Why call it Chameleon Audition Survival Training
It’s called Audition Survival Training and not simply actor training because when you can Audition like a professional then you can act like a professional, plus a whole lot more. Mastering the Audition process will take your acting to a whole new level.
Michael Gordin Shore, creator and developer of the C.A.S.T. system, believes that theatre training and technique easily adapt to the big or the small screen, and that they can help film and television actors to create solid, repeatable, and truthful on camera work. Chameleon Audition Survival Training approaches every scene like it’s a short play. The scene itself, even if it’s only one page, one paragraph, or even one line, has a moment before, stasis, an inciting incident, a story arc, at least one character arc, at least one beat change, emotional transformation, a climax and denouement, and a moment after as a new stasis is reached. It may even have an entrance and exit. Even a one line scene has the potential to be auditioned like this, if the actor sees and then seizes the opportunity. The Audition will be the only time we ever get to perform our short play to an audience, so if we want to wow Them we need to rehearse that Audition as completely and as meticulously as we would rehearse a longer play. And when the actor finally performs the play, it will be like minimalist theatre…he or she will be alone on stage with no props or set, standing on the mark blinded by lights and auditioning alone, since the Audition reader stands off camera to provide the actor with an eyeline that is close to the lens. Only the auditioning actor is visible on the audition tape, and only from the waist or the chest up. They are watching you on a TV screen in a tight enough shot to see the slightest flicker of hesitation flash through your mind. The actor struggles, lives, and works under a microscope, so get used to it.
The director and the producers and other powers that be, the people referred to as They with a capital T, They are the ones who decide which actor gets hired to play the role. As They look at the Audition tapes at a later time, They are watching the various auditioning actors listen, They’re watching them think, watching them realize, watching them make decisions, watching them choose tactics, watching them make strong choices and then execute those choices. Even if They don’t exactly know what They’re seeing, and They aren’t completely aware of the technical details we devote so much attention to, They can certainly tell when They are being served steak after eating burgers all day. When you can perform your play well in a medium frame with no props and you are ready to bring down the house like it’s your 50th show, when you are ready to wow Them, you are ready to Audition the scene. It’s simple: if you blow Their doors off, every time, you will book more jobs.
There’s a lot to do when you find out you have an Audition. You have to plan and organize your wardrobe, you may need to get your hands on certain items, you have to memorize your lines and be extremely familiar with the other characters’ lines which will take time, you have to adjust the scene to make it camera and audition friendly, you have to research and analyze the scene and making strong acting choices, you may need to find out how to pronounce certain words with a particular accent, or view an episode of the show to understand it’s style or genre, then you have to call your coach or an actor friend because you have to block and run the scene for hours until it’s effortless and you need a backup plan in case you end up having to do it on your own, and you have to get enough sleep that you aren’t exhausted in the morning when you get to your Audition. It’s a fact of the working film and television actor’s life that he must usually complete this entire process in an evening. It has to be performance ready before you go to sleep so you can audition it tomorrow and hit it out of the park. It’s a lot of work and it’s got to be done immediately, so it’s fortunate for you as you prepare for tomorrow’s casting session that the script is only a few minutes long and that you only have to get through this one Audition.
Except that the Chameleon system is called Audition Survival Training because you may have two.
Or your agent may call you at 9:00am and ask you how fast you can get to an Audition downtown because they want to see you at 9:45 and he just emailed you the sides. And the scene is 6 pages long. And part of the scene involves jumping out of a boat to rescue a drowning child, and narrowly escaping being eaten by a crocodile. Or even more difficult to act on a mark in the Audition room, the scene ends with you trying to fight off the crocodile and eventually getting eaten as you helplessly watch the child drift down the river towards the other crocodiles and presumably towards her horribly gory and painful demise and all the while she is waving to you and pleading for help, and your reaction to that sight layered onto the pain of being eaten by the crocodile is the last shot of the scene. That’s a lot to manage. All your Survival Training will kick in as you learn your lines and make technical and tactical choices while you shower, shave, and drive, trying to make it to your 9:45 call time even though it was 9:20 when you got out of the shower and you live over an hour away. Don’t panic, there are no problems, only solutions. There are many reasons the Chameleon system is called Audition Survival Training.
So why else is it called Chameleon Audition Survival Training, not Actor Survival Training or Audition Training System or Actor Training System? Surely we as professional actors are trying to do much more than simply blend into the background like a Chameleon while we try to survive the experience and escape the Audition room safely and quickly with our tails between our legs? Absolutely, don’t be misled by preconceived notions. Leave them outside the door of the studio.
Survival is not about scraping by or about barely getting through a situation, it’s about endurance; it’s about the ability to endure long term, it’s about ultimate success, it’s about being the one left standing when all around have fallen. It’s about your Survival.
No actor’s career is built on a single audition; working actors must audition constantly, often more than once a day, generally competing with at least ten other actors for each role. Surviving a single audition if your goal is to merely get through it may not sound too difficult, but surviving a life of constant auditioning and on set work requires a tremendous amount of juggling and hat changing, not to mention the constant emotional and technical calisthenics.
