Bad Dialogue Partner

You enter the audition booth only to find that your dialogue partner is a dud; a guy or gal who can’t read, can’t act, had garlic for dinner the night before, and is in favor of paying more income tax.

At first you might want to say, “Oy vey, why me God?” Then you realize that God had nothing to do with it. Being the wonderful person and actor that you are, you also recognize that if God was involved, you might have been blessed with an actor who could match your great skills.

The fact is you showed up for the audition expecting to be paired with the very best. If what transpired came as a surprise to you, then my voice-acting friends, you allowed for the surprise to occur. It’s kind of like the mail order bride. You don’t know what you’re getting until you’re in the process of getting it. If you get to your audition early enough, chances are the casting director will be glad to tell you who your dialogue partner is scheduled to be. Rule of thumb around town has it working out this way: You will most likely be paired with the next actor to show up. If you have not worked with the actor who you are paired with… make it a point to attempt the use of the following procedure:

  • Introduce yourself to the actor you’ve been assigned to read with. I’m always amazed when two actors are willing to begin reading a script together and neither of them found it important enough to know the name of the actor they were about to collaborate with.
  • Try to keep the powers that be from rushing you into the booth to begin your audition.
  • Try to rehearse with your partner. In most cases, the two of you will have enough time to step away from the audition area in order to study the script.
  • Pick up on your partner’s speech patterns. If you’re introduced to a hyper-type fast talker, chances are they will be that way during the audition.
  • On the other hand, if you find that your partner is a slow and deliberate type, they will more than likely also be prone to leaving big spaces between speeches. That translates into slow cues and way too much air space, especially on radio spots.
  • After reading through the script with your partner, you will quickly be able to ascertain that you’re the one who must take charge. It is at this point where your ability to practice good social graces must be put to use.
  • Under no circumstances should you ever show discomfort or impatience with your poor reading partner.
  • Be inventive.
  • Uncover places where your improvisational skills can be put to use.
  • Always let your partner know what you’re up to.
  • Usually, the poor reader will also be inept at understanding or performing improvisation.

The single most important point I can make as a director is to drive home the importance of not compounding what is obvious to the person who is conducting the audition. Don’t sacrifice your acting ability. Every director since the beginning of time has had in common the desire to cast and direct actors who always made it a point to listen and react to the actor or actors they were playing a scene with.

  • Don’t be the actor who is guilty of merely listening for a queue!
  • Don’t be or become the actor who isn’t listening!
  • You can’t react to any incident if you can’t hear the incident.
  • If the actor you are playing the scene with is slow with their delivery, you must find a way to fill the spaces that our inept actor leaves for you.
  • Ask the audition director for permission to improvise or add or change words.
  • Try not to show discomfort with your partner.
  • Don’t look through the glass while rolling your eyes in an attempt to gain sympathy from your director.
  • When the audition has been completed, do not ask if you can read again with another partner. Shake hands with your lunkhead collaborator and say good-bye, and leave the booth. The person conducting the audition is well aware that you’ve been a great sport about the debacle that the two of you just shared. Can you imagine how frustrating the situation was for your director? The two of you now have more in common than you did before the audition began. Your pro behavior has probably done more for your career than winning that commercial could have ever accomplished. If you can spare the time, you might hang out for a few minutes following your problem audition.

In our studio, on many occasions we have asked an actor if they could help us out by staying and reading again with another partner. What we would usually say to you is that we think we’re going to be short an actor. Can you hang out for a while? We make it a point to practice what we preach. We will never criticize an actor’s performance with another actor. We will, however, religiously make it a point to go along with our casting directors critique with any and all performers. All of our audition directors are required to review the performance of each and every actor that they audition. It is all part of our rating system. It isn’t unusual for one of our directors to mention what a truly gracious effort one of you might have displayed during what could have been a very trying experience.

And again we present you with another wonderful word. Experience. Have you noticed how I always find a way to get back to it? Experience. That audition that could have been even more nerve-racking turned into another of your growing, living color reflections. It’s yours, and only yours. You were the other actor in that booth. You’re the one who can now share that truth with the world. Don’t ever let it turn into a bad audition because you happened to be teamed with the clueless.

… And there is the case of just plain rotten chemistry between you and your assigned partner.

(Now this could suck.)

… You enter the audition booth only to find your dialogue partner is a winner; you think. The guy or gal is a great reader, they’re known for great acting skills, and they never would consider eating anything with garlic in it the night before an audition; and from time to time are heard complaining about the excessive income taxes they are being forced to pay.

You think, ‘I really have it made this time,’ especially after your soon-to-read-with-partner greets you with a warm handshake.

You’re in the booth. You and your partner are ready, willing, and able to knock the socks off your director. You have rehearsed together and agree how perfectly suited the two of you are for this script. As a matter of fact, you think it would be a good idea if the auditions ended with you and your partner. After all, why waste time auditioning anyone else for this puppy?

But wait, what’s happening here?

It’s “Oy vey, why me God?” time again.

But this shouldn’t be the case. Your partner is a well-known seasoned veteran performer.

(Once again, God had nothing to do with it.)

By the way, not to worry, you’re still a wonderful person, but by the same token, equally as confused as you were when God presented you with a dud in our first scenario.

So what happened? (Nothing good.)

The answer may be summed up with two words: No chemistry!

Re-cap; I’ve seen it many times. We cast the best actor and actress in town to read opposite one another on a commercial script and all agree they would be letter perfect. It was just made for the two of them.

So, here’s what has transpired: The best casting team in the world cast the two best actors in the world to come in and be directed by the best director in the world; all subjective assessments, I might add.

If what I have described ever happens to you, just chalk it up to experience. I’ve had some of the best men and women in our business go through similar situations. Theatrically speaking, it serves as an explanation of why it often takes so long to cast a legit play. Good Chemistry is magical. Poor chemistry between well-traveled players is oftentimes hilariously funny. We’ve had some marvelous laughing jags take place at our studios.

Note: I have made it a practice never to save out takes. Out of context, almost anything we might say could turn out to be hurtful.

I will, however, share this one with you:

The two men in the booth were extremely well known; one was an Oscar winner, and the other a household name. After the first take, one of them asked me if he could say something. I, of course, agreed. He looked up and without hesitation flipped me the finger. The other actor responded with,” We sure have turned this one to shit, haven’t we.”

The three of us began to giggle, turning to uproarious laughter, bringing tears to our eyes.

The bottom line was, they knew and I knew the chemistry just wasn’t there. Everything was right, except for the performance, which smelled bad.

We three have remained friends, as well as working colleagues.

They were early
Not the least bit surly

He was a total gentleman
She was pure and girlie

Both as famous in voice over
As two could ever be

I was their director
Equally well known in town

There’s was a match
To be described as heavenly

Only success drawn from their sound
Until the reading began

But what they did was putrid

And chemically speaking

All within hearing
Began freaking

As if no actors could be found! Hk

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