David answers a question from a reader who feels like he does a great audition at home and then a terrible job in the casting room. All actors have felt this way at least once – learn how to never feel that way again!
Why do I perform my audition brilliantly at home and then blow it at the audition?
Timothy H., Houston, TX
Among other things, an actor trains to be subtle and honest and to fight for the character’s needs. This is easier to do without the pressure of an audition. An actor will often abandon this training out of fear or nervousness and will feel the need to over play the scene. They don’t trust their technique and begin “over acting” instead of behaving. If you watch the best actors work you will NEVER catch them acting. They are ALWAYS behaving as if this were real life as opposed to a performance. (genres such as slapstick, high comedy, and melodrama excluded). You must audition at that same level. Trust your training, and if you don’t have any…get some.
Another big reason for audition failure is a lot of actors will put their own needs ahead of the character’s needs while performing the scene. We all want to do well and impress the auditors but we must not incorporate that into the scene. It is critical to be clear on what the character needs. Work hard to make that what you need and then fight for it in the scene at the audition. If the character wants love or money or even a peanut butter sandwich, we must fight for that rather than our own personal need of being validated as an actor or auditioning successfully. Validation and success are the result of a solid audition. To be excellent, behave as the character would… everything else is out of your hands.
One more thing: give yourself permission to be nervous or scared and use it to your advantage. One of the most difficult tasks an actor faces is that of generating a high emotional level. Being nervous or scared can provide this level of emotion and if you find something that the character could be nervous or scared about then the feeling works wonderfully in your audition or performance. A bizarre side effect I have noticed is once you give yourself permission to feel however you will feel, the appropriate emotion of the scene will replace the nervousness but remain at a high level and give you plenty of emotion to work with.
-David H. Stevens
David has been a professional actor and producer for over 15 years and has a been a student for nearly 30. He has appeared in more than fifty films and television shows, produced countless short films, commercials and stage plays and has been the owner and operator of two production studios. Most recently he started in Robert Redford’s The American West as Jesse James on AMC. He is currently the owner and operator of Stevens Brothers Media, a film and commercial production company based in Salt Lake City, UT and is also the co-owner of Dalton/Stevens Enterprises, a television and motion picture company specializing in the process of business and creative development. Stevens attended college at Southern Utah University. While there he became a national power with the speech and debate team winning over 100 awards across the United States. Since then he has been seen working along such notable actors as Philip Seymore Hoffman, Adam Sandler, Glenn Close, Scott Glenn and Anthony Hopkins. He has also worked with Academy Award winning directors Paul Thomas Anderson and Cameron Crowe as well as the legendary producer James L. Brooks.
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Last modified: August 13, 2017