Category: Backstage

For Successful Auditions, You Have to Enjoy the Preparation

Having a process you enjoy and that allows you to have fun is essential to an energetic and engaging audition. I’ve been in enough casting sessions to know that if you’ve had fun in your preparation, that’s the energy you’ll walk into the room with and deliver on.  If, on the other hand, you’ve struggled, perhaps second guessing what you think the people in the room want to see or trying to “do the right thing,” you’ll walk in and deliver the piece in with tight, tentative, unappealing energy.

There are many boxes being checked in an audition and skills that are expected of you. Instead of looking at this as a test you could fail and preparing with the requisite fear and closed-heartedness, why not get to the result in a way that wakes up your body and heart and brings you joy?

Here are two of the many ways you can enjoy the process of auditioning more:

Use your imagination: One of the reasons many people get into acting is that they love to use their imaginations. Yet, in audition prep, so many actors tend to get too literal too quickly. In doing so, they cheat themselves out of the spaciousness that using the imagination provides.

For example, how are you going to audition to play a murderer unless you use your imagination? What would bring you to consider the act of murder? What would someone have to do to drive you to that point?

Recently, I coached an actor for a pilot about the CIA, a life so foreign to most of us, my student included. We did writing exercises to open up the imagination, followed by body and emotion work so he could really feel the tension, excitement, and fear this spy was feeling. All of this was done before we even addressed the text, intent, and relationships but because the imagination was activated and the body and heart were alive, the decisions of the piece came easily to him and were an honest representation of the qualities he had to bring to the role. Audition preparation can be fun…imagine that!

Self-discovery: In the audition, it’s you they’re looking for. Not a character but you and what you can add to the role. Having a process that gives you the tools to turn inward so as to access what’s most powerful in your personality is essential not only because all of your answers are inside of you, but because self-discovery can be incredibly exciting and rewarding. With each new uniqueness you find in yourself, the piece becomes deeper and more personal. You’ll also become stronger in your own sense of who you are.

Auditioning requires very specific knowledge of what makes you tick. It’s not enough to say, “sometimes I get angry, sometimes I’m nice,” etc. You need to know all the colors of your emotions: What makes you angry? Funny? Why do you get angry/funny at certain people and not others? How does that anger/humor manifest in the different circumstances in your life?

Jobs are gotten by actors who take the words on the page and turn them into a three-dimensional human being. How exciting to have this level of self-awareness be a job requirement!

Very little of the audition process takes place in the room or in front of the camera. For the most part, it’s you alone with the material, preparing. If you’re preparing in a way that’s making you feel defensive and stressed, you’re doing it to yourself. Why not learn and implement a technique that makes the preparation process fun and exciting? The choice is yours.

3 Things to Focus on During On-Camera Auditions

A winning audition has the feel of an intimate conversation. The actors who routinely book roles are the ones who do nothing more in the room than open their mouths, speak, and listen. This simplicity is achieved by having a way of preparing that enables them to go so deeply into themselves and the material, that the role and the actor become one.

With so many auditions being put on tape these days, this simplicity and clarity have now become essential—every actor needs to know how to work in a very personal and specific way.

You and your work need to reach out from the camera and draw the viewer in—you need to be the actor on the reel that they feel they have to watch.

We see many actors who work in a generic and nonspecific way that rings false—especially on tape. Their work doesn’t reach out from the camera and engage the viewer so much as it overwhelms the camera and looks like bad acting. These actors show they’re not ready for the job because they have no idea how to be appropriate for the camera much less use it to their benefit.

Here are three things you can focus on that will help make your next audition, on-camera or not, more honest and compelling:

1. Listening.
Film and television are primarily about images, not words. Before sound, stories got told, not through dialogue, but through the expressions on the faces of the actors. Even with sound, this is still true to a great degree—especially in auditions. Your reactions, the life behind your eyes and on your face, will have just as much, if not more, to do with you getting the job than your reading of the words. When you take the time in your preparation to personalize the relationships of the piece and then take the time in the reading to connect and react to those relationships, you are alive with all dimensions of your humanity. It is often said that words can cover the truth, but the eyes never lie. Listen well and we’ll see your soul as well as the soul of the character.

