Acting Emergency: What to do when you're pressed for time!
Emergency! What To Do When You’re Pressed For Time
So you got a big guest star audition last night at 5pm, you work till 10pm and your appointment is at 10:00am the next day. Instead of spending the night freaking out, forcing yourself to memorize and thinking “this is a huge opportunity! I don’t want to blow it but how am I going to do my best work in this short amount of time? “
Here are a few tips to help set up a great audition:
Breathe. This isn’t the last role of your career, although it may feel like it.
Story. Read your sides for the story, not your lines. What is the writer conveying? How does your character fit into the story? So often I coach actors who kinda know the story, but are way more involved in the memorization of their lines and what they’re saying vs what’s happening in the story.
Relationship. What’s your relationship to the other characters in the story? How do they affect you? Meaning, how do you feel about what they’re saying to you, how they’re treating you and why they are having this conversation with you in this particular moment?
Environment. Where are you having this conversation? In your office? At a busy restaurant? In a dark alley at midnight? The environment is such a huge part of a scene as it gives you lots to work off of. Even though the writer may not have written your reactions to what’s happening in the environment, you should still be aware of where you are. For example, if you’re having a conversation with your bookie who you owe money to in a dark alley, maybe there’s a moment where you look around to be sure you’re alone, or look over your shoulder at some point because you heard something crash. The writer may not have written this, but because you read for the “story” vs your “lines” you’ve fleshed out all the nuances that could occur in your environment.
Arc Of The Scene. This is where a big emotional change happens. Everything that you and the other characters have said up until the arc of the scene builds to help give you stakes so that when you “hit” the arc there is an “emotional change” within and between the characters.
Motivation. Basically, what do you want from the other person and what are your tactics for getting it? Are you manipulating? Charming? Helpful? Finding your motivation, helps you drive the scene forward until you get what you want.
Personalize. Take everything that’s being said to your personally! This makes a huge impact on the arc of the scene as it gives you stakes; something to win/lose. If you love what’s being said to you really love it! If you’re suspicious about something find something about that character suspicious. If you are offended by what that character just said, then really be offended! What did they say or how did they say it that made you feel offended?
Moment Before. This to me is the biggest moment for an actor because it not only sets up the environment, but the tone of the scene as well. When an actor comes in to an audition with a very specific moment before, the whole scene comes alive right from the get go. Remember, you don’t always have to jump right into the dialogue. Let’s say you’re having a really emotional conversation with your dying parent and the immediate moment before was the nurse coming in to check the vitals and walking out without saying a word. There is a lot you can do before you hop into the dialogue here. Maybe you see the nurse and realize you dated him/her, or you look to see if there is hope in his/her eyes regarding the vitals, in which case that starts your “story” off in a very different way than if you ignored that teeny, tiny moment. Remember, TV/Film is a visual medium! We want to see what you’re seeing, feel what you’re feeling off of the environment and other characters in the scene. It’s not always about what you’re saying. Often times it’s about what’s going on in between the lines.
The End. Keep the energy going to the end of the scene until the casting director or director says “CUT!” Often times actors come in, give a fantastic read then end the scene looking straight to camera. Or the end their scene immediately and ask how they did vs. staying in the energy of the scene. We want to see how you feel about everything that just happened and where you’re headed next in the scene. Plus, the editor needs a few seconds in order to edit scenes together. So if anything, do the editor a huge favor by staying in the scene till you hear “CCUUUUUUUTTTT!!”