Pilot Season. Are you over it yet? Either you’ve been auditioning like crazy, are up to your eyeballs in sides and traffic on the 405, or you’re watching the party from the outside and struggling with the notion that your dreams aren’t coming true while time ticks steadily away. Hell, even if you booked something you can’t really enjoy it because it cost you a good-sized ulcer and now you have to actually be as charming, enigmatic and sexy as the network demands you to be.
This is not an easy time of year. For everyone.
And because it’s not easy, actors want answers. They want to know how to crack this code, to make it less painful, less traumatic, less ulcerous. Many of you are on a desperate search for The Formula. That desperate need is filled by acting schools, coaches, instructional videos, etc. that may or may not offer tips and tricks to find the math in it all. To crack that code. They’ll promise to teach you the right way to walk into the room, to make the perfect choices, and to kill your fear. But let me drop some real talk on ya for a quick sec. There’s no code. No formula. And they’re all full of shit. Truth is, unless you learn to fall madly in love with nothing more than expressing your art in little office rooms and release yourself of a results-oriented approach to the audition, you’re sunk.
I have the great privilege of working out of an office that is casting a TV series and a pilot at the same time. Hundreds of actors sit in our waiting room every week hoping to be the next big thing. Thousands of calls from production, network, studio, writers, agents and managers inundate our phone lines every week. Agendas inside agendas. Games being played, leverage being asserted. The tentacles of each project stretch for miles, branching off and multiplying daily. It’s a pressure cooker of time constraints and conflicting creative ideas and personalities. Politics, friendships, and grudges color every interaction, facilitating one player’s rise while inserting knives in the back of another. This office is a buzzing hive of activity and each decision that’s made here is important to the project and those involved in it.
And then you walk in. You, in your bubble of fear and need. Desperately wanting them to love you so your self-worth and your bank account won’t exceed a limit of shame that would cause you to throw up your hands, take up drinking and think about the Real Estate exam.
Trouble is, it’s not about you. It never is. The business isn’t disrespectful towards you. It’s indifferent. This industry is the purest example of a corporation not being a person. These networks, these studios, these production companies, they don’t care that you got the sides last night. They won’t take the time to understand that you had another audition in Santa Monica 10 mins earlier or that the reader didn’t do what you wanted her to do. The purpose of CBS, FOX or Disney is not to make sure you’re OK. And these directors, Casting Directors, producers, and writers? Even the most creative and generous among them needs to pay their mortgage and put their kids through college. They’re not here to make sure that you’re validated or that you feel special. And nor should they be. It’s not about you.
And here’s the harsh truth. If you think it is, or if you are trying to get them to care- or are even severely put off by the fact that they don’t- you’re in your own way, you’re focused on something other than the work, and you probably won’t book the job. The only person who is responsible for your feelings is you. And taking care of you in the audition process starts with expecting nothing from the process other than the pure, unmitigated joy of having an amazing human experience with a stranger in some office on Riverside Dr. That’s not limiting your dreams, that’s removing all the desperate, obsessive, “I hope daddy loves me this time” ridiculousness that puts you in your head and kills your artistry. That’s being an actor and loving to act.
We offer a series of 8-week classes at the BGB Studio called The On-Camera/Audition Workout. Invariably actors sign up looking for The Formula. “What do I have to do to book more work?” What we do class one is dispel the notion that there is a mathematical answer. And that doesn’t sit well with many of them. When an actor realizes that such a question has no real answer and that all each actor has is the glorious struggle- that profoundly satisfying exploration that leads to discovery and growth- it takes some adjusting. But, once adjusted, our actors discover the source of their power. By letting go, giving up control and submitting to their artistry, they discover that they have the power to walk into any audition room in this town and deeply affect everyone in it. Even the most grizzled executive, Casting Director, or director.
So after you’ve spent years desperately searching in vain for the Math, after the nerves and fear have consumed you with bitterness, and after you’ve gone too long without your voice being heard, give in. Give up control. You won’t change the industry. It’s not worth your time changing it.
All you have is the expression of your unique emotional experience within the world of the play. And how absolutely fucking amazing is that? Fall in love with that process. It’s one of the greatest things there is. And you get to do it. It’s what brought you to acting in the first place.
When Al Pacino was broke and living in New York, his friends would often ask him how his day went. On days when he had an audition- even for some ridiculous project that didn’t deserve his talent- he would answer that question by genuinely lighting up and exclaiming, “Great! I got to act today!”
There’s so much to love about what you do. Remind yourself what that is and then choose to fall for it all over again.
And if you’re having trouble remembering, give us a shout. We’re happy to help. Join us for class and let us get you where you need to be.