Recently a friend helped me get my performance together for my first Casting Director intensives in over 10 years. I’d taken an on-camera audition intensive workshop just before these were scheduled, so I felt as least a bit more prepared than I have in a while. Carol and I got a lot done. Then I met Adrienne Stern on Saturday and her feedback helped me figure something out that’s been a running theme in my audition experience for the past couple of years. Adrienne asked for more urgency, higher stakes in my read. Now mind you, Carol and I had focused on these very things: urgency, raising the stakes, really going there to this place. I figured my nerves were working to tamp me down a bit and I did better the second time. Even though it was better, though, she said I could still go even farther. I allowed myself a little sad-sack time for a few minutes after that, and then I got to work on how I could be better for the class on Sunday.
Got home that night and started to let my mind wander around this issue of going further. I made the connection that in my big auditions for episodic dramas in the last 3 years (probably only 2 auditions since I haven’t really been out there), I got the same note after the first read and was not able to deliver in the adjustment. Not so for the comedies, though. Hmm.
I went to work with the sides and some film acting-oriented books and I found some common themes in these that I had forgotten after a few years away:
– The camera sees everything, including your thoughts. Therefore you must be thinking and actually being the character when you are on camera, otherwise it will catch the back and forth of your non-character thoughts (like, “what’s the next line” or “what are they looking at their watches for?”) or any slight hesitations as a flicker of your eyes.
-As useful as an expressive face might be in the theatre, it behooves you to practice relaxing it and letting it be fluid according to what’s going on with you emotionally. It also behooves you to mind your eyes – that is, direct them well by staying on the reader, not looking away too often or too far from camera. Doing so can come across like you are hiding – think about the last time someone lied to you and couldn’t look you in the eye. Let the camera in.
-Characterization is more important than memorization (even though the latter is desirable) – that is why they gave you sides to hold.
-Intensity is more important than characterization because it’s all transmitted through the eyes whereas in a theater you might get to gesture or use blocking or a physical action.
With these reminders, I went back to the script and gave myself more circumstances to “goose” myself while in the room to get to a more heightened place.
Next day: in the room with Lisa Kitay, I did it the way I worked on it the night before, minus a few degrees for nerves. It was more of what it should be, but she still asked for more. So this time I refocused myself and consciously gave myself permission to let go (and let God). And it was lots better. On the video, I could still see a flicker or two in my eyes, so there is room for improvement. But Lisa’s feedback made me feel like I’m on the right track: “nice adjustment, good job.”
Years ago when I did lots more on-camera work on a consistent basis, this wasn’t a huge issue because I’d take classes, go on auditions, do workshops, etc. I’d get constant reminders of what this type of work is like and about what I needed to do to be ready for it. And I was ready, I made it happen.
But when I took time off from the business and only had these sporadic (2-3x/year) auditions, I didn’t realize what a disservice I was doing for myself by thinking I “knew” how to prepare just because I’d done it before.
We all know how important repetition is for mastery of anything. After some time away, it’s extremely easy to confuse being on-camera with being less intense, even though we might know in our heads that it’s not the case. This weekend I was reminded in a visceral way that in fact, the most important thing we need to have is the opportunity to actually do the work in the medium in which it’s meant to be seen. Because think about it this way: you wouldn’t call someone back after they didn’t deliver, but if you see that they have reinforced their business, their skills and are getting a rep for delivering, wouldn’t you try them again? Long story short: bite the bullet and keep working. Hang in there. I didn’t because I wasn’t even sure if I was going to keep acting and life was falling apart in so many ways, but now that I’m clearer, I know that I am the only one that can make it happen. It all comes down to us and the work, right?
So get on camera and practice – by yourself at home, over Skype with a friend, whatever works. Take these CD intensives and watch your progress. It goes without saying you need to get over the weirdness of watching yourself. One of the first things I asked Jen Rudolph was how to get CDs to see me again if I’d done a not-so-great audition for them in the past. And her answer was to get back on their radars and show them I’ve gotten better. Simple answer from a brilliant unicorn leader!
Anyway, off my soapbox now. I’m very grateful for my trials and tribulations, without which I might not be doing all that I’m doing. Without the support network I have, I wouldn’t have had the courage or fortitude to go forward as I have been, inch by inch. Very grateful for true friends.
Hopefully this is helpful for some of you that might be feeling overwhelmed or unsure as to where to start. Much love to you always.