When actors come to me and say they really want to work on their craft, I know that I am not the coach for them. The audition goes against everything we are taught as actors. To me, acting is so intricate and complex that I know it’s something I will learn more about when I’m 90. Lately I have been more vocal about my philosophy that the audition must be taught as an art form and that has garnered one or two angry responses. However my job is to talk to you, the actors, and tell you what is not being taught.
1. As an actor we strive to connect. In an audition? Don’t. “Connect!” We have all heard that at one point or another in our training. If you try and connect in an audition you will fail. The casting director observes your choices and looks at you to see if you look the part and if you have the essence of what they are looking for. If they are to act with you then that could affect or change your performance. Just this morning a new client came in fresh off getting her BFA from USC and had been auditioning for the past six months with no success. The first thing we did after talking for a few minutes was have her pretend she was coming into the room to read for me. Immediately she was thrown by my energy and affected by my rapid fire emotionless read and thus, her inability to connect. As soon as we identified this, she was able to start understanding that she is acting alone. When I am coaching actors I will act the scenes out first to find the relationship and break down the scene. I will then go into “casting director mode” and read flat while watching their performance. Once there is a wall between the actor and the casting director we are free to do what we want in the room.
2. Rehearse…but if you do that in the room, you have lost the job. This is a final performance from the minute you walk in. You must have a perfect take on camera that can be passed onto a studio head who is making the decision to hire you. If you are fumbling or too big or not 1000 percent prepared (or 50 other things that affect the performance), then your tape most likely won’t be passed on. This has to be what I call a “cut, print, moving on” take.
3. Be honest. To me, if I had to boil acting down to one word, it would be “honesty.” The audition is the exact opposite of that and is a completely fake environment. It’s so much easier to act on a set where the love of your life is drowning and you are on a life boat trying to save him. But in reality, you would be in a boat trying to save the actor who is acting opposite you. In the room you are either standing or sitting and the supposed love of your life is looking at you with judgment and giving nothing for you to work with. So, how do you bring truth to your audition? It all starts by understanding the obstacles that you will inevitability face in the room.
So this is the start of understanding what needs to happen in a room or in front of a casting director. When sending clients off to auditions, I tell them to “kill it.” Breaking a leg just doesn’t work in the land of film and TV. If you want to truly be in the arena then get ready to maim, massacre, and kill it.Like this advice? Check out more from our Backstage Experts!
Sara Mornell is a working actor, coach, and Backstage Expert. For more information, check out Mornell’s full bio!