It’s been awhile since I last posted. Today I want to address the overall preparedness of the actors I see when I run camera. Disclaimer: my posts are never directed at anyone in particular. They are based on numerous auditions, and trends that I see amongst all actors. So please do not take this stuff personally. Incidentally, if you do take it personally, this is probably the wrong business for you.
Lets first talk about acting in general. In a nutshell, you need to be crazy to pursue this as a career. You’re welcoming failure into your life. Lets face it, if you book 1 out of 10 auditions, you’re doing great. That means a 90% failure rate. What other industry celebrates that?
With that in mind, something drives you to keep trying. Maybe fame, or money, or the art. Doesn’t matter to me. What matters to me is that you have chosen to pursue this, but many of you sure aren’t showing it. If you’re booking like crazy, you probably don’t need to read on. But if you are at a point where you’re wondering why you’re either (a) not getting sent out, or (b) never booking, then read on. I’m going to address the three major categories we get sent on as actors: commercials, industrials, and TV/Film.
For commercials, preparing is generally the easiest. The copy is short, a lot of times the dialogue is less than 3 lines, and “look” has so much to do with your success in that area. Comedy is king, so having that inherent comedic timing will get you far. I’m not overly concerned with actors auditioning for commercials.
For industrials, things are different. You could have upwards of 2 pages of copy or more. Most of the time they want great memorization skills (in addition to great diction, presentation skills, warmth, professionalism, etc.). So if you see an audition notice that requires memorization skills or ear-prompter, don’t bother showing up with your script in hand (and don’t ask me for a copy of the script). Memorize it. Even if it’s 2 pages. Even if your internet broke last night. Even if your printer was out of ink. Even if you had a big meeting at work and had to rush to Houghton on your lunch break. Bottom line: How bad do you want it?
TV and Film is the big one. It’s not only what actors desire the most, but it’s also where they fall short the most. Within 5 seconds of the start of your read, I know your chances of a callback. And it’s not because I’ve learned some magical technique for analyzing actors. Instead, you have to realize that you can not fool a single viewer into believing your read unless you’re PREPARED.
Now, the word “prepared” has a more complex definition when it comes to TV/Film. I can take 5 minutes and be prepared for a Ga Lottery commercial. I can take an hour or two with a 2-page industrial and spend all that time memorizing and voila! I’m prepared. For TV and Film, though, that won’t cut it. First and foremost, get off script. Period. No excuses (remember: how bad do you want it?). Some casting directors may not mind if you’re on script. So what? Would you rather be handicapped by your script, or liberated from it so that you are free to make real, instinctual choices? Some casting people may prefer you hold your script. Great! Hold it, but still have it memorized.
Now, not everyone is perfect. Circumstances do arise to prevent you from having the time to memorize. Then you need to stop right now and check out my previous post about good and bad cold reads. Because if you walk into an audition that I’m taping, and you have your head buried in your script on the first line, your tape WILL NOT BE SEEN BY THE CLIENT. Not because I’m mean, but because it is impossible to create a connection with the reader (and therefore the audience) with your head buried in the script. As a side note, it may come as a shock that we don’t send every single read to the client. The reason is that if we feel you fell short, it not only hurts your chances of being requested by that casting director in the future, but it also hurts Houghton’s reputation.
Now that you’re memorized, the rest falls on your extensive training…wait…what’s that? You haven’t taken a class in years? You’ve never taken a class? Okay. No worries. You can’t afford classes, or they don’t fit into your schedule, or you took classes in college, so what’s the big deal? I mean, you audition 5 times a week, that’s real-world training! You don’t need a class, right! Hmmm…..interesting logic. If you trained for a marathon 10 years ago, could you wake up tomorrow and run 26 miles? Just because a basketball team may play 2 games a week, do they stop practicing? You need to realize that if you aren’t training regularly, your acting muscle has atrophied. Now think of the actors you’re up against at Houghton, AMT, People Store, and the other 45+ agencies in the Southeast competing for those roles. How can you ever expect to book consistently for TV and Film unless your acting muscle is in shape? Heck, it needs to be on steroids. So again, I ask you: HOW BAD DO YOU WANT IT?
Lastly, I do realize that the auditions at Houghton can be deceptively relaxed. That is, you feel like you can show up late, ask someone to print you a copy of the script, have 7 takes before getting it right, etc. But think about it for a second. It’s YOUR AGENT. If you show up late and unprepared for them, that puts a bad taste in the mouth of the very person you need to be impressing the most! The audition represents ONE JOB, but the impression you leave with me, Chase, Vince, Verda, Deb, Mystie, Sally, and Gail will affect EVERY FUTURE AUDITION. So being unprepared at Houghton sends a clear message that you really don’t want it bad enough…