How much preparation is enough? If you’re giving a presentation for work, going on an audition, or sending out a manuscript to an editor or agent…how far are you willing to go to produce your best, and how do you know when you’re ready? When you run out of time? Ha.
Tuesday afternoon around 2:30, I got a call from a talent agent telling me I’d been selected to audition for a SAG movie. A lead role. The audition was Wednesday at 4:30, and she’d be emailing me the sides (ie, lines to learn). I was a bit surprised when not one, not two, but three scenes appeared in my mailbox. And two of them required crying.
Before reading the script, I Yahoo!ed the casting director, Matthew Lessall, and found a 2/14 blog entry () about his adventures casting this film. He focused on preparation, because apparently some actors had complained about how hard the material was and that they didn’t enough time to prepare, though he’d booked them for the audition LAST WEEK. (Recall that I only have around 24 hours.)
His advice: “PRACTICE! When you think you have practiced enough, DO IT AGAIN!”
So that is what I decided to do. Fortunately I didn’t have major plans Tuesday evening. Would I have gone so far as to, say, cancel dinner with a friend? Try to find someone to use theatre tickets? Miss a chorus rehearsal or class? Hmmm.
Next I researched the director and the film, and found a cool “first look” on the director’s Web site. (What did we do before the Internet?) I read through the scenes, decided what a late 40s Orthodox wife with 3 kids might wear and what to do with my hair. I reviewed and reviewed my lines, out loud and silently. The next day, I brought them with me and rehearsed on the bus and while waiting for an appointment. I wasn’t fully memorized, but could glance at a line then say it.
How did the audition go? Had I prepared enough?
When my turn came, Matt asked if I’d had time to look over the script. I knew better than to say, “Well, I just got it yesterday afternoon.” So I told him I’d read his blog and quoted his preparation advice, which I’d followed. He said that was more than most. Then we had a nice chat about blogging and health insurance. Sounds like a good start.
He asked if I had any questions. I wanted to know what her job was, because one of the scenes is outside her place of work. He said that was a good question, but he didn’t know the answer.
I did the first scene, with him reading the other parts. It’s a little nervewracking to have the casting director as your reading partner, because you need to make eye contact…and while you’re trying to remember the lines, separate the fact that he’s the one who can hire you from the need to see the other people in the sence, find the emotion and be in the moment.
He said my performance was flat (Ouch. Is that what it feels like not to go through to Hollywood on American Idol?), but then gave me some direction on how to do better. According to his blog, that’s a good thing. And I know some auditioners give notes just to see if you can take direction.
I did the scene again, and he seemed happier. We moved on to the second scene. He said that was good, but didn’t ask me to do the third. Which, of course, I’d also rehearsed…
When I gave work presentations, I always had more information to impart than fit into my alotted time. The questions attendees asked were almost always easier than I’d anticipated. I prefer to be as prepared as I can be, so the time and effort I’ve invested will pay off.