Are you struggling with being confident in the audition room? Los Angeles–based acting coach and Backstage Expert Joseph Pearlman digs into how to cultivate a confident mindset in the audition room, on set, and beyond for the latest episode of Actor’s Toolkit, Backstage’s monthly series focusing on the nuts and bolts of the acting business.
“Mindset is everything. You get how you feel,” Pearlman says. “How you’re feeling now is what you’re going to get.”
Specificity Can Unlock Your Acting Career’s Potential
Whether it’s a milestone you’d like to achieve in your career or your personal life, it’s important to let your dream play out in full in your imagination, says Pearlman—that way, you can begin to understand how achieving that dream would make you feel. Get specific about the details of your career desires.
“Don’t go halfway to it. Go all the way to it. Go right to the end of your fantasy,” Pearlman adds. “Because if you go halfway to it and have the attitude, ‘I’ll take what I can get,’ you’re going to get other people’s boat wake.”
Remember To Have Fun While Acting
One of the most important lessons to learn, whether working on a project big or small, is that acting is meant to be fun. He encourages actors to remember what it was like to be a child in the sandbox, and bring that enthusiasm and sense of play into their work.
And Pearlman has some actionable advice for the audition room, where actors often sabotage themselves with nerves and expectations:
1. Be Brave
When it comes to creating a character, nothing you can make up will be more interesting than who you are as a person. Pearlman says: “There is bravery in being fully yourself. Your personality is your secret weapon, both as an actor and in your career.”
Surrendering control of the audition—understanding that people are going to like you or not, no matter what you do—is part of that process. An actor’s goal should be to “stand out without screaming,” and to be confident enough to not back off from their authentic self.
2. Stop Trying To Please
“You can’t create and please at the same time,” Pearlman says. “Cut the chord of thinking: ‘I wonder what they want.’ They don’t know what they are looking for. They are looking for you to be the solution to a problem.”
Actors often assume that casting directors know exactly what they’re looking for in the audition room when that’s not the case, Pearlman says, but it is the actor’s job to bring themselves to the work in order to show creators what is possible for a role.
3. Learn What Great Acting Feels Like
When you feel awesome about your acting, that’s when you know you are doing good work. And the more times you find yourself in that creative space, the easier it will be to determine when you’ve reached it again.
And Pearlman offers four signposts for how to notice great acting within your own work: Great acting should feel fun, effortless, have an emotional impact, and be your version of the material—not anyone else’s.
But how exactly do you make that happen? Pearlman stresses that actors must have emotional clarity about their work and their career paths. It’s important to talk out loud using emotional words in order to create a reality in the moment for yourself as a performer.
“The journey to your best selves, your best versions of you as actors, your best career, is always a journey back to yourself,” Pearlman notes. “It’s the inner work. It’s always a journey back to your lit up, confident, highest version of yourself.”
And once you have imagined how achieving your goal would make you feel, you now own that feeling, Pearlman says and can stay in that mindset for however long you’d like. When you find that positive mindset, the confidence you feel is self-sustaining. And as an actor, it’s important to understand that it’s not the directors or the producers standing in the way of you getting a role, but rather yourself. “The gatekeeper is you,” he reminds.
Pearlman’s best advice for actors
Pearlman suggests that this type of inner work is the blueprint for everything an actor does: from auditioning and performing, to presenting themselves on social media and to producers and directors.
He suggests that the skills that actors need to cultivate are the ones within themselves and that working on confidence, visioning, and manifestation will help performers bring an authentic understanding of the work back into their body.
Above all else he stresses the importance of having fun: when an actor is lit up with a sense of fun, it creates an energy that can be sustained and used to fuel a performance.
And for the final minutes of the Toolkit session, Pearlman answered questions from the Backstage community. Here’s some of his best advice on how to cultivate confidence in your work and yourself:
- Trust that you’re interesting enough
- Understand that you can’t control what people think of you
- Get rid of anxiety by replacing it with “fun”
- In order for casting to love you, you must love yourself
- Don’t focus on effort, but rather on what you choose to leave behind
- Try to be three things when entering an audition room: fun to play with, someone casting would want to hang out with, and someone without desperation
To learn more about Pearlman, and how he helps performers fearlessly be themselves in their work, and in their lives, visit www.josephpearlman.com. He is available for Zoom classes and coaching sessions for actors around the world.
Keep up to date with Actor’s Toolbox working sessions here. And if you’re looking for more learning opportunities, check out The Slate! The Slate is Backstage’s digital and on-camera series featuring insights and direct feedback from casting directors, acting coaches, agents, actors, and creators. All conducted remotely, we’re taking you directly to industry power players through live-learning webinars with casting directors and industry pros, celebrity Instagram takeovers and Q&As, and more.