The Obvious Choice in an Audition… Is Usually the Wrong Choice

The dentist chair is a wonderful place to consider what sort of performance to deliver for your next audition.

I had the great fortune to have an extraction the other day, so while I was looking at the TV screen in the ceiling– oh yes, it was an expensive dentist– with the soothing, relaxing sound of the drill in my ears, I was watching an episode of an US prime time TV series.

The type of series that suits being screened at 2:00 in the afternoon. The type of series where everyone has flawless skin and perfect teeth.

More importantly, though, was the performance style they all delivered.

Even though I could not hear what they were saying, I knew exactly what the story was because  they telegraphed their feelings. The words were not necessary because they were so OBVIOUS in their performance choices.

This is the correct method for many daytime TV performances, for soap opera. Be obvious.

But do not use this technique in the audition space.

Why? Because in the audition space, we are seeing the same lines again and again. So, if everyone arrives prepared to be obvious, then chances are, we will become very bored, very quickly. Watching the same pauses, the same inflections.

Though it is truly scary– nearly as scary as a dentist visit– remember that the best approach for an audition is to take risks.

Otherwise, it is too easy for casting directors to switch off.

If you know what is happening next, so does your audience

I have this theory about acting and auditions. For movies. For the big screen. (More about TV later).

With great dancers, performing with effortless grace, we can imagine they did not get choreographed. They seem to do it without thought or concentration: naturally, without planning or thought.

For el supremo musicians, singers, and painters it is the same. The great ones deliver their creative skill as a natural extension of their natural self.

It is self expression.

When you sit in the cinema, the joy of great acting, from great actors, is that we have no idea what is about to happen. Indeed, the very special film actors make us think that there was never a script in the first place!

What I am suggesting is not easy. In your next audition, I urge you to find a rhythm in your delivery, in your character, that is unique to you. Only then are you able to deliver something that is unexpected. You have made us sit up and take notice– in a crowded days of auditions, when most actors deliver the rhythm of the page.

The metronome like beat of an actor who has developed their technique to be fool proof. They know exactly what to deliver.

They have prepared the delivery,
rather than preparing the character.

They know what they are going to say, and how they are going to say it well before the moment arrives. And usually it is a version that obeys the page.

Yes, obeys.

If you prepare the delivery, your audition is doomed from the start. Prepare the character and only then master the lines. Now when you speak, what you say and how you say it, will be in character.

The One Quality that is Missing from all your Auditions

Actor training is essential to empower you with the confidence and the focus to embody a character, and deliver it with an emphatic single mindedness that delivers a strong character.

This usually manifests itself in an actor believing they have to make a clear concise decision on a line or a moment and pitch it out. Communicate it succinctly to the other character and by doing so, you connect to the audience.

In my opinion, this is for theater.

In the audition/screen test studio, where I am seeing actor after actor, all of them the same gender, delivering the same lines, with the same eye line to the reader and with the same intensity; I am a different audience to your theater audience.

Am I allowed to call it dull without offending anyone? Hmm, perhaps not. OK, so it is not dull. It is simply predictable.

Remember I am seeing the same scene over and over again.

Audition day in an audition studio is Groundhog Day.

Let me say up front, this concentration on delivering power and presence was exactly what you needed in Hollywood’s Golden Age of movie stars. And of course, every superhero needs these qualities. But if you, the supporting guy or girl– simply want to be noticed– a different quality will achieve impact.

Vulnerability.

Think of the stand out screen actors and performances of recent times. Many times they were arguably the actor’s breakout role. Kristin Wiig in Bridesmaids, Ryan Gosling in Lars and the Real Girl, Andrew Garfield in Hacksaw Ridge, Naomie Harris in Collateral Beauty, Rebel Wilson, Michael Cera and Jonah Hill in anything.

An alpha character has strong eye contact, stands their ground, steps towards a conflict or crisis. And this is how most actors in the audition space approach the delivery of their character. They immediately take the higher status.

If you find the justification and motivation for your character to be indecisive, to be two minds about a decision or a moment, to avoid direct eye contact  and fails to command the delivery of their next line….Then we may be fascinated, intrigued.

You have delivered a compelling character, rather than a compelling performance. Dare I say, you have delivered YOUR version of the character rather than an actor’s version of the character.

You have come into the room and delivered a rhythm and character that has the potential to be disarming and appealing at the same time. And with these choices, you have left a lasting memory long after you have left the room.

