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LGI3: the secret formula to acting success

LGI3: the secret formula to acting success

Did you know LGI3 is the secret formula to success for actors? Could it really be true that the art of audition success lies within these three letters? Well I’m going to break it down for you and challenge you to test it out the next time you’re in the audition room.

So what on earth does LGI3 mean? And no it’s not the latest in refrigeration innovation, just in case you were wondering. Let’s take a look:

Listen (L) + Grounded (G) + Intelligence (I1) + Imagination (I2) + Intuition (I3) = a bloody good actor

Now that this equation is starting to make a little more sense, let’s have a look at each of the key ingredients.

LISTEN

I am totally aware that the minute you walk into the audition room you have 1000 things running through your mind. What was the casting director’s name? Is the other person the director or just a colleague? I hope I look okay, where do I put my bag? Do I leave my glasses on or off? And so on. All of this nervous chatter in your mind is absolutely valid and normal; however instead of helping you, what it is actually doing is inhibiting you from being present and listening to others in the room.

What I often find when actors have the chatter going on in their mind, is they fail to take direction because they are not able to LISTEN and take on what the director or casting director is asking from them. Not only does this make an actor look weak but it queries our faith in their ability to do a good job on set, if they were to book the job.

Another point to always think about when in the audition room is to LISTEN to the person reading opposite you. After all acting is simply listening and reacting, so if you’re not listening to the other actor you’re not going to be reacting authentically or doing your best job. If by chance you are one of many people who are just poor listeners, try some active listening exercises during your day. Ask someone to tell you a short story like what happened on the weekend or a plot from a film and try to repeat word for word everything they just told you. Go on, I dare you to test it out.

So the next time you find the chatter in mind getting louder, take a breath; trust you’re ready and perfect for the audition; choose to be present with who is in the room and LISTEN to who is talking to you.

 

GROUNDED

Pretty please dear actors be GROUNDED and master how to contain all that nervousness and creative energy. Twitching, swaying, shuffling, fidgeting and nervous ticks in general are not only unnecessary but draws our attention away from your performance. In my opinion, being grounded is one of the most appealing and attractive qualities an actor can posses. It automatically makes everyone feel at ease and has the ability to draw us into your eyes and soul.

If you don’t believe me, take the time to watch famous actors when they do live interviews and compare the difference between those who fidget and those who hold their ground. Often I see great performers and they start fidgeting or swaying and all I want to do is hold them down or get them to stay put. Being grounded is also especially important when casting commercials that are usually only 30 seconds long. In these scenarios every second counts and unfortunately your fidgeting or restlessness is not going to win you the job.

 

INTELLIGENCE

I understand that intelligence is one of those things that you either have or you don’t. But when I talk about intelligence in terms of acting, I’m talking about taking the time to research the character. Make sure you read the text clearly and that you understand the scene and any subtext. And if there is no apparent subtext, intelligent actors always seem to find away to create it. Layers of subtext or background knowledge of your character will help you remain grounded in the scene and open you up to being present and confident in your performance, ticking off my previous two points.

If there’s a word you’re not familiar with, look it up. Know what you’re talking about and if something doesn’t make sense or you’re not too sure how you think something should be played, ask the casting director these questions when you arrive.

And finally, don’t be afraid to make a bold choice, actors who make strong choices are actors that are remembered even if their choice is way off the mark. I’d prefer an actor to make the wrong choice compared to an actor who plays it safe and makes absolutely no choices.

 

IMAGINATION

I really love and connect with this word. IMAGINATION is the source to all greatness and food for your creativity. Allow yourself to connect with your IMAGINATION when you’re in the audition room. IMAGINE the environment around you; feel the wind in your hair if it’s an outdoor scene; feel the weight of the cup of coffee and its warmth. Take the time to imagine what just happened before the scene starts and what’s going to happen next.

Another great tip when rehearsing and preparing for an audition is to IMAGINE the different ways the scene could be played and try them out.  Test out all the different ways you can play the scene and this will help you develop character and make you feel more comfortable. It also helps to find a unique angle on the scene and will even help you take on new direction during the casting session.

