What I Learned In Acting Class- Pt.1

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Last Saturday, I started up another Acting Class with the gloriously frank, Frank Gerrish. The man is a legend in the Utah acting community for so many reasons and then one day he ups and disappears; reappearing in Los Angeles to prove that he can walk the talk.

Not every teacher out there connects with every student but there’s something about taking an acting class with Frank that uplifts, encourages and fills my folder of possibility. He was a hard-working Utah actor, head of the film dept at Salt Lake Community College and he’s done in LA in a few years what takes other actors decades to accomplish.

The acting class he taught in Utah was an ongoing scene study class peppered with mock auditions and monologues.

Auditioning is not acting

The audition is the work you do to get the ‘job’. The job is the play or movie. There are so many steps to get to the final job. Often, you’ll hear teachers refer to an audition as a meeting. The casting director not only wants to see how you handle the lines but what are like as a person. Think about the difference between a job interview and meeting your significant other’s parents. The audition should have the vibe of the later.

What does it take to prepare to do your best on an audition?

  1. Script analysis- Reading and understanding the script. Break it down into “beats” or moments.
  2. Make choices. You have to be able to do this instantly.  Choices about who you are, want you want, what is your relationship to the others in the scene, etc.

 

6 things you need to do for an audition-

  1. Memorize the script (know the words; know the context, your relationships). Excitement and nerves live in the same place. But nerves come from being unprepared. If you don’t look at your sides until the night before, your action ‘verb’ for the audition becomes ‘to remember’- you are a wreck. You are an athlete. You must train if you want to succeed. You can’t roll in and expect it to happen.
  2. Talent may not be quantifiable but the work is. Don’t let anyone out work you.
  3. The acting class is about getting on your feet and screwing up miserably. If you’re going to screw up, screw up in class.
  4. You don’t want to be seen by the right person at the wrong time.
  5. You need to be booking at least once in every 10-12 auditions. Otherwise you wind up on the second tier of your agency and they begin to wonder about you.
  6. Ask your agent some basic questions about the audition.
    1. Are there sides
    2. Where do I go
    3. Who’s the director
    4. Can I read the script ahead of time. If not, can you read me a description of the character or send me the breakdown
    5. When is the shoot
    6. Let them know of any potential conflicts. Language? Dates? It’s for Comcast and you just did a Dish commercial? Don’t wait until you book the job to let the director know about these things. Casting directors get pissed with that one. Let your agent field this for you.

Other topics you learn when you take a legit acting class-

What’s a headshot and acting resume and how should they standout? Ie, Color is now the industry standard for headshots.

Demo reels- Do you have one?

Imdb Video Gallery

You’ll also need two+ monologues in your back pocket. This is the hardest audition you will ever do. Side note: I’ve only had it happen once where someone randomly asked me to do a monologue. Usually you are told ahead of time to come with a prepared monologue. But it’s always great to have it down because sometimes there is that opportunity to say – “would you like to hear my monologue”. I did this when I was auditioning for Vicki at TMG. I had read three different sides for her and we were talking about eyeline because the sides were not read directly to her and she wanted to see me look at her. Did the monologue and I was in like Flynn.

Understand the 15 second rule

The casting director has made a decision about you within 15 sec. of walking in the door. The rest of the time you will be confirming or denying that first impression.

  1. Type yourself out. Ask friends the type of role they can see you playing. Know what the casting director sees in that first 15 seconds.
  2. Casting is arbitrary. All you can do is your best work but know that you can be rejected for having the wrong color eyes, or a funny nose or blond hair.

It’s a victory and a half if they ask you to look at a different part. Another side, another character. They don’t waste time. They wouldn’t ask if they thought you couldn’t be that part.

If they ask you to do it again and you weren’t paying attention when they gave you specific directions you will be written off. You need to be able to take adjustments. If they ask to see it again but don’t offer suggestions, play it 180 degrees opposite.

*Don’t ever name drop when you audition. Raise your hand if you’re guilty of this one?

Shake hands (or hug) only if they offer.

Don’t be chatty, shut up so you don’t wind up with foot in mouth disease. Use basic social common sense. Of course, say hi.

Don’t fish for callback information. The goal is just to get a callback not the part.

Do you use props? No. If you bring a prop, the prop will always be more real than you. CDs are always looking at the prop. The goal is to get the focus on your close up. The one exception is if you happen to have something on you naturally, like a cellphone or a bottle of water. Use these items. And never ever use your hand like it’s a phone. 

 

You don’t get callbacks playing it safe. Do something that takes courage.

  1. Pause. Don’t blow through the pauses.
  2. Show you can take direction- don’t argue with it.

If you find the script or content offensive, don’t wait till you’re on set to back out. Don’t go to the audition.

Prereqs of a good actor

  1. Take acting classes- just like playing an instrument. You need to practice.
  2. Willingness to do the work required by the job.
  3. Be comfortable in your own skin- you are you. Like snowflakes. You are not another actor or type. Be proud of what you do. Don’t be threatened by mediocrity. Or what others imply in the word ‘actor’. You provide a service like everyone else. What’s the first thing a working stiff does when he comes home? Turns on the tv. People have the need to be entertained. Believe that it’s a worthwhile thing to do- telling a story on your feet.
  4. Willingness to be seen. Athletes don’t have this problem. They put on their uniforms and they play. Feel worthy to do this. You do belong and can do this.
  5. Gratitude. Be grateful to be a part of the process.

Keep a folder for any acting class you take. Keep it like a bible. Go back to it to retrain yourself. Especially when you have an upcoming audition. Not only does it jog your memory but it gives you this sense of being grounded. All of a sudden you have a plan. You’re not floating around this amorphous thing called an audition.

 

 

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