Standing Out For The Right Reasons

What is confidence? What is presence? Why does one person stand-out while another fades away?…

Sometimes a CD can’t quite put their finger on why they went for one actor over another.  I recall one trying to explain it to me; “They were lovely, they just weren’t very…vivid”. Vivid is a word that comes up quite a lot, so I did a lot of reading of self-help books and psychology articles and tried to work out what it meant. What is confidence? What is presence? Why does one person stand-out while another fades away? I read a lot and then tried to write something to explain the inexplicable.

Work That Quirk
People notice things that are different and out-of-the-ordinary. I really like people who throw me off balance a little. I like interesting, conflicting juxtapositions. Stand out. Don’t conform, accentuate. Find your quirks and be proud of them; celebrate them. Don’t pretend to be like everyone else. If you try to blend in – you will.

Aim to Be Different, Not Better
Acting training is pretty standard across the board – we all pretty much learn the same stuff. There is nothing you can do about natural talent, but rather than trying to be ‘the best’ – focus on what makes you different and specialise in that. If you’re trying to be better than the last person then you’re not showing us what makes you unique and what you will bring to the role.

Be Precise
Set your intention on the morning of the audition. Ask yourself what impression you want to make on the day. Have a selection of audition outfits that accentuate your personality – and select the outfit according to whatever your intention for that audition is. Be that version of yourself from the moment you leave the house, it gives you plenty of time to settle into it on your way to the audition.

Work That Body-oddy-oddy! 
My clients know I quote Drag Race almost incessantly. Body language is one of the most crucial and most overlooked parts of an audition. Everything from your posture to how you carry yourself to the way you’re angling your body. Simply being aware of your body language can result in immediate improvements. Spend some time working on your physicality with an Alexander technique coach, or take up yoga! Notice your body – what messages are you sending out?

Be Interesting
All auditions are different, but many might include some kind of chat. Be prepared! Have a minimum of TWO things to say, one specific and one general  “I worked on a #1 tour of Mary Poppins last year which was a great experience and I’m currently developing something exciting with some Frantic Assembly people” – make sure it’s relevant though – no point in boasting about your exceptional musical theatre work if you’re up for a film.

You will not believe the number of times I’ve been in an audition room and the CD has commented on a bright scarf, or bag, or shoes. Don’t over-accessorise though! Remember Coco Chanel’s advice – “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off”  And please, if anyone comments on your scarf, or hat, or shoes – make sure you wear them to the next round – it can act as a visual reminder of why they noticed you in the first place.

Don’t Block The Bad
We’ve all had auditions where the train was late, or the dog decided to puke on our shoes just before we left, or the bus driver was rude. Lots of people tell you “Don’t bring that into the room!” – I sort-of agree, the panel doesn’t want to hear about your crappy day – but you can still use it. What happens to your character’s song, or speech, if they’re a bit irritated with the bus driver still? We all have an inner life – when life throws you a problem, give it to your character to mull over – use it, don’t block it.

I don’t mean practice your speeches or songs – I mean practice meetings. Get a few friends together and show them your audition outfits – get their opinions on what your shoes, skirt, bag, watch say about you. Practice entering the room, practice different scenarios of how the audition could go – you want to learn how to control your own audition.

Be Open
Make eye contact, smile and keep your solar plexus (chest) clear. If you don’t know, or haven’t worked on the Three Circles of Presence and how to move between them, you should read up on it and practice – you will likely need to use all three circles in an audition.

Make A Choice
You’re not expected to nail the character perfectly at an audition. It’s more important that you prove yourself as an actor and show that you can follow direction. If you have Made A Strong Choice, that shows the casting team that you are capable of Making Choices and it will be assumed that you are capable of Making Choices that will influence the character during rehearsal. If you Make A Wrong Choice, it doesn’t matter. If the director is interested in you they’ll probably tell you “This time, do it this way,” and then you have a chance to Make ANOTHER Choice. Remember that every actor coming in to read for the part has probably made a very similar choices – make sure yours is the one that makes the CD go “ooh, that was different.”

Make A Difference
Very often a CD might ask you to ‘Do it again, but this time do it this way…’– Make your second read different. Making subtle adjustments doesn’t work – the CD, or director, is wondering whether you can take direction, or whether you are stuck in one particular choice – so if asked to do it a different way – BE DIFFERENT.

Don’t Look For Validation
A CD is not there to make you feel good about your audition; they’re not there to say “Darling, you were marvellous” or to give you pointers on your technique or ability. They are there to cast a show. Don’t look for validation  – with your words “was that OK?” or your body language. A professional turns up, does the job, and goes. Insecurity isn’t a quality that we look for.

Know Your Place
Know that you are NOT subservient to the CD. So many actors come into the room grateful to be there at all. They place themselves so far below the CD and the panel in status that it’s impossible to bring them up. They’re a person. You’re a person. Don’t fall into forelock-tugging. Make the adjustment in your thinking that they are on your level. Treat them like an equal and they will give you the same respect. You have already earned your place in the room, you have the right to be there.

Fake It Until You Make It
Before every meeting and audition think about what the best version of you looks like. How do they behave? Visualise yourself having the perfect working-actors audition. How does it look? More importantly, how does it FEEL? Decide how that version of you would walk, talk, enter a room and say hello to a CD and how they would audition. Visualise a ‘great’ audition every day so that when you have the chance to put it into practice, it’s all there. 

Own The Space
Your audition is your three minutes to show us what you can do. Own the space from the moment you walk in. Be in control. Know what pieces you want to present, know how to advise the pianist, how to work with the reader. Know who is on the panel and where to stand. Be in total control. So many times I’ve seen an actor shuffle in apologetically, unsure of which of their audition pieces to do first, trying so hard to be what they think the panel wants. Show us who you are.

Confidence is Attractive
 A confident person is one who acknowledges their own worth, but also, crucially acknowledges the worth, intelligence and ability of others around them. An arrogant person can only see their own worth. Be confident, not arrogant.