If there was a camera on you right now, would you be doing anything differently?
Would you be sitting differently?
Would you been looking at your computer/phone/whatever differently?
Would you not be picking your nose?
Would you suddenly be aware of every move that you're making?
To be as "real" as possible the answer should be "No." You shouldn't change anything. The scene is you reading this post. And this is how you look reading this post. You don't need to change anything.
Throughout the day today, picture a camera suddenly being on you. Just notice, but don't change, what you're doing.
In the scene you're about to do, what just happened the "moment before"?
Something ALWAYS happened just before this. Sometimes the script will give you clues, sometimes it's totally up to you.
We could easily make a list of what it could be when it's up to us...
You could have...
...just had a fight.
...just woken up.
...just stepped in dog shit.
...just got laid.
...just had your dog die.
...just got a new job.
...just quit your job.
...just won a $5,000 scratch ticket.
You get the idea.
Go make your own list. At least 10 items. Pic two for the sides today.
P.S. I find it's better to make a list that has nothing to do with the scene you're about to do. This way, you get to try some really random stuff, and have a little more outside-of-the-box fun.
Of course, if it's obvious what just happened, you should probably try on that choice too.
“Be nice to people on the way up, because you may meet them on the way down.”
– Jimmy Durante
Be nice to everyone. No one is trying to piss you off on purpose. Everyone wants to do a good job, including the lowest guy on the totem pole. He's just like you. He wants to do well enough on this job that he gets another.
Word travels. Make an effort for the words said you to be at the least, very professional, and at best also a helluva fun time.
You should try something that you KNOW isn't right.
Make a choice that your POSITIVE doesn't work for the scene.
Make the character a clown, a drunk, a 5-year old, a frikkin' cowboy, hell, a creep child molester priest, I don't care. Make some REALLY BIG, even random, choices and go all the way with them, total caricature, SNL style.
Guess what's gonna happen?
You're gonna have a little fun. You're gonna loosen the fuck up. You're going to take the pressure off because there's no way that the character would be this way.
Guess what else is going to happen?
You're going to get insight into the scene. Sure, you'll probably never play the scene that way at an audition, or on stage, or on set. But doing so opens you to more possibilities for the scene, and keeps you from getting in a rut. You know that rut where you're saying the lines the EXACT SAME WAY only at different volume? Yeah. That's not acting. That's boring.
And those things that you were SO sure were true about the character? Maybe there's a little wiggle room there.
A little trick to make you look a bit more professional for your cold reading scenes when you audition.
Memorize your first and last lines.
Aside from being the easiest lines to remember, just by their nature of being first and last, this also provides you with a great opportunity to connect with your scene partner/reader. You know that you're starting the scene connected with them. And you know that your finishing it connected.
People, in general, tend to remember the first and last impression of a person. Being "off the page" for that first line, gives you a chance to focus on the emotion in the scene, or your task. Then have your finger right there, so when you go down to the page, you're on track.
Memorizing the last line ensures that you're not buried in the page at the end of the scene, for the button at the end of the scene. Give it a try on your next one, see how it works. 🙂
That's what we're here for. This whole site is a place for you to try shit out. Anything. You wanna do the scene in a dress? Put it on. Wanna try a German accent? Nine problem. Wanna do it while jumping rope? Let's go Rocky.
You don't fail enough. Seriously. You need to fail a LOT to start to have the instincts about the stuff that's going to work and that's not going to work. You may try something and think, "Yeah! That's a great choice!" Only to find out it wasn't the best one that you could make.
You need to try at LEAST 10 different "ways" to do a scene before you can start narrowing things down about how you think it should be played. And by "ways" I mean anything from accents to being cold out to a whole other list of things that we'll get to with time. If you go in with your first choice, at best you're always going to come out of your reading wishing that you would've tried something else, at the worst, you're going to get an idea on the way home and obsess that "I should've done THAT!"
Since you're getting all the gold I'm putting out here, go ahead and be a failure today. Do the scene the worst way you possibly can. Make the glaring WRONG choice for the thing. You know what? You're going to find a little kernel of truth or insight by doing it that way.
If you've been in acting for any amount of time, you must have SOME kind of accent or dialect that you can employ at will. Some of us have French, others love British, or maybe you've mastered the southern states, or have made a dive into the masses of Asia.
The accent doesn't matter. What does matter is trying it out with your material. Just reading it through with a different accent will provide you with insight into other ways to address the scene. This is especially useful when you feel like you're getting into a rut and are doing the scene the same way over and over again.
Doing it like your from Mississippi will change that for sure. The emphasis will be on different syllables, different parts of the sentence, you may even find a piece in there where there's a bit of humor that you didn't catch before. It a great, great discovery tool.
And hey it's pretty damn fun too.
Do you read every day?
You should be. Find something. Non-fiction. Something without a lot of emotion. Something that you're not going to ry to "act" by accident.
History books are great for this. The History of Acting, something like that.
Read four(4) pages, or about 5-10 minutes every day. Out loud. Don't stop for corrections, just make yourself keep talking. This does 2 things.
1 - it gets you used to reading off the page, so if someone hands you something, you're not stuttering through it
2 - it gets you used to hearing yourself. Half the time you're auditioning/acting, you too damn busy thinking, "Did that sound right?" When, really, it's got little to do with the actual words, and more to do with the feeling that delivers them. The words are just information. The real scene is in the emotion.
Oh, and DON'T read something all emotional. Get a history book, or someone's autobiography, or The History of Acting. It should be something that you're not trying to "put emotion into."
Read out loud every day. You'll be a better actor because of it.
Chill dude. Really. The more tense you are, the more you're going to look nervous and tense. And the more likely it is that you're going to walk out of that audition thinking "FUCK! That is not at ALL what I was setting out to do."
It is, because we've all done it.
The biggest reason you need to relax is that it's not that big a deal. It's not surgery, or a real gun fight. Honestly, it's just fuckin' around, it's playing. It's just that if you land it, you get paid for it.
Relax, and tear that shit up.
I don't care who you're reading with, look right at them, and do the scene WITH them. Not AT them. WITH them. Get them to feel what you want them to feel, to say things in a certain way.
Putting that effort in will go a very long way in developing a reputation as an actor that connects.