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.
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.
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.