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Passion, Discipline and Soft Goals – a Recipe for Acting Success!

I was on a panel recently and one of the questions we were asked was, “What do you think is the most important thing an actor needs to achieve success?” Some answers were “passion” and “determination.”

When it came to me I said, “Skills. Passion and determination mean nothing if you can’t deliver.” When asked to explain further, I said that, as far as the audition goes, the people in the room are looking to see if you have the skills to make the role come life in a way that will engage the audience and enhance the project. They want to see the effortlessly connected, dynamic result of your hard work. If you go in to audition passionately determined to blow them away, but you don’t know what you’re doing, all they’ll see is an unfocused mess—no matter how determined and passionate you are to make it good.

As an example, I said that I had just come from my accountant that day. I didn’t choose her because I admire her passion for accounting; I hired her because she knows tax law and can save me money. Same with my doctor. He may have had passion and determination to get through medical school, but all I care about is that he can read the lab results correctly and that he knows what to do when he puts the rubber gloves on.

It’s about the skill. And even though our profession has a large creative and emotional component, in the end, how frequently you work will depend on how skilled you are at getting and performing the job.

While passion and determination aren’t magic bullets and are far from being enough on their own, they can be helpful as part of a successful work ethic and as motivators to be the absolute best actor that you can be. But, it’s important to use these qualities in the most positively artistic way possible.

With determination, for example, there is a big difference between stubborn determination and artistic determination.

When I hear some actors say that they’re determined, it’s many times code for bull headedness. It means that they’re going to keep doing what’s not working, but with even more energy. Creativity is not linear. The answers that will most enliven your work and your life will be found through deep, open, and honest exploration. So, being artistically determined means that you’re aware of what you need to work on and doing that work willingly and energetically—to dive in and grow, enrich, and improve.

Determined to be a successful, working actor, but doing so in the rhythm of life and the spirit of creativity – incorporating everything that appears on your path is the way to go!

And yes, be passionate. But be passionate about the work, not the fantasy of fame and fortune. True actors are so excited about the process that they don’t see it as work at all. They have a passion for knowing themselves more deeply and specifically, and a passion for connecting to other people. They’re passionate about listening and learning about human nature. And they’re passionately curious about acting in all of its forms. They have a passionate dedication to learning and widening the scope of their art.

Having a strong sense of passion and determination and a week set of skills is a recipe for frustration and anxiety. You don’t deserve something just because you’re passionate about it. You deserve what you earn through doing the hard work of making yourself the most highly skilled professional you can be.

Someone saying that honing your skills and working your ass off may not seem as “inspirational” as telling you that being determined and passionate are going to be enough to succeed. But it’s honest.

And to real actors, what could be more inspiring than to hear that the real key to success is getting better and better at doing what they love?

To actually live this though, to be a true artist and do the work that it takes to be a truly great actor takes a tremendous amount of self-discipline.

The other performing arts have more obvious disciplines than acting. Dancers train their bodies for hours and hours a day; singers train their voices; musicians practice their instruments tirelessly.

Since acting’s requirements are less pronounced, it’s up to the actor to create the necessary artistic structure. An artist needs to live a life that supports his art and encourages development of his craft. Putting together such a life can be both exciting and intimidating, and no one can do it but you. In the “Life of the Artist” program that I teach, we help each actor create a life that keeps him living on artistic purpose 24/7. Even when life is not artistic, you are still an artist living it, and you need to experience everything through that filter.

Staying on point takes effort. Besides all of the distractions that the artist can fall into on his own, there is also the fact that many people won’t respect your artistic life and will fail to see the value in your activities. For instance, if you tell them that you need to read an hour each day to expand your imagination and improve your text recognition skills, they may dismiss this as “not real work.”

I have a student whose parents live in Michigan. They called to say that they were selling their home and he needed to fly back from L.A. to help. When he asked if his brothers, both of whom live in the same town as their parents, were going to be there to help, they responded that the brothers “had real jobs and were busy with those.” Unsurprisingly, this is how much of the world looks at artists and it takes a mighty discipline not to let these people pull you from your center.

