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.
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. 🙂
The natural next step after "Be a fuck-up," is naturally, not caring at all whether or not you get the job.
This may seem counterintuitive at first. As in, "If I don't care, I won't do a good job."
But that's not what I'm saying. Getting the job would be nice and all, but that's not why you're in the room. You're in the room to show them the shit you can do with those four pages in your hand. You're there to show them the work you put into these four pages. To show them that you made some frikkin' choices. That you're NOT BORING. That you're engaged with the material. That's why you're in the room.
Whether you get the job or not is soooo far out of your control that you shouldn't even be thinking about that AT ALL. The more you think about the job, the more your stupid brain starts spinning out of control with all kinds of crazy scenarios and stories about how you're finally going to get your new apartment and by a house for your mom. Guess what, you're not. All you're gonna do is walk into that room, and kill it. After that, who knows.
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.