OK, so it is not for every role. It is not for every actor. But by nurturing this thinking, you are giving yourself an alternative approach.

In your audition, you do not have to be right. You do not have to be on the front foot. You do not have to deliver a higher status dominant character.

What you have to be, is remembered.

And maybe vulnerability will deliver a lasting memory of you, better than invincibility.

How an Actor Connects to a Casting Director

The actor and casting director relationship is flawed.

Because it is so out of balance –especially in an audition.

How do you speak to a casting director?

What do they want to hear?

What can you say that allows you to come across as sensible and considered…. And not the nervous perhaps even agitated wreck that you feel inside.

There is a common understanding in marketing. Touch, don’t sell.

Because let͛s face it, that is what you are doing. You are building brand recognition with the casting director. You are hoping they know you, like you, and think about you, when they are choosing actors for an audition session.

And that they think of you at the right time. When they are casting a role you are right for.

So what is a touch? A touch can be as simple as re tweeting one of their tweets. Liking a facebook post (if you can get access to their page).

A touch is also every time I see your headshot. Or you are submitted by your agent for a role.

So in reality, I am touched by you, by every actor, more often than you realise. So why are you not getting more opportunity?

It is because the connection, the touch, the communication is saying the wrong thing.

Most actors, when given the opportunity to connect with me try and say:

  1. I am an actor (and I know that)
  2. I am a really good actor (which in my opinion is not as important as, I am a really good actor for roles with vulnerability, or testosterone). Because if you can say that, then you are empowering me to think of you at the RIGHT time
  3. And I was wondering if you have any auditions for me at the moment? (Which is what you really want to say, isn’t it?)

Put simply, most actors say to me “I am an Actor.”

You say that with your actor headshot (which makes you look like an actor and not an individual).

You say that by only talking about acting around me (hey, I am human, I support a footy team, I have a passion for good food).

Which means, you will connect to me far more effectively if you tell me about a great restaurant, a new bar, a new art gallery opening, than if you talk about you. Or your work. Or your last role.

Strive to deliver individuality, rather than commitment to acting. Because the fact is, I know you are committed to acting, I know you can act and I know you want an audition.

What I don’t know is what makes you… You

Is Self Taping a fad or here to stay?

Six Reasons why your next acting workshop should be ONLINE

If you could do an audition anyway you liked, in any place, at any time, where would you choose?

Let’s face it, a visual artist chooses where to paint and a composer chooses where to compose. They choose creative environments.

But an actor must ‘create’ in the Casting Directors studio.

Until now. (Could you choose to do a selfie and not a CD test?)

But you baulk at self tests because:

You don’t know what they want and you think they’ll tell you.
You are scared of the technology
You don’t know what take to choose
You think if you meet the casting director, it is much better.

What if I could take away all those fears? What if I could empower you to take control of your audition. If I could do that, now answer the question:

Where is the best place to Audition?

And of course the answer is: in your own home. Where you have control of the time the place the everything!

And that is why you MUST start your journey of being excited about self taping

Yes, you heard me correctly …. Excited! That is what the members of the January course have discovered.

If you do an ONLINE workshop:

  1. You deliver a self test every week. You tape at home, when you want, where you want.
  2. On our member only password protected page, you upload your self tape. You see other members who have done the same. You see various actors auditioning for the same part. With the same self tape format.
  3. Effectively, you sit in my seat, the casting director’s seat. Seeing self tapes of actors doing the same dialogue. How is each one different?
  4. By doing this you develop objectivity. You quickly understand that the difference between a good self tape and a VERY good self tape is not the ability of the actor. It is their imagination. Their individuality. what works. And what does not. You see how little moments communicate a character far more effectively than the perfected delivery of lines of dialogue.
  5. You receive personal feedback from me on every one of your tests. Note: this is private, delivered to your inbox. It is not shared with anyone else. So I can be honest and objective about your work. I will make observations about your strengths and your weaknesses.
  6. As we have members from all over the world, you will develop the understanding that self taping is a universal language, spoken only by actors. And it is the most powerful communications tool an actor has ever been granted.

 

Self taping is here to stay.

Self taping will become the only way an actor can ‘introduce’ themselves to a casting director.

Self taping is the surest way to convince your agent, you have the chops to do the best roles, on the biggest productions.

Self taping is a process that YOU control, and not the other way around.

Audition Mentoring and Self Taping School April 2018 starts Monday 16th April. Numbers are strictly limited to ensure everyone gets individual attention. We are more than 50% booked out.

