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Tag Archives: auditioning
A thing experienced is not a thing perceived.
We so often are in our heads about what we think something looks like (a choice, an idea, a commitment to something) that instead of committing to that thing and having the experience, we second-guess it based on what we think the casting director is looking for.
The casting director doesn’t know what he or she is looking for. Neither does the director or producer or agent.
Yes, they may have a “type” in mind. And if you physically fit what that type is, you can get called in. But that’s at the physical/superficial level. And there are hundreds of actors who may share your type. So what sets you apart is your giving yourself permission to do it your way. Not the way you think it’s supposed to be or what you think they’re looking for. When you do it your way unapologetically you will become what they’re looking for.
I recently assessed an actor who explained to me how he went to an audition and the casting director asked him, “Do you have any questions?” (Which to me is a polite way of simply saying, “Are You Ready?!”) But he took that as an opportunity to second-guess his choice and asked her if the relationship between the two characters was adversarial. The casting director said no. He was screwed. He immediately went into his head (taking the Brain Drain Train) and doubted everything he wanted to do. Scared to go for his original choice and not follow his impulses led to his reading being flat and unmemorable. Surprise? Not really.
He came to me after the audition and told me what happened and I asked him to do the scene for me just as he read it in the room. And yes, it was as flat as a pancake. Womp Womp.
I asked him to do the scene again coming from his original choice of exploring a more adversarial point of view. He did and the dynamic completely changed.
Here’s the insight! In his mind (and in his committing to something) he thought he was being adversarial (and that it would read only that way). But for me watching him – it simply read as someone who was more committed and more interesting; someone taking more chances and was sexier and more mysterious. He played more, had more fun and was consequently more real and human. In other words – not flat. So he didn’t come across as adversarial. He came across as being alive.
The breakthrough is in realizing in making a choice (and no longer asking for permission to do something!) what you experience in your own work and what we might perceive are completely different things.
Stop making everything so black-and-white and reductive. Trust that the magical alchemy of acting and playing and creating in the moment takes care of the details that you don’t have to micro-manage.
If you’re having an experience, I am having an experience. And so will the casting director or producer or director. From there they may give you an adjustment or take you in another direction. But if you don’t first allow yourself to have the experience they won’t either (!) and you’ll be unmemorable. And that’s where the thing about “type” comes in. If you’re unmemorable, there are hundreds of other people out there who can fulfill that which you are reading. And do so in a memorable way. That is to say, their way.
And that’s what’s memorable about it.
So don’t delay any longer. Go for things fully. Committedly. Stop second-guessing. Trust that in strong choices, the person watching will have their own subjective experience witnessing humanity in front of them. They will. Stop trying to control what you think other people should – or want – to see.
That requires trust.
And a healthy sense of giving yourself permission. So the next time someone asks, “Do you have any questions?” – and you don’t – trust the part of yourself inside who has the answers.
Whenever I’m in NY teaching at our school there, I’m reminded of how much humanity is about . . . well . . . just being human.
Maybe because LA is shaped by a car culture, it’s so easy to remove ourselves from life (from connection, from vulnerability, from having to confront life head-on as we’re walking down the street). Instead, we escape into the confines of our cars, roll up our windows, tune out the world and what we’re feeling. When we do, we sometimes forget that really being human is the hardest thing to be.
We try to look a certain way and keep up appearances. We cut feeling off at the pass. We avoid being perceived as “not having it together.” We pressure ourselves into thinking we have to be perfect . . . like all the time! We’re hyper-aware of how we look and negotiate with ourselves around the discomfort of aging, rejection, self-worth, relevance, comparing-and-despairing, self-judgment, failure and not believing we should share this discomfort with anyone. (Which further exacerbates our feeling alone.)
It’s ironic, then, that the art of auditioning (and acting itself) is really about being comfortable being uncomfortable.
In other words it’s about allowing oneself to be seen.
It’s an interesting contradiction because we’re in a business that’s all about “being seen” by putting ourselves out there. Yet the work often asks us to “be seen” in ways that are scary and vulnerable, raw and exposed, embarrassing and human. In short, we don’t, then, want to be seen.
I often tell my students that acting is really about having to be more honest in our work (in class, in a play, on set, in an audition) than we typically allow ourselves in life.
It’s about sharing our private selves publicly.
