Three Solid Audition Strategies

by Mark Brandon

Chalkboard

Being an aspiring actor does not necessarily equal being a starving actor.


Looking for work, auditioning, and just trying to survive can be tough on beginning actors. Here are three solid audition strategies to help get you through your day. Stay positive and upbeat but temper your acting enthusiasm and remember that being an actor doesn't necessarily mean you have to starve.

Stay Upbeat to Stay in the Running
Being "positive" is imperative during the interview portion of your audition. Nobody wants to hear how you struggled through traffic to get there, how hard it was to find the place, how your car broke down, etc. People involved in casting lead hectic lives and like you, and everyone else, they have problems, too. Consequently, you don't score points by talking about your own.

When you get to your audition, make sure you've "shaken off" any negative influences that might be upsetting you that day. Forget the car trouble or other pressures for now. In order to be at your absolute best, you've got to be in a vibrant, upbeat frame of mind.

A remarkable exercise to help you get there is to take a lively inventory on yourself. Before your interview, find five accomplishments from your past or relative present that you're genuinely proud of. Count off on your fingers, one by one, things that spring to mind as uplifting, stand-out events in your life.

For instance, think about the last time you landed a part. Or maybe something you did completely outside of the industry that made you feel great for having done it. Did you get involved with any volunteer work? Help somebody in need? Get a home run at a company picnic baseball game? Most important, you must not only see these things, you must revive the original feelings that went with them.

This exercise may seem overly simplistic, but the goal is to "re-set" your thinking and stimulate your entire physiology as well. Re-living life affirming moments sends signals into the body, generating exceptional effects. It revitalizes your speech with a tendency to use more resourceful language and actually straightens your posture as well. If there's such a thing as magic, this exercise performs it.

The entire process shouldn't take long. Fifteen seconds to half a minute to re-live each circumstance is usually sufficient. With a little practice, you may even find the experience so enjoyable you'll get into the habit of doing it anytime you face a personal challenge.

Temper Enthusiasm with Business Sense
New actors often overlook the necessity of doing things in a logical, properly conceived order. As a result, they often engage in a classic self-sabotaging activity. It could be aptly named, "Getting to market before the crop's ready." In their excitement and enthusiasm to get ahead, they actually succeed in severely delaying, rather than accelerating their progress.

To begin with, what do you suppose most agents consider the highest priority with respect to securing work for their clients? It's not difficult to figure out when you consider an actor would have to work nearly a whole month on an Equity stage before he or she could make the same kind of money from working a mere day or two on a TV series or film.

In plain language, the good bucks are made around cameras. Thus, one of the best things actors can do for themselves is make sure they have a rock-solid foundation in film acting technique.

Unfortunately, a lot of beginning actors don't see things this way. They think acting is acting--that it's all the same. Having done a fair amount of plays and dabbled in a workshop or two, they rush out head-strong, into the film and television job market. Doing this long before they thoroughly grasp the distinct refinements of film acting, they fall flat on their face in at least half of their auditions. They succeed only in giving inconsistent readings--scenes punctuated by painful moments of disproportionate largeness. Subsequently, if word gets back to their agent (as it usually does) that they need more training, then what possible incentive would that agent have in getting them more auditions?

These impatient actors fail to see the big picture. It could be well over a year (or more!) before casting directors would take another chance on seeing someone who essentially wasted their time.

Moral of this story? The industry is too tightly knit, and the memories of casting directors too long for you to make the costly error of getting out way too soon. Casting directors compare notes, especially about newcomers. If your name comes up during their conversations, you'll want it to be for the right reasons.

Unmask the Classic Myth
If you've been "buying in" to the ageless tradition of the starving actor, then there's only one question for you: Why?

Being an aspiring actor does not necessarily equal being miserable. Nevertheless, countless actors will argue the point, saying that struggling and going hungry is all part of the package; that it's an accepted, or guaranteed reality. This kind of sad logic is not only self-defeating, but ironically enough, completely unnecessary. (Henry Ford once said that if you argue for your limitations, then sure enough, they're yours!)

In any event, the seemingly elusive solution is remarkably simple. Once you identify what actually perpetuates this useless myth in the first place, you're on your way to eating better, paying your bills on time, and all the while pursuing the artistic love of your life.

So what's the "villain" here? It's merely trying to audition for practically everything at once. No ifs, ands or buts--that's it! Most actors could escape this self-chosen predicament of poverty if they just stopped for a moment and examined how acting jobs are ordinarily divided up into two categories, each one having its own time frame of operations.

As an example, you've probably noticed that plays generally go on at night. Even the rehearsals are normally conducted in the evenings. Of course, we're speaking of the norm, as there can be occasional exceptions. Be that as it may, most theatrical work takes place around or outside business hours. Therefore, the evident solution lies in having a nine-to-five job that will guarantee a constant paycheck but give you the freedom at night to go after stage work.

Many actors get into trouble by jeopardizing their day job. With evenings free to concentrate on theater, they remain unsatisfied with just stage work. Finagling time off during business hours to also attend film and TV auditions, they foolishly risk losing their only dependable source of income.

Like stage work, the majority of film and television jobs fall primarily into the other time frame--the daytime hours. Thus, if you aspire to film and television roles, you naturally have to get a late afternoon or evening job. And if possible, ask for weekdays off so you'll be working weekends, leaving two successive days totally free sometime between Monday and Friday.

The key is to decide upon which single genre--stage or film--you wish to concentrate on for the time being. Then, simply structure your job hours to coincide with your choice.
Mark Brandon is a native Californian who now makes his home in Vancouver, BC. He has appeared in over 100 commercials, films and TV series. For more audition strategies and career building advice, visit: www.WinningAuditions.com

The preceding was an excerpt from the best selling acting book, "Winning Auditions - 101 Strategies for Actors" (Limelight Editions, NY) written by Mark Brandon.

Copyright © Mark Brandon. Used with permission of the author. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or distributed.
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