Making the Scene Audition Friendly:
So- your agent called and told you that you have an Audition tomorrow morning for a one line scene as Cop #3, a two page scene as the Emergency Room Doctor, or three scenes that total 12 pages for a guest lead as the potential love interest. You memorize your lines, which is an art in itself and requires specific technique and training, and then you use all your skills to prepare yourself for the audition. But how exactly do you do that, besides choosing your wardrobe and planning the Audition in your head? What exactly should you do next? What steps should you take to prepare, and in what order? One of the first things C.A.S.T. suggests you consider once you’re off book is to ask yourself what adjustments the scene needs in order to be audition friendly.
When the camera’s rolling, standing up from a chair too quickly or sitting down suddenly can make the Audition camera operator lose you, or pop your head out of frame right on your best line, and you may blow the audition because of it. In fact there are an infinite number of technical mistakes and inappropriate behaviours that actors exhibit every day in the Audition room. These actors metaphorically shoot themselves in the foot and they virtually guarantee that they will not be cast. Audition Survival Training strives to teach every actor the traps of the Audition room and the technique to avoid them, so they don’t have to make as many mistakes themselves when they are under the microscope. For example, whether on set or in the Audition room, the actor must always be aware of how wide the shot is so that he can make physical choices that are appropriate to the size of the shot. Big gestures may work well in wide masters, but don’t work well in close-ups. Most auditions are shot in a medium, so there’s room to play, but there’s a limit. The actor needs to understand how much space there is to fill and how to fill that space before he is ready to Audition his work on camera.
And yes, there is a specific, repeatable technique for getting up out of a chair, or sitting down into one, a technique that will ensure you don’t leave the camera operator a half a beat behind you, trying to catch up. Remember, on set the camera operator knows you’re planning to stand up, the movement is blocked and he gets to rehearse it until it’s smooth before They roll. In the Audition room the camera operator has no idea what you are planning to do, he will only see your scene once, and he cannot anticipate your sudden bursting to your feet, he can only do the best he can to catch up to you. Make his job easy, and you will feature yourself and your work in a better light. But before you use the technique to stand up and keep your head in frame, ask yourself if the scene really needs you to stand up at all. Could you have chosen to play the whole scene standing? Or seated? Learn how to make your scene Audition friendly.
Audition Survival goes worlds beyond simply acting your scene well. Success in the room depends on the seamless blending of the ‘acting the scene well’ part with the many layers of technical skill which will make your story camera friendly, and with the physical and blocking adjustments which will make your scene Audition friendly. Acting on set is a very different animal than acting in the Audition room.
You will not have a gun, a car, a dog, a vampire, a group of other actors, or a mummy costume in the Audition room. There will be no girl to kiss during the Audition, no one to wrestle with over the remote control that will set off the bomb, there will be no set dec, no props. The actor who wants to Survive must learn how to adjust the scene from the way it’s written and the way They will shoot it on the day, to something he can Audition on a mark in the Audition room.
The skill of learning how to make the scene Audition friendly is critical if you want to Survive. In the Audition room, there will be an empty space with lights and a camera aimed at it, there will be a mark on the floor for the actor, and there may be a chair somewhere in the room in case the actor chooses to use it in his scene. There is no need for the actor to play the scene physically exactly as written and we need to learn what physical blocking really needs to stay in the scene and what needs to be adjusted or can be completely eliminated, and we also need to decide how we are going to adjust our performance of the scene based on the differences between on set acting and auditioning.
If your character George is threatening to punch someone and then when you raise your fist the other character pulls out a gun and aims it at you, you had better not have crossed out that “he pulls out a gun and aims it at George” stage direction with a sharpie because it drastically affects what happens next in the scene, and you’d better not ignore that, or the rest of the scene is toast and you aren’t going to be booking this job. But if the first half of the scene is set in a car driving, and then at a certain point the characters park, get out, and walk and talk, we can adjust that for the audition. There’s no need to complicate the Audition with unnecessary or distracting physical behaviour. We can do the whole scene sitting, as if we never got out of the car in the first place, or we can do the whole scene standing, as if we are next to the car and have already gotten out. That is, unless the ‘getting out of the car’ action was integral to the scene. If that is the case we simply use our ‘getting up out of the chair without losing the camera operator’ technique. And don’t walk and talk in the Audition, just stand still. Never pretend you are walking when you are standing on a mark, it looks as funny as it feels. You don’t want Them watching your tape and laughing until tears roll down Their faces because you are bobbing up and down miming walking, you want Them watching and buying your acting choices. Don’t worry, They know you’ll be able to walk and to talk at the same time once They get you onto set, please don’t demonstrate your miming ability by doing it in the Audition unless you are auditioning for the part of the mime.
We don’t want to mime physical choices that the scene could live without, yet we often have to deal with Auditions that ask us to kiss the girl for the first time, or wrestle an alien to the floor while we vow that we aren’t going to let them take over our planet, and unfortunately we aren’t going to have a girl or an alien on camera with us at the Audition. We need to develop techniques to make these scenes Audition friendly; we can’t simply ignore all the stage directions and we obviously can’t blindly follow them all. We have to learn to adjust a great many things to make our scene not only camera friendly, but Audition friendly.
Understanding how to make the scene audition friendly is one of the greatest challenges of any actor, and once the skill is mastered, it’s one of the most freeing tools an actor can use. Once the actor stops worrying about which physical actions or stage directions need to be auditioned as scripted, which ones need to be made Audition friendly, and which ones can be eliminated completely, once he stops wondering whether They want him to audition standing or seated, whether they want the scene loud or quiet, mad or sad, fast or slow, once he realizes that we don’t want him to mime irrelevant action, fill the space inappropriately, bring in a bag of props, or wear an elaborate costume, once he knows when They want him to look at the lens of the camera and when They don’t, he is ready to assume control. The actor cannot approach the Audition thinking that the director has something specific in mind, and that if he can just figure out what it is, or ask the director what he wants, it will be easy. They want the actor to show Them what he’s brought in, and then They want to actor to be prepared, willing, and available to take notes and redirections and to make adjustments. Make Their job easy. Make hiring you the obvious choice. Bring in an Audition friendly, camera friendly, well prepared Audition and blow their doors off. Do that every time you Audition and you will book more jobs. Do everything you can to increase your chances for Survival and get C.A.S.T..