 

INTUITION

I can never say it enough but actors should always trust their intuition and instincts when performing a scene and especially during the casting session. Often this intuition won’t make much sense and you will have no idea where it came from. But more often than not, your intuition is what makes you brilliant.

Just think about that feeling you get when get inspired to do or say something and you just go for it and the other actor responds so delightfully. It gives you such a rush. It’s exciting. It makes you an exciting actor to watch and adds an unpredictable quality to your work.  In my opinion, these experiences are the reason why you are an actor. It is for these rare moments when intuition strikes that feeds the eternal hunger of any great artist.

Unfortunately I can’t help you build on your intuition but I strongly believe if you take my advice of the above points and just trust yourself, your intuition will kick in the next time you audition.

What makes YOU stand out in an audition?

What makes YOU stand out in an audition?

I’m one hundred percent convinced that most actors believe there is some special magic formula that can help them stand out in an audition and book the job. But what you may be surprised to hear is that that “formula” isn’t so far from beyond your reach and understanding. In effect it’s actually quite simple- be yourself!

There is a lot of work that goes into being an actor but it takes very little to stand out. The best thing about seeing the same scene done over and over again all day long, is that every person who walks through the door has something unique to bring, something unique in themselves. The way you walk into a room, hold your body, speak, think, feel is one hundred percent unique to you. That’s what makes casting so exciting; seeing actors who are brave enough to let down their guard, turn off their inner critic and simply reveal themselves and connect with the piece.

Now I bet you’re thinking to yourself- if it’s that simple, why is it so hard? Often actors work themselves up before coming into an audition. They worry that they haven’t chosen the right outfit or that they’ll forget their lines, who else is auditioning for the job or how much their life will change if they book this gig and what they could do with the extra income. They may hear another audition going on while in the waiting room and instead of doing what they had originally prepared, they try and do something like what the last person just did and not risk making a fool of themselves. Wow- that sounds awfully stressful and not very creative at all!

When I was studying at The Lee Strasberg Institute in New York City, the three key principles to doing great work were: relaxation, concentration and inspiration. If you lacked relaxation or concentration the ever-elusive inspiration would never arrive. And to be honest, these principles also apply to being yourself.  If you are relaxed and confident in your own skin and professional and centered, you’ll do a great job. And finally if you don’t happen book the job this time, you’ll have made a positive impression and definitely be on the top of our list to call back in for the next casting.

Alan Cummings once said:

“ Remember who you are, because that is the most attractive thing about you. Try to allow as much of yourself as possible into what you do. That doesn’t mean you play the same part or person all the time; I mean allow your spirit to come through. I used to think acting was all about putting lots of layers on top of yourself; but the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve realized that the reason we’ve all become actors is because we have recognized that people are attracted to us by what we do on stage or on film. And it’s not about the lines you say or the costumes you wear. It’s about you- something inside of you- so never forget who you are.”

-       Alan Cummings: exert from “At Left Brain Turn Right” by Anthony Meindl

Do your homework but don’t tell us about it

Do your homework but don’t tell us about it

Have you ever wondered if your banter about the character and how you’re thinking the scene should be done is actually helping or inhibiting you when you walk into the audition room?
There are two parts to this situation, so let’s break it down.  Firstly, yes, one hundred percent do your homework, do your character research and adopt the character’s thought process during the scene. This is your job as an actor and we can always tell when an actor is under prepared or when an actor has thoroughly done his or her research.  So do your job BUT just don’t tell us about it!

So why are we telling you this? Quite often an actor can come into the room really excited about the role and start telling us how he thinks the role requires this emotion at this point and how the start of the scene should be quite dry etc. Then we’re like great, let’s put one down and when he does the scene, it’s nothing like what we were expecting to see, based on what he had already told us.  Now it just gets confusing because we start wondering about the actor’s ability, because he just told us his whole thought process but didn’t pull it off. Everyone in the room then starts thinking all these other thoughts about the actor that we would never have thought if he had just come in and done the scene.

