Audition Tips for Actors, Presenting Your Best Talents

After attending the “IndieLink: Actors Program” at Film Independent, I came away more aware about the many variables that go into auditioning. The evening started with a Q&A with Julia Kim, a Los Angeles Independent Casting Director (CD). The session awakened my interest in this phase of the industry and I have fleshed out her comments where relevant.

She talked about the selection process, about how a casting director can help get a project off the ground. Considerations such as the name game, recognizable faces, availability, and budget are instrumental in assembling a worthy cast. She also touched on how some directors have weak communications with actors, they over direct, give too many comments, or unable to trim down suggestions to actable terms.

The selection process entails suggesting actors for various roles based on availability, experience, and demands of role. The CD culls this list down, and calls those remaining for auditions with the director, sometimes the producer. Selection process continues with call backs, negotiations, and eventual signing of cast members.

If you come in with a prepared scene, select one that displays both your range and character type. Emotional range is another consideration as is the ability to choose strong intentions that fit the scene. She said to keep the scene short, two to three pages at the most.

On assigned scenes, the normal prep time is four days, however, some productions companies are slow in sending out sides and you may end up with only two days to study and memorize the script. A good agent can help speed up this process, and with email transmissions, script should arrive giving you adequate prep time.

Casting directors usually allot only ten minutes for the audition. Thus, be ready to take advantage of this time. It means having your picture and resume handy, comment productively on them, and being ready to answer the all-important question, “Tell me about yourself?” You should also have the scene memorized, off book, and have selected strong choices about character’s intentions and emotions. Also, consider such things as dialogue delivery, gestures, facial expressions, pace, timing, and the styles of acting.

Of the twenty actors that performed that evening, the common fault was that they seemed rushed and did not use pauses to their advantage. Common reasons for pausing include search for word, change of mind, reflect on what’s heard, or set up punch line. Pauses combined with looking away can disconnect attention with the other person and create internalizations the audience can visualize. By creating focal zones for recalls, problems, and avoidance issues, the actor allows the audience members inside his head, letting them speculate what he’s thinking and/or feeling. Combine with facial expressions, gestures, and the scene’s context, these eye behaviors departmentalize issues and make internalization more apparent.

Another suggestion was to add more variety to the performance. This is done by giving the scene more peaks and valleys, stronger reactions to what the other character says, and creating an arc to the character, e.g., going from happy to angry. Instead of a one-note portrayal, add levels of vulnerability to the piece. Well-placed mannerisms and gestures also help flesh out the characterization.

Before starting, slate name and give the CD what and where particulars about the scene. For instance, the scene takes place in a courtroom where I play a lawyer questioning a witness in a murder trial. Likewise, come into the scene with an attitude and physicality of the character along with applicable behaviors. This establishes your character early on and hooks the viewer into your story. Sometimes this requires adding elements not found in the script. Acknowledging the setting or environment of the scene should also be evident in your presentation. For instance, an argument in a restaurant would be portrayed differently than one taking place in the living room.

Predictability is another issue and if you take the scene in an unexpected direction, you are more likely to be remembered and considered. The ability to make bold powerful choices and implement them honestly is a trait CD’s love. This is especially true when using an over done audition scene. The issue of contrived, forced emotions was also brought up. Emotions are what drive the story forward, especially in drama. Being able to portray the whole spectrum of feelings with integrity is a skill few actors achieve. While the actor may feel the emotions deeply, they must also be readable and appear authentic to the audience.

Be into the scene and acknowledge the other character through feel, think, act sequences. This progression of behaviors pulls the audience into the piece. It’s reacting and using behaviors such as awareness, reflections, realizations, expectations, or weighing of options. Such behaviors keep them asking that most desirable question, “What’s going to happen next?”

The genre of the scene is another consideration and demands a certain style of acting. For instance, in comedy, timing is highly calculated and precise. Timing is the ability to sense what is going on in the mind of the audience and using this time dimension to create the optimum response, e.g., laughter, tension, or surprise. Likewise, in comedy, reality tends to be suspended and unbalanced whereas in drama it tends to be lifelike and logical.

With several actors, Miss Kim gave suggestions and had them do the scene a second time. Sometimes the CD does this to improve the actors understanding of the scene or explore a technique the actor might not know. Such repetition often reveals how well the actor takes direction and his dramatic dexterity. As such, in rehearsing a scene, it can be beneficial to attempt a number of approaches assure flexibility.

One last item covered was the resemblance of your picture to your live persona. Sometimes a flattering photo does a disservice as it conjures up impressions that are not you. Catching your essence, your potential in a photo demands more than making you look attractive or handsome. It gets into what dynamic your photo evokes, your ability to portray compelling characters. Sometimes it’s the thought or emotion going on in your head. Other factors include attitude, lighting, and camera angle. Characters in films come in a variety of types and looks, and trying to remake your image into something you are not restricts your ability to find work.

The craft of good acting has to do with making and implementing choices. Knowing what to do, knowing how to do it, and knowing how to do it well. Developing solid auditioning skills is an essential part of that craft.

