How to audition your way to stardom.
Actors can get caught up emotionally in the end result of either “booking” or – even worse – "not booking” the job. When this thought occurs, it creates an immediate disconnect between the actor and the role.
Here are six things to consider to make the most of each blissful audition:
1. Believe you are enough.
--which is not in opposition to "there's always more to learn", but I'll get to that below.
Beautiful, vulnerable, actors: Believe you are enough. Now, this is a tricky. Because as actors, we know that deep down, everyone feels "not good enough" sometimes, and often feeling this way can surface when it's least convenient. The challenge is to know this feeling is part of being human, and not the truth.
You see, counterintuitively, our job is to be human, and in this way believing you're "not good enough," actually makes you "good enough"; if you're brave enough to use it. Let me explain. You don't have to believe you are God's answer to acting, you just have to know that you're fully human for feeling this way, and don't let it MEAN anything else. In fact, as I alluded to above, you can let it be a reason to believe in yourself. Because without it, how could you play the multi-faceted human beings that you audition for? Do not all the best roles contain a deep down, life-and-death fear of failure, that the character must wrestle with, and try to mask, in order to win their objective?
Acknowledging that moments of feeling "less than" is just a truth to every human being, and that doing so doesn't mean anything bad about you, is the most important thing and actor can do. Self-doubt comes up in every actor, even Meryl Streep. The key is not to focus there. Love yourself and your doubts, because they are human, and they can be utilized to allow you to tap into your character's vulnerabilities.
And there-in lies the key as to what to do with these feelings: put them into your character. Without this important step, you'll get stuck in your negative story about yourself and/or your chances and/or your talent, and never advance. Your actions and responses always reveal what you make something mean. If you find yourself procrastinating, not truly doing the work, doubting yourself before or after an audition, your falling victim to belief that "you're not enough" instead of putting it to work for you. You're letting it mean that this career you want as a successful actor is never going to happen for you. But do you honestly know that? Are you omnipotent? No. --You have the power to focus energy on your dreams or on your fear. To become successful and hit a higher level in your art, you first must steadfastly not let these thoughts/feelings mean anything about yourself, except that you're perfectly imperfect as a human being, because somewhere deep inside you there's a vulnerability that feels like you're "not enough". It's your strength! Acknowledge it, bless it, and use it, because it informs you about your character's fears if you let it. Why lie about it to yourself or others, when there's such power in accepting it and putting it into your work? Yay!
2. Work on your craft.
Note that to put it into your work, you must be doing work! It took Bradley Cooper 12 years of consecutive work to be cast in his Oscar-nominated role in “Silver Linings Playbook.” Only three years earlier, when he auditioned for “Hangover”, he didn't get the part. (He was told they needed to cast a name.) Four months later, he was doing a small play in Massachusetts when he received the call that he booked it. He was considered because several big names passed and the budget was cut. Thankfully, Bradley didn’t spend these four months feeling sorry and doubting himself; he just pushed on to get better. If he hadn’t taken these steps, perhaps he wouldn’t have been ready for this job when it came. He believed something good was coming to him. Like you, he couldn't have known when or what it would be. He could only believe in himself and keep working on his craft and learning. If you're willing to do the work to step into another person's shoes and live there...that's enough. Believe it.
3. Listen and react.
Those of you who know me, hear me say acting happens in the silences – everything else is talking. You cannot play "spontaneous reactions" or unpredictability. You must live in the moment of it by listening. That's not only how you book a job, but it's what wins acting awards. Our job is to fill the silences with true thoughts and emotions. --I can instantly spot an actor who doesn't know how to or just hasn't done the real homework: About to go into an audition, they are going over and over their sides and worrying about the lines. This'll only produce a stale and "pre-shaped" audition. They are worrying because they either have not prepared by doing solid homework (or they don't believe in themselves... other than to“believe” they are going to go up on their lines.) In either case, the actor will not be available to truly listen in the scene, which robs them of the joy of acting; all the precious silent moments. And robs those who watch their audition the opportunity to hire them.
3. Feel the present.
It is impossible to feel the moment when your mind is worried about the future. When in an audition or in class, an actor gets so caught up on “delivering the end result” of the scene, their feelings become about that - and not about the scene. Make the choice of allowing each moment to be truthful and real. How? By putting your attention on the person you're talking with in the scene. --As your character, find dozens of times to wonder what they're thinking about...meaning, try to figure out whether you're winning or losing your objective with them. You will instantly be in the moment. Remember: acting, like life, is always a process. You are living a few minutes of the character's life, not the predetermined result of it. When you know you how you're going to "deliver" the next line, you're faking it. You're not listening. And those in the audition room can feel it.
The focus it takes to stay inside the character's head is beyond imagination. The focus of a top athlete or actor is exactly the same. You've got to keep your head in the game. Be honest of how much commitment to the craft you are willing to give. To achieve this focus, personalized, emotional, specific homework is a required element. How can you truly live in the moment of any character, if you don't know how you got there? History homework takes dedication, intelligence, and imagination. But without it, you're not really an actor, you're a line deliverer.
We are so lucky to have a job that is so creative. And doing this work, doesn't require an audition. You can grab a monologue and “Live in the moment.” Have gratitude every day for this blessing. With every acting opportunity, be it a Broadway play or and audition, if your first feeling is not gratitude then it is fear. And this goes back to belief in one’s own ability. With any fear-based thoughts, excuses or procrastination kicks in, simply change your thought to giving thanks for this moment - this opportunity to practice doing what you love most. Many people in the world aren't doing what they love as a career. Life, and fear, got in the way of their dreams. They have to go to the movies – to forget about the problems in their lives, let down their walls, and feel. We, however, devote our time to what we most love. When we walk into an audition, everyone in the room can feel when we love what we do. We have done our history homework, and we are prepared to listen, and ready to put our heart on the line and experience each moment as if it is the first time. We're excited to get direction, and try one "another way". It's our intention to play - to experience each moment in a brand new way, not for the sake of doing so, but because our attention on the other person in the scene demanded it. To us this is bliss, and we need to be grateful for it.
I saved the best for last. Love is an energy everyone can feel. Witnessing a great, honest performance can give me, and any audience a moment of healing, enlightenment, and clarity. It is a gift of love to us. Even if it is just to laugh for two hours. In order for this to occur it is our responsibility to be vulnerable, present, to have courage, and to share ourselves and surrender to our creativity and imagination so that we truly have the feelings of our character. If we do not feel it, it will be impossible for our audience to do so. And we will rob them and ourselves out of the amazing experience of acting. This is why I am so deeply in love with coaching actors. They love and heal the world by allowing us all to see what most of us want to hide, that deep down, we all feel "not good enough" but it is in that vulnerability that actors teach us that we are all united.
To audition your way to stardom, simply live in the moment in someone else's story.