In terms of the audition process, there are two immediate benefits to living an artistically nourishing life.

The first is that you are always in the acting gear, so that when auditions come up, you are already in the head and heart space that will create a great audition. You don’t have to try to remember what being a creative person feels like; you’re a creative person all of the time and the work of the audition is just one more expression of your continuous creativity.

The other benefit is that your artistic identity isn’t tied to just that one job. You are an artist walking into the audition and an artist walking out, whether the job is yours or not.

This does wonders in taking the pressure down and freeing you in the room to do the personal, dynamic, and risky work that books the role.

Discipline is also essential to great work. Auditioning is a process. It begins when you receive the material and doesn’t end until you leave the room. You need a way of working that gives you the discipline and focus you need to stay with each step of your process. Actors have a habit of wanting to get pretty before they’re interesting—to jump ahead in their audition prep and “solve” how the piece is going to look and sound.

In fact, an audition isn’t a problem that needs to be solved. An audition is an opportunity to explore, with diligence and determination, yourself, and a piece of material, until you find the most honest and resonant intersection of the two.

Creativity without discipline is just a mess. But, like the dancer and the musician, the great actor knows that beauty and truth don’t happen randomly, but come about through the concentration, perseverance, and vulnerability that discipline provides.

If you have chosen the path of the artist, you need to develop the discipline to stay on it —to not waver, to move forward with focus and clarity. Starting with the moment you wake up in the morning, everything you do needs to feed your artistic soul and give you the energy and motivation to continue to act and to grow—to be an artist all day, week, month, year, and lifelong.

And as you continue to develop and grow as a passionate disciplined artist, it’s a good idea to have goals that inspire you and encourage you to work toward.

There’s a lot that is positive in having guideposts to work toward in a career that is, by nature, unpredictable and unstructured.

Charting your progress by results on the other hand can be both dangerous and discouraging.

I had an actor say to me the other day that his goal is to book three co-star roles in the next six months. That’s not a goal, but a desire for a specific result that, because of circumstances entirely out of the actor’s control, will probably not work out.

Enforcing your agenda on the business is not goal-making, it’s an attempt to control the uncontrollable.

Results are guaranteed to no one.

Here are some thoughts on the differences between goal-focused and result-focused people:

• People focusing on goals tend to embrace process.
• People focusing on results tend to want shortcuts.
• Focusing on goals keeps you connected and aware.
• Focusing on results can create blinders that shut others out.
• In achieving goals you learn to be flexible and to problem-solve.
• In trying to achieve a result you become rigid and stubborn.
• Goal-oriented people are present for every step of the journey.
• Result-oriented people only show up for what they think will get them what they want.
• Goal-oriented people are open to help, knowing that sometimes they’re not the best judge of what is best for them.
• Result-oriented people can be closed off to any way but their own
• Goals create positive energy.
• Striving for results creates anxiety and fear of failure.
• Goals are rooted in realistic accomplishment.
• Results are rooted in desire and fantasy.
A poignant example of the difference between goals and results took place s couple of years ago at the U.S. Open, which saw Serena Williams two matches away from the grand slam
—a feat only three other female tennis players had achieved. She was playing someone to whom she had never lost and it looked like a clear path to the final. But somewhere in the second set you could see her really start to think about the result.

She fell out of the moment and forgot to take care of the business at hand. Suddenly,one of the greatest tennis players of all time couldn’t move her feet, breathe, or even get her racket back in time to hit the ball. The hugeness of the destination pulled her off the path.

Her opponent, with no expectations as far as the result went, (she had a plane ticket home that night!) was able to focus on the moment and achieve her goal, which was simply to play her best tennis in her first grand slam semi-final. And she won.

Presence in the moment always trumps desire for an outcome.

