As a manager there are areas of involvement in my actor’s careers that many may not think are part of my job, like prepping for auditions, but I consider it critical. Actors, train, they have coaches and classes and all kinds of acting expertise to tap into making sure their craft is the best it can be so they are at the top of their game at auditions. The one area that all of this training and coaching isn’t focused on is the other side of the interview process, namely, how to make it stick with casting.
Let’s assume for a moment that a casting director has decided to audition 30 actors for a role. As an experienced casting director let’s also say they know talent when they see it, so the other 400 who applied didn’t get an audition because these 30 are at the top of their game as actors and know how to nail an audition. Let’s also forget all the other aspects that play into selection for roles, namely connections and previous experience, and say you are at this audition with 29 others who are all totally prepared and like you, they have the ability to nail the audition. Basically, the audition has been reduced to a cattle call where the only possible way to stand out at this point is looks and personality. So how do you make your acting memorable?
Having 30+ years of human resource experience has taught me one very valuable lesson about hiring and the interview process, and that is first impressions are huge. Casting is just an interview process for a job and if they are hearing the same lines over and over (like in HR, same questions over and over with the same canned answers), it is imperative that you find a way to make them remember your audition. This is where we get to the 22 second audition rule because that’s about how much time you have to get through the first page of sides and to give casting a great first impression. To do that, we need to go back to the very first time you see the sides.
You just got the sides and before you do anything, you need to break down every word, every period, break and pause with the whole concept of the character and find YOUR interpretation of those lines. How do you do that? First, don’t try to guess what casting wants, it’s a waste of time and chances are if they really like you they’ll have you do it multiple times with directions on doing it a bunch of different ways because they wanna know if you can take direction. The more you make it your own the more you become the character and the more your acting can soar. Second, acting has nothing to do with the words on the paper, they could be anything, and in fact, for bigger roles they probably are not real lines for real characters anyway. Acting is transforming from you as a real person into someone else. That means facial expressions, body language literally everything about how you appear and move IS the character. You could be saying blah, blah, blah to casting and could still get the role. This is why you should know the character as the kind of person you think they are so all of your body language and facial expressions match the lines because that’s how the character would act. Nuances are huge when it comes to being different so you define the whole character the way you envision and then become that person in the audition. If you created it in a very specific way, then no one else can copy you and you can be one of a kind to casting.
Before you even start memorizing lines, determine how you will make your audition memorable and different from everyone else so that when your 22 seconds are up you have already sold casting that you need to go to the next round. If you capture their attention in the first 22 seconds you got them for the whole audition and if not, the next 44 seconds won’t matter because they already lost interest and are waiting for you to get done so they can get to the next actor. And by the way, I could have called this the 20 second audition rule, but it’s likely that 22 seconds is gonna be more memorable, right?
Scott Eriksson, Talent Manager
Asian Cinema Entertainment