Ass-Saving Pilot Audition Tips
Lucky you! You made a perfectly-timed pun that caught the eye of a commercial agent who accidentally saw your show last minute because TJ & Dave were sold out.
Now, you’ve got an agent!
Very cool of you, Rick Springfield. But before you go telling all your bosses at Groupon to suck your wang, chill out. Remember that building a career in the arts usually progresses at a rate that is excruciatingly slow.
Be patient. Invest in yourself and your career. After a few commercial classes with Matt Amador. You’ll be a advertiser’s dream, and you’ll book the national commercial that allows you to actually quit your job and audition full-time.
Before ya know it: YOUR FIRST PILOT AUDITION!!! Are you ready? Probably not, so we present…
This is Your Pilot Season Speaking
(Ass-Saving Audition Tips from the Casting Cockpit)
First thing’s first: Take a solid sitcom class. Now.
In L.A., the market is saturated with pilots, actors and coaches. If you’re out here, your absolute best friend should be Lesly Kahn, who is undoubtedly the world’s best script analysis and acting teacher. If you’re here, GET COACHED BY HER. If you are elsewhere, girl, you betta foynd a coach.
I know what you’re thinking: The only coach I need is Craig T. Nelson. Usually, I’d say you’re right, but in this instance: Wrong. Meryl Streep still works with her coach ON EVERY FUCKING THING SHE DOES. Leggo your ego. Find someone who’s reputable and knows their shit when it comes to TV. Believe me, it is HUGELY DIFFERENT from everything else you’ve done.
I don’t care how funny you are. I don’t care how dumb you think sitcoms are or how “easy” you assume that job would be. You could not be wronger; you couldn’t even be more wrong. Put it this way: if it were easy and anyone could do it, they probably wouldn’t pay forty grand a week. Yeah, you heard me. A series regular on a network sitcom makes around $40,000 an episode.
I bet you’d take Groupon a helluva lot more seriously if that’s what it paid.
Stop taking it personally. Start taking it seriously.
Start taking your career and your life seriously. Actors are among the most manic of all professionals, probably because people reject us on a daily basis. Of course they reject us. They reject us because we reject us.
What the hell do you mean, Ei-leen? Ei-mean: Cut the crap. ALL OF IT! No more letting auditions or shows– good or bad– dictate your mood or your level of productivity. Focus on the work, not the reward. Not everything you do deserves a celebration. You’re an actor, not a war veteran or a pediatric surgeon. Every minor hurdle you overcome cannot be an excuse to drink away your life savings.
Useless, lazy, unhealthy: Don’t be a producer’s worst nightmare.
The most avoidable hurdle for any actor is the risk/benefit ratio. As you get further along in your auditions, it is the job of the producers in the room to assess you. They have to insure you on the project. You know, that multi-million dollar project? Yeah, that one. If they hire you, are you going to pull a Lohan and waste their time and money by not showing up? Or show up hungover and useless?
YOU. WILL. BE. FIRED. ON. THE. SPOT.
No one cares why you’re running late. Leave earlier! No one cares that you’re not feeling well. You’re an adult! Eat well. Sleep well. Exercise. Not just the night before the audition. Always (feminine napkins). It shows. Being hungover, raspy and puffy-faced at your first meeting is no way to show these people that you can be trusted with the responsibility they are offering.
What’s more important? Nailing your auditions and building your career? Or that pitcher of PBR and the hopes that tonight you’ll find someone to fuck at the Ale House who’s already got all your STDs?
Avoid it all. Starting right now. Take care of yourself. Quit all the superfluous bullshit: the drinking, the smoking, socializing, whatever you keep telling yourself is more important than taking care of yourself and spending the time working on the work. All of that is just an excuse to avoid doing the work.
Emotionally, we choose to avoid the work part because we are insecure in our abilities. If we put time, energy and effort into this audition– and we don’t get it, then we suck. WRONG. There are hundreds of reasons why you might not be right for a part. Not doing the work is the worst reason by far.
Stop sabotaging: Don’t be your own worst nightmare.
In order to succeed at what you really want, sometimes you have to sacrifice the things you kinda want. Rid yourself of distractions. Take all of your spare time and use it to better yourself. Work on your acting even when you don’t have an upcoming audition. Building your repertoire promotes character and confidence. Read pilots (even ones you aren’t working on), work scenes, write, watch TV, take classes, pay attention. Have a life outside of the business. Get a perspective. Get a dog. And share pics of it @emonte3.
There are two things that make you stand out in an audition:
Being great and being terrible. Both have everything to do with preparation. If you do the work, you will be remembered for good reasons. Then you will be given more opportunities to show you can do the work, and eventually you will get to DO THE WORK!!
