As always, the basic rules are so simple sounding. The problem for many actors is the lack of detail and observance of the basic rules.
1. Before studying your audition script, read and understand the directions. If the producer took the trouble to put their directions in writing, it behooves you as the talent to at least attempt to follow them.
2. Now read the script and understand its meaning. I’ve experienced situations first hand where an actor, after studying the script for a prolonged period of time, enters my recording booth and proceeds to tell me how they just can’t figure out what the writer means.
What immediately goes through this director’s mind are the questions of how and why were they even rehearsing something they didn’t understand?
3. Self-directing means telling yourself what to do. Imagine you have a list of directions which are right up your alley. I’m referring to directions, which are part of who you really happen to be as a human being. If your natural bent is city blue collar and the script calls for it, you have it made; supposedly. I say supposedly because you still require more input in order to properly deliver what the producer is asking for. You must ascertain the condition your character is in at the moment of truth; your truth.
I.e., if your blue-collar script allows that you have recently come into a great deal of money (like winning the lottery) and they ask you to portray a rather robust and gregarious person, you are armed with a reason for being in the condition they’re asking for in the given directions.
4. Proximity & Who Are You Talking To, And Why
Okay now Mr. Blue collar, robust, gregarious person; where are you in our scenario. This one is really important.
I.e., are you at a ballgame, and the crowd is pretty noisy?
What if you just put your son to bed, and all is serene? Or you’re in your backyard exchanging thoughts with a neighbor?
What I’m reminding you of are the five W’s and an H.
“Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How.”
Almost every script will reveal your answers, in order for you to prepare properly for self-direction.
Whatever the road happens to be, dirt or a paved super highway, it could be your determining factor. Some roads are bumpy, others as smooth as silk. Each will provide direction if you choose to recognize it.
It was just before the audition. The actor stood there on the other side of the glass, facing me. I remember the actor apologetically telling me how he just couldn’t get a handle on what in the name of hell they wanted him to do. He went on to tell me how confused he was, and how he felt like a confused dolt. “You’ve got it now,” I replied without hesitation. His look was priceless. His mouth opened in disbelief as he desperately pointed out his problem with the decision making process. I immediately said to him, “Hold on to that look, and what you’re feeling at this very instant. Just slate your name and do it.” He went through the script and then said, “That was marvelous.” “That was Stanislavski,” I allowed.
The contentious script called for a man of his general age range to be standing in a market in front of an endless line of products, and doing stream of consciousness showing concern over his inability to understand what his wife wanted him to purchase. He nailed it by bringing truth to the present moment at hand. Some might even refer to it as acting. Perceiving and telling your truth to another or to yourself; that’s what Stanislavski labeled it, and that’s what we wholeheartedly teach.