Act now and book your place. Tomorrow we may be booked out.

Where is the best place to audition?

And you will probably say on the right location, with the director, and a sympathetic crew, and your choice of actor opposite you, and the time to do multiple takes.

If that is the best way to do an audition, then it certainly is not going to happen in a casting director’s studio.

By the way, it may seem I am being hard on Casting directors. Not true. I have been a full time casting director for 35 years. I am president of the Casting Guild of Australia.

I love casting directors.

What I do not love is the process of auditions. A process of screen testing where we must subject actors to conformity, every time we are casting a film

If you have the confidence and knowledge to audition with a self tape, then you have empowered your self in the following ways:

You can do as many takes as you like, whereas in the CDs room you can do one. One only.
The qualities of the character are the ones THEY choose.
You do not have to sit in the waiting room of other actors, dressed like you.
You create an audition space that HELPS you create the character, rather than a Casting Director audition room that is a creatively suffocating environment
You choose the reader. The perfect person to help you deliver YOUR creative vision of the character (not the casting directors)

So, if you agree that there are real, tangible benefits from delivering a self tape, if you agree that you have the power to deliver YOUR version of the character more effectively, then now you are saying do I achieve that?

By doing your next acting workshop online. (What is an online workshop?)

Does your agent always send your Self Tape on to the Casting Director?

Many casting directors provide the full details of the upload when requesting self tapes. The details will include file size, the website to upload to, the conventions that they want you to follow for naming the file.

They will also instruct you on what to have, do and say on your tape.

But when your agent sends you the information, they give you everything but then they say ‘Send your file to us’

Why? Because they are checking if it is good enough. They do not want bad self tapes being sent to the casting director. It makes them look bad.

So they will receive them, review them and if not good enough they will say to the casting director, ‘Oh that actor is not available, or unable to do a selfie, or ….. any number of excuses’

So no, they do not always send it on.

Now think of the reverse situation. Which is:

You do cracking, top-shelf, impressive self tapes. If you do that, not only does the agent not check them first, but now the agent is actively trying to get you more self tap opportunities.

They hope they can get you a self tape every day – because you make them look good.

These days, a self tape is not simply an audition for a role. It is the opportunity to deliver a brand. Sure your brand (is he a good actor?) and more importantly, the brand of your agent.

If you are not getting self tape opportunities, is it because your agent does not want their name, on your self test.

Because no matter how good an actor you are, if your self tape is poor, is unwatchable, then we don’t care how good an actor you are. There are too many other actors delivering good self tapes to spend time agonizing over yours.

Self taping. It is here to stay. And you must see it as an opportunity, rather than an obstacle course.

Because when you do, so does your agent. And they will shout your name from the roof tops.

In Casting Meetings …. What do they say about you?

This may surprise you, but when we cast a movie or a series, we spend more time talking and meeting rather than auditioning.

What do we say? Lots of things. We spend talking about the character and actors.

Usually I will present a list of names. In the old days, I would provide photos and resumes of each actor.

But that is no longer necessary. When a name comes up that the director or producer does not know, they reach for the iPad, iPhone, Samsung – whatever – to look at what the internet has on this actor.

As an exercise, Google your name. Now search your name but ask for images. So these are the photos they use to consider you for the role.

At The Audition Technique, when we say that we empower you to use the tools of the digital age, this is just one part of the understanding you need.

In the past you and your agent controlled what the Casting Director sees.

But no longer. Unless you take control. And if you do, you can make sure the memory of you and your ability is controlled by you. And not Mr. Google.

PS: Now all you have to worry about is…. Can they spell your name?

… and, is your name so common that they find thousands of you?

What will you do in 2018 that changes your career destiny?

 

Einstein must have been quite a witty guy. Think about this quote.

He died in 1955 so his observations were pre digital. And though he is known for his Nobel Prize for Physics, his observations of human spirit is still valid.

He observed that people avoid change, and tend to do things that are comfortable rather than daring. (I don’t think he said this exactly, but then hey, I often paraphrase the greats).

With his quote in mind, how do you prep an audition? You will perhaps says well, every character is different. Of course, but is your thinking, is your preparation and most importantly, is your execution the same?

So if you have hopes and dreams to book a great role this year, what changes do you need to execute, in order to make Casting Directors look at you in a different light?

What do we explore in Self Taping School:

YOU

Your qualities, your uniqueness, your individuality. The feedback we provide – weekly, personal, private – goes to the heart of your strengths.

