Training to Audition vs. Training To Act

I love this short article written by Joanne Baron and D.W. Brown, the artistic director and teacher (respectively) of the Joanne Baron/D.W. Brown Studio. They offer an important piece of advice. Read on.

New actors can feel a tremendous urgency to book jobs because of their need for money, desire for validation, and the fear that each passing day makes them less cast-able. The result is they end up recklessly putting the cart before the horse and concentrate on making the sale before they have something to sell, pursuing the business of acting by getting headshots, submitting to agents and managers, and taking audition technique classes before they have acquired any kind of foundation for their craft. I’ve boiled down the basics for success in show business (the part you can control) to four words: Be seen, be good. You must not fixate on the being seen before you are sure you are going to be good.

Most acting schools offer audition classes and on-camera classes, and, while these are terrific skill to acquire, it’s laughable to think it can substitute for the skill of acting itself. For an on-camera class to be of real value the student must have a certain degree of capability and the seduction of it feeling like a professional experience ought not to replace the chances for someone to actually have one.

There’s an old expression that casting directors have memories like elephants and, for all your audition technique savvy, if they get a whiff that you don’t really know what you are doing, you risk embarrassing them down the line with producers and directors and they don’t take kindly to that. Earnest Hemingway in speaking about writing said, “The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.” Even when doing a simple scene without tremendous emotional or interpretive challenges, a skilled actor will exude dynamic potential. 

Even if you’re young and jaw-droppingly beautiful and get a job with minimum skills, do you really want the anxiety of knowing there is a ticking clock until the moment you get called out on your cluelessness?

On the other hand, of course, an actor should not use study as an excuse to avoid the scary challenge of going out into the big bad world and getting themselves judged. You’ve got to be seen. Acting is about performance and, to really do it, you have to risk going all in and attempting to make it come off at a professional level, even if you’re doing it in free theater. Just don’t let desperation cut you and your talent off from your greater potential as an actor, because that’s the only way to have career longevity, continued fun, and self-worth.