So, why set yourself up for potential disappointment? Obviously, in this case it backfires on the actor but it’s not always the case and we do always encourage actors to ask questions if they’re unsure about something. With that being said, most actors who book jobs simply come in the room, own the part and walk out- it really is as simple as that. Therefore, to some things up nicely, do your homework but just don’t tell us about it!

10 ways to be your best in the casting room

10 ways to be your best in the casting room

There is no question that I have the best job in the world. As a casting director I

get to work with a variety of creative and talented people on a day to day basis.

It’s a fast paced job and it’s often really busy.

So much of my work in the studio is about getting people into the right frame of

mind, ready to do their best work, to trust themselves and let go. What’s more is

this all happens in a matter of minutes.

It’s my role to help you walk into the studio with a positive mind set and be able

to get right down to the fun stuff and do great work. I’ve put together this list of

tips that I believe will help you do your very best in the casting room.

First things first, you’ve been invited to audition because we think you have what

it takes. By the time you walk in the door, there’s been a whole process behind

the scenes and now you’re here because we believe in you. We want you to come

in and do an outstanding job and to collaborate with us and help us get the roles

cast.

80% of success in auditions is in showing up and now that you’ve come that far,

why not come in with an attitude for success!

My personal top 10 tips for actors:

1. Come in ready to work. It’s not time to “sell yourself”, you’re already here.

2. Enter the room with certainty. Know that you belong in the room.

3. We’re here on your side, so relax. Be in the moment, be present and

playful, open up and make the room your own.

4. Be prepared. Know the material and do your homework. It also helps to

know who the director is and the tone of their work or the tone of the

production.

5. Know the script. While it doesn’t have to be word perfect, it is important

that you understand what you’re talking about and the intention of the

scene so you can make the best choices.

6. Bring the script to life with your specific and personal choices, be bold

and unafraid to be individual.

7. Don’t ever apologise…for anything…ever.

8. Don’t overcomplicate things with activity, props or blocking. Keep it

simple and always towards camera.

9. It’s OK to ask relevant questions.

10. Love your work. If you’re enjoying your job as an actor, it helps us enjoy

our job as a casting director. Rapport goes a long way and lasts long into

the future.

Should actors know their brand?

Should actors know their brand?

Branding is not the same as typecasting. Knowing your brand as an actor is really just being aware of who you are and how you come across.

Any performer or artist needs to know who they are and what makes them unique. In an industry where we search for truth and versatility, the idea of branding ourselves can seem disingenuous or limiting. However, I see actors missing opportunities because they don’t have a grasp of their own strengths and weaknesses. Branding is a pretty useful concept.

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be your own person, you absolutely should, but your individuality will stand out more if you’re comfortable with who you are and know what you’re selling.

Following is an exercise to help you to figure out your type.

It will guide you in choosing photos or deciding on scenes for your show-reel. It will ultimately help your agent ‘sell’ you for roles.

  • Ask 15 people which 3 celebrities you remind them of. Ask them which roles the celebrities have played that would suit you. Ask 5 industry professionals, five friends and five strangers.. Don’t prompt or suggest names, get at least 3 answers from each.
  • Write down all 35 answers and figure out which names double up to finish with 3 celebrities to whom you are most similar.
  • Go to IMDB and look at the types of projects and roles the celebs played when they were your age. Are they the bad girl or good girl, hero or victim?
  • Research how do they market themselves?
  • Discover how did they start out., are their credits in film or TV. Drama or comedy?
  • Model their formula and mold your own marketing around your type.

You might find that people see you as the ‘funny friend’ or ‘angry geek’ or ‘neurotic mum.’ The next step is to embrace this identity. That doesn’t mean going into every audition ‘in character’ and doing your chat to camera as someone else. However, it is useful to allow that part of you to come through in the studio. Instead of censoring yourself and sticking to a CV recital, you share details that support that identity. As we all know, it’s the characters with flaws as well as strengths that are interesting.

It’s also important to understand that once you have your brand, you’re not locked into it for life. Practically speaking, how long can you be the ‘stoner guy’ or the ‘awkward teen’ or ‘innocent girl next door’, Your brand will evolve as you do, but you’ll always have a good grasp of the qualities you naturally bring to a role.

