Auditioning in a Digital World
“Auditioning in a Digital World”
By: Amelia Morse Kolkmeyer, MFA
Welcome to the new era of auditioning - the Digital Platform.
When we audition for theatre and/or film it can be done in person or by submitting a self-tape. For the Film people self-taping isn’t a new thing, but for Theatre people it is. It’s not a format we’re used to or have much experience with. Besides the obvious technical side of it, there comes this overwhelming anxiety of realizing you can see yourself too. So how do we deal with this new technology without overwhelming ourselves and doing more work than needed? Well, let’s dive in.
The first is to familiarize yourself with these video platforms. A quick internet search and you’re given a lot of articles and YouTube videos to check out. This can be overwhelming. My suggestion is to ask around, but also see which platform companies are preferring to use. Zoom seems to be the top pick for many people. Ask a friend or family member to get on for a chat.
I suggest doing this more than once and with more than just your phone. Use your computer and tablet if you have one. That way you have a clear idea of how YOU look with each device, how you need to set up, and how to connect your device so your battery doesn’t die in the middle of your next audition. It will also allow you a chance to know your microphone levels and if you need an external one to use.
Be sure to take notes with each device and ask for feedback from the person on the other end. One thing to also note is that you want to use a device that allows you to be standing while you audition. So you may need a stand to hold your tablet or smartphone.
Lighting is also a keep ingredient too. Make sure you are set up in an area where you can be seen clearly with little to no shadows interfering with how you look.
Now that you have chatted with your friends and family a bit and figured out your space, lighting, and sound, let’s talk about your presence on camera.
The first thing I’ll cover is when you submit a self-tape. The thing that eats up people’s time is the fact that they know they can do it as many times as they want. We all want to give our best and as close to perfect as possible. However, we don’t prepare and that leads to multiple takes. You start to sabotage yourself with wanting to “be your best.”
In an in-person or live audition you only get ONE chance. Treat your self-tape the same way. Take time away from the camera to study your lines, memorize them, work on them the same way you would for a live, in-person audition.
When you shift your mindset and put in the work, you would be amazed at what a better job you can do. You don’t have to worry about what your next line is, or how you intend to perform. Instead you can take a deep breath, hit record, and act your heart out.
Is there a difference between how you act in-person vs. film/on-camera? Yes! You don’t have to be as big with your gestures or emotions, but at the same time you don’t want to drop your energy. There are ways to learn how to redirect your acting skills to still be clear and not appear small, low on energy, or the opposite big, and lots of energy. The best way to do this is work on your own, work with a coach, and/or take a class to help you make these shifts. (You can find what we offer here.)
Moving on to Live On-Camera Auditions aka Zoom Auditions. These can be a bit tricky because the same rules apply like you’re in the audition room. You may or may not be judged on your behavior. There’s honestly no way to know. The hard part about the Zoom Audition is you and everyone else can see you and the other participants. You want to be engaged, but at the same time it can be draining. Also where do you look - at the screen or the camera the entire time.
As someone who has done a few of these here’s my advice - relax! When it’s not your turn feel free to look around at the other people. Keep your eyes opened for the conversation(s) happening in the chat portion if that’s happening or allowed. Listen to what’s happening, and engage with it the same way you would if you were in the room with everyone else.
DROP THE SELF-JUDGEMENT! It’s not easy and we’re all guilty of it. Let people interpret your expressions and engagement any way they wish. None of us look great on these platforms. They’re different and strange because now we can really see how we all look at the same time. It’s not how things are done when we’re all in the same physical space. So don’t sweat it.
As I said earlier in this post, part of being successful is adjusting and making a mindshift. Something we do great as Actors is adjust when we’re given a note, but when it comes to us off-stage it can be a bit tricky. So start taking what you know as an Actor and start adjusting it to help you be more successful in this new format, because it doesn’t look like it’s going away for a while.