I’ll start with this. The definition of leaving something on the table is “to refrain from taking the utmost advantage of something, to not address every aspect of a situation, i.e. in the form leaving money on the table, negotiating a deal that is less financially beneficial than is expected or possible.”
Now, here’s the crux of your audition philosophy: Leave nothing on the table. You only have one shot. Make the most of it. An audition is not like shooting a film, TV show or doing a play. There is no rehearsal. Your rehearsal is your preparation and everything you do leading up to the moment you walk into that room. Then it’s game time and leave nothing on the table.
Needless to say, do your homework. All of it. Know who and what you’re auditioning for. Read the script if it’s available. Be prepared. Learn your lines. Execute the specific, intended tone and pacing of the material and make strong, text-based choices. If it’s a comedy, find and maximize every joke on the page. If it’s a drama, make the boldest, most intense choices possible within the parameters of the script. If you’re reading a single scene, create a solid arc. If there are multiple scenes, insure that they are different. Choreograph your audition accordingly.
Guage the room the moment you walk into it and be ready to work. If the auditors are warm and friendly, be polite, but don’t get distracted and know that you’re there to do a job. If they are curt and ready for you to begin, take their lead and do so. Make note of where the camera is set in the room and place your eyelines accordingly. If you are moving, check your marks with the camera operator, take moment to focus yourself and then go. If you make a mistake or flub a line, DO NOT BREAK! Either keep going or simply raise your hand, take a brief moment and begin again from the last logical point in the scene. Don’t paraphrase your way through it! That never looks good. Only start from the top if you are a few lines into the scene. If, once your read is over, you really feel as if you blew it and know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you can nail it (I mean Oscar worthy nail it) then ask if they would permit you one more shot at it. But I will never bullshit you: If you do the latter and don’t hit it out of the park, you will end up with a lot of egg on your face.
As more and more casting is being conducted off tape, I am discovering few things.
First, CDs are more frequently giving actors adjustments in the absence of directors and producers in the room. Nevertheless, do not expect or request them. When you coach or rehearse an audition, ask whoever you are working with to give you adjustments – any adjustments. Don’t preoccupy yourself with whether or not they are good or warranted. Simply get used to being malleable with the material.
Second, if your audition is short (roughly half a page or less), prepare it a couple of different ways. Mind you, the variations must be text based, valid takes on the material and markedly different from one another. Tell the CD in advance that you’ve prepared the scene a couple of ways and that you’d like to show them the differnt versions. If they ask what the different versions are, then tell them. If they want you to start with one and go from there, lead with your strongest version and let the situation play itself out. If they are satisfied with one take, do not press, argue or fight with them in the slightest. That’s definitely a losing battle.
Third, if your read is great and the CD thinks you may be a contender for the role, but you flubbed even a word, they may ask you to take it again. This is the CD’s way of expressing that, if they’re going to fight for you, they want to show the director and producers a flawless take. Take a moment, begin again, make no adjustmensts if you weren’t asked to do so, let the scene fly and stick it like a gymnast does a landing.
So here it is: Do your homework. Own the room from the moment you walk into it and stay in the zone. Think about everything you’ve prepared and deliver an awesome take – or takes. Be prepared for adjustments and, if the audition is short, prepare it a couple of different ways – as long as they are valid takes on the material. You don’t want to be in your car or at home later beating yourself up about what you could or should have done differently because, at that point, the audition is over and it’s time to move on to the next one. But always remember…leave nothing on the table.