Malcolm Gladwell argues it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field of study. Equated to an actor’s overnight success, it is roughly 10 years. So, what are you doing with your time? And when preparation meets opportunity, how will you create your own luck?
1. Know who you are. The sum of your experiences are unique to you. That’s the person we want to see in the audition room. It can be confusing because actors go to school, study technique, create deep meaningful characters, and then told, “We want to see ‘you’ in the room. The tools compliment the person you are now and continue to become. For this reason, you have the opportunity to breathe freshness into your work with every project. Your artistry is personal. Your life experiences (family, sports, music, travel, life) contribute to the work and are not separate.
2. Make strong choices. We always speak of making strong choices in the room. There’s a natural rhythm to a scene most everyone reading will service. But what’s not being said? What are the thoughts and reactions in between the lines? What do you want from the other person in the scene?
3. Practice. There are many naturally talented actors. However, if you are seeking career longevity, like any job, it takes continued practice to maintain or grow. Are you in a class geared to the upcoming season—in this case, episodic? What types of shows are shooting that fit your casting? If it’s comedy, are you in an improv class? Do you need more on-camera practice? Does the audition room freak you out? Do you need to feel more comfortable with small talk or banter in the audition room? Could you use a coach for short-term specific needs? What can be worked on right now?
4. Research. Who will be in the audition room? It’s not enough to know their names. Researching the body of work of the casting director, producer, director, and writer will help you with the tone of the piece, and provide talking points in the room should the opportunity arise.
5. Memorization. The desire is to share authentic, grounded choices, to collaborate on any redirect, and to do your part of the job to the best of your ability. If having your lines memorized allows that freedom, then you’ll want to be off-book.
6. Chatting/banter. Some audition rooms are chatty. Others stone-cold silent. Keep it positive. Do your part of job and focus your responses to half you-half how the character would respond. It will allow you to quickly drop into character when it’s time to read.
7. Collaboration. Think of your audition as collaboration with the room. You are offering your take on a character, and may be asked to adjust certain parts of your read to accommodate the vision. Embrace the opportunity to take direction.
8. Recovery. Your missed word or dropped line will not lose you the role. How you recover from it however, just might. We’re looking at how the bobble is handled. Are you self-deprecating? Can you laugh about it? Can you stop, take a breath, and continue. We’re looking at how you recover. It will tell us how professional you will be on set.
9. The camera. Understand it. Make friends with the camera. Have an understanding of how your movement speaks on camera. Less is more. On set, when in between your shots, it’s appropriate to ask if you can watch.
10. Despair. Yes, there are bad days. There will always be conflicts. Despair is one moment. Let it go, and be open to the next opportunity.
11. Remember your story. You are the sum of many parts. Your history and decisions shape you unlike any other. Bring what is unique about you to the table.
12. Keep on. While these are practical points on how to focus one’s auditions to contribute and/or improve booking ratio, all of this can be boiled down to the intrinsic value of preparation, personal point of view, and the persistence to keep on.