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How to Get the Part
Even a Mouse has Confidence
Confidence is everything in acting. Not arrogance or big ego, just confidence. Confidence will allow you to relax, to believe in yourself, to forget yourself, and to thus act naturally.
What if I'm a timid person?
It's OK to be a timid or shy person, an introvert in real life and still be an actor or actress. Obviously you'll have to have confidence in yourself as an actor because what matters is that when you're on stage or the director of the film says "Action!" ~ you can deliver. You don't have to be outgoing to have confidence in yourself as an actor. What matters is a fearlessness to dig deep and bring your all to the character and the process. Acting is like playing make believe, pretending you're in another world and that you're another person. The more insight you can find about your character, the more you can bring to the role. Children, even extremely shy children, act all the time when they play. It's called playing pretend.
So you don't need to be outgoing to be good at acting. But it does help because there is a strong social component related to acting. So develop confidence in yourself as an actor, because to get parts, you're going to have to audition. You can't let rejections crush you. You must still maintain belief in yourself and your abilities so you'll go out and try again. Most people who want to act want to do so because it's fun and incredibly rewarding! It's one of the most satisfying jobs around actually.
How do I build confidence in myself as an actor/actress?
True confidence comes from faith in yourself and from time and experience. Young actors are often confident because they don't know rejection. Older actors who have been acting for a long time are confident in themselves because they do know rejection ~ they know they can get beyond it.
The greatest thing you can do to build confidence in yourself as an actor is to always be well prepared ~ let's say over prepared ~ for your auditions and performances.
It All Begins Here
Good Preparation Alone Builds Confidence
Let's say there are two brand-shiny-new actors who have never gone out on an audition before. One of them is Preparation Phil. The other is Lazy Larry.
Preparation Phil does his homework on the role. He learns all he can about the play ~ he's read it not just once but multiple times. He knows what character he wants to play. He knows the character. He has his monologue audition piece down so solid he can do it in his sleep. He's in an acting class and requests personal coaching from the teacher to critique his monologue audition piece. He takes the critique to heart and improves his performance audition.
Then there's our Lazy Larry, who thinks it would be fun to be in a play. He reads over his audition piece but doesn't put in the work to get it down solid. He doesn't worry though because he feels sure that once they see him ~ they'll love him! He doesn't read the whole play because he's too busy getting beers and partying.
When audition time comes Phil feels confident. He doesn't lose his place, he doesn't make things up, he just delivers. The casting director asks him to make an adjustment in his delivery. He takes this in stride, knowing that the director probably just wants to know if he can take direction ~ so he incorporates the direction into his second delivery by making different choices.
Lazy Larry performs his audition. He's a bit riled up because he doesn't really feel as confident inside when he realizes this is it ~ and he doesn't have his lines down! He stumbles a bit and tries to improvise his way out of some gaps in the lines. The director says "Thank you." The strong high of over-confidence propels Larry out of the room with a big smile on his face.
But who do you think the director will be more interested in?
Understanding Director Power
A Numbers Game
Getting cast is a numbers game. Just as with any job, there are always more applicants than there are positions available. Things that help anyone get any part (job or acting role):
- Do you come across as someone the director would want to be around? Are you creepy or cool? Fun and pleasant or aloof? It's the like-ability factor.
- Does your reputation precede you? If you want to land roles and you haven't "made it" yet, it's probably best to not develop a reputation as a prima donna.
- Are you friends with any directors or casting people? Honestly their friend and not just grubbing after a part? I've been able to get parts in projects just because I happen to be friends with the director. It's a perk.
- Can you deliver? The best one generally does land the role. We've all seen movies with a character in it that's magnetizing. You can never replace the actor that portrayed the part ~ you think of that character and all you see in your head is that one actor that portrayed the role. So go out and take acting classes, become part of a theatre group ~ good actors are all about improving themselves and their acting abilities.
