Argh. This is a hard one for me to write because it admits complete and utter failure and we all know how big my actress ego is. Right… here goes…
I lost a job last week down to utter stupidity and over preparation. It was a job with a director that I really really wanted to work with and I blew it. To save others from going through this same experience I will recall each detail which pushed me further and further away from getting the part.
I received the invite to audition and as usual, my brilliant agent attached the script, character breakdown and as much info as she possibly could. The part was a non speaking one in a commercial and more of a support to one of the leads and there was only one word that accompanied the character’s description (for example’s sake, let’s say it was “scared”). Now, when you receive a script and all you have is ONE word to work off (with no dialogue) considerable time is spent trying out different ways to deliver a performance centred around the only adjective you are given. Different degrees of “scared” accompanying actions, nervous habits to cover the fact she is scared… absolutely everything. With commercial acting final performances are what book the job, not experimenting, so it’s essential to come into the room with ideas. So I did my preparation.
I arrived at the audition and was given an updated script to look at before I went in. It had evolved a little more than the one I was given but the word “scared” still remained, and it was still the only adjective given to describe the character. No dialogue, all as before.
I was called into the room.
I was then told to completely ignore the word “scared” and play her “fearlessly”. Not only did I have to play her fearlessly, but she had to make sure that she was talking more than the lead, who had all the lines, and actually talk over him. The audition went from a “script conscious” commercial audition, where every single piece of punctuation has been scrutinised by the marketing team, to a complete improvisation on an entirely new concept. Oh yeah, and 10 seconds before the camera rolled I was told to use a specific accent.
I did my best, which was by no means horrendous, but it was not a performance which would have booked the job. I’m a nit-picking perfectionist actress who is all about the details and I immensely disliked the fact that I gave such a raw, un-thoughtout, unplanned performance.
I admit I cried a little after the audition. Not for the fact that I didn’t book the job, but for the fact that I let thousands and thousands of hours of hard work dissolve in the space of a three minute audition.
I was not nervous, I came in with ideas; I researched the director, the casting director, the product, the company and all of the previous actors who had been associated with them.
I didn’t get stage fright and I didn’t do anything that was completely cringeworthy or shameful to my work. But I didn’t get it right either. To me, that is the equivalent of failure because a working actor’s real work is the audition process. The work is the perk of being an actor!
Expect the unexpected, plan for the unexpected and expect everything to be completely on the spot. If your original brief is what is asked of you then it’s a bonus.
I take my hat off to the actress that booked the job.