(This is the first of a series of pieces I intend to post, designed to help people preparing to audition for acting schools. The first few posts will be kind of broader musings, then I intend some more practical advice in later posts)
It’s a scary thought, but a couple of thousand people in Australia alone will audition for acting schools in the late months of this year. Goodness knows how many will do so around the world. My acting-teacher colleagues around the world will turn up to judge the auditions. We will make a few people very happy with our judgements, and a lot more disappointed.
What are we looking for?
Very broadly, I look at it like this:
A person has to tick three boxes:
- Has goods;
- Needs ours;
Do I see in this person the talent and temperament to one day maybe become an actor?
Do I think this course has the resources to help make that happen?
Is this the right time for them and us to come together?
Pretty obviously, if you don’t tick box 1, then boxes 2 and 3 are irrelevant.
So, what are ‘the goods’? I reckon they’re talent and temperament.
What is talent?
That’s a very tricky question, and I’ve enjoyed wrestling with it over many years. For me, talent is a natural ability to enter a fiction and be turned on by it, for it to liberate you and make you seem bigger. I think talent is a natural capacity to express fiction as if you really want to express it; as if by expressing it, you are expressing a part of yourself. I guess I’d have to say – using the language of my books – that I’m talking about a natural facility to Personalise. People with talent naturally involve their hands and their feet as they express the fiction, even if only for a moment. This shows that they have the ‘wiring’ of an actor. It only needs to be glimpsed. If you can do it for a couple of lines, it shows you can do it. I can help you learn to do it consistently. Talent is joy. Does it seem that your moments in the fiction bring you joy?
It’s true that there are a bunch of other things that we might think of as ‘gifts’: things like the natural shape of one’s facial features, the set of one’s face and the natural qualities of one’s voice. These things can be natural advantages if they align with certain archetypes, and it would be disingenuous to say that I don’t take such things into consideration, simply because the world beyond acting school certainly will. But these are minor issues. If you have the kind of talent I describe above, then none of the ‘good-looking’ stuff matters much. Talent is attractive. Talent is more attractive and sexier than all the surface things we might think of as attractive and sexy. It never ceases to amaze me how someone can walk into an audition, and their physical beauty can arrest my attention, and, yes, I may cross my fingers and hope that they have talent too. Then I find out that they don’t, and they don’t seem attractive to me anymore. Meanwhile, someone who has little or no ‘wow’ factor on the surface, has turned out to be greatly talented, with light shining out of them as they enter the fiction of the work, and by the end of the audition they are the most attractive person in the room.
I know that a lot of people sweat a lot about their physical imperfections. Many of us tend to dwell upon them to the point of thinking ourselves freakishly ugly. An audition situation (a dreadfully artificial construction) where you’re trying to make people think you’re terrific, is likely to bring these useless feelings to the fore, and can ruin the moment. Such thoughts are totally useless. Remember, you’re not there to look good. Looking good is as likely to undermine your chances as help them, anyway. If you have talent, it will shine (or even trickle) out of you, and that’s a thing that trumps surface beauty every time.