By: Jess Canty
I have been thinking a lot about auditioning lately - if you couldn't tell from my last post - mostly because this, as I said, is coming up in a lot of your goals meetings and chats.
And I realized something the other day while sitting in traffic on the 101. The audition is the only time you get to be a pure artist.
Acting, as we all know, is an interpretive art - you are not starting from a blank page. You have to take someone else's art - the writer - and breathe life into it.
That first audition? That is the ONLY time in the process where it is YOUR interpretation. YOUR take on the character alone - perhaps with a bit of guidance from a coach.
Once you get to callbacks you probably will have some thoughts from casting directors added in there. Then you go to a director session and you are being given direction - adding to the interpretation of the character.
On set of course in the best case scenario this is a collaboration with the director - and at the worst they are simply telling you exactly what to do, but either way, it is not that pure interpretation that is your own.
Now of course you could be on the other end of the spectrum where you are on set of a big show and the director hardly pays attention to you because they are more worried about their DP catching that lens flare with the natural light that is fading during magic hour and "oh yeah, can you go say your line?"
But in that case EVEN MORE REASON to know what your OWN interpretation of the role is. Because if you are left out in the wilderness like this, you need to have a plan. It is still YOU on camera - not them.
Which is why I have come to believe that along with confidence - although these two things are of course intertwined - what casting is looking for is the actor with the boldest (correct) interpretation of the role.I think this goes without saying - but the interpretation can't be just randomly bold - it has to fit what is on the page.
So that's the thing - there is only one you.
Every single life experience that you have lived up until this point is totally and utterly 100% unique. Nobody has lived the life you have and nobody ever will again. It is YOUR take on the character. YOUR reaction to a line. YOUR voice. YOUR perfect pair of shoes that make you stand in a certain way.
Which means you can't do it wrong.
Again, this should go without saying but when I say "can't do it wrong" I am assuming you are showing up on time (10 mins early), off book, and with a positive attitude.
If you ask yourself "what is happening before this scene, what is happening in this scene and what does my character want in this scene" if you answer ALL of these questions through your interpretation - you can't do it wrong.
I think a lot of time is wasted on trying to figure out what you think "they" want from you. It is ironic, because I think what "they" want is to see you do what you want with the role. That is, after all, the actor's job. To interpret the role.
DON'T GIVE THEM WHAT YOU THINK THEY WANT - GIVE THEM WHAT YOU WANT
Or, better put, if you want to play the role then you have to do what you want with the role. Don't believe me?
Imagine instead you are a costume designer. You largely have a similar job - they break down the script and interpret it. They bring all of their life experience and knowledge of clothing and then they present a portfolio of sketches to the director. They are responsible for their interpretation of each character and the look of the world.
Now imagine if this portfolio of sketches was just page after page of drawings of clothes in No. 2 pencil. Do you think they would get hired? I am gonna say confidently - no.
Because the director doesn't want to BE the costume designer. They want to hire someone who they feel confident is going to make their movie look awesome, and be able to sew all these clothes, and work with actors and have a point of view and bring them ideas.
So ask yourself - is your audition a No. 2 pencil sketch of a character? Or is it full of ideas and confidence and opinions and artistic interpretation. Because you know what they REALLY want? They want to hire an actor who has a plan for the role.
So they don't have to do their work for them. So they can worry about making sure that you look good on camera, and that the thing edits together well, and that the producer's money is well-spent and that they don't piss off the network.
That is their job. And they definitely don't have time to do your job on top of their job.
It doesn't matter what casting "wants" from the role, and to some extent it doesn't matter what the director wants from the role. They are not playing the role. You are.
Beyond that everything is out of your control.
But at least you will know that you went in and were a total Monet. See Monet, at some point said to himself, I don't want to paint the sea that everyone else is painting, I want to paint the sea that I see.
And he kept painting the sea that he saw, until people came around and admitted that there was a world where that was beautiful - they just didn't know it until he showed them.