In the privacy of our homes we’re weird and sexual and complex and messy and obnoxious and loud and freaky. (And in NY you might even see all that on the subway!)
But when it comes to auditioning, we pull it all together and put on a perfect face.
Stop doing that. It results in zero possibility. No life force. No access to anything you want.
Let it all hang out. All. Of. It.
When you do, a casting director or director or producer sees a spark of your unique humanity (i.e., you) and gains insight into how to further open the actor up.
But if you remain a closed system, you’ve lost access to anything that’s remotely interesting. And you give the casting director no other choice but to utter, “Next!”
It sounds so easy. And in many ways it is. But if you haven’t developed a muscle of commitment and going for things consistently it’s actually the hardest thing in the world.
But practice does make perfect. (Or perfectly imperfect!) The more you do it, the more you start giving yourself the permission. And that’s all you can ever do.
No one can ever do that for you. Ever. No agent or manager or casting director or writer or producer or director or boyfriend or girlfriend or parent or teacher or friend.
As Tennessee Williams says, “Make voyages. Attempt them. There’s nothing else.”
But you have to try.
In your acting. In auditioning. In your life. In romance. In relationships. In learning. In self-expression. In doing things that scare you. In everything.
Simply, in Being Human.
What? “Well, Tony, I can’t very well get a job if I don’t audition!”
Yes, you can. In fact, you book jobs when you take the whole paradigm of what an audition is and turn it on its head.
The term “auditioning” stacks you against yourself and becomes an implicit order of self telling you that you have something to prove.
Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero. Absolutely nothing to prove.
You deserve to be here. On this planet and in a casting room. You are already whole and complete regardless of what an agent or manager or casting director (or anyone for that matter!) thinks about your work.
Your job is to tell your story. Not the way you “think” the producers want you to tell it. Not the way you “think” you have to do it. Your job is to do it your way.
Emmy-winner, Bryan Cranston says that you’re not “trying to get a job.”
Your job is to create.
An “audition” is an opportunity. It’s a possibility for someone to see how you choose to interpret the material. They’ve never, ever seen your way. Ever. So you have a 50/50 chance of getting it right just by being brave enough to go into a room and (in your creating) say, “This is how I choose to interpret this.”
Let’s face it. For many actors that’s the only opportunity you might have all week to act. If you’re not in a class, if you’re not on a job, if you’re not rehearsing a play, your “audition” is your two minutes to act. That’s what a 4-year college degree and an MFA in acting has gotten you – literally two minutes to act!
So you better put that degree to some good use and stop analyzing what you think they want. You are what they want, but you don’t think that because you distrust that doing it your way is potent and powerful and unlike anyone else’s. So you acquiesce your power in the name of an “audition” because you’d rather do it “right” or not make a mistake and do it incorrectly and upset someone. Or get bad feedback. Or risk.
What ends up happening? In the name of doing something “right” you do it “wrong!”
Stop trying to figure out what they want. No one knows what they want until they see it. That’s the intangible quality of life itself. It’s energetic. It’s timing. It’s essence. It’s creativity. It’s letting go of control. It’s alchemy.
Why do you book the jobs you have no interest in doing? You know the ones . . . Friday The 13th Part 77 . . . Leprechaun 3D . . . Godzilla vs. Battleship: The Final Sinking . . .?
You simply don’t care.
You’re not attached to how you look or what the casting director thinks of you or if you’re making the “right” choices or nailing the part. Instead, you’re playing (remember what it was like to actually play and have fun?), you’re engaged moment-to-moment, you’re surrendered in listening and unattached. You’re not focused on the end results or trying to get the job.
Then your agent calls and says you booked it and you’re like, “Nooooooo!”
A student reminded me that agents rarely call it “auditioning.” They call you and say, they have an appointment for you. Or a casting office wants to see you. Or your reps say you have a meeting or you’re going in to read for someone.
It’s only actors that create this idea in their head that it’s about a job.
So stop auditioning and what will happen?
You won’t have to anymore because you’ll be so busy working.
Go all in. That’s what filmmaker Steve McQueen says actors should be doing all the time. Always.
But we don’t.
Mostly, because we have a number of defaults to keep us from really committing fully, 100%. In our lives. In our work. In our auditioning.
