Last week I gave some compelling reasons as to why you should always read the full script before every audition. If you missed it, you can find it here. But, what if a script isn’t provided?
Often times we’ll open up a breakdown and it will say specifically “Scripts cannot be provided at this time”. This can be for many reasons, maybe it’s still a work in progress, maybe it’s to protect the script from accidentally being distributed. It’s not really important. What is important, is how are you going to use what you do have access to, to build the best darn character you can.
Here’s a few top tips on how to make super-specific choices in your audition:
- Read the breakdown like a detective: Most actors will skip right to their own character breakdown and try to cater their audition to something like : “Uptight mother who is very protective of her kids”. While this is a nice glimpse into what you can play–it’s also a sure fire way to ensure your audition is EXACTLY THE SAME as everyone else’s. The casting director is gonna get a WHOLE BUNCH of auditions of women, playing an uptight mother who is protective of her kids (yes, the obvious choice is going to be obvious to everyone). So, how do you set yourself apart?
Pay attention to every detail. The title of the production, the episode name, the producers of the project, what network it will be airing on. All of that gives you clues as to what sort of tone/genre they are looking for in their actors’ performance. A movie named “Wedding Murders” will have a different tone from “Wedding Belles”. A show on HBO will be different than a show on the Disney Channel, or a Hallmark Mystery movie may be different than an indie mystery movie.
- Look up the production & creative team on IMDb or Google: Now that you know who’s making the decisions, look them up! You have everything at your fingertips now. Find past projects they’ve worked on, get familiar with their work.
- Look up past episodes: If you’re lucky enough to get an audition for a show that’s in a 2nd/3rd season, look up an episode and watch it! Figure out the relationships between the series regulars, and who you are talking about or to in your sides. I recently had an audition where some of the main characters were kids. In one scene, I was talking to four of them, some taller, some smaller. If I hadn’t bothered to look up an episode, I would’ve assumed they were all adults and the eyelines would’ve been off. How you speak to a child will also be different than if you’re speaking to an adult.
- Read all the characters’ breakdowns and sides: So here’s the big go-around if you don’t have access to the full script. Read all the character breakdowns and sides you do have access to. Often times in one breakdown there will be multiple characters that are being cast. The sides are often available for download. Most actors will go straight to their own sides and download them and start highlighting their own lines. That’s fine, as a first step. But in order to figure out how you fit into the whole story, it’s a great idea to read all of the other sides as well.
Sometimes you’re referenced in another character’s sides and it gives you a clue as to how another character sees you. I auditioned for a role once where I was a “manager of a restaurant”. Because of this, I wasn’t sure how I should dress–there wasn’t an indication if I would be uniform, or a suit, business casual? But I was able to figure out what I should wear based on how another character saw me in their sides: “…looking at her best friend who was immaculately groomed in a fresh-pressed shirt and slacks…”.
I recently had an audition where I reference another character “I know you miss Lisa, but she wouldn’t have wanted it like this.” But of course, Lisa was not in my scene, and it didn’t say in the breakdown who Lisa was. You might assume she’s gone–but did she leave, is she dead, is she an ex-girlfriend, sister, mother, daughter? Reading the rest of the sides available to me, I was able to figure it out.
Every single detail you can add to your performance will be able to set you apart from the others. The camera picks up even the smallest movements: eye lines, jaw clenching, raising of an eyebrow, swallowing, these movements are often motivated by a thought. Those small details that you’ve discovered while creating your character will give your actions purpose.
How you say the line: “I know you miss Lisa” might have just the subtlest difference depending on if Lisa was the ex who left him 10 years ago, or the loving wife who lost her battle with cancer 6 months ago.
Understanding these nuances will give your character more texture, be more interesting to watch, and will make your audition standout.