2. Stillness.
When auditioning in front of a camera, stillness is essential, but without proper consideration of the body, stillness can turn into stiffness and the actor can appear frozen. Working actors have a look of energized stillness in their auditions. They have explored their choices for their physical as well as their emotional properties, and they know the associated physical sensation of every choice.

When your choices are felt in your body as well as your mind and heart, you will be connected on all levels. There will be an actual current of energy running through you. This is the electric stillness that embodies the entire character and really pops on camera.

3. Living in your moments.
Great film/television actors don’t give back an experience or emotion until it has run through their entire being. They feel everything fully in their mind, body, and heart observing the color, shape, and texture of their emotions so that when they give them back to the world through their work, they are fully formed and completely human. These actors create moments so specific and singular that we can’t imagine the role without them. Great acting and great auditioning require this degree of emotional exploration as well as the willingness to live fully in the resulting moments.

Sometimes we will see an actor auditioning who has made a very personal choice, but because they don’t take the time to live in it, the moment is too fleeting and the choice doesn’t stick. Working actors know where their job-getting moments are—they feel them organically. They know which color, shape, or texture of each choice resonates most strongly, and how could they not—the choices are completely wired into them. And when a choice is fully realized in your mind, body, and heart you’ll know exactly how much time and space the choice needs to make the job-getting impact you need it to.

Remember, you can’t have a job-getting moment without first taking a moment.

An on-camera audition is a great test of your honesty and skill as an actor. If you are telling the truth in the most interesting and compelling way we’ll see the character as a person—three-dimensional and vibrant. If you are also a great listener, if your stillness is energized and alive, and if you’re confident enough to take your moments, we’ll see the actor we have to hire.

This is The Key to Winning the Audition + Booking to Role

In an audition, the more personally you invest in your decisions, the more specific the final result, and the more the people in the room know about what you, specifically, have to offer the role.

I write and teach extensively on how to be deeply specific in your intentions, your relationships, and your choices but today, I want to get even deeper and talk about the specificity of your connection to the other characters in a scene and, ultimately, to the reader or camera.

The first step in connecting in a meaningfully specific way is exploring all facets of the relationships. Now, I’m not talking about your ideas about the relationship—whether you think you love or hate the other person, etc., nor am I talking about a complicated backstory that puts you in your head and risks pulling you out of the moments of the scene. I’m talking about where the relationship lives in your body, how it feels.

When you explore the feelings in your body, be really specific as to where they live and how you’re physically affected. Get up, move around, put your hands on the parts of the body that are impacted, indulge in all of the sensations of the relationship.

The second step is the specific connection. The actual physical connection you make to another is the energetic manifestation of the feelings you discovered in exploring the relationship.

That being the case, we can safely say that energy follows emotion. If you decided you love the other character in a deeply passionate way and felt that passion in the pit of your stomach, where does that lead you energetically? Would it cause your body to lean in slightly at the waist? Would your breathing deepen or come quickly? Would you tighten or relax the stomach?

If you stay true to the feelings of the relationship in the audition, the energy will flow freely and create slight adjustments in your body. The emotions will then be expressed with the specific energy they need from your body. When this happens, the powerful, personal connection that results is undeniable.

You need to connect with that amount of strength because you’re connecting to a reader or camera that isn’t giving you a lot—or anything—to work with. But I guarantee when you connect with the energetic force of your emotions, the reader will start to read differently and you’ll jump through that camera and truly affect the people watching.

The difference in your auditions will be huge. While most actors think it’s enough to simply stare at the reader or into the camera in an effort to show they can listen, you’ll be connecting with the full force of your heart and your body. And this type of connection will allow the people in the room to positively answer one of the most important questions in the audition: Does this actor connect with the specificity that will ensure dynamic and compelling reaction shots?

At least half the time you’ll be on screen, the camera will be on you when you’re listening and reacting. If they don’t see the type of connection we’ve been talking about in the room or on the tape, your audition is over.

