Advice to Actors on Cold Reading & Booking Jobs
by Amy Lyndon
Make acting a career and learn how to successfully audition for a casting director.
When you are starting out in your career, you must first understand that it is a career, not a job. Your job is to work your career. A career spans a lifetime and the only way that you will fail, is if you quit. With that said, make sure you think of yourself as if you are in training for the Hollywood Olympic Committee. You need to practice everyday. Go out on as many auditions as possible so that you become an expert at booking. Learn how to work a room. Learn how to work your techniques. Learn how to book. Keep your work simple.
There is no place for ego. Always remember that the story comes first. That's why when the writer is in the room they always say, "He/She read it exactly as I wrote it. That's the character!" Don't make anything up to impress them. If you respect the writing and understand why you're in the script, then you'll know who you are and what your place is in the story. A lot of actors want so much to be remembered that they overshoot the audition by becoming more important than the series regular or the star of the feature. Unless you have your own series and you've become a major film star, you're simply there to move the story along. Don't become more important than the material. If you're serving drinks in the scene, then you're just a cocktail waitress. That's it. Also, be careful of judging the material. If you do that then you might as well cancel the audition because you're never going to get inside of it because you're too busy outside making comments on it's stupidity. You will never book that way. It's sad to think that that's all you are in this business, but you really need to accept that you are simply a clean vessel of pure emotion just lending yourself to the material to channel the character from the writer's intent. Spend time knowing where emotions are located in your body so that you can easily tap into it at a moments notice. You are an instrument that needs to be practiced every day. Pick an emotion and journal where it is for you. When you've located the button, tap into it, sit with it and write it down for future use. There are tons of emotions to choose from. You might not get to it in a day. Once you've located it, exercise it and understand where it is for you. The only difference between a good actor and a brilliant actor is depth of feel.
Watch as much television and film as humanly possible. If you don't understand the style and tone, you'll never seem like you're already on the show. Pick up TV Guide and see who is working. What are they wearing? What are the popular hairstyles? If you don't look like you're on the show, then why should they cast you? Try not to extend the imagination of the people who are hiring you. Give them what they are asking of you. How are you going to have any points of reference if you don't know what is going on? Download a script a day. Break it down and do the research. Look up on IMDB pro the other shows the producers worked on. In television, they have it just as difficult a job as you do crossing over. If it's an Aaron Sorkin show, then it's a particular style that the network buys from him. Know what the casting director has worked on. What type of actors do they usually go for? If you're a very real raw actor, don't expect to work on Desperate Housewives unless you change your own personal style for the audition. Who are you and where do you fit into the requirements of the given medium? Maybe you're just a feature film actor. If you do comedy, make sure you have tons of stand-up on your resume. Sitcoms usually star stand-up comedy people. Unless of course, you're already a movie star and you back your way onto your own television show. Information is power.
The brilliance is in the specifics. Every line of dialogue is a separate thought. If you want to be an interesting actor, go over every moment and detail and cover it with deep understanding. Every scene is like a song. Listen for the music of each note. Especially in film auditions, take your moments. Circle action. Action will tell you what you are doing. Sometimes you can include action in your audition. If the script tells you that the character is making a sandwich but the dialogue is not talking about the sandwich, do not make a sandwich in your audition. If you are drunk and drinking wine, then drink wine. Never bring any props to your audition unless it's already on you like a cell phone. The stronger illusion you create in the room, the better the ride. Set it up and let it go. Don't be afraid to go for it. Believe me, if you don't, someone else will. Why should they take your part? You already inconvenienced yourself to get to the audition, why not just get the job? Which would you prefer? Hitting a 10+ read in the room or knocking it out of the ballpark in your car on the way home? If you're thinking about the audition for days afterwards and asking for feedback from your representatives, then you didn't do your homework. You know when you've hit it hard. You know when you've given your best. You don't need approval or feedback from anyone else about how you did. You know. Be honest with yourself. Never show your mistakes in the room. Learn to be that competitive gymnast. How many times do they fall during their routine and always end up standing strong with their arms held high in the air and their backs swayed and stretched out like it was the best performance of their lives?
After you've done all your work on the scene according to the writer's intent, don't forget your signature. Remember that you are unique. There is only one you. Put your special spin on it. Personality sells tickets! Make it personal. Figure out where this is for you. How can you relate to where the character is coming from? You can do all the homework in the world, but if you don't truly understand what is going on with this person, how can you play it? Sometimes this step takes the longest amount of time. Allow yourself the time to understand. Stay out of your head and into your heart. The more information you have about the story, emotions and the character, the stronger you will feel about what you are doing.
"The Actor must approach acting like an Olympic Athlete, the more you practice the necessary skills - the more you will book. When a high level of discipline and concentration on the work is achieved, you will see incredible results." Amy Lyndon