It’s important to me that you realize I am not writing this so it’s easier for us CDs to typecast you. Quite the opposite. It might be your job to determine your brand, but it’s our job, in collaboration with directors, to play with that brand. Part of the joy of seeing Bryan Cranston as Walt in Breaking bad, was seeing the darkside of the suburban dad we knew him as in Malcolm in the Middle.

The clean cut, fastidious guy that David C Hall played in Six Feet Under manifested itself very differently in his role as Dexter, but had the same fundamental qualities.

In the small industry we have in Australia, there’s a temptation to try and be everything to everyone. From my experience, a director doesn’t want to find someone clever or well-trained enough to play their character, they want the thrill of somehow discovering that person (or a version of them) out there.

It doesn’t pay to try and present as a blank canvas, it can often come across as being a bit beige. If you give us something to work with, there may be roles you’re not right for, on the flip side there may end up being more roles than are just perfect.

 

Are you Ace at Tetris? We don’t care.

Are you Ace at Tetris? We don’t care.

OK, great stuff, your agent calls to say you have a meeting with a new casting director in town – a “go see” or “general interview.” You head down to the casting office, feeling kind of buzzed at the idea of all of the new job opportunities that are about to open up. You rehearse a few points in your head – what you’ve been up to, the stuff you’re keen to do. Then your buzz is momentarily broken as you’re handed the “casting form”. You look over the predictable questions… hip (cm), waist, height… TVCs on air… Previous experience…  You fumble for your iphone… How are you going to remember everything?

I know what you’re thinking – that we just give you this form because we can’t be bothered looking up your Showcast profile. On any other day, we love to peruse people’s resumes – it’s part of our job. However, when we’re booking 50 people a day into studio sessions, we don’t have time to read exhaustive lists of student films and “background artist” work. The job form is a welcome up-to-date highlights package and your opportunity to help us sell you to a client.

So what do we look for? Generally speaking – an honesty about what stage you’re at in your career. Acting training (even a six week course ) tells us that you’re not afraid to put yourself out there and that you understand that acting is a craft that needs to be learned. In practical terms, it tells us that you’ll probably present well in an audition and understand how to workshop an idea. Some training indicates an ambition to do good work, not just find a shortcut to the Logies.

What about credits? Of course it’s OK to brag a bit here. But, we are not going to strike you off if you’ve never been on “Packed to the Rafters” or played the “Hero Mum”‘ in a cheese commercial. In fact, one of our favourite things as casting directors is to give our clients fresh faces they haven’t seen before and then, when you make it big, to say that we found you first.

So what should you put down? Here’s a clue: a lead role in an amateur production is probably more convincing that playing a “patron” three times in the Summer Bay diner.  A recent short film credit is more interesting than a “Cop 2″ cameo in Blue Heelers 1999.  We want to know that you’re acting as much as you can, not just waiting for a huge role to fall in your lap. Most importantly, we want to get a sense of what roles you usually play so we can be creative and cast to (or against) type.

Now, the dreaded “Special Skills” section. Warning: this is not the place to put down “Roll my tongue” or “Climb a ladder”. We don’t need to know if you’re “ace at Tetris” or “Making Nachos”. They are not skills we would ever have occasion to search our database for. Even if we were casting a role for a champion Tetris player and ladder enthusiast, we would not cast you just because you put this on your form, so don’t hedge your bets – we will always cast for performance skills first.

So what might we search for? Musical skills, definitely. Acrobats, foreign languages, even horse riding. These are all skills that can be difficult to cheat on camera and can be crucial to a role. Of course, if you haven’t done a cartwheel for ten years and want to put “acrobatics (advanced)”, do so at your own risk. The most important thing to remember here is that there’s nothing wrong with leaving it blank. We don’t expect you to have special skills – but if you do, and they’re relevant, we want to know about it.

In short, what’s the secret to job forms? Hopefully you’ll see that there is no secret, no mystery, no game to be played. We’re on your side so be honest and give us something to work with, but don’t burden us with hours of data entry. And remember: we’d much rather that you are relaxed, prepared and focused than that you can rock climb while making nachos.

- Hannah Moon, Casting Director