Do your research.
When you are given the audition materials, it is your job to find and read the whole script, explore the people attached to the project and be familiar with everyone’s work. If you’re auditioning for a series regular on Old Soul and you don’t know who Amy Poehler is and haven’t seen Parks and Rec, SNL or UCB, you are going in blind. Yeah, but what if my character’s blind? Hilarious. Now shut up, and do the work.
Yeah, well, duh. Who doesn’t know Amy Poehler? Well, guess what? To make it more challenging, not every writer is going to be as famous as Amy is right now. Some writers are comedic geniuses and will eventually be household names, but for “write” now they are just “Brian Gallivan,” the up-and-comer. Look that dude up and watch and read everything you can possibly find that he’s done.
The same goes for the director, producers and the casting director. Find out what they’ve done to get a feel for what they’re doing. Be as informed as humanly possible. That’s half the battle.
Single-cam? Multi-cam? What’s the difference? AND WHICH IS IT?
Uh, a single-cam is shot with one camera, and a multi-cam with more than one camera?
No shit, Sherlock. But, the big thing YOU have to worry about is how to change your technique from genre to genre. Start familiarizing yourself with these style differences by simply watching television shows of both genres. Here’s a general rule that’s accurate almost all the time: if there’s a laugh track, then it’s probably a multi-cam. If not, it is likely a single-cam. Your audition notes will usually specify (i.e. single-cam, multi-cam, 1 hour procedural, etc.).
Multi-cams are usually shot like a live play with consistently sharp timing; wider shots and tend to be more theatrical and physical. Single-cams shoot more like films, with a wider variety of shots and edits that lend themselves more to subtlety.
Pro Tip: If a script is single-spaced, it’s a single-cam. If it’s double- spaced, it’s multi-cam.
Now it’s time to look at your sides and make some choices. Rehearse your sides with a partner. Your friend, your son, your friend’s son. Be bold; be stupid. Make choices that surprise even you. Don’t be afraid to be weird. At least if you’re weird, you avoid falling into the trap of being boring.
Is it important that I’m off-book for the audition?
Knowing your lines backwards and forwards allows you to be engaged and actively listen and respond in your scenes. When you get your sides (aka audition scenes), PRINT THEM OUT, DUH! Your sides are your friend. Make your notes on them, and bring them to the audition. Be completely off-book, but always hold your sides, and hold them at eye level. Holding them makes everyone (including you) feel more at ease. If you need to refer to them in the audition once or twice, that’s fine.
On the other hand, if you are stuck on the page, casting ends up watching an unprepared actor shadow the character they so desperately want to see brought to life.
Believe it or not, everyone in that room is rooting for you. If you walk in there and nail it, you’re making their job so much easier.
In the audition, only use the reader for eye lines. If you look into the camera or at other people in the room, you will make everyone wildly uncomfortable. Practice your audition with a reader and a camera (or an object acting as the camera). That way, when you get in the room, you won’t freak out and stare into the camera or the eyes of the producers like a psycho.
Just do it (® Nike)!!!
If they ask you to change something, do it.
Take direction. They are the bosses. Who knows? Maybe you are perfect, but they might just be asking you to change something arbitrarily to see if you are malleable or not.
Be you in the room.
Not the person you think you are supposed to be. They know when you’re being disingenuous, and it’s not pretty. Plus, the real you is far more interesting than the you you think they want to see.
And just for added pressure: Always be and look your best.
Seriously, it matters as much or more than you think. Hygiene and maintenance! Haircuts! Properly-fitting clothing! That goes for guys and dolls. Although, women, you have it harder. Sorry. Unless you’re a character actress, people expect you to be dressed up, made up, hair done all the time. Not fair, I know. But no one is denying that this is a very demanding, judgmental and superficial business.
Keep in mind, every audition is an opportunity to act, which you LOVE TO DO. Have fun. After you do all the work, there is one last step:
Forget everything I’ve said, and just do what you do.
Eileen Montelione is thankful for all that she has: her loving, supportive friends and family, her Gerber Baby nephew and her brand new health insurance, courtesy of The Affordable Care Act! Eileen loves Craigs Benedict (aka Craig Foo Yung, Craigzema,The Kyrr), Bunty-Dunty-Doo, and Sheriff Levi of Detroit. She shares a birthday with both Miley Cyrus and Bruce Vilanch, one of whom she idolizes– but WHICH ONE??? (Other Idols: Billy, Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and everyone involved with Arrested Development). Visit probablyeileenmontelione.com. Follow on Twitter @emonte3.