This is partly due to our self-worth being tied up and identified with our product: how we look, whether we get the job, what agency we’re with, how we’re being perceived, or how well someone likes us.
The problem with this kind of identification is that it leaves very little room for error. Or rather, it leaves very little room to simply be human. Being human is messy. It’s uncontrollable. It errs. It’s full of chaos and potential and failures and breakthroughs. Where, on our paths, did we learn that it wasn’t okay to simply not have all the answers and not be perfect and not have it all figured out?
Once you stop allowing yourself to be human, you’re in trouble.
Not just in acting. But in life.
When our own self-worth is identified with a finished product (our work, our successes, our bookings or jobs) two things happen.
1). You start to go into auditions becoming risk-averse. Because your worthiness is attached to “How do I look?” or “I have to get this job!” or “How am I looking?” or “I can’t make a mistake,” you end up neutralizing yourself to such a degree that you basically turn off all the things that make you interesting and weird and vulnerable and cast-able. That is, your humanness.
You don’t give yourself the permisson to fail couragesouly. You play it safe. And you become unmemorable. Bland. Boring. Cookie-cutter. Blah.
That’s bad enough, but when our self-worth is attached to our work, there’s another whammy.
2). Your moods and happiness and productivity become instrinsincly tied to whether or not you book a job. When you get jobs it’s like the best day ever. You channel Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic, “I’m the king of the world!” When you don’t, you spend the entire day watching reruns of Duck Dynasty and picking fights with your girlfriend.
It ain’t pretty. It takes manic-depressiveness to a whole new level.
Your inherent self is not tied up in the physical. You’re not just this actor. You’re not just your bookings or how well people like you. You’re not your call-back ratio or how many lines you get to say on a show.
Of course it’s important to care about our work. Of course, we want to do things powerfully and creatively and have a career and do things that excite us and we’re passionate about.
Just don’t be defined by it.
Lean toward the risk. Toward the unknown. In the room. In the work. In relationships. Out there in the world. That’s really why you signed up for acting anyway. It wasn’t to do things perfectly, and be safe and do it like everyone else. It was to inherently take risks in ways that life sometimes doesn’t give us the permission to. Or rather, we don’t give ourselves the green light to do it.
And what ends up happening when we do? Well pretty much all the things you ever wanted. And that’s going all in.
When I was in my 20’s, I didn’t like myself very much. I had low self-esteem and a lot of self-hatred. I thought I was dumb and unattractive. Too “this” and too “that.” Too much, too gay, too weird, too “out there.”
So what did I do? Well, like most 20-year-olds at that time, I spent most of my energy trying to be someone I wasn’t. Duh.
I’d try really hard. To overcompensate for my perceived lack, I’d always put on a good show. On dates, I was so surprised when someone actually liked me, I’d ultimately sabotage the experience because of my insecurities. (Not more than an hour after a date ended, I’d call them and leave a voicemail – this was before cell phones! – asking if they had a good time and wanted to do it again!)
In my acting, I’d try to pretend to be someone else being the “character.” So I’d play ideas or mimic famous people or show caricatures because how could I ever believe that someone would ever be interested in merely watching me. That could never be enough, could it?
I learned the hard way. By running away from who I was, I discovered, over time, that the only way I made any sort of progress in my life – whether it be acting or dating or creating or relating – it all came down to me being me.
And ultimately I discovered that who I was (who we each are) is all I got.
You want to know the simple answer to any question you might have about anything you’re wanting in life?
Whether it’s about booking a job or landing the promotion or nailing a successful interview or having a second date or getting your TV series?
If you don’t know who that is yet, you’ve got time to figure it out.
But stop postponing.
The world is waiting for you to share who you are.
And really, you’re waiting to discover yourself.
J = Joy.
Our natural state of being is joy. But you’re often your own thief of your own joyful experience. You rob from yourself that which is innately yours. Thankfully, joy is a never-ending commodity and it can’t be diminished entirely. But you do compromise it when you continue to re-write history and tell yourself stories that are not only blatantly untrue, but also make you feel like shit about yourself. Stop it. Tell a story of joy instead.
K = Kinesthetic.
Learning by doing. Get in the game of life. Stop sitting on the sidelines bitching, complaining and bemoaning. You learn by doing. Try. Crash. Burn. Do things that scare you. Attempt. Fail. This is not only a kinesthetic experience, it’s an experience of being alive.
