Let’s talk about preparation, the sides (script material), callbacks, and competition, shall we?
Recently (well, original publication was July, 2012), in a thread on my Facebook Group for Seattle Filmmakers and Actors, a local talent agent reported that actors in the northwest were basically embarrassing themselves (and, quite possibly, the casting director who called them in and their team – agent, manager) by looking like amateurs when compared to Los Angeles talent. Not that we should always be comparing, but it is good to know what the competition is up to so we can excel!
So, what is the problem? Are LA actors just in a different league than their northwest counterparts? Possibly. LA actors surely have more chances to practice their craft, seeing as there are more opportunities for them in that region. Fine. Accepted. They get to exercise their skill set more often via auditions. Which should, in theory, make them more adept when tackling auditions. More repetition = more mastery. But, what also seems to be at issue is general preparedness (or, lack thereof). And, perhaps, how we, as actors, approach the audition/callback/producer session.
From the feedback I received from people I trust in the industry – Melissa Baldauf, Talent Agent, TCM Models and Talent, Seattle, WA; Lana Veenker, Casting Director, Cast Iron Studios, Portland, OR. – I have come to the conclusion that we (northwest actors), generally speaking, need to attack auditions and callbacks with more precision.
Here is what industry leaders are saying:
From Melissa Baldauf:
“Here is a note from one of our NW casting directors that is really important for actors in our area to read. Something similar was just noted by another CD in our market: ‘Just FYI – some of these roles are being cast for in both Portland and Los Angeles. I don’t know if overall Portland just needs to massively improve it’s cold-reading skills, or if our talent just needs to make better use of their waiting time in the lobby, but I do know that we are going to lose out every time if our talent is constantly coming into interviews and callbacks with only a cursory knowledge of the sides. There was not a single person on tape out of LA that was standing there with the sides in their hands, referring back to them throughout their read. We received a note from the producers regarding the difference between LA auditions and Portland auditions, and it was not especially kind.’”
“It boggles the mind, but somehow the LA actors DO have all their pages perfectly memorized that they only got the night before. Have your small, folded sides in hand in case of an emergency, but arrive as polished as possible, because the LA actors are killing us in terms of preparation. If an actor can’t get off book for a callback, how can we reassure our producers that he or she will be off book for the shoot, when script pages sometimes come in the night before or morning of? The TV producers are terrified of NW actors having meltdowns on set.” - Source: https://www.facebook.com/groups/336252909744682/
Here is our (not so magical, but quite practical) formula for "successful" auditions:
Here is a hint - you have an audition! There is the success right there. Approach the audition with excitement and gratitude. Attitude goes a long way.
Get the sides.
Get the script (if possible).
Prepare the heck out the material – read it and speak the lines OVER AND OVER again, practice with a partner (or a recording), and pick a scene objective (what does your character want the other character to DO, UNDERSTAND, or FEEL?).
Keep preparing and reading and interpreting ("this time I will *punish* with the lines" or "this time I will *beg* my scene partner/reader with the lines," etc.) and experimenting and reading, getting more and more comfortable, so you will be confident when you are in the room.
Go into the room and leave your baggage at the door (your bad day...the traffic nightmares, etc.).
Don't be overly familiar (shaking hands only when prompted), but don't be afraid to ask questions, especially if they ask, "do you have any questions?"
Then, nail the audition by doing your preparation. Have fun, listen and respond, and always be gracious.
At the callback you are completely off book – yes, you can hold your sides, but keep your nose out of the paper so you can connect with your partner, pursue your wants (which are verbs and are informed by your scene objective), and navigate past obstacles (internal and external).
Now, as far as character preparation and rehearsal specifics, there are a billion theories and exercises to put into practice. Right? I am sure you know a few ways, the above are merely tips or reminders.
And, how to memorize? Oh, man. I don't know. Repeat, repeat, repeat? Say the words in a lot of different ways (sing them, say them in an accent, play with different intentions), on and on.
Thanks for reading and break a leg at your next audition!