Now let’s see how the goal- and result-oriented actors fare in the audition room:

• The goal-oriented actor is excited for the experience and the chance to test how far they have come.
• The result-oriented actor looks at the experience as an obstacle to their desired result.
• Goal-oriented actors are present and available in their auditions.
• Result-oriented actors can be anticipatory and closed off.
• Because they are present and available, goal-oriented actors tend to be people with whom you would want to work.
• Result-oriented actors are harder to like because they are showing up for the job and not the audition, so it’s unclear who they really are.
• Goal-oriented actors lean in to the work and the room, experiencing all of the moments with a fresh, open mind.
• Result oriented actors can be defensive, not fully engaged in the room, and risk averse in their work for fear of losing the job.
Power comes from relaxation not tension, so don’t tie yourself up in knots over the result. Make your goal to savor the experience of the audition—to be present, connected, dynamic, involved, available, flexible, and likable.

And in a larger way, make your goal to have your goals fueled by passionate determination and disciplined, focused work.

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.

Introduction to Meditation for Actors – a 4 part Series

By Craig Wallace

Part 1

The ability to calm and focus the mind is essential to an actor’s success, in an audition and in a performance. I see how neglected this discipline is when I’m teaching. I’ve found that problems arise for an actor not so much from lack of understanding, but from the lack of focus and concentration it takes to apply what is being taught and follow it all the way through the process.

It used to surprise me when I saw actors struggling to sustain concentration for a 90-second reading. But when you consider that we’re living in a time of chronic technological and social overload, it’s actually no surprise at all. We have so much information coming at us from so many different directions and devices that our ability to stay with a thought or a feeling for more than a nanosecond has been seriously compromised. Frankly, our minds are in chaos.

One of the simplest and most effective ways to move from chaos to clarity is through a meditation practice. Meditation is a very big part of my life, and I have had a dedicated daily practice for the past fifteen years. Recently I’ve become intrigued and inspired by all of the different ways mindfulness meditation is being used to improve people’s quality of life. In fact, some of the largest corporations in the world, as well as hospitals, universities, governments and even the army have implemented mindfulness programs to improve focus, concentration, and clarity.

With so many different individuals and groups reaping the benefits of mindfulness meditation, it only seemed fair that there should be a dedicated practice designed to meet the needs of the auditioning actor. So, with the help of two of my teachers, I did just that and The Meditation for Actors Class was born!

The practice we created helps actors regain control of their wild, distracted minds. It strengthens concentration and establishes a stable inner environment that allows the actor to explore their emotional life safely, deeply, and kindly. This practice also develops and refines the ability to focus and fully live in each moment and makes space in the mind, body, and heart to breathe, to listen, and to create. In fact, the applications of meditation to the acting process are seemingly endless.

I have been very inspired by the depth, clarity, specificity, and strength that meditation has brought to the work of the actors who have taken this class. Callbacks and bookings are on the rise, and rooms that used to intimidate are now being handled with control and presence. These actors are living proof that sometimes the most effective technologies aren’t the newest, but the ones that have been tried and true around for 2600 years or so!

Now, let’s continue on this beautiful and powerful journey.

Part 2

When actors call me to ask for help on an audition, I ask what they’ve done with the piece so far. Many times the answer goes something like this: “I looked at it really quickly on my iPhone in the car then called my agent to get more information. Then I read it again and sent a couple of texts to people who know the casting director. Then I called you.”  This type of response makes me cringe.

If you allow yourself to read the material for the first time with a scattered and unfocused mind then you have chosen to put that frantic mind in charge of making your creative and technical decisions. It’s like getting on a bus knowing the driver is on crack.

Your entire audition can be made or broken by what happens during the first few minutes you spend with the sides. You only get one shot at reading a piece for the first time, and if your mind is agitated you’ve wasted a golden opportunity to take the material in with emotional openness and mental calm.

