THE HOBBIT ENTERS THE ROOM(S)
PART 2: THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAIL
Not so fast! NEWS FLASH!!! There is a 4th room coming. In fact it is already here.
Just as the tiresome phrase "the new normal" became a knee jerk reaction to say we now have "Hybrid". At LB Studio's and Casting Central we are experimenting with a format for a class and Casting Session that can take place simultaneously in a "Real Room" and a "Virtual One" . Communication protocols will be varied depending on where each of the players are. We have already done one Casting Session where we had a Producer, Casting Director in a room(live) with actors coming and going while interacting with a Director and other actors being beamed in virtually. This 4th room I will attend to next week in more detail. The question I will pose and attempt to answer is how to prepare an actor for being in 2 or more places at once. Are all the skill sets the same? How do they differ? What new drills and techniques need to be created for such inevitabilities. Is preparing an actor for a live audition a waste of time? Is there a need for a Hybrid class? I will also address Self Tape Fatigue
So... back to our regular programming: Part 4.
Last week I outlined some thoughts on the different rooms and their impact on our consciousness. I also gave some specific “how to’s” for each of the rooms. Let’s look a little deeper with more precision.
READ THE ROOM(S)
In life it is advantageous (and critical to success) to be able to see what is really going on as opposed to the projection of your own hopes and fears. The tiny corner of the world of auditioning is the ability to read the room(s).
1/ Time and timing is the first clue. Are they on time or running late? How late? Are they running on time? This informs you whether to ask a question or ask for a second take. It even determines how chatty to be. It also enables you to recognize there is a direct correlation between stress and time. If you are going in 10-20 minutes late to your audition, your question has to be worthy of the time allotted. Is it really going to make a difference?
Owning Casting Central, I’ve had the opportunity to chat with many Casting Directors over the years. Interesting example: one particular Casting Director mentioned that she stopped asking if actors had any questions at the top of their audition. She stopped asking because she found that actors were feeling pressured to ASK questions (as if asking questions scored brownie points) and in turn, asking dumb questions. They were asking questions in an attempt to look clever, not in pursuit of finding something deeper. If the question is being asked for clarification this is good. If it’s to be clever, keep quiet and prepare to share.
2/ During the entire audition process (in room or virtual), the paramount piece of advice is don’t forget to breathe. Let the audition unfold knowing you have done your work and then walk away knowing you shared a piece of yourself.
My mantra as I enter the room would be; Breathe. Get in touch with how I am feeling right now. Is there anything I am feeling that is helpful to what I am about to do? If yes, breathe into it with intent and proceed. If not, have a thought that will trigger it. (You have most likely explored these triggers in your prep). Breathe and proceed with intent. When you go into the audition room don't try to repeat what you did at home, it’s nontransferable. Trying to repeat what you did is like trying to stand in the same river twice.
3/ Don’t seek their approval
How do you feel when people fawn after your approval? Not good, right? How do you feel when people try too hard to impress or manipulate you into giving them something? It’s terrible. So, walking into a room wanting validation, and/or using manipulative tricks to get that person to give you a job is rarely successful. This doesn’t only apply to auditioning…it applies in life. From a job interview, to a first date, to meeting your mate’s parents, to ordering an ice cream from a vendor - it's really no different. The Gollum impulses of desirous acquisition lead nowhere. Do not try to “own the room(s)” instead share something of yourself. Let them see that “you get it." Are you able to share that part of yourself that understands the life of the character you are hoping to play? Misplaced desire can get us hung up on the wrong things.
Eye lines are a combination of aesthetic and common sense not a set of rules designed by a committee. They are not a universally agreed upon rule.
EYE LINES AND THE LITTLE BOXES
When you walk into a live room it’s pretty obvious. Look at your reader. If they are on the left of the camera then look there. If they are on the right of the camera, look there. If there are more than one eyeline in a scene then use the opposite side for your second eyeline. My own personal aesthetic says if you establish more than 2 eyelines, you’ll give yourself some trouble. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen it work, but it has too many moving parts for my liking. I would use the reader for the character that is the most interactive and the other side for the character(s) with who you react to most.
Coming into a virtual room, you don't really know where your eyeline is going to be. This is because, depending on the room (really this room is just a screen, remember you are still in your own home.) There may be three people, there may be two people, there may be only the reader and a detached voice coming from a Casting Director. You can hear but cannot see. Remember Andriel’s light: breathe. A face can pop in or pop out. The little boxes move as if they have a life of their own. Trying to focus on moving boxes can feel like you are playing a game of visual ‘Whac-A-Mole.” This can be very disorienting and put your body into a state of fight/flight mode and all that that entails.
My suggestions are:
1: As you enter the audition room, or more precisely, as Casting enters YOUR room - focus on the little green light on your computer screen (likely near your webcam.)
