Last week I managed to get one of my students an audition for a major Hollywood movie. I can’t tell you which one, as I’m sworn to secrecy, but suffice to say it’s major league.
Each year I take my one-year students from London to LA to experience the Hollywood acting industry. It’s an amazing trip and they get the low-down on how things work stateside.
I bring in some big hitting casting directors to meet the students. They cast major feature films and rub shoulders with the likes of George Clooney and Angelina Jolie.
One of these casting directors emailed me last week and said:
Can you shoot me pictures of your students that are:
1. Ready to handle an acting job
2. Fit the role of….
As a result, one of the actresses I put forward got an audition.
Now, here is the dilemma:
The casting director is in LA and the actress is in London. So how do you audition? The answer is self-taping. As you are probably aware, there are more and more British actors getting roles in US projects. The film industry is now truly global and technology has made it possible for casting directors to audition actors anywhere in the world thanks to self-taping.
Self-taping involves you taping yourself doing scenes from the film and sending it to the casting director. You usually receive guidelines from the casting director on how to do this.
Here is an example:
SELF – TAPE INSTRUCTIONS & TIPS — IMPORTANT — PLEASE READ CAREFULLY
Wardrobe: Please avoid wearing stripes, complex patterns or all white. They don’t show well on camera.
SLATING FOR CAMERA: show full body:
Note: Please make Slate separate from Scene reading.
1. Your Name – Hold Paper with Name/Large Print
2. Say your Height
3. Say your Age (only if you are under 18 years old) 4. State & City you live in.
4. Represented by:
5. Reading for the role of:________
Please direct eye line to person reading with you standing next to camera.
TAPING SCENE: Please start taping at waist and then move in to close-up.
We want to easily see the face of the actor and also see how they use their body in the scene. Actor can move a round a little bit. Please keep it within a 3ft radius so we don’t lose seeing the face and body.
The final file must be in: .MOV or MP4 format.
It’s an interesting process. Here are some things to keep in mind if you have to produce a self-tape:
- Get the self-tape done professionally. Spotlight (the UK’s actors casting directory) offer an affordable service where they tape your audition reading and put it online. Believe me, on the day you will be glad you had a pro cameraman do this. It’s not as easy as it seems. You want to concentrate on the acting rather than camera shots when you’re performing a scene.
- When you do this at Spotlight the camera is usually quite a distance from where you are. This also means the person reading with you is at a distance. We are talking maybe 10-12 feet away. You may be thinking ‘so what?’ Well, when you’re doing a take and the person you are reading with is 12 foot away, unconsciously you will want to project more and that isn’t what you want for camera work. Especially if you are doing low-key one-on-one conversations.
So you need to practice keeping the performance at camera level even if the person you are acting with is 12 feet away.
- Take someone with you to read with and watch your performance. One of the main benefits of self-taping is you can do retakes and take direction. Make sure if you’re taking someone in with you that they are a professional. You need another actor, director or coach in the room.
Auditioning is a craft in itself. Unfortunately, there are many good actors who never see the light of day due to poor audition technique.
The Importance of Rapport
It’s not just about how well you act in the audition room; it’s also about how well liked you are by the people auditioning you.
I had an agent once who said to me;
‘Brian, sometimes it’s whether the auditionees fancy you or not.’
I know it might seem savage, but he did have a valid point.
Let me explain. Someone who auditions well not only has talent but they also have the ability to seduce the audition panel. They know how to get on their right side and make people want to work with them.
This is called building rapport. When you are in rapport with someone, you feel like they are on your wavelength. You like them. The thing is, you can deliberately build rapport with someone through good interview technique. It’s a skill. Something you can develop.
We Like People Like Ourselves
Here is one that you should try out for yourself. You don’t need to go into the audition room either to try this out. You can do this with anyone. It’s called mirroring. Basically, when you are in conversation with someone, start to mirror their body language and vocal tones.
If they cross their legs, you do the same. You wait a second or two after they have done it, then copy them. If they fold their arms, you do the same.
Listen to how they talk. Are they loud and direct or quieter and slower in speech than you? Match your speech with theirs.
I know what you’re thinking: ‘They are going to notice I am doing this.’ Not so. You will be shocked how many people never pick it up. However, their unconscious mind does pick it up and they start to believe you are just like them. We human beings are always on the lookout for people who are similar to us. We like people like ourselves.
Try it out the next time you are out with a friend. You could even tell your friend and practise with each other and see how it feels.
Don’t Say ‘No’
Another useful tip for when you’re in an acting audition is to try to avoid the word ‘No’. When you say no, it is a sort of rejection and brings the conversation to an abrupt halt. If you can, don’t say no and find a way to continue the train of thought.
Obviously, if you have to say no because it’s important in order to be clear, then do so. But practise trying to turn a no into a yes.
Does that sound tricky? Well, here is a short video from a live acting seminar I did on how to not say no in audition. I give you a real example from an audition I did many years ago.
Acting auditions are nerve-racking experiences and any tool you can use to swing the decision your way is worth adopting. Remember: you will be doing the audition panel a favour. They want to like you and give you the part. You will be solving a big problem for them.
The other reason audition panels like to get on with the actors they cast is that you may have to spend a long time working together – and who wants to work with someone who is a pain? Much better to cast someone who is similar to you.
Want more useful audition advice? Why not sign up for one of my method acting courses?