Here’s a healthier thing to do before you read your sides for the first time. Find a quiet place to be and sit. Don’t look at the material. Don’t read the breakdown. Don’t call anybody. Just sit. It’s time to get mindful.

One of the primary benefits of mindfulness mediation is increased focus. This is achieved by putting your attention on one object and keeping it there. The breath is a common object of attention in meditation, as it’s always with you and it’s portable.

Sit on the floor – preferably on a cushion or pillow with your legs crossed if front of you and your knees lower than your hips. Sit straight, but not rigid with hands in your lap or resting on your thighs. You can also meditate sitting in a chair keeping both feet firmly planted on the floor. Here is a link to help you out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6ksgvCECcI

Now, close your eyes and take three deep breaths to get you started. Let your body settle and let your mind relax, breathe normally, and focus on just the in breath and the out breath. (You can label the breaths as “in” and “out” if that helps.) See if you can feel the breath going in and out at the tip of the nostrils and put all of your focus on that spot and on the sensation of the breathe traveling in and out of the tip of your nose. When your mind wanders – and it will – just come back to the breath, labeling in and out and focusing on the sensation of the breath at the tip of the nose. If you are new to meditation, start with five minutes. That will seem like an eternity so don’t worry and don’t try to overachieve. Meditation is not a contest.

Right before the time is up, take three more deep breaths, again noting the in breath and the out breath and the sensation at the tip of the nostrils. Open your eyes and sit for a moment to reorient yourself. Get up slowly, stretch, take one more deep breath, and NOW pick up the sides and do your first read though.

You will find that your mind is relaxed, focused, and open. It’s not chattering and offering a million opinions. It’s quiet and receptive. Your heart will also be more open, and you can more easily establish an emotional connection to the material.

By making the choice to sit still and focus – instead of running in circles – you have put yourself in control of your mind and heart, thereby making yourself open to all possibilities and on your way to an energized and creative audition experience.
Given that mediation is an experiential practice, it’s a bit difficult to write about the mechanics of it, but give these instructions a try and let me know if you have any questions.

In parts 3 and 4 I will talk more about the subtleties and nuances of mindfulness mediation practice.

Part 3

In the last article in the Meditation for Actors series, we discussed the importance of having a quiet, focused mind when preparing an audition piece and we learned some basic mindfulness meditation techniques.

In order for meditation to be beneficial, you have to do it, and do it with some degree of consistency. It’s also important that your practice doesn’t feel like a chore but instead feels relaxing, nurturing, and energizing. Here are two ways to personalize your practice and make it something you look forward to doing.

First, let’s go back to the breath. The next time you sit down to meditate, experiment with your breath.

Breath in and out, focusing on expanding and contracting the chest. After a few breaths, move to the stomach and feel the breath expanding and contracting the stomach. Now, move to the nose and put your focus on feeling the breath going in and out of your nostrils. After 2-3 minutes of this, settle back down into a natural way of breathing. Note which of the three breaths made you feel warmest and most comfortable. Breathe that breath in and out for a minute or so. That will be what I call your “home breath.” Instead of just breathing in and out with no focus, you will now breathe from the place that makes you feel warm and supported – the place that connects your mind and body. When you find this breath, you’ll find you want to meditate because it feels really good to come home to your breath.

Another way to make the practice your own is to choose a mantra. In my meditation classes we choose creative mantras: words or short phrases that offer artistic inspiration. Some examples are “create,” listen,” “inspire,” and “let go.”

Assume your meditation position, close your eyes, and establish your home breath. Now, say the manta to yourself on the “in breath” and release it on the “out breath.” You can play with also saying it on the out breath as well, whatever works and motivates you to meditate. This is a beautiful way to practice right before starting your audition preparation as it provides you with a motivating, focused intent for you work. It can also be a very useful exercise to practice in the waiting room to calm and center yourself just before you go in to your audition.

Experiment with your home breath and applying a creative mantra. If you bring a sense of playful discovery to meditation, have fun with it, and make it yours, you’ll be more likely to stick with it.

