Why the Wrong Answers Are Often Right

If you want to be an actor, do you need high school?

First off, I am not advocating leaving school early. Formal education is imperative for life. But the current education system does not prepare you for a career in the creative arts—especially not acting.

The foundation of education goes back to the 19th century. New industries needed their workers to read, to write, to add up, so the basis of education worldwide was to train students to drill down to an exact answer.

If you apply this thinking to acting (and especially auditioning), actors will strive for pre-ordained precise analysis—a specific answer to the delivery of a particular line or a moment in the scene. Even worse, you predetermine the character’s emotion. You commit to one outcome.

Your interpretation of a character’s feeling is now locked into a defined range.

I believe success in performance (be it acting, dance, mime, or even being a magician) is not found by a meticulous preparedness. The memorable actors are the ones who discover moments that we never imagined. They find new answers.

To be remembered at an audition, you need to deliver singular moments—flashes of peerless inspiration, not well considered exacting reactions.

For example, many drama schools train students to make firm, conclusive decisions about a particular emotion for every point in the scene.

Do you write on your sides a character’s exact emotion or feeling or delivery next to a certain line? Do you underline words to emphasize? I believe inspirational character creation is the result of exploring other answers. All answers, even the wrong ones.

How many times in your audition prep or scene dissection have you tried something silly, something out of left field, and found it works wonderfully for your character?

How many times in high school did a silly answer in a math exam get you sent to detention? I bet Robin Williams got a lot of detention for his math answers!

In high school, two plus two equals four. In auditions, two plus two could equal many things.

To succeed in becoming a remembered actor, you must find new territory, unexpected moments, and unanticipated emotional paths.

Be fearless, be impractical. You will be surprised at how many times the “wrong” answer in an audition will get you remembered.

Like this advice? Check out more from our Backstage Experts!

Greg Apps is one of Australia’s most respected casting directors. In a career covering 30 years, he cast over 65 feature films including “Mission Impossible 2,” “Queen of the Damned,” “Knowing” and James Cameron’s “Sanctum.” In Australia, he cast the career breakout roles for Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Eric Bana, Sam Worthington and Hugo Weaving. His latest film, “Felony,” with Joel Edgerton and Tom Wilkinson opens in 2014.

He recently created The Audition Technique, which allows actors to peek inside the closed doors of the casting process, and is the culmination of Apps’ career spanning acting, producing, and casting. By embracing these techniques and concepts, you will change your audition methodology and you will book more work. You can see what a casting director sees, what they think, how they view screen tests—how they judge your work. It allows you to sit in a casting directors chair.

You’ll see auditions not as a test of your ability, but as an actor friendly creative environment empowering you to experiment, explore, and excite.

Follow Apps on Twitter, like him on Facebook, and find out more at www.theauditiontechnique.com.

Greg Apps
Greg Apps is one of Australia’s most respected casting directors. In a career spanning 30 years, he has cast over 65 feature films.