- Are you always "ready"? Working actors are busy going on auditions. When they're not working they're preparing for their next role. They keep themselves fit. They learn new accents. They pick up new skills that can help them get interesting roles, like being able to horseback ride, or knowing stage fighting techniques. Acting is a fun life.
- Is your "regular" life in order? Are you reachable, with a working cell phone? Do you have some stable system to make rent and your bills so you're not always worrying about money? Are you free of addictions? Maintaining healthy, stable relationships and not getting caught up in personal drama that takes away your drive and stamina?
- Maintain your acting business relationships. With acting, work begets more work. My first play led to three others, two of them with the same director. I've worked with many directors again and again on their next projects.
- Keep your materials up to date. Keep up a current website, make sure you have current headshots, keep your resume up to date with new parts and new skills. Don't lie on your resume, even if you have little experience. Everyone starts somewhere.
How did Madonna get the role of Evita, which was offered to Meryl Streep, and wanted by the likes of Liza Minelli, not to mention all the other fine actress and singers (Cher, Barbra Streisand, Glenn Close, Olivia Newton-John, and Michelle Pfeiffer) who were rumored to have been involved during the casting decision? Liza Minelli was even researching background and locations in Argentina (at least, according to Wikipedia she was). But she didn't get the role.
Let's see what Madonna did in her own words:
I remember sitting down during Christmas of ’94 and writing an impassioned letter to the director, Alan Parker, listing the reasons why I was the only one who could portray her, explaining that only I could understand her passion and her pain. I can honestly say that I did not write this letter of my own free will. It was as if some other force drove my hand across the page. Soon afterward I heard from Alan and following several nerve-racking meetings the part was mine.1
Madonna knew that role was hers long before she was cast. She campaigned for the part. She went directly to the director. She pulled out of herself all the passion she felt for that role, her own life experiences ~ she was doing the work for the part harder than anyone else out there, and she wasn't even cast. How's that for confidence? And I thought she did brilliantly. That woman delivered. When I think of Evita, I think of Madonna in that role. Madonna had the goods and she new it. She was even pregnant during her filming and that did not take away from her performance one bit!
You have to be audacious like that, and sometimes you have to be willing to go right to the head, to the director who will have final say.
The Importance of Humility
Confidence includes being humble.
If you don't have a lot of experience, you should be happy with any small part, as any great actor always is. Humble actors help their fellow actors. They can scene steal without pulling shady tricks on their fellow thespians. A confident actor is just as happy with a small part as a big one.
Do you know how many juicy small parts are out there? Small does not mean bad. You must bring your all to any role you're lucky enough to get cast in. Make it spectacular. Make it stand out. You can luck out if you're trying harder than anyone else to be a good actor, because sometimes actors who are used to being the lead just phone it in. They get lazy with life and their big role goes to their head ~ they just stop working for it.
I've seen entire plays come alive when one actor, with a small part, comes on stage and just delivers, above and beyond what anyone else has brought to the stage. I don't mean they over-do it. I just mean that suddenly you're awake and excited, just watching the moment-to-moment life this one actor brings on stage.
You can't fake charisma. Charisma comes from fun, from spontaneity, from play ~ from confidence. Bottom line, if you rock in a small part, believe me, you'll be considered for larger roles when the time comes.
- Show them you're right for the part. Without showing them you're insanely, overly clingingly creepy. This means dress to suggest the part when you audition. But do not scare away casting directors by stalking them in their personal life.
- Keep casting abreast of your latest acting accomplishments. Invite them to your plays by sending them a postcard flier that you personalize on the back. Send postcard-headshot updates when you've landed a new role or received a call back for a big part.
- Be busy enough going after auditions that rejections lose their sting. Be busy enough that you're landing roles so that rejections do not sting.
- Do not neglect your personal life and relationships. A well-rounded person makes for a good actor.
- Successful actors often build their own exposure through any avenue available ~ self promotion, social media avenues, taking on and creating new projects so they are always involved with and seen acting. A known actor is attractive to those who cast.