2: As mentioned in part 3: Breathe, feel your butt in the chair and your feet flat on the ground. Then let your eyes find the appropriate face to look at. This way your first moment in the “room” is not disorienting and once again, your body will not go into fight or flight mode. It's just being kind to your body and letting it know where/what it's doing.
3: Get better at vertical peripheral vision. We are all very good with horizontal peripheral vision but are not exceptionally great at vertical peripheral vision. In a traditional audition, self-tape or live, this is what you concern yourself with. Ideally, you have the ability to move your computer or your phone/iPad up or down, and have a chair that can do the same.
Amazon, Best Buy, or Staples have any number of devices that will help maximize efficiently the ability to stand, sit or adjust your eye line to the reader. If you have a music stand or some kind of cantilevered place to put your computer – this typically works a treat.
4: The rules keep changing. I know from my experience at Casting Central that many CD’s are doing virtual auditions from our studios. They are evolving and changing what they're doing as they gain more experience doing them. A different Producer or a different Director will have a different way of wanting to do the audition because that Producer or Director has their own aesthetic. We are talking about aesthetics now, not the rules. Even after 2 years it hasn't congealed yet, because we're all still learning about this new form of auditioning. The main difference between this medium (other than consciousness) is the tech that actors have to deal with personally. You're now responsible for your own tech whereas in a live audition, you’re not. Be gentle with yourself as you learn the tech piece - you need to be seen and heard…you don’t have to win an award for best cinematography or sound.
IF THEY GIVE YOU A NOTE
If they give you a note then the audition has changed. If Casting gives you a note it means “I’m interested.” A note is not a criticism. A note is an invitation to engage. If you don’t understand the note, now is the time to ask the question. Seek clarification, that's being a professional. In the end, what they are seeing is whether or not you’re willing and ready to be directable.
THE SELF TAPE
There is very little to say about the self-tape that everyone and their second cousin hasn’t already talked about. My contribution here has more to do with, you guessed it…consciousness.
So, you got to put this “thing” on tape. You get hung up for about the first 10 seconds. Why? Because you’ve heard the rumor that “you have to be compelling in the first 10 seconds or they will turn it off”. The desire to be compelling is a 101 Smeagol move leading you to Gollum’s world. You fret and sweat over “is my lighting good? What about my sound?” If I'm working with a coach or a virtual reader (someone who’s not in the same room as me,) what are they going to think of my partner's sound?" You can spin yourself into a hot mess. All of a sudden, you're questioning whether they’ll watch the tape anyway? I mean, lots of people are submitting so…what’s the point? You put yourself in a psychological frenzy before you even utter the first words your character has to say or before you get to express the truth you first felt when started working on it. Yes, you need to be seen and heard. In the end, however, you will not book or lose the role because your lighting and sound wasn’t perfect or because you dropped a line or two. I defy anyone to prove otherwise.
So…. an alternate way of thinking or an adjustment for your conscious mind is the following: You are putting a message in a bottle. This is your personal message from you to the world. You may feel isolated and lonely. You are not alone. You put your message out there and you can have respect and pride in yourself that you didn’t give up hope. You are already on the winning side of life. This changes your mental landscape. Your consciousness is altered for the better because you paid attention.
Your personal message has been put into an electronic virtual bottle. It's going to float in an iCloud ocean and ride on a bandwidth wave. Where it goes and who will see it and if it even gets there, you don't know. Maybe they'll get it, maybe they won't. However, it is a fact that if you don’t put it out there, you will remain on “I’m not working island.” If the bottle comes back with another message or someone comes to get you, you've booked or got a call back. It means a ship is coming to take you to set. The important part IS the message…the message and the bond you yearn to make. We have to be much more active, deliberate, disciplined and courageous to recognize our consciousness is being altered by the minute. It's happening at a dizzying speed. It can get very overwhelming. Ideally, someone is there to run the camera and read with you.
My last 2 tip(for now) to help with the prep is to set up your space.
1/ Make sure everything is set and ready to go and tested. Now walk away and sit down with a cup of tea and read over your script. Be an actor again not a key grip or Gaffer. When you are ready you are now an actor walking on a set. You have not converged 2 different parts of the brain.
2/ If your reader is live or virtual do not chat and catch up with each other until the audition tape is done. They come in. You do the work. Then when it is all done chat to your heart's content. Again don't converge 2 different aspects of yourself. You wouldn't chat with a friend on a set just prior to shooting. Your self tape is a setting is a set. Full stop.
From the first blog in this series, I have tried to lay out an antidote and an amulet you can wear around your consciousness to protect you from Smeagol’s fate by becoming Gollum. It comes down to, and it bears repeating - what tiny part of the human condition am I exploring today? What have I got in me to share? If you do that, these other egotistical concerns fall away.
Next week the final instalment of this series will be:
“What to do when leaving the room" and because I like a good happy ending... “THE HOBBIT BOOKS THE JOB – The on set experience.”