And acting well, an absolute prerequisite, is only half the battle, the less important half compared to the need for the technical proficiency necessary to make sure your work is camera and audition friendly. The people who make the hiring decisions, They, are rarely at the audition, They are going to make their decisions about who books the job or gets a callback based on what They see on the tapes. If the people watching your tape didn’t see your eyes or get your choices, if They didn’t hear the words, or if you kept rocking in and out of frame because your beautiful acting work wasn’t camera or Audition friendly, if you didn’t make it easy for Them to see that you are the clear and obvious choice for the role and that you have the tools and skills required to act well for the camera once you get out to set, you have probably eliminated yourself from the competition already no matter how good your acting was because They didn’t see it, all they saw was your technical inexperience and so they moved on. C.A.S.T. calls that shooting yourself in the foot. Balancing the emotional and technical requirements of the scene has got to become second nature if you want to Audition well and book jobs.
Auditioning on a regular basis requires a lot of hard work, many sacrifices, and effective time management skills. If you are a working actor you probably also have a job, and tonight you may find yourself trying to squeeze in ‘getting ready for tomorrow’s Audition’ around your job and your regular life, preparing scenes and memorizing lines in the evening because you only found out about tomorrow’s casting session at 4pm. I hope you don’t have a night job, because if you do, you are going to be learning lines while you work. And I hope you don’t have a day job because your audition is tomorrow at 11:15 and they don’t reschedule. It’s not easy. And you must develop the ability to fill your head with the volume of material that must be memorized and prepared for each Audition and then be able to clear it again to make room for the next one, and that is an exercise that takes practice, and none of this is even mentioning one of the hardest parts of the working actor’s lifestyle, the effect that constant schedule juggling has on our personal lives and on our relationships. Most actors don’t last long in the pressure cooker of the auditioning lifestyle and the on set world, no matter what their level of talent or of training. It is a difficult process, and a difficult life. If you want to be in this business for the long haul, if you want to Survive when hardly anyone does, if you want to be the one left standing when all around you have fallen, you will need intense and intensive Survival Training.
C.A.S.T. will teach you the all same acting skills as any other actor training system will, because one of the thickest layers of its foundation is the amalgamation of half a dozen formal acting systems including Method, Practical Aesthetic, Uta Hagen, Grotowski, and Meisner. Acting is acting, and C.A.S.T. will give you acting skills. The difference between traditional actor training and Chameleon Audition Survival Training is that C.A.S.T. will not only teach you how to act, it will also train you as a professional actor; it will teach you how to work as an actor in the real world, how to book jobs and to Survive, how to succeed and endure as a pro who works on television and in feature films. C.A.S.T. teaches you the practical application of studio actor training in the real world of professional casting rooms, and then it helps you understand how to do your best acting work and how to earn the most camera time when you have the chance to be on set working as a professional, working actor.
Everyone tells the actor what he has to do, and hardly anyone seems to be able to teach him how to do it. C.A.S.T. specializes in changing that. C.A.S.T. is specific, providing the actor with the tools and techniques he needs to deal with the “yeah but how do I actually do that”’s: How to prepare for an audition, how to make the scene camera and audition friendly, how to transition between drastically different scenes in the audition, How to know when to look at the camera and when not to, how to handle yourself in the room, how to deal with nerves, how to be repeatable, how to own the room, how to nail auditions, how to prepare for set once you book the job, how acting on set will be different than acting in the studio, there’s no end to the list of things the actor must learn to do on top of learning how to deliver the scene convincingly. In Michael Gordin Shore’s experience, “It's very hard for an actor to learn this stuff because hardly anyone teaches it, and I don’t understand why because it’s some of the most important stuff in our business. Hardly anyone teaches this stuff, and yet it’s exactly what every actor needs to learn if they want to own the room, nail auditions, and book jobs.”
What is Audition Survival Training? By definition, Survival Training prepares a person uniquely and specifically for success in a particular environment, especially when under adverse or unusual circumstances. Survival Training provides invaluable information, knowledge, and the practical training needed to fully prepare a person to deal with the harsh elements of a difficult situation within that environment, and prepares that individual to thrive when others less well trained or well prepared would surely perish.
The non-traditional application of the words Survival Training within the context of actor training reflects the non-traditional methodology of the system itself. Examine the definitions of the words Chameleon, Audition, Survival, and Training, and consider how they apply to acting and more specifically to Auditioning, to booking a role, and then to acting on a film or television set, if you’ve ever had the opportunity to do any of those things. Auditioning may not seem like a life threatening situation, but when you want to live the life of a working actor, the inability to master the audition room and the audition process and the inability to book jobs is a tangible threat to the life you want to live, and is a grave threat to your livelihood and to your Survival as professional actor. It’s simple. The ultimate goal is not to nail an Audition and book a job, the ultimate goal is to Survive as an actor, a working, professional actor, long term. If you don’t get cast, you don’t get to set. If you don’t get to set, you don’t get paid. If you don’t get paid to act on set, you are not a working actor, and if you never master the audition process and start to earn a living then you will eventually find a new way to live, and then you will have become one of the unfortunate ones who did not Survive the Audition. Audition Survival Training. Once you have it, you’ll wonder how you Survived this long without it.