On Auditioning. Part one: Craft

I’m always hearing actors lament about how horrible it is to audition. Let go of that idea right now. It’s not helping you one bit. Do you love acting? Good! When you have an audition, its great news! You get to act that day! Whether it is a pre-read, a callback, or network test, for those ten minutes or so, you HAVE the part, so for goodness sake, enjoy it! Yes, I know, easier said than done. Hopefully this article will help.

Successful auditioning for television and film has two aspects. One has to do with craft; the other has to do with psychological preparation.

First let’s discuss craft.

I am going to assume that your script analysis skills are sharp because you are in a great scene-study class.

I am also going to assume that you keep your technical chops up by participating in play-readings as often as you can, and practicing keeping your eyes up when you have to read “cold” by reading magazines and newspapers in front of a mirror (making eye-contact with yourself.)

OK. You just found out that you have an audition tomorrow. Congratulations! Here is what you do:

  • Research. Find out who you are reading for and search their name(s) on Google and IMDB.com to find out what they’ve done. Also, if you want to work in TV and films you should see everything. Watch at least one episode of all the currently running series at least once and see movies–old and new—this is to keep up on current trends and tastes but also for inspiration. As a forty-something red-headed woman I will probably never play the same roles as Ben Kingsley, however I was completely inspired by his performance in Sexy Beast. (But guess what? I had a recent audition where the breakdown said: forty-something MALE so you never know…)
  • Do your script analysis. First read and re-read the script and/or sides until you understand the overall story of the piece. Then see how your character fits into the story. Then see what the story of your character is–what do they want out of life? Then go through each scene–what do they want in this scene?—(this must support what they want out of life)—then you go through each line—what is their “action” on that line?—what are they trying to get the other character to do/feel? And how does that support the overall “objective” (want) of the scene? Now I know that most have you have been told to cross out the stage directions in a script. This is a HUGE mistake! You can get so much information about a script by carefully reading every single word including ALL of the stage directions. If the directions say “she cries here”—you may not choose to “cry there” but if the writer put it in, it tells you a lot about the “story” of the scene.
    Note: I know this may sound like heresy but if it is impossible to read the full script before your audition don’t worry. I am talking mostly about TV here, but honestly in over thirty years working in the business, I have rarely found a set of “sides” where reading the script was necessary. There is so much information already there if you learn to read the material meticulously.
  • Look the part. Ask your agent to read you the breakdown—find out what the part “looks like”. Is the part a plain-looking farm woman or a sophisticated New York executive? If it’s the latter, you want to make sure your business suit is back from the dry-cleaners. Now, please, if you are reading for the role of a doctor, do not go in wearing a lab coat with a stethoscope around your neck—let your wardrobe simply suggest the character. Another reason not to be too “on-the-nose” with your wardrobe: many times the role you are auditioning for is not the one you ultimately book. Don’t limit yourself. And remember, the purpose of the wardrobe/costume is not only to look the part for those you are auditioning for, but it is something creative you can do to help you enjoy the process. Which is the whole point right?

[Click here to read Part Two]

All rights reserved. Jamie Rose 2006.