By Paul Haggis
One the hardest parts of your job is getting the job. The audition process is inherently flawed in so many ways. It is very hard to be in the moment when you have to pretend that so much of what is going on in that room isn’t going on, and so much of what should be in a scene isn’t there. But to get to do the real work, in the real circumstances with the real actor across from you, somehow you have to master the audition process.
There are many good teachers and they can give you much better advice than whatever I will write here. I would only suggest a couple of things. First, as you know, nerves are your number one enemy. Of course, do your relaxation technique beforehand if that works for you, but just walking through that door can send even the best prepared actor into a panic. Natural insecurities are heightened at the very moment when you need to be relaxed and confident in your abilities.
So know this: everyone in that room wants you to get the part. If you are in that room, no matter how you got there, we want you. If we are looking at your tape, no matter how it got into our hands, we want you. We don’t want the person waiting in the hall or on the next link - we want you. Why? Because we are selfish. We hate the audition process as much as you do. We want to get the hell out of that room and get on with the fun part of shooting the movie or show. We certainly don’t want to have to call another six or ten actors and look at a dozen more videos. It is as much agony for us as it is for you. We aren’t your enemy, no matter how stern-faced or scary we look in that room. It doesn’t matter if you have zero experience or we have never heard of you, we want you to be the answer. Remember that. In that moment, we are on your side.
And we want what only you can bring to it — yourself, your instincts, your unique way of looking at life, through this character.
So find a way to let yourself shine through the material. Start by lowering the stakes for yourself. Yes, this could be the role of a lifetime, the one that makes all the difference in your career - but if you go in thinking that you are guaranteed to blow the audition. If it is that important, you will not be free to be in the moment. Look at the audition itself as a chance to work. For a few moments you get to practice your craft with a terrific casting director or director or whoever is sitting across from you. Don’t concern yourself with what comes after that. Treat it as an end in itself. You may or may not get the role - even if you do an amazing job. There are many considerations that go into a casting decision - you can’t control all those things. Control what you can - which is that moment, and that moment alone. Don’t expect the reader to be great, she or he probably won’t be. You are off book, you have done your preparation, you know the beats of the scene — now forget it all and be there. And if you do a good job, whether you get that role or not, they will remember you - and call you in for the next role, and the next.
And be grateful. I know it is hard sometimes, but gratitude is what makes great actors. Feel like you are owed something and the camera sees it, and so do we. Be grateful for the opportunity and walk out the door feeling good.
And finally, resist the urge to show us anything. If you are truly there, in the moment, all you need to do is think the thought and we will see it. Try and show us what you are feeling and you will push — and we will see that, too. Trust yourself, and your preparation.
And if you don’t do any of these things and you let your nerves run away with you and you know that you completely blew it — tell them immediately that you were ridiculously nervous and ask if they would mind very much if you do it again. They might say no, but they might be charmed and say yes. Then take a huge deep breath, go with your instincts, forget all that has happened and let it fly.
Book the job. Break a leg.
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