The Immortal Captain Jack Sparrow
Putting It All Together ~ Look to the Masters
When preparing for an audition for a specific role, prepare as if you already have the part. Study and immerse yourself in the character and make choices. When you study other people's behavior, you can imitate it and mimic it, incorporate it into your own so it flows and you become another person.
So if you know the character would act like *this* certain person or type of person, do your background research so you'll have an arsenal of behavior choices that will be fluid inside of you, ready to pop out for your audition. Do this right and it's amazing to see.
You know Jack Sparrow? That's Johnny Depp doing Rolling Stone guitarist Keith Richards, with a little Pepe Le Pew.
Here's his preparation in his own words:
On Keith Richards:
I start getting like waves of images or ideas and I start making notes immediately. It starts like right away for me, when reading the script. It really has to do with, 'This is interesting, this I think I can add something to. This is something that's a challenge.' It was a great challenge, and it was a ball. I started trying to figure out pirates of the 18th century, and sort of what it was all about. Initially you think money, and all that. I think it also had much more to do with freedom. To be out there, moving forward. So I sort of thought that pirates would be the rock and roll stars of the 18th century, you know? Then, when you think of rock and roll stars, the greatest rock and roll star of all time, the coolest rock and roll star of all time, in my opinion, is Keith Richards. Hands down.
On Pepe Le Pew:
What I loved about Pepe Le Pew was this guy who was absolutely convinced that he's a great ladies man. And he's a skunk. Watching those cartoons, this guy falls in love, deeply falling in love with this cat. The cat clearly despises him, but Pepe Le Pew takes it as sort of a, 'She's just playing hard to get. She's shy. Poor thing.' I always loved a character like that, just blinders no matter what the actual reality is happening around him. This guy sees only what he wants to see. Pepe Le Pew was the kind of character who always was able to run between the rain drops. He'd just always make it through.2
Do you see how much love Johnny Depp brings to his acting? Love of characters, love of life? He digs deep, uses his imagination, and plays with ideas.
Johnny Depp brought that kind of thorough research, thought, and insight to one of the most intriguing characters to come on screen in a long time. When Jack Sparrow hit the big screen, it was like a breath of fresh air. Yes, his character had good lines and did cool stuff. But what Johnny Depp brought to the character in terms of bringing Sparrow alive is what made Jack Sparrow a household name, and what makes Johnny Depp worth millions.
Consider Yourself a Great
Yes, I said it. No matter your humble origins, you must think of yourself as a professional and act that way. Professionals stay fit. They learn new accents. They keep abreast of the opportunities around them and go out after opportunities and auditions on their own. They don't depend on an agent to spoon feed them an acting life. Professional actors create their own acting life, whether that means going after any audition they can find that they're right for and excelling at preparation, or putting on their own show, writing their own piece to shine in. Professional actors are not lazy and it shows.
Think of yourself as a professional the way the professionals think about themselves ~ most of our great actors are known for their humility. I'm not saying "think of yourself as a great" just because you want to act. You also have to doubt enough to get second opinions from a good acting coach about what your choices are doing for your portrayal of the character. By "think of yourself as great" I mean you must harbor the almost secret gall that with practice, work, and commitment, you can be as great at acting as your favorite thespian.
Don't be blind to reality. That's why getting other opinions matters. If you consider yourself a great you're not going to be phoning it in and you're not going to be pulling faces or mugging. Do the work. Get yourself immersed in the life of the character and into your own memories that connect you in a real way to that character.
If you want to act you must dig deep into your motives and find delight in the freedom acting gives you to explore the human condition ~ to be who you cannot be in a regular life, to touch other people, to make a difference to the lives of others by taking part in the portrayal of the world's great stories.
Every "nobody" actor has this power. I'm not saying let it go to your head. I'm just saying have the confidence to pursue your choice of career with as much work, love, and ambition as every other successful actor has done.
That way, when you get the part, you'll deserve it.