I just watched some dailies of a pilot we recently cast and was thunderstruck with an obvious but powerful realization: The cast’s work was so present, so alive, so engaged, that there was no denying each actor’s truth, each character’s reality. I was fully in their story.
It had nothing to do with the sets, costumes, blocking, or camera moves. It was all about their presence. Dropping into their experience, fully committed, taking ownership, deeply engaged with each other, and emotionally on fire.
This is the kind of work that you must bring into the casting room. This is you doing your work, not auditioning for a role. Not proving to us that you can do it but actually doing it. Not needing us to give you permission to sit or stand or engage with the reader. But taking command. Showing leadership. Something we advocate for at our Studio all the time.
You have to invest in what you want in the scene. There is urgency, the stakes are personal to you, and from a full emotional life, there is an active pursuit of something. And you just do it. You go for it. You don’t wait to be directed. You don’t wait for someone to give you a “choice” to play. You invest fully in the story and leap. Personally, specifically, intimately. Assuming relationships (even with a disengaged reader), wanting something that you feel in your bones, and immersing yourself in it fully.
Patsy Rodenberg, a brilliant teacher, talks about the “second circle” as the place of presence—it changes everything. In the casting room we desperately want you to be present. To be intimate and personal, dropped in and connected to another human being. Here, with us. You must strive for a continual sense of being present.
Sure, you might lose it now and then, but you have to find your way back to it. While no casting room is going to give you the feeling of the world you’re inhabiting—nor will it take care of your acting needs—you are responsible for showing up. That’s on you. Allowing yourself to be present is not only going to bring us into your “circle,” it’s going to make space for you to do meaningful work.
You have to engage with:
- A clear decision about how you feel and what you believe about everything and everyone you’re talking about, personally and specifically. You have to know that.
- The courage to show yourself fully, to put your heart on the chopping block, understanding that it might be chopped up into pieces and tossed on the floor. But your job is to give us your heart and to be vulnerable, to be seen, to feel things and to engage from that place.
- A spirit of collaboration. How exciting if you come in to work with us, not for us. Let’s not audition, let’s work.
- A sense of yourself as a rooted tree. Grounded. Sure. Clear. And nothing, nobody can shake you—not a producer on her phone, not a reader who won’t look at you, not having to stand on a mark 10 feet away from where you want to be. You have more important things to do than be unhinged by the room.
- A desire, a willingness, a need to engage with another human being, the reader. Make that person your scene partner and put all of your attention and “want” onto her, no matter what she does or doesn’t give you. Know what she means to you. It’s your job to pull her out of herself.
- The gift of generosity. Offering yourself to the work, offering your point of view. You are there to take care of the casting team by doing the work; that’s what they need. You don’t need them to take care of you.
- A strong, clear emotional truth, that allows you to be full, dropped in, still, and present.
- Trust that you’ve done the work, that it’s now living inside you, and you have to now engage in a conversation and a known relationship, putting your focus on the other person, with your heart full. It really is as simple as that.
- An ease, realizing that this is not life-changing. Sure, if you get the job it will change things for awhile, but this moment cannot be about the pressure you put on yourself to win the lottery. This moment is about the story you’re telling, the relationship you’re in, the thing you need to get in the scene, how that affects you, and that’s it. It’s about practicing your craft at the highest level.
- A letting go of the idea that you’re being judged, tested, or chosen. You allow yourself to be in and of the work. You’re there to throw yourself into it, not to ask permission to do your job. We are there doing our work; you must meet us there.
You have to redefine auditioning. Turn it on its head and reframe what it means. It's a toxic word if you let it separate you from your talent or from the other professionals in that room who are there to do their best work. When you can start seeing this as an opportunity to fully enter a story and offer yourself to collaborate with fellow artists and to affect people on an emotional level—which is your primary job and your superpower—yours will be the kind of work I was privileged to see in those dailies. The work we are privileged to share in our studio. The work that does happen in the casting room when you find your way to that circle of presence, ease, power, and joy. When you share the work that you’re capable of doing once the camera is rolling. When this is not an audition, but a job.
This is the work we do at The BGB Studio, so let us help you with classes to find your presence in the casting room.
Inspired? Check out our audition listings!
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and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.