April 12, 2012
One of the most common questions I get asked is “How To Audition”. I think what most people are hoping for is a reliable method for an actor or actress to stand out from the crowd during their audition.
So, to start with, let’s cover the different kind of audition scenarios you will probably encounter as a beginning actor or actress. Casting people tend to work in one of two ways:
1 – They will do what’s called a “cold read”
2 – They will do what’s called a “prepared reading”
So, what’s the difference? Cold reading is when an actor or actress shows up to the audition having never seen the material they will be acting that day. The casting person will give you a short script (usually an excerpt from the show or film you’re auditioning for) about 5 to 10 minutes beforehand. The actor then reads the material quickly, makes one or two emotional choices about the material and how they’re going to approach it, and then they read from the scripted page during the audition.
A prepared reading on the other hand is when the actor or actress receives the material in advance, usually two or three days, and is expected to memorize the material and then make several emotional choices regarding the material they are presented with. Then, come audition day, though they keep the script in their hands during the audition, they are expected to know the lines verbatim and the script is merely a “back-up” in case of an inadvertantly dropped line.
How to go about tackling these to scenarios is what this article is all about!
First off, “cold reading” is a definite skill that requires a lot of practice to perfect. My book Amazing Auditions covers this in some detail, but I’ll give you the gist of it here. Just know that you can’t “wing it” and expect to get by! The first thing you have to know how to do is to be able to “pick up” a line from the page quickly. The short of it is that you read the line quickly, bring your face out of the page and then act the line with the person who’s reading opposite you. REACT to what they’re saying and then go back to get the next line. Most actors and actresses will spend the whole audition with their faces buried in the script, don’t be that person!
Just remember, that it’s not enough just to know how to do this, you actually have to practice doing this over and over again to make it natural and flow well. If you don’t, your audtion will be terrible, I guarantee it. It doesn’t take much, just read an article in the paper or something, and practice picking up the lines. Practice often and it will soon become second nature.
The other thing you have to know how to do (and this is true for both kinds of auditions) is how to “make choices”, which is an acting term for having an opinion that has an emotional meaning behind it. For example, if the script says “I love you”, you as the actor have to figure out how to best convey that line in the circumstances. “I love you” (depending on how you feel and your opinion of the other person) can mean very different things. Some easy examples:
Imagine if the scene is a couple that is on the verge of breaking up and your character doesn’t want to and your line is “I love you”.
Same scene, but your character WANTS to break up.
Same scene, but your partner caught you cheating.
Same scene, but your partner was cheating.
Same scene, but your character accidentally killed your partner’s sibling.
Same scene, but your partner accidentally killed YOUR sibling.
As you can see, all of these audition scenarios would require different choices. And, all of those choices are going to be flavored by what the character wants. How you as the actor or actress chooses to play any of those lines depends on what your opinion of the scenario is.
You hate that you’re breaking up.
You LOVE that you’re breaking up.
You deserve to be forgiven.
You DON’T deserve to be forgiven.
I hope you can see where this is all going? Now, as far as doing a prepared reading, you have the added benefit of time to make more and deeper choices about your character, plus you will know the lines, so you will have a lot more freedom to express yourself emotionally during the audition. Just be sure you really know your lines well, it’s one of the most important things to have ready!
The way to stand out here is to make the boldest choices that have the strongest opinions which put your character into the greatest conflict. Almost every actor will try to take the easy way out or “play it cool” during the audition, but that’s the OPPOSITE of how you want to make a great impression at a film audition.
If you want to learn more about how to audition correctly, be sure to check out Amazing Auditions for some more great tips and for those of you who want to know how to get started in acting for film or tv, be sure to check out Acting For Film And Television.
As always, if you have any questions or thoughts, or would just like to share some of your successes, please feel free to drop me a line. I actually answer them.
Best of Luck out there and remember, you can’t fail if you don’t quit.