Back in December, Hollywood Reporter compiled a guide of all the pilots each network was producing. Nearly 100, not including Netflix, Amazon, HULU, etc. Pilot Season is the reason many actors visit Hollywood for the first quarter of the year hoping to kickstart their career. That rhymed. Twice. Nice.
For the past six weeks, I’ve been taking the Pilot Season Prep class at AdlerImprov Acting Studio with Rob Adler and Amie Farrell. The class simulates a pilot season audition. Sides and scripts are sent the day before. You sign up for your audition slot when you arrive to the studio. You audition. You may or may not get a redirect, especially in the first couple classes. And then you head back out to the hallway. After everyone auditions, you head into the studio to watch each person’s audition. If you’re unaccustomed to watching yourself on screen, it can be a bit unnerving, but the camera doesn’t lie. What you see is what the casting director sees. It’s extremely useful.
Aside from tips and tricks Rob and Amie shared, this pilot season class taught me a lot about my audition process, including what works and what doesn’t. Things I learned:
- Small things make a big difference – a tilt of the head, a look away and back, body position, etc. all communicate something and can set you apart on the screen.
- What’s your role, both as a character and in telling the story?
- Who’s producing it, what have they produced in the past and what assumptions can you make as a result?
- Lesly’s Comedy Intensive paid off in spades with comedy scripts. By knowing the map of the scene, including builds and reversals, heightened emotions in multicam vs. single cam, and pace, etc., those auditions sang.
- The WHERE game Rob Adler teaches (among many other tools) makes staying present in the audition room much, much easier.
A couple weeks ago, Larry Bates came to the AdlerImprov Acting Studio to share some insight regarding his process. You may not know who he is, but my guess is that’s going to change because he has some very exciting projects in the works. One of the things he discussed was making choices in his auditions. He said he rarely reads the character breakdown first because he doesn’t want it to inform his initial choices. He goes through the script and figures out the story that needs to be told. Then he starts making his choices – the choices that tickle him or engage him. He shapes the space, figuring out what’s in the room so he’s comfortable when he walks into the audition. And then he might go back and review the breakdown. That’s particularly important insight because I think there’s a prevailing mindset among actors to give the producers and directors what you think they want vs. the best of you and your interpretation of the character.
That small piece of advice changed my approach. It reminded me of something Bryan Cranston said at the Oscars a couple years ago. He said your job as an actor is to create a compelling, interesting character that serves the text, present it in the audition environment and walk away. The rest is out of your hands.
Wise words. One of the tenants of Rob Adler’s teaching is you’re the artist. You get to decide which tools and colors you paint with on the canvas. Now I’m figuring out what tickles me and causes me to light up. I’m choosing MY colors and painting MY pictures. I’m making stronger, more playful choices for me. And the results are pretty damn awesome.
We had a guest casting director for the final class (Veronica Mars, Smallville, Switched at Birth) and she said my audition was callback worthy and could see me cast me in the role, depending on the look the directors and producers were looking for. She also discussed what goes on behind the scenes, what actors can and can’t control and, most importantly, how casting is rooting for us in the room. In other words, focus on process, not product. More wise words.
Aside from offering pilot season tips and tricks, Rob and Amie are very supportive and warm teachers. Highly recommend the class.