Learning Lines and Auditioning

Some advice for auditioning and screen-testing.
In my long listenings with actors over the years, many of them have said to me that there are two things that terrify them most about auditions and screen-tests. I’ve dug very hard into these two topics to developed ways forward that can help. So here’s a couple of things that might be of interest to ye actors.

Number 1 problem above all else is a feeling of inadequacy. Different actors cause themselves to feel inadequate in different ways before an audition. Some of those self-destructive, self-taught methods are conscious and some are subconscious. One method of screwing yourself up royally is to believe that you are in competition with the other actors going for the part.

* I’m competeing – leads too – how can I be better than the other actors going for the role – leads too – what if their choices are better than mine – or – what if they are better actors than me – leads too – how can I find out their choices and make sure mine are better (you can’t) – or – how can I find out how good they are so I can be better than them in this audition (you can’t) – leads to – I CAN’T KNOW THESE THINGS SO I”M SCREWED! This of course all leads too, I’m behind the 8-ball from the start. Everyone’s better than me and will have better choices so I might as well give up. I go in with a defeatist attitude and no matter how hard I try to hide it with my stupid smile and up-beat manner, these casting people can see right through me. They know I’m shit. And they know I know I’m shit. This downward spiral then leads to all sorts of nasty, self annihilating thoughts like, I’m not good-looking enough, I’m not special and so on and so forth. All of these awful thoughts leave no room for proper homework and technique application to happen. And as such it’s a self fulfilling prophecy because you have spent so much time on these thoughts and so little on actually applying your technique to the script that your audition probably will be shit.

* Solution. Understand you are not competing. The Casting Director hasn’t invited you and these other actors to audition so that they can race chickens and see who wins. They’re not sure yet what they’re looking for so they are hoping someone will make their ears prick up. They’re looking for someone who can bring the part to life, to make it come off the page and be something they can see and envisage as a palpable reality. So as long as you have done that in your homework, you have as much of a chance as anyone else. To think of yourself as competing with the next guy is akin to buying a lotto ticket and thinking you’re competing with everyone else who bought a lotto ticket. They’ve all done the same thing you have. Got the invitation, interpreted the script the way they think is best, learned the lines so they don’t have to think about them whatsoever, turned up on time and presented their work to the panel. After that, the decisions are out of your hands. If you get it, good work. If you don’t it wasn’t because you were worse than anyone else. Sometimes you see the end result of that project and you think, yeah, he or she did a good job. I can see why they got it. Other times you look at the final product and can’t understand what drew the panel to that actor, those ideas and that performance. But that’s life too.

(I should mention as a side, this is all assuming you have trained in a technique that opens up your imagination to interpreting the piece in an artistic and creative way.)

Another method of wrecking your audition is to imagine yourself as inferior to everyone in the room.

* Inferiority Complex. These casting people do this all day everyday – leads to – I’m not experienced enough – leads too – what if they hate me – leads to a shocking case of nerves – leads to a brain that can’t concentrate on the job at hand properly – leads to a mistake.

* Solution. Imagine yourself as going to visit your brother or sister in their house. This is a brother or sister who lives abroad and you only get to see them a few times a year perhaps. You walk in and although it’s not a familiar place, before you know it, you’re comfortable in THEIR place, even though you haven’t made it YOUR place. Casting Directors respect that. The casting director or director may have done this more than you have at this stage in your career, but every audition is different and new to them too because it is a NEW PROJECT. They’re trying to solve a puzzle of sorts and hoping that you might be a piece that fits. If you are, great, if you’re not, you’re not. But you were still welcome in their house and they are your peers, like a sibling. They want to work with peers, not scared little mice who feel they are looking up at giants. Nor do they want to spend their time with someone who’s arrogant and disrespectful, someone who puts their feet up on the table. But to be able to communicate like adult siblings who don’t see each other all that often and value the time when they do, is probably about where you want the relationship to be.

Side note: I have heard so many times that “nerves are a good thing”. I have caught myself agreeing with this, because it does make people feel better when they know that those shakes and shit are “good”. What I think is true is that being nervous means you care. But that’s about all. And you can care in other ways than being nervous. There really is absolutely no reason to be nervous in an audition or screen test. And the more of them you do, the more you realize that. Nerves are a wall of distraction. They stop you from truly listening and communicating with your “sibling”. Tell your nerves to piss off, in whatever way works for you. I tell myself to cop onto myself. That doesn’t work for everyone, but if it helps I actually do get a bit cross with myself and say to myself, “hey dickhead, you’re in Moiselle’s. You might not be back here again for half a year. Go in there and have a polite chat with your friends Frank and Nuala and show them what you’ve come up with. Then listen and change it if they want you to. It’s as simple as that. Then go outside and ask yourself, if you had the chance to do it again right now, would you want to? The answer should be no. You did exactly what you came here to do.”

Finally for today, and I’ve already mentioned it. Lines.

* Lines. I’ll get straight to the solution. You need to know the lines so well that you don’t have to ask yourself if you know your lines or not. If you’re trying to remember the lines and that is the mark of your achievement in that audition, you will not get that role. And if you do, it will be a bizarre accident or piece of good fortune. Trying to remember the lines from the beginning to the end means that there will be nothing natural about your performance because we do not try to remember our lines in life. Obviously. The thing remains stuck firmly to the page and stays there. It doesn’t come to life. So you need to find a method of learning lines that works for you. What I have certainly discovered at this stage is that the more you sit and just look at them, the less chance they have of going in effectively. So I’ve been developing new and exciting techniques to make those lines go in and be coated with a confidence that you don’t have to go looking for them. They serve you as opposed to you serving them. They’re ready for you without you wondering if they will be there when you need them.

If you’d like a day of trying out these new ideas, details are below for a Line Learning and Audition Technique Weekend on May 21 and 22. The thoughts here on auditioning and screen-testing will also be discussed and put into practice. And hopefully more.

There you go chaps. D.127