What I Learned In Acting Class- Pt.1

This is going to be more like class lecture notes but for any actor out there, you’ll get what I’m saying.

Last Saturday, I started up another session with the gloriously frank, Frank Gerrish. Not every teacher out there connects with every student but there’s something about taking classes with Frank that uplifts, encourages and fills my folder of possibility. He’s a hard-working Utah actor and head of the film dept at Salt Lake Community College.

First off, I’m sooo glad he handed out Rosemary instead of Magnolia for the monologue this term. WE will work on learning to memorize later in the day.

What does it take to prepare to do your best on an audition?

  1. Script analysis- Reading and understanding the script. Break it down into beats and compress it for your audition.
  2. Make choices. You have to be able to do this instantly.

Auditioning is not acting. The audition is the work; the ‘job’ is the play or movie. FYI- You are auditioning for a play called “Call Back.”

5 things you need to do for an audition-

  1. Memorize the script (know the words; know the context, your relationships). Excitement and nerves live in the same place. But nerves come from being unprepared. If you don’t look at your sides until the night before your ‘verb’ for the audition is ‘to remember’- you are a wreck. You are an athlete. You must train if you want to succeed. You can’t roll in and expect it to happen.

Talent may not be quantifiable but the work is. Don’t let anyone out work you.

Class is about getting on your feet and screwing up miserably. If you’re going to screw up, screw up in class.

You don’t want to be seen by the right person at the wrong time.

You need to be booking at least once in every 10-12 auditions. Otherwise you wind up on the second tier of your agency and they begin to wonder about you.

  1. Ask your agent some basic questions about the audition.
    1. Are there sides
    2. Where do I go
    3. Who’s the director
    4. Can I read the script ahead of time
    5. If not, can you read me a description of the character or send me the breakdown
    6. How should I dress
    7. When is the shoot
    8. Let them know of any potential conflicts. Language? Dates? It’s for Comcast and you just did a Dish commercial. Don’t wait until you book the job. Casting directors get pissed with that one. Let your agent field this for you.

Also on the syllabus:

Headshots – Color is the industry standard for headshot.

Resumes

Demo reel

Need two monologues. This is the hardest audition you will ever do. Side note: I’ve only had it happen once where someone randomly asked me to do a monologue. Usually you are told ahead of time to come with a prepared monologue. But it’s always great to have it down because sometimes there is that opportunity to say – “would you like to hear my monologue”. I did this when I was auditioning for Vicki at TMG. I had read three different sides for her and we were talking about eyeline because the sides were not read directly to her and she wanted to see me look at her.

15 second rule- the person has made a decision whether they can use you in 15 sec. of walking in the door. The rest of the time is confirming or denying that first impression.

  1. Type yourself out. Know what the casting director is going to see in that first 15 seconds.
  2. Casting is arbitrary. All you can do is your best work but know that you can be rejected for having the wrong color eyes, or a funny nose or blond hair.

It’s a victory and a half if they ask you to look at something else. Another side, another character. They don’t waste time. They wouldn’t ask if they thought you couldn’t be that part.

If they ask you to do it again and you weren’t paying attention when they said how they would like you to do it or never said how, play it 180 degrees opposite.

*Don’t ever name drop when you audition. Raise your hand if you’re guilty of this one?

Shake hands (or hug) only if they offer.

Don’t be chatty, shut up so you don’t wind up with foot in mouth disease. Use basic social common sense. Of course, say hi.

Don’t fish for callback information. Goal is just to get a callback not the part.

Do you use props? No. if you bring a prop the prop will always be more real that you. I.e. cell phone. CDs are always looking at the prop. The goal is to get the focus on your close up.

You don’t get callbacks playing it safe. Do something that takes courage.

  1. Pause. Don’t blow through the pauses.
  2. Show you can take direction- don’t argue with it.

If you find the script or content offensive, don’t wait till you’re on set to back out. Don’t go to the audition.

Prereqs of a good actor

  1. Take classes- just like playing an instrument. You need to practice.
  2. Willingness to do the work required by the job.
  3. Be comfortable in your own skin- you are you. Like snowflakes. You are not another actor or type. Be proud of what you do. Don’t be threatened by mediocrity. Or what others imply in the word ‘actor’. You provide a service like everyone else. What’s the first thing a working stiff does when he comes home? Turns on the tv. People have the need to be entertained. Believe that it’s a worthwhile thing to do- telling a story on your feet.
  4. Willingness to be seen. Athletes don’t have this problem. They put on their uniforms and they play. Feel worthy to do this. You do belong and can do this.
  5. Gratitude. Be grateful to be a part of the process. Frank’s goal is to train colleagues.

Keep a folder for your class. Keep it like a bible. Go back to it to retrain yourself. Especially when you have an upcoming audition. Not only does it jog your memory but it gives you this sense of being grounded. All of a sudden you have a plan. You’re not floating around this amorphous thing called an audition.

Our expectations of this class:

Knowing what the standards are.

To get rid of the things that get in our way,

Tricks and techniques.

Repetition.

When delivering a line we stood in a circle and practiced this:

Realign self so feel open and confident. Ground yourself. Breathe, believe, look (for a focal point and a transitional point for after your slate), do, and speak. This is a template to take the director on a journey.

Say the first line in your monologue. Hear only the sounds and not the words. Keep repeating over and over till you can look up and say the whole line without stumbling. Once you’ve got it, you can then go on to the next line, do the same thing, put the two lines together and do the same thing for all the lines.

Take eyes off the page and say the line. Find your focus, look at the point and say line. If you screw up you have to go back to the script and do it over. Don’t worry about the punctuation.

Homework…always:

Record your thoughts about this class. What’s working, what’s not? Things said in class that strike you.

Memorize the whole monologue. Next week we’ll get on our feet and start doing them.

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