When I watch my favorite screen actor do their thing up on the big screen, I am in awe of how easy they make it look. I feel the same thing when I see gifted dancers perform—the seemingly unforced, unrehearsed execution of their craft. Sometimes it seems they never had a dance class in their life but were instead born dancing!
And chefs! When I get into the kitchen, I sweat blood in getting a dish just right. I stress over getting the right ingredients in the right amounts at exactly the right time. But experienced cooks add a dash of this, a soupcon of that as if they don’t care!
Actors see an audition as an entirely different beast. You are on show, being tested. You feel that we are looking at you and thinking, “Prove to us that you can do this part!” But you are your own worst enemy.
This is an actor’s dilemma. In the pressure cooker world of doing an audition for a role you really truly want, the first thing you must understand is that Casting Directors are there hoping you are brilliant. We want you to deliver your best. And in my opinion, your best is not delivered by micromanaging your character, over-preparing, overthinking the pages and the dialogue.
READ: The 1 Thing Missing From Your Screen Auditions
You do not need to find every nuance, every inflection, and gesture. In fact, like the effortless dancer, we are attracted to the lack of complication in your approach. Put simply, we warm to you when we know you could do this role in your sleep.
Your deep, analytical consideration of the character has its place most definitely. It is called theater. But for screen, we are attracted to the uncomplicated nature of your approach. My strong advice to you? Do not sweat the details.
Your performance craft is no doubt aided by research. And the contemplation you give to your character. Your thinking is enhanced by this journey. But I implore you to understand that in the audition space, you do not need to show us how much you have delved into the character. At the end of the day when we are watching the auditions back, we are not drawn to your in-depth detail. Because when we look at your audition, we do not look at the page. We look at the screen.
We are fascinated by your calmness. Your casualness. Your connection to us the audience.
How many times have you gone to an audition and for whatever reason you are blasé about this project? Not indifferent, but there was simply a casualness with your focus. And badda bing...you book the job.
It happened in one of my first auditions as an actor. I already had an offer for a TV series but still attended a film call back because hey, why not? Suddenly, I was faced with the choice of two offers.
To deliver great performance art (and I do think a screen audition is an art form), you need to do your prep and research. But come game time (the audition), throw it all away. Your instinct and intuition—not your mind-bending analysis—will deliver the memorable audition.
Remember, you are being auditioned because you can do this part. Your ability is not in question, only your suitability.
Jean-Pierre Mouzon is an actor and headshot photographer serving actors and actresses in the L.A. Area
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