Auditioning for Love and Money

Are you auditioning for every role you could possibly

play? Actors looking to expand their visibility, range and experience

audition for everything. The actor’s goal should not be to "get

the job," and especially not to please the director or casting

agent. The goal should be to create a character, to develop a wide

repertoire.

Two things drive directors nuts in an audition. The

first is actors who have obviously given the role little (if any)

thought. It’s not enough to just show up, you must come prepared;

present a developed character. The second thing is actors who don’t

listen. Actors relaxed enough to pay close attention to what the

director is asking for consistently get high marks.

What drives you, the actor, crazy is a director who

doesn’t really know what he or she wants. There is a way to remedy

all this, and to leave feeling good about your craft, your talent

and your choices, no matter how off-base you believe the director,

casting agent, or producer to be.

First, read your sides (script pages) carefully. Think

about the character and the story. What does the character want?

What does she feel? Where is she? How would she interact with the

scene’s environment? What is the beginning, middle and end of this

story?

One film project I did was particularly difficult

to cast. The person I ultimately cast got the part for two reasons:

First, the actor was more interested in being the character than

pleasing me. When I gave him a note (a verbal suggestion for his

character), he responded in character. Other actors broke character

when they communicated with me.

A review of the video revealed the other actors simply

weren’t as immersed in the character, and therefore not as natural

as the person we cast. Second, the actor brought more to the part

than I had written. He developed a heart and soul for the character,

a depth I hadn’t seen in the script or the other auditioning actors

(who were still very good). After along day, one actress got my

attention when she started her audition by saying, "I see this

character starting out disinterested, then ultimately becoming completely

involved. Is that correct?" This actress was involved enough

to analyze the part.

Meryl Streep landed her award-winning role as Joanna

in Kramer vs. Kramer by analyzing the character. She was

originally slated to audition for a bit part in the film. But at

her audition, she gave a concise analysis of the part of Joanna.

She praised the script mightily, but noted that Joanna fell into

stereotyped, shallow characterization in specific places. She went

on to describe how she would change the role.

She was excused from the audition and later cast as

Joanna without further review. The script was even rewritten to

accommodate her character interpretation and development.

John Ratzenburger (Cliff in Cheers) says that

he failed his Cheers audition, badly. As the character for

which he originally tried out, that is. But as he was leaving, he

asked the producers if they had already cast the "bar know-it-all."

Huh? "You know," he said, "the guy who…" and

went on to give a bogus breakdown of the office furniture composition

in the audition areaas Cliff.

That improvised character development landed him a

steady job for 11 years. Ask questions. The most important thing

to remember in an audition is that the people for whom you are auditioning

will be doing other projects in the future, some of which your talent

may be tailor-made for.

Directors remember actors whose auditions stand out

in their minds, even if they aren’t cast the first time around.

Colleen Patrick is a Seattle screenwriter, director

and author. She teaches beginning and advanced "Acting for

Film" classes.

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