Your practice has the potential to be a refuge for you and a place where you come home to yourself personally and creatively. Like great acting, the more personal it is to you, the better it will be.

And now, let’s take these wonderful practices into the audition!

Part 4

So far in this series, we have discussed the relevance of meditation to the audition process and introduced some basic techniques to quiet and focus the mind and relax the body before and during your preparation. In this final installment we’ll address the waiting room.

I have heard described, and seen with my own eyes, many of the ways that the time spent in the waiting room can break an actor down.

You’ve prepared the piece at home and feel really good about it. You drive or ride to the audition excited, hopeful and energized. You walk into the waiting room oozing confidence. And then it happens: you see three actors who you believe look better for the part than you do and you start to doubt. Or, the session is running late and you have to wait for an hour and a half and your energy starts to drain. Or, there’s an actor who is loudly telling all within earshot about his latest successes and bookings and you start to second guess. All of a sudden, the confident person who walked in 10 minutes before becomes a small, tentative ball of worry and fear.

It’s time to calm down and bring some mindfulness to the situation.

Meditation comes to the rescue once again.  There are many meditations that would be of value in dealing with the stresses of the waiting room. I will give you one that has helped a lot of my students. It’s called “Body Like a Mountain.”

Sit in a chair and either close your eyes or fix your gaze downward. Picture a mountain. If you have a favorite, picture that. See how big and strong and immovable that mountain is. See the birds that fly around it, the trees that grow on its face, the rain that falls on its surface, and notice that no matter what, the mountain stays still and strong. Say to yourself “Body like a mountain.”

Next move to your breath. As you note your “in breath” and “out breath,” picture the breath as the wind that blows around the mountain. See how it moves the trees and carries the birds. Say to yourself “Breath like the wind.”

Now, see the blue sky above the mountain. See how clear and vast it is and picture the sky as your mind – bright, sharp and peaceful. Say to yourself “Mind like the sky.”
Stay in your seated position while picturing the mountain, the wind, and the sky, and keep repeating, “Body like a mountain, breath like the wind, mind like the sky.”  

Any smallness that the waiting room made you feel will dissolve as you link your mind and body with the power of the elements. This particular meditation also has the benefit of relaxing you and energizing you at the same time, so no matter what is going on in the waiting room and in your head, it will have a positive effect and you will walk into the audition room a tall, confident, and focused actor.

You can hear a guided version of this mediation on the Meditation for Artists Mp3 at www.wallaceauditintechnique.com.

Essentials of Booking the Job in Today’s Marketplace

By Craig Wallace.

Auditioning has changed so much in the past few years. While it was once enough to “play the role,” it is not nearly enough today. The actors who are scoring the jobs are the ones that know how to truly embody the role. They have the ability to make the words come alive in a connected, honest, and dynamic way.

To do this requires a way of preparing that allows you to go deeper than the competition—a way of working that doesn’t look at auditioning as a problem to be solved, but rather a dynamic, creative art form all its own.

Here are two ways that can help free you to creatively and skillfully embody the role and book the job:

Get rid of “right” and “wrong.”


Of course the casting director, producers, director et al. have some idea of what they’re looking for in the role you’re auditioning for. However, they are having a session, which means that they need answers—answers you have to provide for the character they’re casting: Who is the person behind the words? How do they breathe and feel? How do they look? Why do we care about them?

The only right answers to those questions are your answers.

If we must use the words right and wrong: the “right” decisions about the piece are the ones that connect you to the words on the page in the most honest and compelling way possible, the decisions that allow your voice, your energy, and your heartbeat to come through loudly and clearly.

So if there’s anger in the scene, you need to make sure that it’s not generic anger, but anger the way YOU would express it. If there’s humor, don’t just try to “be funny” in a way you think will please the people in the room; be funny as YOU are funny.
You are you and everyone else is not—no one will be pleased by you hiding parts of yourself in an effort to do what you think is the “right” thing.

