My client Jill (not her real name) got an audition for a feature film, she came to me for a coaching because it was a big part and she wanted to nail it. I always start sessions with "tell me what you know about the story." She had a clear grasp of the story, which was great, but then she confessed she was struggling with the comedic beats.
Jill is a trained actor working in NY. Looking to transition from theatre, to film and TV. She is authentic, self-possessed and quirky. Jill is also smart as a whip. As an actor she is ambitious about using the power of the craft to change the world.
So we did a read through of the sides and I recognized the problem immediately. It wasn't the beats that were the problem, it was the sensuality and the sexuality of her character that was giving her pause, trying to seduce her married boss. Jill couldn't image how a young attractive woman could possibly come on to her boss.
So to make the scene playable for herself, she turned the drama into a comedy. "I would never say or do these things so I decided they must be joking with each other" she complained.
When I hear my clients say "I would never do what the character does in the story." My funny answer is: "BUT YOU DO, BLANCHE! BUT YOU DO!"
Justify the story, do not judge it or change it!
When you hear yourself say "I would never say or do what this character does" You have to STOP!
You are judging the story in a way that will make it much harder for you to bring the role to life.
Here's a way to remedy that uneasy feeling when you find your instincts leading you away from the story. 9 times out of 10 its coming from your fear.
Fear of getting it wrong
Fear of over acting
Fear of not being chosen
Fear of being judged
Fear of your mother being right that you should have become a lawyer
Fear of ______ Fill in the blank for what your fears are and where they’re coming from
Read the text again. Aloud. Read it as if you are reading for your imaginary kid sister. Reading everything on the page, bring it all to life with your voice.
Did I mention your kid sister is blind? She is. (Don't worry, it's only temporary.)
As you read see it like a movie. It's important that you see the whole story and not worry about seeing yourself in the role yet. Your focus is to bring the story to life for your little sister.
FYI.. You might need to change the age of your sister according to the story, she can be over 18.
When you finish now ask yourself - What is the writer's intent in telling this story?
Then what is the function of your role in telling that story. Are you an antagonist making the hero's journey more challenging? along the way for example?
Now do you see how important it is for you to make your contribution to the story in a way that helps the whole movie work?
Now, go back to your actor mindset mode and read the scene. When you come to choices that you would never make, figure out how/why the writer needs for this character to make this choice. Next switch back to actor mode and justify internally or make true everything that the writer has you saying or doing.
Here's another question: if you would never do what you do in the story, like kill someone. What would make you do that? Or capable of doing that action?
Use your imagination to come up with events that if they happened to you, would make you capable of killing in that moment in the story.
To be plain: your job is to make it true. Make it all true. What you say and do. That's your job as the actor. That's your contribution to the project. You bring the life force that makes the story believable.
Anything that a writer can imagine no matter how far fetched, actors have the task of breathing life into it. What an amazing profession we have chosen!
Thanks for reading. If you want more: like my free Audition Power Tools ebook Nailing It: 7 Winning Strategies And 3 Traps to Avoid in your Auditions. CLICK BELOW!