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The process isn’t ‘normal’, yet we try to make it so…

May 18, 2013

It isn’t usual for people looking to ‘fill a position’ to have so much riding on it from the very beginning. Usually, people doing a job interview are hoping to be hired, knowing that they will be in a probationary period – and in a learning period – where they get used to other personnel and with the job they are expected to do. If they perform up to snuff, they get to keep the job, with uncertain future prospects becoming a little less uncertain one day at a time – with the understanding that these days, no job can be expected to last forever. If however, one progresses on merit and good human relations, one  may anticipate – over time – that their value will become evident and promotions may well be in the offing. If not, then one’s value can be transported to another company, where better prospects are likely. This process can, over time, lead to substantial monetary rewards.

Not so in the acting business. The audition – if the job is a lead or recurring role in a series, or a principal role in a feature – is tantamount to having an opportunity to strike gold and to make a claim to it going forward! You sign a seven year deal in television, and the producers hope to go nine. Your residuals in film and television are the gifts that keep on giving, and in the case of film – and giving and giving. Certainly, there are no promises for stardom, but the rewards to be had for being cast are potentially phenomenal.

So, naturally, we have an enormous amount at stake walking in the room. To repeat: auditioning is NOT a normal situation. The error we make in preparing for an audition – and in the audition itself – is to try to squeeze our round consciousness into the square hole of ‘normalcy’ so that we can just ‘be ourselves’ (whatever on Earth that is) and be relaxed, present, spontaneous, likable, attractive, engaging… and give a true and satisfying performance.

In other words the actor says to him or herself  “I cannot do well in this audition if I am too nervous, I’ll screw it up. My agent may get a bad report on me, loose confidence in my ability to ‘do well’ in the room – and stop sending me out! ” 

Do normal job interviews carry the awesome risk that you may screw yourself out of future interviews? No.  If your meeting with HR doesn’t go well, you go home, lick your wounds, and then look for the next company on the list and prepare to redeem yourself. If you didn’t actually hit somebody in the head and get arrested your going to get another shot at another company. But if your agent or manager hear from a casting director or two that you did not ‘do well’, or was not quite this or that (the possible descriptions here are myriad) woe be unto you. To repeat: auditioning is NOT a normal situation.

So what do we do – because we are human beings, after all (when we’re not being little angels and devils) so that we can ‘be ourselves’ and be relaxed and  do our work and get the job? We try to convince ourselves that the audition situation is normal, of course – a process which requires abject denial of the facts and circumstances as they truly exist – the predictable consequence of which is to disconnect from the very truth we are endeavoring to inhabit – both in the meeting and in the reading. It’s a pox.

Only through a thoughtful re-approach can we hope to get out of the ‘spiral of denial’ and into a place that we can do more than merely survive. And that place is a factual, psychological, rational, logical and spiritual one in which we can truly thrive.

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