Skating Through the Auditioning Process

Image I’ve been asked to write a bit more about auditioning, and it will be just a bit. The fact is, there’s not too much more to say about the process. It’s different every time, and you never know until you enter that room what you’re up against, it’s impossible to prepare for it all. I compare it to skating on thin ice, or tap dancing. As I said before, once you can act and get the audition, it really boils down to if you have the look they had in mind, and if they believe you can pull off the part and make them money. 

That said, there are a couple of things that you can do that work, pretty exclusively, for auditions. This is what is called the process of ‘cold reading.’ 

Look, when you go out for a film or television role, it’s very likely that the second you walk through that door and they get a look at you, you are a possibility, or you might as well just go home. If you have a look that they think will work, they might pay attention to your reading. If not, they’ll study their notes while you read and smile you out with those fateful words, “Nice job, thanks for coming in.” Death.

Unless this is a final call back, and you’ve had some time with the script and a chance to talk to the casting director, you have to wing it as far as choices go. You are in an office, performing a scene that takes place in a bar or a war, or at a zoo, so there’s no help there. You are reading across from the casting director’s non-acting assistant/secretary, so that’s not much to go off of. You don’t have time to work up a big history or scenario, so, provided you still have their attention once you take a seat, here’s what you do. 

Put your feet flat on the floor, take a deep breath, look your reading partner in the eye, and see what comes up! When this works, and you can produce something ‘real,’ it is often wonderful work. It’s true, honest, from the gut, and quite fun when you hook in. 

But it’s death when you don’t. If you haven’t prepared sensory background work to produce emotions, or created a history for this character, then if the words and the moment don’t strike you, it’ll be roadkill-flat. 

This style of working also does not work when you are on a set and it’s the 37th take. (I’ve had more than that.) Ironically, the hardest work to do repetitiously is laughter. Something that strikes you as funny once, won’t hold for multiple takes, so you have to go to a physical exercise to produce the feeling in your gut, and then, once you start laughing, it feels really good. In fact, I recommend this next trick as a daily exercise. 

Relax, get comfortable. Exhale fully, push the air out, and you will feel it in your solar plexus. Great, now, keep doing this until you sort of force a little laugh sound from just below your ribcage/stomach, just a little huh, huh, sound. Keep on it, and pretty soon, you will be laughing for no apparent reason and the laughing makes you laugh, so…

Great stuff. You can get the same kind of reaction by singing. When I was doing Cabaret, I had to train my voice for several weeks before, and everyday after practice, I would feel elated! It produces the same emotional-physical response as laughing. This makes sense, as both singing and laughing come from the same area of your body, and initiate a similar dopamine response. 

And then there’s the personality factor. What kind of human will I meet today? It was a nasty day in New York when I met Steven Spielberg. He was casting for the second Indiana Jones movie and the first meeting was just a ‘hello, let’s chat’ kind of thing. It was sleeting outside, one of those filthy, icy cold days when you can’t get a cab, and even a short walk along the street left you with a red-runny nose, limp hair and streaked makeup. I headed for the subway, where I was accosted by a nasty gang of teenagers, got out of that one, walked twenty five blocks in slush and sleet to the meeting and entered in a foul, shaky mood. 

Steven was very nice, we talked about the recent hurricane style bad weather that was hitting L.A. and how many people had lost their homes to mudslides and storms. And when he told me that his Malibu house’s volleyball court had been washed away with what seemed to be a sincere annoyance with the inconvenience, I stood up and kicked him in the shins. 

Okay, probably not the smartest thing to do, but I was in a weird place. Needless to say, he fell in love with Kate Capshaw, who got the part, and I have never seen him again. But you know what? It could have gone the other way. He could have thought that I was spunky and perfect for the part. The fact is, you don’t know. 

So once again, here’s my auditioning advice.

1. Learn to act. 

2. Be ready for anything, especially total rejection. 

3. Wing it, you have no options. 

4. Be pleasant, confident, and if possible, amusing. 

5. Let it go. 

And that’s about it. There are a thousand things you can do to prepare, some will come in handy, some will be useless. You just don’t know until you get there. 

Just like life. Be pleasant, confident, and whenever possible, amusing. 

And if it doesn’t come out the way you wanted, let it go. 

Shari, November 10th, 2012

 

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