When you get an audition scene, what’s your process?
How much time do you spend reading the scene before you think about how you’ll play it? How long do you give yourself before you start trying to memorize your lines?
In my experience, actors begin to do this almost immediately.
I want to encourage you to stop doing that.
Instead, take the time to read what’s on the page.
Not just the scene. I mean EVERYTHING ON THE PAGE.
The script is a map directly from the writer, that is filled with information. It’s your job to read, comprehend, and use that information to inform your choices.
Time and time again I see actors make strong, unique, interesting choices…that have nothing to do with the scene.
Because they don’t take the time to read what’s on the page.
If you start making choices before you truly understand what’s going on in the scene, you will act yourself right out of the job. When your choices are out of alignment with the writer’s intention, it won’t matter how great your acting is.
Instead of wowing the room with your unique choices, you’ll simply convince the casting directer, writer and/or producer that you don’t understand the script.
By the time your audition scene gets to you, the script has gone through massive, multiple rewrites. The writer has worked tirelessly to give you clue after clue as to what the scene and the script is about. Pay attention to all of the following…
If this is provided, read it! It will give you clues about your character. If you happen to be provided the character breakdown of any other character(s), read that too. It’s helpful to understand the character traits and relationship dynamics at play.
Type Of Show
Is this a feature film? A single camera comedy? A one hour drama? The type of show is a clue about the tone and style.
The Title Of The Show
The show title is a clue as to the subject, tone and style of the show. If the show (or film, or webseries, etc) is something new, pay attention to the title.
Is the dialogue in your script double spaced? That typically means it is a half hour multi-camera comedy.
Single spaced dialogue is typically used by single camera comedy, hour long dramas, and film scripts.
If your breakdown doesn’t include the type of show, it’s easy to spot the multi-camera comedy based on the line-spacing.
If your script has page numbers, pay attention to them. They are a clue about where in the story this scene takes place. Is it the opening scene? Is it the final scene?
Also called the Slug Line, this tells you the location of the scene, and time of day informs your choices. Don’t skip over them to look at the dialogue.
INT. SARAH’S APARTMENT – LATE NIGHT
Is this your space, or someone else’s space? This will effect your behavior.
The fact that it’s not just night, but late night, is another clue that will inform your choices.
The writer directly telling you the emotional state of the character in a (parenthetical). Don’t ignore this!
In this short exchange, the writer has given us two clues. The first is the punctuation after Sarah’s line. The ?!? suggests that her question is asked in a heightened, forceful.
The parenthetical (Nervously) tells you the actor that Sarah is doing something to make John nervous. Regardless of which role you’re playing in this example, your choice will be informed by this information.
In the dialogue, has the writer underlined, CAPITALIZED, italicized, or bolded a word(s)? The writer is telling you that word is important. Listen to the writer.
Has casting included an additional FYI scene? Read it! It’s important, or it wouldn’t have been included.
Additionally, can you read the tail end of the scene before, or the beginning of the scene(s) after your audition scene? Read them! They are full of clues about the other characters, and the writer’s intention.
You can pick up a ton of information if you just pay attention to everything that’s on the page. This is especially helpful if you don’t have access to the entire script.
In order to book the role, you must understand the writer’s intention. It’s worth taking a little bit longer to not just read what’s on the page, but to comprehend all the clues the writer has given you.
Everything you need is right there on the page!