I sat down and had a wonderful interview with Robert and Michelle Colt of Acting Success Now for MasterTalentTeachers.com. I have known Robert and Michelle for several years and the best way I can describe what they do, is that they help actors “get out of their own way”.
PROFILES: IN MOST EVERY ON-CAMERA COMMERCIAL AUDITION, AFTER SLATING, AN ACTOR WILL BE ASKED TO TURN SIDEWAYS AND SHOW THE LEFT AND RIGHT SIDES OF HIS/HER FACE AND BODY SO THAT THOSE WATCHING THE VIDEO AUDITIONS CAN SEE WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE FROM THE SIDE.
The reason “Profiles” are done is so that those doing the casting can get a clean look at the side views of the actor’s body. Most auditions especially those with dialogue are done facing the camera but in many commercial, actors move sideways or are working or speaking in profile.
So, the “creatives” need to see if actors are: Round shoulders, have a large or small chest, have a belly, receding chin, big nose have tattoos, the length of their hair, the shape of their head, etc..
If actors have any body issues that can be perceived as a distraction in the TV commercial, doing “profiles” will reveal them and that is why those making the casting decisions require them.
The profiles are done after the “slate.” The “slate” is done in a close-up or medium close-up then the camera zooms out as the actor does their “profiles.” Simple enough, right? It should be but many rookies don’t always understand what is needed.
Turning just your head (not your body) is technically a “profile” but is not what is needed at commercial auditions. Turning your head only to a 45 degree angle to camera doesn’t give the “creatives” what they need to see (which is the full body in profile). Other rookies profile mistakes that sends a very negative message is when actors are: Being ultra cutsey, turning too fast ore too slow, fidgeting, looking angry, confused, bored or has an attitude. Profiles done any of these ways make the actor look like an amateur. Why would those casting even bother to take the time to watch the audition work of an actor who can’t even do simple profiles in a professional manner.
To do a Professional “Profile: Be relaxed with a positive and confident energy. Turn your body to the right at a 90 degree angle, stand for a second, face the camera then turn you body to the left at a 90 degree angle, hold for a second face the camera then turn toward camera and smile. Although you are relaxed, be sure to stand up straight- shoulders back and tighten your stomach muscles.
SIMPLE IS PROFESSIONAL
You might be thinking, “how boring”. Well, it is regimented for an important purpose. Your personality and essence will be present in your slate and your audition. The profile just needs to be done simply and professionally then it will send the right message about you.
You probably assume that now that you have read this article that you understand how to do it and will have no problem with doing your “Profiles.” Just to be sure, I suggest that you video yourself doing your “Profiles.” If it is not clean, practice a few times and record yourself once again. To see how to do professional PROFILES watch, my FREE video, PROFILES at mastertalentteachers.com
There is a lot involved in learning to do your best at commercial auditions. For additional insights and tips, check out my book Hit The Ground Running @ www.hitthegroundrunningbook.com and for more information on Commercial Acting Classes: http://carolynebarry.com/workshops/commercial/
In this video, Jennifer Marsala (Anna on “Lie to Me” and Allie on “Memphis Beat” and star of countless TV commercials) shares her advice for booking more commercial acting work.
In this video, Steven takes us through a private coaching session with Sabrina Miller.
Sabrina is obviously a wonderfully talented and experienced singer. The exciting thing is to realize that even for someone as accomplished as she is, there is always further to go and more to discover.
My first observation about monologues is that they suck! Monologues are a defective tool casting directors and producers use in the audition process that are only partially useful in determining whether actors are capable in their craft. I’ve known actors who were quite skilled in the delivery of monologues, but were only marginally skilled actors, and, vice versa, wonderful actors that were rather inept with delivering a convincing audition monologue.
So the question becomes: why do we use this tool if it’s such an inaccurate measure of actor’s abilities? Well, because there is some significant information that is learned through the monologue that is helpful in casting, and, of course, it isn’t usually the only casting tool that’s used. Nevertheless, it is often the first tool that’s used and a good actor can find herself out of the running early because of her lack of prowess in this unique skill set.
What are the some the things being evaluated in a monologue?
As soon as an actor walks in the room, he is being evaluated on whether he would be believable in the role for which he is being considered. It is very unlikely, (although not impossible), that an actor will be considered, even before opening his mouth, if there is not some proximity of type the actor has to the character. Therefore, the monologue should also be an approximate match of the character he is auditioning for as well. When this doesn’t occur, it raises red flags for the auditor about the judgment of the actor. First auditions are not the time to show your range beyond that of the character. In a general audition, when you don’t know what part you might be auditioning for, it is perhaps even more important for the monologue to be in alignment with your type as a person. Don’t play a person distressed about his third marriage if you’ve just graduated from college.
#2 Intention & Tactics & Listening
The first thing I’m evaluating through the lens of a monologue is whether an actor is playing an intention. Does she want something? Assuming the actor is playing an intention through the monologue, I’m also determining if she is using different tactics to get what she wants.
