Greeting actors! Now, for the lucky people who have attended one of the Acting On Camera sessions, the contents of this blog post will be nothing new. But, I do hope for everyone who is reading this it is an aide–mémoire for good practices when considering or attending auditions. It’s no good being the best actor in the room if you never actually make it out of the room ‘alive’.
Firstly, I should point out that unlike many of my colleagues I do actually like actors. As I learnt while overseas, “70 percent of directors in this town hate actors”, not my words but a prominent casting director in Los Angeles. The reason I say this is because my comments and opinions are shared to help you, and in no way berate you for mistakes you may or may not be making.
So let’s start from…well the start – First positions, please!
- Auditions are a two-way street. For a moment lets just look at an audition as a job interview, which is basically what it is. Let’s first dispense with any desperate thoughts of “I need this role” and “God, I’m so lucky to be offered an audition”. You are being offered an audition because the student, director or casting director believes you have something they need. Yes, they need you! If successful, you will be fulfilling a role in their production and you will be an important cog in their production engine. BUT…do you want to work for them?? Here are a few warning signs that may help you decide: 1) The auditions are not organised in a professional way; 2) The script looks or reads ‘poorly’; 3) No expenses for the shoot dates; 4) You can’t get answers to simple questions and the whole project feels dis-organised. These are all warning signs that this project may not be good for you – if the project ever happens or gets finished.
- The audition begins in the waiting room. True story – I got one of my first jobs because I was the same person in the waiting area as I was ‘in the room’. It turns out the woman I happily chatted with in the waiting room was the director’s fiance. It’s not uncommon for there to be people in the waiting area who are connected to the production. So do yourself a favour and be aware that the audition may have already started when you sit down in the waiting room.
- Be a part of the crowd. In mi experience, theatre, TV and Film are three very different tribes. You’ve heard the saying “Birds of a feather flock together“? Well, I’ve found that to be the case. To succeed, you need to identify with people within the TV and film tribes, so if you don’t already know what it’s like to be on a film/TV set then find out. If you don’t want to spend some time doing SA work then [blatant plug] come along to a course like Acting On Camera and find out what’s expected of you – so you look like a professional on set. I even suggest you have TV/film bias audition pieces ready for TV auditions. Pulling out your best ‘King Lear’ monologue at a TV audition does not make you part of the ‘on camera’ crowd.
- Don’t build your part. Sometimes actors will turn up to an audition ‘dressed for the part’. After a long days auditioning this can either be some light relief or just plain annoying. At an audition, the director or casting director wants to see your acting capabilities, but sometimes your look will influence them as soon as you walk through the door. That first impression is very powerful. Your well-rehearsed business smile and greeting may be lost if you’re trying to contain your own wardrobe and props. So in mi experience, keep it simple: Arrive early, be prepared and don’t do the directors thinking for them by turning up in costume.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s never wrong to confirm what a director or casting director wants from you at a filmed audition. Generally, they will want any recorded piece to be delivered “away from camera”, and only on infrequent occasions will they want your lines delivered “down the barrel”. But if you’re not sure ask. You will just look bad if you “spike the lens”! Likewise, a camera is not a human eye, it sees differently. Different lenses offer multiple visual options of a particular view. So when you step up to do your piece, it’s not unprofessional to ask “What is the size of the shot?” – it allows you, as a professional, to tailor your performance to the needs of the camera.
As you’ve been good enough to read this far, here is one additional bonus point – “Don’t take it personally”. Go along to your audition and do the very best you can. Then smile (knowing you’ve done your best) and leave all the fears and woe in the room. Because there are a million reasons you may not get the role, and many of them will be down to things you can’t control. So to repeat… “Don’t take it personally”.
Now I could go on (as the actors who attend my sessions can attest to) but you have auditions to prep for. So please look out for my future posts and do me the pleasure of reading them.
Email me with any questions or join us at a session.
Mark Alexander Todd
Writer/Director and Filmmaker.