Audition Strategies by Mark Brandon
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How to Face the Toughest One of Them All
"Give yourself permission to succeed, and don't let fear bring you down. Fear is not a natural state of being; it's a decision you make. People say, 'you can't do it.' But that's their game, their opinion, and it doesn't necessarily have anything to do with who you are or what you can do."
~ Virginia Madsen
Without a doubt, the toughest audition you'll ever face is the one that leads to all the others. Translation: Auditioning for an agent. You won't get very far in the industry without one, and that's a fact. So trying out for an agent in his or her office, or performing for one at a showcase, can make you go pretty rubbery in the knees. It's not often that so much is riding on your performance.

If you're lucky, you might be in a play good enough for you to feel comfortable inviting your potential representative to come and watch. Even so, many savvy agents will still prefer to have you read television or film sides right in front of them, in an office, before they take you on. From an encounter that is up close and personal, they can get an idea of how truthful and contained you're likely to appear when you audition for on-camera parts.

If an agent asks you to do a monologue, you may want to consider looking for someone else, unless you're interested only in theater. A monologue is more of a stage device and you won't find any television casting directors in this part of the galaxy who even request it anymore. The talent buyers in the industry want to see and hear dialogue--and dialogue performed naturally. You should be wary of any agent who, unaware of that fact, asks you to do a monologue. Yet, if the potential agent you're seeing has a good reputation for getting his or her clients work, and still insists on a monologue, you may certainly want to oblige. But if you have any hesitation performing one, the fact is, you don't have to. There's another option.

You can immediately put yourself in the driver's seat and increase your chances of representation by making a simple suggestion. It's best to pose it in the diplomatic form of an honest question. Just ask if the agent would mind your performing a scene with a partner. It would be a pretty rare case if they refused. When your proposal is accepted, set a date to return within the next three to five days. If any sooner, you probably won't be adequately prepared. Any later, and you're flirting with one of the cruel realities of this business: the agent may forget you.

Once your date is set, pick a friend or an acquaintance from an acting class with whom you have a good chemistry--someone you're comfortable with and someone who's strong. A good way to determine strength is simply to ask yourself whether the person is convincing. (Acting is a collaborative partnership. If one partner is weak, the other will have to pick up the slack. If you have to do too much of that, the whole enterprise will flop.)

Both the length as well as the subject matter of your script is also crucial to your success. Since you really don't want to bore the agent, keep it relatively short. Around three pages is ideal. (That's about three minutes in length.) If you go over three and a half pages or four, you're inviting yawns.

Don't pick any old classic or theatrical scene. What you want is fresh, contemporary dialogue. Because it's the type of material that your agent will naturally be sending you out for, you'll want to demonstrate your abilities to capably handle it. The best material comes from a good acting workshop. Quite often, the instructor has scenes just obscure enough for the agent not to be familiar with them. One of the last things you want is to do is a well-known scene from a movie that just about everybody's seen. You don't need the agent picturing the original stars in his or her head while you're doing the scene. Visualizing those celebrity performers, the agent will more than likely make a subconscious comparison, one that's hardly helpful.

If you wish to score the most points, you need to aim for what are, in fact, two goals in one: First, you need to display your talent in a strong and convincing way--that is, as passionately and as naturally as possible. Second, you need to genuinely amuse or entertain the agent. Because if you can get him or her to smile--or better yet, laugh-- you'll have them closer to saying yes.

Obviously, you don't want to do material that's really depressing or gratuitously shocking. Avoid vulgarity that may, under the circumstances, be considered in poor taste. Sure, characters may indeed curse in numerous scenes, but you're not about to do a "take" on camera. A well-placed "damn" or "hell" here or there is acceptable, but if you use anything stronger, you run the risk of turning off the agent completely.

All things considered, you may want to try using a sitcom scene. If you choose one with a scrappy quarrel in it, you can display more of your emotional range because of the dispute. Plus, the occasional humorous barb in the middle of an altercation is also entertaining. Just don't play or "telegraph" the humor by smiling right before the gag line is delivered. And don't forget to change the characters' names so there's no celebrity association.

The preceding was an excerpt from the best selling acting book, Winning Auditions - 101 Strategies for Actors (Limelight Editions, NY) written by Mark Brandon. Mark is a native Californian who now makes his home in Vancouver, BC. He has appeared in over 100 commercials, films and TV series.

Copyright © Mark Brandon. Used with permission of the author. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or distributed.

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