L = Laughter.
Keep things in perspective. Stop taking everything so seriously. As long as you’re moving forward and experiencing new things in your life, being challenged and moving beyond your comfort zone – there’s progress. Celebrate what’s working. Stop being so dramatic about what’s not.
M = Mistakes.
Make them. The younger you are the easier it is to do that. As you get older it gets scarier because you become invested in what you’ve become, how you’re perceived, what you earn, what’s your identity and what you’ve created. These illusions can trap us into not taking risks because we’ve become so identified with the stuff we’ve amassed. Be like a kid: scab your knee, overreach, get yourself into a pickle. You’ll discover that you’ll survive.
N = Navigator.
You are the pilot and the co-pilot. You are setting the path and driving the vehicle. You have your own inner GPS system. If you don’t like the co-ordinates you are putting into your system, change them! No one is making you take the paths you don’t want to drive down. You decide where you want to go and you start moving in that direction. Follow your heart. Be a rebel.
O = Occam’s Razor.
The law of economy, the law of succinctness. The law of simplicity.
Which means, the simplest explanation for something is generally the correct explanation for something that may seem to have many hypothesis. The answer that has the least amount of assumptions is usually the truth. Stop assuming worst-case scenarios and doom-and-gloom stories about your life.
The agent didn’t sign you. It doesn’t mean you sucked.
You didn’t get the call-back. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you.
The agent didn’t sign you because you reminded him of his ex-girlfriend.
You didn’t get the call-back because they already made an offer to someone else.
K. I. S. S. = Keep. It. Simple. Silly.
P = Purpose.
The purpose-driven life? Not sure what that is. I know it’s a best-selling book. Your life already has purpose. Purpose is created by showing up in our own lives more totally. More fully. It’s created by being more present with what’s in front of us right now. It’s not about being with someone and also answering our phone and responding to texts and sending emails and tweeting and watching an episode of 30 Rock and worrying about what’s going to happen in the future. It’s not about placing ego demands on yourself that you have to change the world or become famous or make millions of dollars.
True purpose transcends the ego-labeling of what we do as a career or how we define ourselves or the descriptions of what we do. Purpose is created in the minutiae of the moment. And it changes moment-to-moment. But we’re constantly missing the calling of purpose because we’re so distracted by our ego needs of, “How do I look?” “Will this sell” “Am I popular?” “What will they think of me?”
Mother Teresa said it best: “Let no one come to you without leaving happier and better.”
Holy crap. If you can just do that with every interaction you have in life, your life will rip open right in front of you, your ego demands will fall away, you’ll stop focusing on the ego self and its fears and maintenance of the status quo and your life would become one of the most joyful celebrations you could ever imagine.
Now that’s purpose!
“If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts.” ~ Albert Einstein
We expend so much energy trying to look good, maintain control, focus on the end results, micro-manage and worry about things that are insignificant, that we lose the ability to be fully expressed, liberated and free in the moment.
You’ve got to stop caring how you think other people think of you. The truth is – they’re not thinking of you – because they’re thinking of themselves. Like all of us.
When I say, “care less,” I’m not asking you to stop caring about things that matter. I’m talking about giving up worrying about things that have to do with the ego: how you look, how you’re perceived, trying to maintain appearances, trying to show you have it all together.
Have you ever noticed that when you audition for something you don’t give a rat’s ass about, you end up booking? Why is this? At a practical level you simply free yourself up in the moment and express yourself without judgment and concern for the end results. You don’t care how you look and consequently the energy that normally gets diffused when we are so concerned with the outcome, ends up instead being used properly. That is, creatively.
From a scientific/universal standpoint, it also is a declaration of alignment. In other words, you were totally in the moment of full creative expression. You weren’t second-guessing and stopping yourself from being expressed and you let go of the end results. Normally, we end up leaving an audition and immediately question every choice we made, desperately clinging to the need of wanting the job, beating ourselves up for what we didn’t do. All of these things are an implicit declaration to the universe stating “I don’t really believe I can have that.” And so we don’t.
Homework: Watch the video and then see how you can give up the need this week of having to fulfill an expectation of how you think something should look.
“In the end these things matter most: How well did you love? How fully did you love? How deeply did you learn to let go?” — The Buddha