Specificity is the hallmark of greatness in acting and auditioning. But it doesn’t just apply to the specificity of what you’ve chosen to do, but also to the specificity of how you actually do it.

How to Show Casting You’re Set-Ready

By Craig Wallace

When talking about their auditions, I often hear actors say things like:“I think I gave a good audition” or that it “went well.” They felt “ok in the room,” the read felt “pretty good,” and that the people in the room “seemed to like them.” It’s all almost as if the audition was a test and they passed with a solid B.

But what about an A+ audition? One that proves you’re good enough to do the job? After all, that’s what an audition is about. Framing it any other way entirely misses the point of why they were in the room.

At its best and highest form, an audition is you showing the people in the room that you are ready and able to do the job; that you have the chops at that very moment to walk onto the set and deliver as a multifaceted, creative, and flexible actor as well as a solid, strong, and dependable professional.

You need a way of working that allows you to exceed all of the actors who are just preparing to do well in the room. You need to prepare in a way that allows you to exhibit the greatness that lands you on the set. So here are three of the things that need to happen if you’re going to be seen as set-ready.

1. Variety of choice.

Let’s first be clear that this doesn’t mean making a series of random and bizarre decisions for the sake of trying to be original. It’s about finding the choices inside of you that connect you to the words on the page in the most dynamic and truthful way possible.

A television director friend of mine says that he likes to see a range of choices in the audition so that he knows he has options when the scenes are being shot. He may decide at the last minute to change the tone and needs to know the actors have the range to handle different scenarios.

Sometimes, it’s the opposite. The director will say, “Just throw it all away and say the words.” That’s their decision for the scene in that moment, but if that’s all you show them in the audition, they may assume that’s all that you can do and will choose someone who gave them more options.

They also know from your audition that you can “just throw it away,” and it will still be interesting and multifaceted because your dialogue will contain all of the colors of the choices they saw in the room.

2. Ease.

There is an ease to the actors who book the job. There is no neediness or sense of apology. These actors are confident, natural, and present during every moment of the process. Their work is done on the inside so their minds, bodies, and hearts are free to take in and be a part of their surroundings and connect to everyone in the room without distraction. They are someone you look forward to working with, someone you like. And remember, people hire people they like.

3. Adjustments.

Nothing tells the people in the room if you’re ready for the set more than how you handle an adjustment. When you deliver a solid, professional adjustment, you’re showing them that you’re a smart, creative actor who has great control over his work, and also that you have the skill to move easily and effectively in all directions.

By not overcooking the adjustments but instead weaving them into the fabric of your initial reading, you’ll show that you understand an adjustment is a shift, not an overhaul, and that you can take direction by incorporating subtly and truthfully.

Adjustments will also reveal how prepared and flexible you are. Actors who book are the perfect combination of both!

If you’re underprepared or winging it, you won’t have enough control over the piece to know what you’re adjusting and the whole piece will crumble under the weight of the adjustment. If you’re over-prepared and have run the piece 100 times, you won’t be able to shift because the piece will be cemented into your head one way and one way only.

An audition isn’t an end unto itself. It’s a job interview and in order for it to be a success, you need to exhibit the skills, presence, and confidence of the job getter, not the tentative, people pleasing dullness of one more actor auditioning.

Good auditions end in the room but great ones can land you on the set.

Why Actors Need to Focus on Talent Before Marketing

There is much talk these days about how important marketing is to an actor’s career, as well as a seemingly endless stream of advice and opinion on the best ways to use all the different forms of new media. And while it is important for actors to take advantage of opportunities to get themselves out there, there is an essential question that needs to be addressed before any campaign is launched: Are you ready for the market?

Read the full article on Backstage website.

3 Ways to Remain Your Authentic Self in Hollywood

“Authenticity is essential to great auditioning and to great acting. And yet, we live in a time when authenticity is often replaced with packaged profiles and fabricated personas. What we’re seeing too much of these days is a whole generation of actors who are mistaking their images for who they really are. And, according to many casting directors, the level of work in audition rooms has decreased accordingly.”

Read the full article on Backstage website.