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The Fatal Four: The Missteps That Sabotage Your Auditions

Over the past couple years I’ve spent a lot of time working with Casting Directors running auditions. A few years ago, I came up with a Casting Director workshop format that we called “In The Room” in which we brought in top Casting Directors from Vancouver, Toronto, and LA.

On a selfish note, one amazing personal benefit for me was that I got to connect personally with each CD and deeply discuss the ins and outs of how each one sees auditioning, the industry, and career success. I was able to reverse engineer each CD’s unique perspective, and I now am lucky to be one of the very few people in town who really gets all of them. (I’ve run over 1,000 auditions with Corinne Clark & Jennifer Page, JJ Ogilvy, Stuart Aikins, Candice Elzinga & Martina Smyth, Jackie Lind, Tiffany Mak, Judy Lee, Jason Knight, John Buchan, Sharon Forrest to name just the Canadian side of things).

They all have big similarities: they seek and recognize outstanding work when they see it. Of course delivering outstanding work is your prime focus, but there are also little differences that are born of how they see acting and the industry, and trust me they all have a unique perspective. My ‘thing’ as a teacher is that I’m exceptionally good at seeing/knowing ‘who you are’ and helping you to fully bring ‘you’ into your work. To allow you to allow your work to happen. I’m good at that because it’s what fascinates me most – who we are and why we do what we do. I have that lens on at all times, especially when I’m talking with casting. I have developed a very keen understanding of how to adjust the approach to your work and to your audition for each CD.

I’ve also learned that aside from the personal adjustment there are FOUR FATAL ERRORS that get in the way of success in the audition room, all of which I have made myself umpteen times, and I continually work to stay ahead of. Ready? Here they are:

1. Playing into emotion rather than fighting against it. We work so hard to make sure that the emotional truth is there that we forget to approach it like we would in real life. I watch actors time and time again come in emotionally charged, making sure they are vulnerable and ready to spew tears or rage or whatever the emotional requirement is. That’s a great step, but on ‘Action’ if the audience knows exactly where you are going, you have LOST THEIR ATTENTION, and that is a blown audition. It takes big discipline to get the potentiality for emotion to be present and then FIGHT it, but that’s how we exist in real life, so that’s how you must exist in your audition. YOU must be surprised – if you’re not, then neither am I.

2. Rushing through the audition. We’re nervous, and the animal inside us wants us to GET AWAY FROM THIS PLACE. We listen to it, walk in, race through, and leave the people in the room with something forgettable because effectively what we are doing is asking to be forgotten. Auditions are uncomfortable. Embrace the discomfort, love it, operate within it and it will translate as a character fighting to overcome personal obstacles to achieve something. Oh yeah, that’s why I’m watching anything I ever watch in the first place. Cool.

3. Starting the audition outside the room. We get ‘in the zone’ outside the room, get called in and never connect with the room itself or more importantly with the reader. When this happens, the best case result is a forced or planned audition that’s a little disconnected. The worst case scenario is a totally disconnected read plus an off-putting personal experience. “That actor is so self involved. He never listens. He’s rude.” We have GOT to check in with the environment of the room, and ground ourselves in what’s happening in there, and what’s going on with the reader.

4. Holding on to control – not entirely dissimilar to number three, but this is when we have decided to say a line a certain way, or create a particular moment, or have come up with an ‘interesting choice’, and we end up ‘delivering’ something rather than experiencing something. There’s this moment that has to occur before you start, it’s the embracing of the chaos of it all – it’s the ‘I have no idea what’s going to happen next’ moment. When actors are prepared enough that they can let go, the magic happens.

These “Fatal Four” are what I have seen over and over and over and over again in various combinations and iterations. They are a window in to what is leading you away from success, and they provide me the opportunity to begin to help you overcome and achieve. Please pay attention to the four missteps, and work at being so incredibly prepared that you can step into the room, breathe, relax, connect, let go and enjoy a ride that you don’t control.

Your auditions will thank you for it.

Thanks for tuning in

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