The tried and true process of screen tests is not going to change anytime soon.
Actors prepare a character and deliver in front of a person or panel who sit in judgment. Now add the technical strait jacketing of a audition studio and you have an environment akin to a creative gulag.
I have a different impression to share with you. You enter the room, pleasantries are exchanged, and they say ‘let’s try one’.
You go to the mark. Take a breath and a nano-second of a moment. This is your time, your own space.
Check your edge of frame – ask the camera operator. Spread your arms, feel the freedom of this space. This is your stage. Certainly they will frown on you moving off the mark, but you need to know how much freedom you have to maybe lean forward, or perhaps change your weight from one foot to the other. You have built the boundaries of the stage you are working on.
You may think this is inconsequential, but in a pre set frame, the glance to the left or the turn away from the reader or the eyeline off camera delivers a huge change to the relationship in the scene.
Before you start, empty your mind of the characters dialogue. Usually, this is the only thing in your mind! Do not worry, it will be there when you need it. There are more important things to consider. What can your character see? Certainly the other character in the scene, and maybe a restaurant, or the sidewalk you are standing on, or the view you are both looking at. Wherever the scene is set.
See it. And when you do, place this perspective on BOTH sides of the camera.
You have established eye lines and points of view that have transported you into the setting of your character’s scene.
And now establish the relationship with the other character.
No matter who is the reader, even if it is the Casting Director, take one brief moment to regard them in the way your character relates to them. If it is romance, compliment the shirt they are wearing, make a positive connection. If the relationship is disdainful, then look at them with a sly sideways glance. Lay the foundation of the relationship that the scene explores.
If you have to do a verbal slate, do so. And now turn your back to camera, to get back into the environment you have just pictured. Launch into the scene as you turn back towards the reader.
Every audition space, every audition experience is different. If the casting director is stressed and running late, be as quick and efficient as you can.
Your aim is to own a little bit of the space just before you initiate the action.
And of course there are countless casting directors who simply want you to turn up, look at the reader and only at the reader and say the lines.
But prepare yourself to possibly, hopefully, claim a small piece of territory, for a small time, in front of the camera. Because if you can, you will own this version of the character.
You will be remembered for your individuality. Not your conformity.
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