Auditions: Prepare for the Unexpected
We all know that auditioning is critical to the success of an actor. Sure, you are probably going to get the odd job here and there just because of who you know, but, for the most part, to have a long and fruitful career as an actor, you have to be exceptional at auditioning.
I am going to talk about how I think actors can prepare to be brilliant at an audition by laying out a few tips, and by sharing a few recent experiences.
1. Prepare as much as possible by reading the heck out of your sides (the audition material). Heck, read the other roles that are auditioning, too, as you might be asked to read for one of them during your appointment!
2. Read the entire script (when applicable), if possible. Read it at least twice, time allowing. The first time though, try and get a sense of the story. The second time, read your part.
3. Make specific choices about how you are going to “perform” the scene. At the minimum, you must know who you are talking to (and how you feel about them), where you are, what you want in the scene, and how you are going to get it.
4. The scene “starts” before lines are spoken. Find that moment. Determine the most important parts of the scene (which may be unspoken), and “serve those up,” making sure your eyes are off of the page for these “key” moments.
5. Do your best to have your eyes off of the page at the start, end, and at any other “key” moments which you have pre-determined during your preparation.
6. LISTEN to your scene partner and respond.
Okay, here are some “in the room” tips:
1. Enter with confidence! This is as much about you helping them, remember? They want you to shine and they want you to fill their casting need! Be friendly, professional, and “take control of the room!”
2. If its the first read, hold your sides. Yes, be as familiar with the scene as possible, and use the sides if needed, but do hold the sides. As you get further along in the casting process, you will use your sides less and less (stay tuned for a post that is specific to the subject of memorization and holding the sides), but at the first audition, unless you only have one line, hold those sides. Heck, for a one-liner, I might hold my sides, too!
3. Speaking of holding the sides, everyone has their own way of working while holding the pages – you can keep the pages whole and stapled, you can fold the edges down to make them as small as possible, etc. I tend to keep my pages whole (not cut or folded) and stapled, but I do my best to “know” when the page-turns happen, so I can turn as I go, keeping my eyes up and connected to the scene as much as possible, while not losing my place in the script.
4. There will usually be a mark for you to stand on or a chair for you to sit in. You can go right to that mark when you enter the room, to keep the casting session moving along. Before you begin, it is advisable to ask, “how am I framed?” so you know how much freedom or restriction you have. I imagine that most of the time, when you are being put on camera, that you are in a medium shot (waistline to top of head).
5. You will probably be asked to “slate” before you begin, and the casting director, or whoever is running the audition, might ask for something specific, like your height, in addition to the standard info – your name. Speak clearly in your slate, please.
6. After your slate, begin the scene.
7. After the scene, you may be directed or “adjusted” by the CD, so listen carefully, ask a question, if you have one, then give it another go, integrating the adjustment into your first read. I would say, generally, if you have been given an adjustment, that they like what you did, so don’t throw it all out. Add to it with the direction you have received.
8. Have fun, have fun…please have fun!
9. After the audition, let-it-go. You did your thing, you (hopefully) listened and responded, now just kick back, congratulate yourself, and get ready for your next audition!
Now, let me share a few quick stories about some recent auditions which reminded me that things don’t always go as expected and to be as prepared as possible at all times.
Went to an audition and had prepared my sides ahead of time. Entered the room. In the room is the director, the writer, the producer (?), and one other person on *that* side of the table. On my side is a reader. No camera in the room. I was asked to read a portion of the script that I didn’t have (!), and once I mentioned that I did not have that portion, I read the side I had prepared. After the read, the director asked me to read another set of sides, and while I suppose I could have stepped outside, I asked for a minute, stayed in the room, asked a question, then did the read. LESSON: Take things in stride and always do your best.
Scenario 2: I was called in to audition for a casting director. It was for a short film. I received the script and the sides 24 hours before the initial audition. I the casting instructions included what portion of the script to prepare, and I was reading for two roles. Once in the room, where I was seated and reading with another actor (who was also auditioning), the CD asked if I would start on page 15 or something. The casting instructions did not ask that I prepare that section, which I mentioned, so we did the portion I had prepared. Once I was called back, I read the original materials again, and, while in the room, I was asked to read for a 3rd role (this is great new, by the way – if you are asked to keep reading, chances are that they like what you are showing them). Of course, I had read the script, but I had not paid too much attention to this role. I asked for a few minutes, and went back in to read for them. LESSON: Read the all of the material, and be prepared to read for other roles.
Scenario 3: Went to an audition and was asked to “warm up” by reading a monologue from the script that I had never seen before. I was given time to look at the material, then did my read, directly to the camera. I was adjusted, once, and did the monologue again. After that, I did my scene, during which I was instructed to perform the actions while looking towards the side wall of the room, which left me very profile to the camera. I was reading with another actor, who played the short scene with me. After I was done, I was asked if I would like to do it again. No direction, mind you. But, I did it again anyhow. The whole thing felt just a little off. LESSON: Have fun, and know that you are not going to have the most amazingly transformational experience at every audition. And, you never know what to expect.
Well, I hope this post was helpful to you.