Audition Strategies by Mark Brandon
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"Book End" Your Scenes

Do you book end your audition scenes? That is, do you put some business into your scene before actually beginning your dialogue? And equally as important, do you indicate some kind of afterthought or additional business upon ending?

In the last few months, I've had the privilege of co-teaching some workshops right alongside some Emmy-winning casting directors. I was astonished to hear how often they look for this particular audition strategy. As a matter of fact, a few admitted they won't have actors back if they don't see a book ended scene. So maybe it's time we actors all had an introduction or refresher on this essential two-part tactic.

The first part of the Book End is the Moment Before. It's simply a bit of business or "physicalizations" that must clearly demonstrate two things to be considered effective. Number one, it must exhibit to those watching your audition that your character exists in a world previous to the scene's actual beginning. After all, it looks rather inauthentic to see an actor begin a scene in a lifeless vacuum, obviously hoping that his or her choices will eventually breathe life into the scene and win the part. A moment before literally launches you right into your scene, showing complete commitment to the material, an understanding of one's character and ultimately, the corresponding attitude of that character before the first word is spoken.

The other thing your Moment Before must definitely indicate is environment. For instance, does your scene take place in a restaurant or at a funeral? At the beach, or in an office? How could you look around, and what kind of body language would you use to demonstrate precisely where you are?

And here's an important additional note: Don't make the mistake of adding dialogue. It's a contrived way to get around your responsibility of creatively Book Ending the scene. Often one of the producers watching your work will be the writer. You'll score more points by adding more business than words.

On the other end of your scene is simply the Moment After.
Many actors often overlook this vital tactic, settling only for saying, "Scene," after the last line has been uttered. Other actors are content to just stop talking, assuming everyone knows the scene's over. Many casting directors like to see an afterthought, here.

Sid Kozak, a casting director of thirty years, calls this moment, "The Dismount." Like a gymnast, Sid says the actor should end with a little flourish that clearly indicates, "The End." For example, you could--just after the last line--look away in disgust, if you feel your scene calls for it. Or you could saunter off dejectedly just a foot out of camera frame. There's an infinite variety of things you can do. Use your imagination.

Book Ending says a lot about you. It is clear evidence that you're thorough--the hallmark of a genuine professional. In the intensely competitive world of auditioning, you cannot afford to appear any other way.

Incidentally, here's a parting word for the end of your entire audition process: Before you leave, thank your reader. That also speaks volumes about you.

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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