How To Do An Oscar Nominated Audition

Birdman01

There is an auditioning lesson to be learned by every actor in Birdman (2014). If you have not seen it there are no spoilers here! You are safe.

When I saw it, I was struck by the freedom of the actors. Their freedom in the frame. Director Alejandro Inarritu allows the actors to roam freely around the set, directing the camera to follow their action in seemingly one shot. The characters interact with one another without the interference of technology, the edits hidden in a style similar to Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948) .

It is free flowing, the actors are free to move. It is the total opposite to an audition experience. Or is it?

Oscar winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki,  renowned for his long intricate takes, worked with Inarritu to plan each shot months in advance.

And what does this mean for the actors?

The camera captures the character objectively, honestly. It allows the character to be the sole focus of the drama. And the actor has the freedom to express their character.

And even though you will have doubts, it is the same experience in auditions.

The most important thing in the frame at all times… is the character.

Birdman does not manipulate the audience’s emotions with oblique angles, jerky camera movements, sweeping orchestral scores (drum solo anyone?) or elaborate set pieces.

In Birdman, the characters fill the frame, allowing the actor to go wherever they want, and the camera follows. In effect, the director is letting the character dictate where the camera will be placed. If the character storms down a hallway, the camera sets off after him!

It is solely the actor and their performance.

So it is in auditions. The character is the center of frame. It is simply the actor and their performance with no embellishments. Nothing distracts us from being consumed by the character.

But there is a BIG difference.

In an audition, the camera is locked off. It is static. Alas therefore, for too many actors, so is their performance.

It is easy to assume that the audition space takes away an actor’s options, an actor’s energy. Why? Because you see it in these terms:

  • The same frame,
  • The same camera angle,
  • The same lighting,
  • The same eye line,
  • Shot in a single mid close up shot
  • The frame never changes

So what do most actors do? Where do they go wrong? They obediently adopt that energy, that lack of freedom, and they conform.

After 30 years of full time casting, I can guarantee the actors who create an energy, a dynamic and a momentum for their character, are the ones that stand out. The actors who do not construct an audition whose energy is driven by a singular eye line to the reader.

I see actors take a solid, jaw-jutting, fixed-stare stance towards the reader. That is where their audition starts, that is where their audition finishes, and that is how every moment of their character is delivered.

Before your next audition think of this: what is outside of this frame? Are you at a restaurant, in a a busy street, in your kitchen making coffee? Wherever it is, there are actions, motivations, and (especially!) distractions going on all around you. By using these you deliver a character with more dimension. More energy.

If you ignore these inputs, and steadfastly deliver a singular vision of the character, you have missed an opportunity for the decision makers to see past your audition tape. To see the full character on the screen.

Not only do they see the character on the screen, they see YOU playing it.

It is not easy. It is far far safer and less stressful to simply deliver the lines looking directly at the reader. And then with the use of  drama, intensity and tension, your training will be delivered.

Look again at Birdman. Do you see an actor and his training? An actor and his technique? Or do you see the character?

Until you see the character – and not simply the dialogue – you will struggle to pop in auditions.

Seize the day thespians. The audition day. It is an opportunity, not a test.

I look forward to your comments …….