Your strengths. These are the key to trigger  your 2018 opportunities.

It is not your ability that gets you audition opportunities. It is identifying your qualities, targeting the people who will respond to those strengths, and then, delivering them into the path of the key decision makers within your reach.

Can you answer this? I believe there is one specific role or character that you were born to play. What is yours?

Self taping School will find it.

How Do You Connect To The Frame In Your Auditions?

I think all drama training is always about how the character is connected to the text. Because the text gives you all the clues.

But the thing about auditioning and screen tests is that it’s about the delivery. The delivery is the communication to the decision makers.

Therefore at the Self Taping School, here at The Audition Technique, what we talk about is how you connect the character, not to the text, but to the frame.

The thing is in terms of the delivery of the character, a glance actually speaks volumes. A look away speaks volumes.

Have a look at Rachel McAdams test for The Notebook where she turns her back on the reader.

That is connecting the character to the frame, and that’s what we explore at the Self Taping School.

3 Points To Consider When Getting New Headshots

Headshots are the bane of every actor. And if your headshot journey is similar to mine all those years ago, you are seldom excited by the results.

I would like to change your thinking.

The first thing you need to consider is what is the purpose of a headshot? Many actors believe it is all about having a great photo of themselves. Something they are proud of, an image that shows they truly can be a gorgeous leading man or leading lady.

And yes, many photographers produce these images. And the person who responds to them the most …. Is your grandmother.

One: An actor headshot is to make a casting director stop and think about you.

For some actors, this means making the casting person change their pre-conceived idea of you. For others, the goal is to make them look at you and REMEMBER you.

Tough call that one. I mean to say, as a casting director, why would one more actor’s headshot make you memorable? Because that is who you are trying to impress. Not family. The headshot is a professional tool. To inspire the casting director to get you in.

How many actor photos do I see in a day? More than you can imagine.

How many photos make me stop and think? Think about that actor?

None. Well, not many

Two: You must think of a headshot as a professional message.

In business speak, a professional message means a piece of marketing. That is trying to attract a customer’s attention.

If your customer is a casting director, what will they be interested in? What will they stop and consider? The answer is not ‘yet another actor headshot’.

They will stop and look at an image that changes their thinking about you. More importantly, you deliver a character or character type that they cast.

This is a principle that most actors fail to understand. That you must deliver an image that makes casting people look twice.

This is the golden opportunity presented by the digital age – for both still images and videos. And is one of the principal reasons we started Self Taping School.

Think about your head shot:

Is it what you want to say?
Or is what a casting director wants to hear?

For the message to succeed, it must be about them. Not about you.

Three: One shot? Or a range of shots?

Do any of these contact sheets look like yours? In other words, after a full session in front of the camera, do you look the same in all your shots?

I see actor’s photos on online acting casting sites and they have six or more photos uploaded …… but they all look the SAME!

And as you can see from these contact sheets, the problem is not the choice of image. The problem is that you have not captured a range of characters in the session.

Now, notice my specific choice of words here. I did not say you caught different looks. I said you did not capture different characters.

Think of it like this. Is the casting director of ‘Neighbours’ attracted by the same actor head shots as the casting director of ‘True Detective’?

No.

To succeed as an actor you must think like a casting director. Think about what THEY want, and not what you want.

And if you are confused by how to do that, then you are thinking old school. You are thinking a good head shot and a resume and a new agent will change all your opportunities.

No. OK, well maybe, but mostly the answer is no.

There are a few main problems with getting a great head shot:

  • The online casting databases. They require a portrait orientation which immediately limits your options. But if you think the online casting sites are you only outlet for your photo, then again, your thinking is stuck in the dark ages. At a time when casting directors received images in the post.
  • Your agent. Your agent wants you to look like everyone else in your agency. This is a fundamental understanding that many actors lack. You think your agent is there to work for you. Nope. Your agent is there to shape their brand. But there are ways around that. Listen to our Podcast on Agents.
  • Your photographer. Again, they are not working for you. They are working for themselves. You know when your photographer says ‘oh, casting directors don’t like that’. Most times they have no idea. Why? Because they are not casting directors.

Put simply, you must make the decision to deliver your individual qualities.

To achieve that, you may have to firstly choose what your individual qualities are.

And how to deliver them. And who to deliver them to.

Think of your last three or four years as an actor. Are you happy if the next three or four years are exactly the same?

Stop doing the same thing again and again.

Change the way you look at acting, and you change the way casting directors look at you.