Ultimately, they will decide whether or not you’re right for that particular role. But you can be assured that even if you don’t get that one, if you were true to yourself in the audition, they will have truly met you, gotten to know you, considered you, and they will most certainly see you again.

Explore.


The reason many actors fall short of embodying a character they’re auditioning for is because they prepare primarily from the mind. But what they should be focused on—where the answers to the questions you need to answer about that character reside—is the body and heart.

A creative way of working is needed so that you can deeply explore how you feel instead of what you think.  

In life, when you experience anything, that experience is taken in first by the body. The sensation the body feels causes the limbic center of the brain to produce a corresponding emotion and this emotion triggers a thought. This order of experience—body, heart, then mind—is also the way a good audition is prepared. It’s essential that the mind is quiet enough that you can actually feel how the words on the page cause your body to react.
When you’re reading the angry part of the scene, how does that anger manifest in your body? Does your stomach tighten, your breath shorten etc.?

These physical reactions will determine the specificity of the emotion that’s produced: your anger, not just some vague idea of anger. And in the funny part of the scene, what does funny feel like to your body? Where are you affected? What emotion is triggered by those sensations? And now, what are your thoughts about those emotions? Does your anger cause you to feel thoughts of justification or revenge? Does your humor engender thoughts of joyful glee or caustic sarcasm?

Exploring in this way guarantees that the people in the room see an embodied person because you’ll be experiencing all of your emotions in a thoroughly human way: physically, emotionally and mentally. And every line you speaks will be rich and fully dimensionalized.
Instead of tearing your hair out trying to decide what’s right and wrong, you need to be fully engaged in a creative process that frees you to explore the full range of what you have to offer the words on the page. If you work this way, you won’t be just another actor acting the part; you’ll be the true embodiment of the role and that will go a long way toward making you the actor they have to hire.

Now that you’ve embodied the character, it’s time to being them to life with the qualities that are specific to you. In other words – to make the role YOURS! So, let’s get specific.
I was in a casting session recently for a series regular role on a pilot. The role was that of an angry, rebellious mid-20s male. The scene was with his brother and mother and was three pages long. There were 42 actors seen for the role. You might imagine that there was a lot of yelling and screaming going on, and you’d be right. As a matter of fact, disconnected, generic rage was the order of the day and at the end of the session, there were only three actors who truly stood out as contenders.

When it was all over, the CD said that she was really impressed by the fact that those three had made such original and different choices. At first, I agreed, but after giving it some thought, I changed my mind. Their choices weren’t different. They had also made the choices of anger, frustration, and rage—the scene didn’t allow for much else.

The difference was that they had a way of working until they found the colors within those choices that represented their specific personalities. With most of the other actors, you got the feeling that they looked up the definition of anger in a dictionary and just “did that.” The three in contention weren’t “doing” anything. They were simply “being” angry in a way that was so specific and compelling it appeared they were doing something entirely new.

Specificity is the hallmark of great acting and is also the main component in a successful audition. Here are two ways move from the generic to the specific:

Work with the body.


Emotions live in the body, not in the mind. The mind’s primary job is to keep you safe by providing logic and context. In an audition, a safe and logical reading will never book a job because safe and logical thoughts do nothing to humanize the words on the page. Add to that the fact that acting is not about thoughts—no one really cares what an actor is thinking—it’s about feeling: how you feel and how you can make an audience feel.

To go back to the above-mentioned audition, the three actors who understood what was required of them found the feelings of anger and frustration in their bodies–they literally embodied these emotions. That’s what humanizes and illuminates the words on the page and that’s why you need to be looking for your answers in the place where you feel, the body, not the place that you think, the mind.

Go beyond the label.