One skill that is quite difficult to assess through a monologue is whether the actor is a good listener. Listening creates the context for the living moment between actors where good theatre resides. (William Carden talks extensively about this in my most recent article and video.) However, a trick or two can at least let the casting director know that you are aware of this perplexing conundrum. In the monologue, you must be specific about the tactics you are using to achieve your objective and equally specific about how effective those tactics are on the character you are imagining. For instance, if your tactic is to amuse, you need to invent a specific response to that tactic. This is easiest to imagine as a specific physical response to your tactic i.e., perhaps your partner turns away, or leans forward or raises an eyebrow. This imagined response must be registered by you so we know why you then use a different tactic to achieve your objective. Changes of tactics make monologues compelling and specific and are an antidote to the earnest, but boring monologues we frequently see. If I can imagine the response of the other person in a monologue the actor is probably having some success in the audition.
#3 Actor Technique
Of course, basic skill sets like good speech, breath support, vocal range and one’s comfort in his own skin will likely also be assessed, as well as the quality of one’s preparation. Nerves can make you go up, but more often it’s a sign of inexperience or lack of preparation.
Other things to consider:
Use Active Monologues
Frequently monologues that are easy to see in a script, because they are long paragraphs of text by one character, aren’t the ones you want because they are monologues in the past tense. They are often a story of something that happened in the past and create pitfalls for actors who then get caught up in trying to connect to the emotional life of the character, but lose sight of the first thing most casting directors are trying to evaluate. They are often reflective or contemplative and don’t easily translate into active pieces. These monologues should usually be avoided in auditions.
I often see monologues in general auditions that are funny, but are closer to stand-up than to acting. They are addressed generally to everybody in the room, and, therefore, miss the most basic thing I’m attempting to evaluate – does the actor know how to play an objective or intention through his acting partner?
Using Less Familiar Material
Finally, in large cattle call type auditions, using a piece we’ve just heard 10 times that day isn’t going to help your cause. The monologues less travelled are a big help to you because the casting director’s ear is more alert to the new and is going to be immediately skeptical of the overused. Unfamiliarity is your friend. Casting directors and producers are starving for the unique and original.
Michael Nankin is a regular guest director and teacher here at The Jentzen Technique’s Living the Art Institute. I’m thrilled to share with you an interview and lesson with writer/director/producer Michael Nankin, which is part one of a two-part series. His words of wisdom ring true for actors, directors and industry professionals alike. Having directed more than 30 titles, Michael Nankin’s credits include Battlestar Galactica, FlashForward, Heroes, CSI, Picket Fences, Monk and Life Goes On, to name a few.
Most Actors pride themselves on having a dazzling paint box filled with emotions that range in a number of shades, which they can use to paint their roles with and change frequently. Many imagine they have few limits, whether their sensibilities are based in Theatrical training or Film work, most of them believe they can “play anything”. However, from that idea to actual execution is another point entirely. Depending on the training and how well versed an Actor is in his or her characters, there seems to be a general misinterpretation of “Style”. Style, in my opinion, needs to be erased from the Actors language.
Once an Actor begins to think about his “style”, he usually gives up working subjectively and starts to think objectively, and that in itself is where his damage begins. Although most Actors love to make adjustments from role to role, script-to-script, I have found that the minute they begin thinking about changing their natural style, they suddenly become stiff and unbelievable. Who wants to watch that, Actors showing us their work at doing a new “style”?
I have chosen five Teen Actors who are training with me at my various locations in the L.A. area, all at various places in their careers and training. They have been asked to not only demonstrate their different styles, but also to offer you their concepts of how adjusting their styles on a script to script basis lands with them when asked, whether it be for an audition, a role that they have booked or a role for class. I thought their answers were poignant and interesting.
Miranda May (15) was asked, “What happens to you, a stand up comedienne, and often cast in comedic roles when you get a Disney script?”
Miranda states, “When I look at a Disney script, I think ENERGY, I think HAPPY. As opposed to say and ‘E.R.’ audition which is more real”.
Mason Alexander (15) was asked, “Since you are a Nickelodeon Actor on both iCarly and Bucket & Skinners Epic Adventure, what do you do when you get a Soap Opera audition?”
Mason says, “When I receive contrasting scripts, I ask myself, ‘ What do I need to do personally to find that character in myself?’
Zach Callison (14) was asked, “What do you, a Disney Actor, do when a Feature Film script comes in from your Agent?”
Zach offers, “Having done a lot of Disney, I’m now excited when I get to adjust and tone down my work for a Feature Film role.”
Dani Jacoby (18) was asked, “Since you are primarily a Host and busy commercial actress, what do you do when you get an episodic or dramatic script?”
Dani states, “I love episodic because you can show your range and go deep and expand yourself.”
Marcus O’Dell (15) was asked by Diane, “I know you love doing sketch comedy characters and impersonations, but what do you do with a script from a big Feature Film like “The Social Network” in class?”
Marcus said, “ Never copy a celebrity’s performance in your scene study, always find your own interpretation, make it your own”.
All of the Actors had intelligent approaches to this topic of adjusting your style and that has a lot to do with their experience and training. They are smart actors. However, I have this to offer any actor approaching something out of their comfort zone, or some style other than their natural style. Shift your focus from the ‘style’ of the script, which you need to be aware of every time you pick up a script, to the ‘behavior’ of your character in each script. Consider these behavior choices as you approach your character:
• Posture – How does my character stand, walk or move?
• Speaking patterns – What does my character sound like or say?
• When does this particular character internalize and when would they express things outwardly?
• Work from the inside out and from the outside in.
• Find the vulnerabilities inside the Life of your characters and inside yourself.
It is important for the actor to understand why the characters chose to behave as they do. They have chosen based on their life style in each script, whether it is a modern day character or a period piece. Style then becomes very simple.