Beyond the Tips and Tricks!

Really, the truth about great auditioning is NOT all about our Tips and Tricks!

It would seem the industry now floods our email boxes with all theses “Top  10” or 7 or 6 or whatever lists of tips about auditioning. They are written by well meaning and often, very experienced  folks in the biz. But I worry that many of these articles make for neat and tidy “byte sizable” content, recalling the Readers Digest, and are as incomplete and superficial as that magazine could be.  Yes,  I have been seduced  into giving these tips myself, because “this tip trend” is now how we get your attention to share what we know.

But I am reconsidering what all this quick bullet-pointed info is doing to us,  and whether it actually inspires us to the real craft and soulful artistry we need to bring into audition rooms to be seriously considered and cast.

Maybe we should ban the idea of  “Auditioning  Tips” altogether?!

Because this trend makes you focus on…just that, a bag of tricks, not your best acting.  Let’s instead start a movement called “Anti- Auditioning”.  And here’s why:

The “Preread” is now gone for most on camera projects (or is done without you there, by the CD viewing your online reel or Googling you).  So now, if you get the appointment,  the only READ is taped and often watched later. In any event, you are there to tell the need of the character in the circumstance and the story of the scene. Just as you would deliver it on set or on the stage. NO DIFFERENCE in what needs to happen.

And when you are cast, and this has happened to me personally more that once, the director on set encouraged me to do “exactly what you did”  in the taped audition. In other words, repeat the full PERFORMANCE you gave on tape please. And really, what I had done in the audition ….was just focus on my own delight in playing the character and telling the story of that scene.

Whereas when we “audition” instead of “play” , we are often pushing to prove our worthiness and it harms the work, trying to be clever kills the work,  and tricks… just make you slick. WAIT A SLICK MINUTE: They really want and need  your depth and immersion in the moment, your character focused on pursuing a need or want in the scene. A character in action in pursuit of a high stake need always draws our attention in an organic way. Thats what really makes them sit up and notice!

If you get caught up in all these little tips and tricks,  perhaps it is hurting the depth of your work and perception of what really and truly counts.

My Advice:  DON’T EVER AUDITION AGAIN!  Abandon the “Tips”,  and let  deeper questions drive your creation.

Dig in: In the preparation, do a detailed background on your character for yourself, so details can emerge, enter the space courageously and ready to collaborate, believe in yourself and the gift your are giving, celebrate your craft, and TELL THE STORY as best you can from the POV of your character, but being in the moment with your reader. Share your vulnerability with the reader and truly try to engage them with your spirit and eyes. Reveal something unique and dangerous about that character that noone but you could share. Then leave, grateful for a chance to act, like you would the stage door or the movie lot. That’s it!

Yes, you need to technically adjust to the medium you are doing the story for : either 500 seat theater, 99 seater, 4 camera, one hour drama and film closeup etc. But once that calibration is made, get on with the truth of the character and their need and create the story. AND THAT IS WHAT WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU BEST IN ANY AUDITION.

More questions to deepen the work:

What secret may my character be hiding? Are they in love? Do they like or hate  their job?  How do they move unlike you do? Are they in a position or authority or powerlessness? How do they dress? Do they have private rituals? How do they walk and hold themselves? What are the social protocol rules of their world and period?  What role or purpose in life drives the character most? And make sure to personalize/transfer/substitute the relationships, thats when the work really heats up (“the real lover/mother/ brother I am talking to is____”). Otherwise, its all too intellectual.

Work on the lines and movement and thoughts and feelings til they are a true and easy reality. Move and think as this character. What drives my character?  How is the character different in private, how am I like the character, how am I unlike the character and how do I reach the POV to think and feel like him/her? Why must my character keep their secrets secret? Essentially, fall in love with the world and spirit of your character.

Auditioning should be no different than the readiness to act on set.  Forget about it as some test or “I need to prove something” idea of auditioning. If you take care of the real artistic work of being an actor, it will take care of you.

Oppose Auditioning.  Instead, join the “Act at my highest level, Now and Whenever” Movement, and leave the tricks behind. Give it a shot oxcw@csfa

Caryn West is an veteran acting teacher, director and coach who auditions and acts. She has taught many gifted and well known actors both in LA and NYC and is the only teacher cited on both coasts by Backstage polls and one of the “BEST AUDITION COACHES”. She has run Caryn’s Space for Actors since 1999.   Facebook   @CarynWestSFA   West Hollywood / NYC

Posted in Acting Technique, Actor Advice, Auditions

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