There is no such thing as anger or sadness or happiness, for that matter.  Those are just labels. The label we give an emotion is actually the sum of a number of different emotions. For instance, if I ask you to describe anger, you’re going to do so by giving me a list of other emotions. “Anger” as an emotion is actually nonexistent, it is simply a word that we apply to a set of emotions that produce a certain feeling. So, the actor playing a definition of anger will be flat and generic, not to mention dishonest, because there is actually no such thing. The actor who feels the way that anger lives in their body discovers all of the emotions that are in play. Their anger is alive and fascinating to watch. They are the embodiment of a specific type of anger and casting knows that the audience will relate to and identify with this complex, three-dimensional human being.

The lesson here is to have a way of working that allows you to calm the mind and explore your body’s emotional mapping so that you can find the specific feelings that make up the emotion. This is the specificity that books the job. Everyone else may choose anger, but your anger will not be about volume and indicating, your anger will be a window into your soul. Live the feelings behind the label.

In many large ways, we’re all the same. Human beings have basically the same qualities and desires.  But, while we may all contain the same emotions, we feel them very differently. It’s the actor who has a way to go deep inside his body and heart in order to explore the specific makeup of his emotions who will break out as an individual. And that’s the actor who gets the job.

Now, let’s go into the room and get that job!

To say that we’re in the richest time in television history is an understatement. Not only is the quality of the writing phenomenal, but the quantity has skyrocketed as well!
As studios, cable channels, and streaming services continue to churn out product at this furious pace, it’s becoming harder and harder for them to break these shows out and get an already over-saturated audience to give their show a try. There’s also the hard-to-ignore fact that audiences’ attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. With the ability to stay focused on one thing at the eight-second mark, the executives in charge are demanding ingenuity more than ever from all the creative and technical departments. Sets, lighting, costumes, hair and makeup have to be eye-catching in ways they never had to be before. 

And so do the actors.  

As far as auditioning goes, the days of a nice smooth reading being enough to get the job are gone. You need to show that you have what it takes to grab the audience’s attention and keep them riveted for the entire length of the time that you’re on camera. Finding and executing your moments is key to auditioning this way; it’s what I call having the ability to “hook and hold.”

It begins with having a way of working that enables you to break down the text and discover the moments the writer is offering you. Remember, it’s not the showiest actor who books the role, but the actor who moves the writers’ story forward in the most compelling way.
After the mind has dissected the text, it’s time for the body to take over. The decisions that will get the job and create your most dynamic moments are found in the body and heart. The words need to transform, through you, into a three-dimensional human being. The emotions that will enable this transformation live in the body. 

When you mine your body and heart to find your connection to the piece, your decisions will be grounded in the truth of your life and the piece will be enlivened by your vision. You’ll then find that the moments will grow organically out of the work and become a powerful representation of you and all that you have to offer the role. 

Now that you see where the strongest moments of the piece live for you, your body will tell you what those moments need in order to have the highest impact. Do they need space, time, a breath, pace? If you have found your decisions by exploring the emotional mapping of the body, this same mapping will let you know how to handle the moment. Remember: delivering your moments isn’t choreography, so stay with the body and let it guide you to the most honest manifestation.

When you work this way, you’ll be more than just the next actor reading the scene. You’ll be the actor who hooks their attention and holds it for the entire length of the scene. And if you’re being put on tape, even better. You need moments that pop to get the people watching to pay attention to a taped audition. If you have those moments, you’ll not only hold their attention, but you’ll show them that you have the knowledge of what acting for the camera is all about and the skill to deliver. Being camera-ready is an essential component of a job-getting audition. 

The bar has been raised and more is being demanded from the auditioning actor than ever before. But from what I’m hearing from casting, most actors are seemingly unaware of this and remain behind the curve. It’s not just about having a “good” audition (whatever that means), it’s about connecting to the text, your decisions, and your moments in a way that shows the people watching the effect you’d have on the audience if they hired you. They need to see that you have the talent, charisma, and skill to hook the audience and take them on a ride they won’t want to leave. 

It’s all in the moments.