so does your face—and in a much more visible way! You need to stretch the muscles of the face to ensure that it is able to move with the emotions of your audition, not stay stuck in some experience you had two hours earlier. Stretch and relax the face by yawning in an exaggerated fashion, by filling the cheeks with air, by rubbing the forehead and jawline, by dropping it into the neck, and releasing as many muscles as possible.
Only then will the emotional life of the piece show on your face and enable the people watching you to match your expressions muscularly and empathetically, creating the deep connection necessary to book the role.
The Importance of Emotions for Actors
When we connect to people with our emotions we generally want two things: To be understood and/or to have the other person feel the same way that we feel. In order to have these things happen, first we must deeply feel the emotion and second, the emotion needs to be expressed in a strong and compelling way.
This is exactly what has to happen in an audition. You need to walk into the room with a feeling of joy for being there and excitement that you get to share your work and yourself. If this is what is naturally being expressed, that is what the people in the room will connect to and they’ll have an immediate, positive response to you. This works both ways, as I’m sure you know. If you don’t feel connected to the material and don’t feel confident that your audition will be a strong and interesting representation of what you have to offer the role, you’ll connect with doubt and anxiety. When it’s time to work, and this goes for taped auditions as well, you need to reach out to the people watching and connect to them with the honestly felt emotions you’ve brought to the piece, expressed with power and heart.
"Expressed" is a keyword here. Remember, film and TV auditioning and acting is not so much about creating something outside of you as it is about expressing what is already inside you. The people in the room want pure emotion, honestly expressed and in a taped audition the camera demands no less. Any showing, selling, or creating outside of the self puts a wall of effort in front of you and makes it impossible for you to make the true connections that make the auditioners feel what you want them to feel. But when your connection is eye to eye, face to face, and emotion to emotion, they know they’ve met the actor who can make the audience take notice and really feel.
To connect through the eyes, body energy, facial expressions, and emotions is to so thoroughly wrap yourself around a role that you cannot be separated from it.
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