Don’t let nerves destroy your audition. Choose CONFIDENCE!

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Every actor, at some point in their acting career, has felt the dreaded and sometimes inhabilitating feeling of nerves.  Whether it’s at a workshop,  an audition or during a performance, nerves can simply be a right pain in the ass.

Overcoming-fear1

WHY DO WE GET NERVOUS?

It all starts with our brain.  When we perceive a threatening situation the brain sends a signal to the kidneys, where the adrenal glands release adrenaline in to the body, preparing you for FIGHT or FLIGHT.  The blood is redirected to important organs (i.e. the heart) and away from the digestive system, usually resulting in butterflies, lack of appetite or nausea.

Getting an attack of nerves before the big moment can be disastrous.  Symptoms can be:

Dry mouth: sometimes to the point where your lips are sticking to your teeth and your tongue is white. This has happened to me on many occasion.  In my struggle to speak I find myself over articulating in a way that makes me look like I have ingested a huge amount of an illegal substance just a few moments earlier.

Shakes: nothing gives an actors nerves away more than the shakes.  Whether it’s the wobbly legs of Henry V crying “Once more unto the breach..” and struggling to hold firm, or (and this is my pet hate) the shaking prompt sheet in an audition.  If nothing else it takes the actors mind and focus off performing and makes them focus simply on trying to stop shaking.

Mind blank: you have spent days learning and preparing a speech, your moment arrives, you step up to perform… and nerves wraps a blanket around your brain.  You suddenly can barely remember your own name let alone the lines your meant to perform.  I remember being in an audition and managing to remember all my lines but at the end when the casting lady said “What was the last piece of theatre you saw?”.  I simply looked at her, wide eyed, glanced up to the ceiling; in the hope that I would recover a memory from the cracks in the ceiling tiles and finally had to admit “I can’t remember”.  I was rather embarrassed and Miss Casting seemed less than impressed.  The annoying thing was I had been to see a great many shows that months but my dysfunctional memory made me come across as a complete ignoramus.

Dicky tummy:  The words may not be coming out of your mouth but you can count on extraordinarily loud sounds coming from your stomach.  I struggle to eat anything before an audition or performance.  My stomach seemingly decides it’s going to host a circus event, complete with tumbling trapeze and lion roars.  And the loudest tummy grumbles are always perfectly timed to arrive during the dramatic moments of pure silence.

HOW DO WE TACKLE NERVES?

We know that nervousness begins in the brain.  This is good news because what we think is the one thing we have great control over.  Nerves begin because we either view a situation as threatening or we imagine failure where we really want to succeed.  Professional athletes are taught to do one of two things.  One: quiet their minds of all negative thoughts and simply tell themselves they are performing in a friendly competition and to treat it like training.  Two: Imagine themselves at top of their game, confident in the knowledge that they have already won.  Positive thinking is very powerful and often underestimated.  As an actor you must first make sure that you are prepared and then simply choose confidence.  Imagine that big audition as a workshop, or as the first rehearsal of a job that is already yours.  If the nerves begin to creep take a deep breathe and try clear your mind of negative thoughts.  Trust in your preparation.  Sometimes simply pretending to be confident leads in to real confidence because you immerse yourself into a positive mindset.  I once heard the following analogy and loved it.

“Nerves are like a run-away bus, with no brakes, travelling down a steep hill.  Gradually picking up speed.  You can either, cower at the back of the bus until it hits the bottom, crashes and burns or you can jump into the driving seat and steer that bus to a safe place.” 

Fear is a choice!  How you deal with fear is also a choice!  These choices are yours.  Make the best choice for your career.

G x

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To workshop or not to workshop?

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In the last few years casting workshops have become increasingly popular; with a multitude of companies springing up to offer this advantageous service to those actors who can afford it.

Many years ago casting directors would hold general meets with actors in order to get to know them and you didn’t have to pay for the privilege.  However, now that the industry is heavily saturated with eager actors (desperate for their big break), it seems the only way to be seen is to either get an audition or to pay for the honour.

So the average workshop in London will set you back between £30 – £45.  In most cases it will last between 2 – 3 hours and allow you to hear about the casting directors background and methodology, perform a scene or monologue (usually receiving feedback) and ask a few questions at the end.

Your experience will depend on two things.  Firstly the casting directors attitude and reason for running the workshop and secondly your attitude towards the workshop.

The Casting Director:  In the last two years I have attended around fifty of these sessions, mostly through the Actors Guild.  My experience on the whole has been extremely positive.  Although, it seems to me that a handful of casting directors are there purely for the money, they seem disinterested in getting to know the actors, happy to simply rant about their pet hates and other industry professionals and rather than giving constructive feedback on the actors performances, simply say “yes, lovely, thank you.  Next!”.   That being said, a majority of them are delightful and really help to put everyone at ease with their friendly manner and constructive criticism.

The Actor:  It still, even now, surprises me to see actors treat these opportunities with a complete lack of care.  Things that I have seen include: Lateness (never a good excuse), simply not attending and not informing anyone (looks bad, as your name is on the list and the CD having looked at your spotlight page is expecting you), arriving dressed inappropriately (too casual or too provocatively – remember you are the product, your image gives off a statement – make sure you say the right thing), phones going off mid session…I really can’t believe that this still happens and people simply not preparing what they have been asked to prepare.  Of course not all actors are this badly behaved.  I just think if you are going to spend your money on a rare opportunity to meet a casting director then why wouldn’t you make the absolutely most of it?

I believe that these workshops are worth it, if you approach them correctly.  Think of yourself as the product and the CD as the customer.  You have the opportunity to present your product to the customer.  First things first, make the product LOOK good (dress well), SOUND good (be positive, friendly and knowledgable about the industry), BE good (having prepared, give the customer what you have promised, a good performance.  If the customer has feedback then listen and act on that advice).  At the end of the session thank your customer for their time and ask if you can STAY IN TOUCH.  Now this is the biggest and most important part:  Once you have a lead / contact do not let it go cold.  Be sure to stay in touch, obviously don’t hassle them, just simply remind them of your existent every few months.  This way, if you are right for a role you are more likely to be in their minds when the opportunities arise.

Everyone has their own way of doing things but this is what I do and it serves me well.

Gill 🙂