It’s pilot season (duh). Auditions are coming in the night before, hours before, sides are being revised at the last minute, and actors are being asked to read for a different role with only 10 minutes to prepare. It’s a crazy time of year, actors are overwhelmed, and a lot of my students ask me how to prepare for these TV auditions when they are coming in so fast. Our time is limited, we have survival jobs, school, life, kids, whatever, and actors can’t spend all day working on a script, memorizing 10 pages of sides, coming up with a long backstory, only to have it change at the last minute, or have a cold-read thrown at you on the spot in the audition. Most series regulars memorize their lines on set, in less than an hour between rehearsal and filming. So why can’t treat auditions the same way?
It doesn’t matter if you went to Julliard, or took one acting class in high school. All that matters is that you are creating absolute truth when the camera is rolling in the audition. It’s about the execution of the material, the connection to the reader, truly listening and you bringing yourself to the role in a surprising and interesting way. It’s about being focused, confident, and taking direction on the fly. You can’t be too locked in, too memorized, to over rehearsed, or your performance will be stale and boring, or at worst, predictable and safe.
60 Minute Audition Prep
Whether it be a simple co-star role for a procedural, or a bigger series regular with 3 scenes, I believe actors should spend no more than 60 minutes preparing for an audition, and then 60 seconds in the waiting room recharging before the audition. The 60/60 rule.
Does that sound crazy? Maybe. But here’s the deal
Actors need to have a fool-proof system, a ritual, of being able to take a script, and spend a concentrated hour doing everything you need to do to make that come to life. That includes memorizing, working on character, beats, and then running lines so that they are second nature. This is the way I’ve done it for years, and I swear by it. You don’t have to have a photographic mind to memorize a long script this fast (see my video below), but you do need to be able to quiet your mind and concentrate. For me, it’s the right balance between not “winging it” and not overthinking it. It’s enough time for me to inhabit the world of the character, speak his language, and imagine myself in his shoes. It’s about visualizing the scene, being comfortable enough with the words, and understanding it on a deeper level. How do I do it quickly? I get the words out of the way (write them down, use Rehearsal 2, etc), and then spend a half an hour walking around and inhabiting the character, punching up the dialogue, finding interesting choices, mining the script and digging deeper. Then I let it go until the audition.
60 Second Audition Recharge
Once you are in the waiting room, you need to find that character again. The prep is your safety net, and now you need to conjure up the work, get into the headspace, and get focused. Put on some noise cancelling headphones, go out in the hallway, the bathroom stall, whatever you need to do, and spend 60 seconds visualizing the scene from start to finish. See the movie in your mind, in detail, picture yourself saying the lines, listening, focusing, and let your imagination run wild. If you can’t “see” the scene once you walk into that audition room, you can’t possibly have an honest reaction to the circumstances and truly “feel” what your character is feeling. You will be nervous and scattered. In this 60 second recharge, your nerves start to dissolve, your mind quiets down, and you lock in to a character that you have created in these imaginary circumstances. By the time you walk into that room, you will be grounded in this characters’ thoughts, feelings, and needs. And you will have a kickass audition (hopefully).
Once you practice this 60/60 ritual a few times, it will become second nature.
Good luck! And..oh yeah, don’t suck in your auditions.