Saturday, September 25, 2010

First Audition

This week I had my first audition as an actor in New York City. It wasn't a big audition, just an unpaid student film project at NYU. They compensate you for your time with a DVD copy of your performance (useful for making a demo reel-- something you submit to professional film/TV jobs that want to see how you act on camera).

I don't have any real acting experience on camera. Aside from sword fighting with cucumbers as an extra on a Japanese movie in Pioneer Square and filming myself for an online reality show/documentary about studying abroad in India. Or the time some friends from high school got a shot of me and another guy in suits, standing still and staring at a wall two inches from our faces for about five seconds. Long story. My point is, if I want to act in movies or on TV (an open question), I'm going to need more on-camera credits. To get them, I needed to find auditions.

There are a lot of websites online that claim to help New York actors find auditions, so long as you pay them. Last Monday, I sent a few addresses off to established actors I know in town, to see which ones were legit and actually got them work.

In the meantime, I went to Craigslist.

Most of the "gigs" listed in Craigslist were things like "hiring women for foot fetish parties" or "Female Model Needed for Topless Beach Photo shoot $$$." But, after some searching, I found two that stood out. One was the student film, looking for two male actors who could play business executives aged 20-40. The other was a play staged by "The Unknown Artists" looking for a 20-something male, amusing, slightly geeky sidekick character. I sent off resumes and headshots to both, and had enthusiastic responses from both. The Unknown Artists gave me an early evening audition slot on Oct 5th, asking me to prepare a comic and a dramatic contemporary monologue, each less than two minutes. The NYU students asked me to come in the next day, Tuesday.

So, there I was, in a greenroom on NYU campus, trying to figure out my strategy for converting everything I know about stage craft to camera acting. I'd done a quick search online for tips and mostly found people screaming at each other on forums about whether stage was harder than film or way harder than film. Which was reassuring. My favorite bit was a quote someone claimed was from Al Pacino: "Acting on stage is like walking a high wire with no safety net. Acting for a camera is like walking a line drawn on the ground."

In walked the director. He greeted me, handed me two "sides" (snippits of a scene where I perform one character's part and another actor or line reader reads the other's), and gave me a few minutes. This is what's called a "cold reading." You perform something from a script that's been handed to you for the first time only a few minutes earlier. This kind of audition was my bread and butter, back in college.

After a few minutes, the director asked if I was ready, and I was led in into what was either a very small room or a large converted closet. Three other guys were sitting behind a folding table. They introduced themselves, smiled, shook my hand. I repeated all their names and promptly forgot them. I read the first side, took a little direction, re-read it differently, and then read the second one. I thought I'd done well. I knew it when they asked, in complete seriousness if I was a member of Actors Equity or the Screen Actors Guild, though neither was listed on my resume. They thanked me and said they'd be in touch within a day or two.

Two days later, Thursday, I was sat outside the Roasting Plant Coffee company with my friend Emily, another actor from the University of Chicago. She gave me a thorough breakdown of how be a professional actor in New York City. Headshot tips, where to find auditions, what books to read on monologue choices, classes and fake classes you should take (fake classes will probably come up in a later post), tips on finding an agent, possible shortcuts into the Actors Equity Association if you want it, the works. Then she sent me an email with all the details of what she'd just told me, the addresses of the best drama bookshops in town, and the places I'd most likely need to know for coming to auditions.

She had to run off to meet a friend, so I glanced at my email. There was a new message from the NYU guys. I got the part. Rehearsal starts Sunday. Filming with be next Wednesday, and then again on Oct 15th.

So I'm batting 1.000 for acting auditions in New York City. Maybe I should quit now, while I'm ahead.



  1. Joel...... what a great experience! Can't wait to see the end result. Congratulations! Cari

  2. Where is the 'Like' button on this?? Facebook ruined my life...! Way to go with the audition. Congrats again!

  3. JRindenau- Thanks! You still managing to see any of the outside world between cram sessions?

    Cari- Thank you, I'll see if it can't end up online by the end. I don't think it will be very long.

    Marcos- Hmm... that's a thought. I'll look into it.