Presentation Skills Training: How To Connect With A Remote Audience

Curious how to connect, engage, and persuade your remote audience? More and more business presentations are held virtually. Find out how to make a powerful connection–when your audience isn’t in the same room.

Where are virtual presentations rising in popularity? Everywhere! Educational webinars. Sales presentations. Training sessions. More and more meetings and presentations are held with some or all participants participating remotely. With today’s economic pressures to reduce travel and slash costs, those who master virtual presentation skills can achieve tremendous success.

This dramatic trend reduces travel, limits costs and ensures that companies ‘go green.’ However, many professionals struggle with how to make sure that virtual meetings and presentations are truly effective.

Several years ago, virtual presenting was looming on the horizon. Diane, my busy HR client knew the writing was on the wall. “We’ve just had our budget cut for in-person training. I’m afraid that we’ll switch to virtual delivery…and never go back.”

Yes. That’s exactly what happened. The days of weeklong, and two-week long live training are still present in a few companies. But for most organizations, it’s a time long ago and far in the past.

At the time, it seemed almost impossible to imagine all training delivered virtually. We discussed at length. How could you recreate the intimate environment, skills practice and shoulder-to-shoulder coaching? How could you coach individuals and provide relevant examples? How could you structure the experience to be truly transformative?

As time has gone by, it’s clear that virtual training, remote meetings, and online presenting can be extremely powerful. Each question deserves a more in-depth answer, but here is a short version of how you can solve this challenging problem.

1. Shift Your Attitude
With new technology and new trends, embrace what’s possible with enthusiasm. Here are three big personal benefits to inspire a change of heart about virtual presenting.

A. Slash stress. Less insane travel. No airport lines. No jet lag. More time with the people you love and the things you love to do.

B. Increase productivity. You don’t have to waste time commuting across town or around the world. Jump on a virtual meeting and reach important clients in minutes.

C. Make more money. It’s easier to see what’s working-and what needs to change. You can try out new stories, new communication mediums and get better results, faster.

2. Embrace Technology
Make friends with what’s possible. Get comfortable with your virtual presentation tools. Ask a colleague if you’re just getting started. The more you are familiar and confident with the tools, the easier your job will be.

3. Build In Engagement
Encourage remote participants to get involved. Build this into how you structure your event and organize your story. Keep a laser-targeted focus on engaging your remote audience.

Oops. Not sure how to do this? Get easy pointers from an executive coach. Don’t wait. Your success is on the line. The faster you learn how to ace virtual presentations, the faster you’ll move to the top.

4. Ask For Input
Don’t go it alone. Ask peers who are well versed in virtual presenting. Ask your presentation coach. Ask your clients and prospects.

By keeping an open mind, you’ll quickly find out what’s working, and what can be improved.

5. Experiment and Evolve
Using all 5 steps, continue to experiment. Take an online class such as presentation skills training to learn new visual storytelling skills. Experiment with asking facilitative questions. Play with different ways to show your story in pictures and words.

The more you experiment, the more you’ll learn-and evolve.

See, many of the options that are available today just wouldn’t be possible in a face-to-face setting with physical materials. It would take too long and cost too much to be truly open to experimentation.

The virtual revolution has opened up a brand new era of collaboration and innovation. With powerful presentation skills, you’re at the front. Aren’t you glad you’re leading the wave?

Stuck In A Rut? – Blaming Your Past Won’t Help You In the Present!

Are you stuck in a rut, or are you stuck in the past?

Give that question some serious thought for a few moments.

Living in the past will keep you feeling powerless and stuck in a rut. The past is the past for a very good reason, you have to go “past” it to get to your future. If you continue to live in the past and beat yourself up over what “might” have been, then you my friend are doing yourself a huge injustice.

Living in the past only helps to keep you feeling powerless and at the mercy of the gods.

You must learn by past mistakes, see what you did wrong and what you can do better next time and use that information to direct your future to what you want it to be.

You can take no action in the past, the events of the past have happened and they cannot be changed.

Living in the past leaves you powerless.

Living in the present and planning for the future will ramp up your personal power.

Taking action and making decisions can be scary at times, but what is your other alternative?

You have to move with the times, time and tide waits for no man. If you want to get yourself unstuck and start designing your future then you need to leave the past where it is, live in the present, and make plans for the future. There is simply no other way to get yourself unstuck.

Action and decision making are the tools that will enable you to get yourself unstuck.

You don’t even have to be sure to be heading in the right direction, if you find yourself off your chosen course then you simply readjust and get yourself back on track.

You must move forward to get yourself out of your rut.

You must set yourself some goals.

You must have a destination mapped out and a plan of how you are going to get there.

You simply break the task down into bite size, manageable chunks and deal with one chunk at a time.

Once you have dealt with the first manageable chunk, you simply move onto the second chunk.

Getting out of your rut and into your groove is not as difficult as most people would have you believe.

Believe in yourself and you will see that blaming your past won’t help you in the present.