|Photos | Eugene Gavryush|
Great advice from Joe Mazza, Actor and SF Acting Academy Instructor! Joe offers one-on-one coaching through SF Acting Academy along with group classes. Cast Images talent, take note!
The X Factor
I started in the business as an actor in 1986 in Los Angeles . I lost count how many auditions I've been on but let's say it's been ... a bunch. I know what it's like to walk in to the casting room; clients may or may not be there. The script was provided ahead of time....or not. The nerves took control and I screwed up, or I was at the top of my game and nailed it. There have been times when I booked everything I went out for, while other times I couldn't get hired to wear a Pluto outfit at Disneyland . In the past eight years I've spent a lot of time behind the camera directing casting sessions and I've made a few observations that I'd like to share.
Certainly, there is an X factor when it comes to being cast for a job. We bring our best into the room and the rest is up to the client. They may have a pre-conceived notion of who they want for the role; male or female, blonde, brunette, African American, Hispanic, Asian, or Caucasian. Indeed there are many factors that are clearly out of our control when we audition, but one thing that IS in our control is how we prepare for that audition. That X factor can be our worst enemy sometimes, it can lull is into a lazy complacency. Don't allow it to keep you from giving your absolute best in every audition you go on, and here's why: You will be competing for that job with actors who are at the top of their game. I've seen them show up each time absolutely prepared for their audition and it shows in the casting room. You may or may not be right for the role you are auditioning for, but if your talent and skills make an impression in the casting room you will be remembered by both clients and casting directors for other projects. While the X factor may come into play when it comes down to the final choices for a role, only the actors that come prepared will make it into those final choices. The rest, fall into a haze of mediocrity. So, which pile do you want to be in?
Here are some qualities that most of those successful actors share. Some of them may feel pretty remedial but it's good to remind ourselves of the basics sometimes. As you read on, remember; your demeanor, professionalism and preparation in the casting room reflect the way you might conduct yourself on set if you book the job. So while you may be cute, charming, dry, sarcastic or witty, it's the way you approach the job at hand that makes the biggest impression with the clients.
Be on time: A casting director will schedule people very tightly. If there is copy for you to memorize and it was not made available to you the night before, come early so you have plenty of time to work on it.
Headshot and Resume: Bringing your headshot and resume may seem so basic, but in every audition there are actors who neglect to bring one. Your headshot and resume is a MUST for every audition even if you are auditioning for a casting director that has your headshot "on file". It's not for the casting director, it's for the client. At the end of the day we have seen 50 to 100 actors or more for a job and the client will spread those headshots out on the table to help them make their decision. They DO read your resume by the way.
Know your script. If there are 50 actors reading for a role, the ones that took the time to prepare for the audition, who downloaded the script the night before and worked on it, or came early (before their call time) to work on it will stand out above the rest. Often times if there is a lot of copy, a client will provide it to the casting director a day before the audition so actors can prepare for it. When they do, they fully expect every actor to be VERY prepared. Make sure you work on it before you go to bed that night. Other actors will have taken the time to fully prepare for that audition and it's those actors who will make it into the final choices.
It's not about you : On any given job, whether it's a commercial or big budget film, there are dozens if not hundreds of people who all contribute to make it happen. We as actors are only one small part of it. Yes, we are the face, the voice or personality that shows up on the screen, but we are still only that small part. A casting session is also only a small part of that much bigger project. The director's goal is to find the right actors for that job and move on to equally important tasks. So, when you walk into the room, help that director out with his/her task. Be interested in the project; where your role fits into the story or concept and what you can do to help make it happen. As an actor, it gives you something to focus on besides your nerves and lets them know you find their project important....because it's important to them.
Leave your personal troubles behind: Traffic will always be bad, your meter will always be running out and you'll always be late for another appointment. But you only get one shot at this audition. Is it the best use of your time to stress about your troubles in the waiting room? Is it wise to make your personal problems part of a casting directors or a clients day? Take a deep breath. Let it go and leave it outside. In fact, don't walk through that door until you are ready. You'll find yourself much more able to focus on the task at hand; your audition.
Don't stress about the screw ups. Everyone flubs a line sometimes. Trust me....EVERYONE does at some point. You get no points for being perfect with the script IF you sacrifice your ability to roll with the punches. If you are right for the part, and you mess up once, don't make it worse by apologizing and explaining why you messed up. It's how you handle the occasional screw up in the room that makes ALL the difference. If you did your homework then just keep it loose, take a pause and pick up where you left off. You may be asked to read again....or not. But your professionalism in the room often conveys how professional you will be on set.
Take classes . Every profession requires continuing education. Doctors, nurse's contractors, even undertakers. Most everyone continues to learn more to help them perform better and stay competitive in their market. Actors should be no different. In the bay area, we go through dry spells and don't get the chance to audition often enough to keep our skills sharp. If you are experiencing trouble in the casting room, get yourself into a class. If you find that your lack of cold reading skills makes you nervous in the casting room, take a few classes. Keep yourself at the top of your game because you are reading against people who are.
As human beings we have the wonderful opportunity to be able to recommit to a new path for ourselves every second of every day. Once we do so, what takes precedence is our choice for the future. The past does not matter. As actors, we have the same opportunity whether we are just getting started, or have been doing this for twenty years. It's never too late to take stock of our habits, assumptions or beliefs and recommit to a new path.
I look forward to seeing you in the class room and the casting room!