I’ve been privileged to work and be taught by some of our industry’s most recognized dynamos. I consider myself a gleaner. If a guy or gal had even a modicum of success, the Kalmenson sponge (that’s me) was there to look and listen. Many of da harv’s tricks are nothing more than observances of some noteworthy professionals that I managed to be privy to.
That being the case, let’s try this one on for size. Relax—this may just hurt a little. You get your chance to get off the bench and get into the game. But because you didn’t believe in yourself or you were told you’d never get in the game—or you were just too damn lazy to get off that butt of yours and experience the pain of getting and staying ready—you marched up there not ready to sweat.
Not to worry though. You’re part of a great big club of humans just like yourself. Your behavior? You’re average and because you’re average you’ll never have to concern yourself with being recognized as a winner. That’s not to say coaches in management won’t be aware of your averageness. They know that you may be counted on to be a comfortable person. You’re satisfied with your lot in life. You’re on a level plain.
Why try harder? If you try harder you might perspire and that could cause an uncomfortable situation for what may or may not come next in your life. What comes next in your life is the only situation that places the average person on the same level as the above-average person or competitor. The reason is simple. None of us ever know what’s coming next in life.
The cards are constantly being shuffled and dealt out to us. Some of us manage to stay in the game. Others simply fold. They throw in their hand and look for another game. The average person feels that they have been dealt a series of lousy hands. The cards are always running against them. They never stop to think that maybe they happen to be lousy players. Luck just seems to be always going against them.
The fact is and always has been the same. Average people never win anything when the outcome is based on skill. Skills are always developed if they are nurtured. Nurture means practice and a player who practices finds themselves ready when they are called to get off the bench and get in the game.
In voiceover, your game is known as the audition. When you’re called upon to audition you’d better be ready. You can’t be average and expect to have even the slightest chance of becoming a winner in our world of voiceover. You must be able to read. I mean read without dropping words. Can you imagine an actor who comes into an audition for me and spends most of his time explaining the problems that this script represents? Sound familiar?
This actor wants me to deal them a new hand. The poor bastard can’t read! They’re a lousy player! But they think, once again, they’ve been dealt a hand to play that’s bad. Guess what? I’m going to make their life a lot more comfortable. I’m never going to call them off the bench again. Not only that, I’m not going to provide that player with a bench to sit on. When that player’s agent offers us their name for another of our casting calls it will be explained to them in no uncertain terms that their player should not be recommended to us again. The reason is simple: your actor better learn how to read if you expect to play in our game.
Well, at this point if you think I’m a cruel guy, you, too, should find a different game to play in. Listen no further, it’s going to become more uncomfortable for you but while a higher degree of discomfort sets in to take pleasure in the fact that now you’re joining a more select club. You’re part of my favorite group of people: those who fall into the select crowd that has the above-average label.
These are the actors that we rely on to make us look good as casting directors. We call them into audition knowing that we will always get an above-average performance from them regardless of what the script portends to be. These are the big city pros. They come to play every day. They practice their craft each and every day. They’re constantly seeking a new and magical approach that will give them that necessary winning edge. I’ve even heard some of them use the term “winning edge” in conversation.
In truth, what has happened for them is that remarkable acting phenomenon called the “breakthrough”. That moment when true actors find themselves able to convey totally honest emotions. They no longer worry about words. They no longer concentrate on what they might happen to sound like. In our world, they no longer concern themselves with selling the product. They seek out a variety of stimuli that might enable them to convey as the vendor of truth a reason for their listener to become influenced by their message. So the question remains the same: How did they get or become that way?
What I want to strenuously emphasize is a couple of simple points that might help you with your goals and aspirations. That is, provided you make them a part of your life’s work. To begin with: don’t change—modify. You’re already perfect, so why try to change— besides, you shouldn’t screw with Mother Nature. Also, consider yourself as chosen. Let’s try on a sample session experience.
You auditioned and you won. They picked you because you have the perfect attitude, temperament, approach, and perhaps even hat size. To make things even better when you show up at the session you discover that the producer even dresses the same way you do. It appears that this will be the perfect gig. But after you do the first take exactly the way you did it at the audition, the producer says, “I’d like you to be a touch more forceful on the next take.”
This is the end of the sample session. Stop now. Go no further.
Here’s what you absolutely must remember as a must for every audition, session, and even when you’re alone at work practicing your craft. The producer did not ask you to change who you really are. He asked you to modify your approach. We’re talking about behavior modification, not changing who you are as a person. You know and understand your “signature”. You’ve got it down cold. That’s not to say that as time goes by an actor’s signature won’t vary. Life has a way of doing that to all of us. What we’re saying is that an actor should make his performance corrections by a modification process within the structure of his individual truth.
When you work out at home. Make it a point to modify the direction you’re attempting. In other words, don’t read the same script the same way thirty times in a row, exactly, exactly, exactly. Modify the script as a whole and modify your transitions. An attitude change on a single word or phrase can often make the difference that the producer is looking for. Make your goals with regard to working out a procedure that requires you to modify scripts as you rehearse them. Try on for size the “getting ready” process. Know that you will be the one they will call to come out and save the day. Never be satisfied with what you have accomplished as an actor. It’s always yesterday’s news. If you treat your acting goals as a passion and not as your work, the modification that is necessary for your success will be within reach.
As bona fide educators, we must allow for a simple fact of life:
The men and women who place their dreams with us deserve hearing our truth as well!
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