For any actor, auditions are a nerve-racking experience. No matter how experienced or naturally talented you are, the thought of putting on a performance in front of a group of strangers who you know are judging your every mannerism, and will soon be deciding the fate of your career can be a stressful one.
As if that wasn’t enough, acting auditions usually take place in an intimate, fast-paced setting which allows you very little room to get to know your character and put yourself in their shoes. For any dedicated follower of method acting techniques, this might make the thought of attending an acting audition seem almost impossible. However, there is one method acting trick which, when learned and used correctly, can help you to give a convincing and truly memorable performance in an audition even with little to no preparation. That trick is personalisation.
What is personalisation?
This method acting technique is employed by all of the highest calibre actors to give convincing performances with little to no preparation, in other words; an audition. Method actors, who are constantly reminded of the importance of inspiration and research, may be concerned that it will be difficult to display their skills without the time to get underneath the skin of a character and undertake some in-depth investigation.
However, personalisation allows actors to add real emotions and genuine feeling to a performance at just a moment’s notice. Described in the most simple way, personalisation is when an actor remembers and relives emotions from their past and superimposes those feelings into the scene they are acting out. This is a skill which can be called upon suddenly, even in auditions in front of a group of people you have only just met and in circumstances where there has been little or no time to get into character.
It’s easy to see why personalisation is a core skill that many method actors possess. After all, what actor wouldn’t want the ability to instantly put on authentic acting performances simply by remembering situations and people from their past?
How personalisation works
Don’t worry if personalisation sounds too good to be true. With enough rehearsal and practice, you too will be able to give convincing audition pieces by bringing personal memories to the forefront of your mind.
We have all lived through emotional circumstances in our past, and these can be utilised in just about any audition scenario. In some instances, this may be relatively simple. For example, it is highly likely that you’ve lived through romance or heartbreak at least once in your past. So, if you get to an audition and are asked to perform a love interest story, you should be able to imagine the fellow actor in the scene is a loved one from your past. Alternatively, though, what if you arrive at the audition and are asked to play the part of a crazed killer? Hopefully, you don’t have any experiences to draw upon to help you relate to such a character! However, when you learn how to use personalisation, you learn to draw on memories such as those times when you’ve been truly angry or resentful. You can then apply those emotions to the role you are auditioning for, even if it is completely removed from your own life and experiences.
Once you’ve been trained in personalisation, you can rest assured that the idea of auditioning for a role with very little preparation will be a whole lot more manageable – although, of course, you will never be totally free of nerves – we all need a bit of adrenaline to get us through, right?
One of the main reasons that personalisation is such a key skill, is that imagination and memory are two integral parts of method acting. In order to really take a script and bring it to life with a believable, spontaneous and truly authentic portrayal of a fictional character, you will need to have the ability to combine your own personal emotional memory with imagination.
Why does it work so well in auditions?
You might be thinking that personalisation sounds great but wondering what is it about this technique that makes it a go-to technique for an acting audition. Although personalisation can be utilised for just about any situation, there are two things that really make personalisation a must for auditions.
The first thing to note about personalisation is that it can be totally internalised. This means that only you will know what scenario you are imagining or remembering when you are personalising a role. The people you are auditioning in front of will only be able to see the performance you are putting on and the effects of your personalisation. They will have no idea whatsoever of the internal process you are going through and what you are seeing in your ‘mind’s eye’ to give such a convincing performance. This allows you to evoke completely raw emotions from deep down inside without ever displaying your technique.
The second reason that personalisation is exceptionally well suited to auditioning, is that it can be drawn upon at a moment’s notice. When you land an audition and begin the rehearsal and filming or stage performance process, it is essential that you research and practice. This will allow you to get to know your character, develop some sort of a back story for them and really delve into their mindset. In an audition, however, you will be judged on your ability to spontaneously act out a short but memorable scene.
Make your acting auditions more natural
We’ve already looked at what personalisation is and what makes it so well suited to the acting audition process, but how can you utilise this method to make sure you give every audition your best shot and don’t come away feeling like you’ve let yourself down?
Method acting is all about ‘being’ rather than ‘acting’. The casting director, director or producer that you are performing your audition for will want to see raw, genuine emotion from you rather than melodrama.
For this reason, it is absolutely essential that you quickly establish which emotional memory you need to draw upon to represent your character in the most authentic way. As long as you put enough effort into learning personalisation techniques and remember to bring real, believable emotions to every audition rather than focusing on fake emotions and pre-planned movements, you are far more likely to give an audition that you are happy with – even if it doesn’t land you the role.
Personalisation is an internal process that you can learn with the right amount of help and training. At The Brian Timoney Actors’ Studio, we specialise in teaching method acting techniques that can show you how to properly utilise personalisation and other important techniques to help you ace your next audition.
Depending on your schedule and personal availability, our courses include a one-weekend Introduction to Method Acting Boot Camp or a year long Ultimate Acting Programme. You can find out more our courses, including listening to what past students have to say, on our dedicated Acting Courses webpage.