"Any actor who reads Mark Brandon's WINNING AUDITIONS
will have a huge head start on the competition. I wish I'd had it when I was starting out."
-- STEPHEN COLLINS
STAR TREK, the Motion Picture
Warner Bros. 7th Heaven
"Eliminate the obvious" or "play against type" are some of the recurring bits of advice actors often hear from their teachers. While those kinds of sincere recommendations are meant to bring about stand-out performances, they overlook a pivotal reality.
Since I’ve seen so many audition tapes of actors “trying” too hard to land small roles, I thought it would be valuable to pass along this seemingly little known fact: Episodic and feature film directors don't normally look for memorable performances for extremely small, one or two-line parts. In fact, they're looking for the opposite.
In the world of television, for instance, small parts are normally considered necessary clichés that the TV viewing public can readily digest. As examples, the bored waitress, the no-nonsense traffic cop and the robotic government agent with the aviator glasses are some of those persistent clichés. Consequently, you stand a better chance of nailing down the job in one of these roles if you don't try to get too cute or creative.
Cop #1, Ambulance Attendant #3 or simply, "Customer" are the usual character names on such audition sides. Notice the lack of a proper name? That's the indication your character's around very briefly and that you should audition for the part only with simplicity and authenticity. If you do, your chances of booking the role climb dramatically.
Principal parts, on the other hand, with several lines (and likely a name for the character) allow for more latitude – the memorable, or “high octane” kinds of performing. Once you're sure you're reading for one of these types of roles, have fun and put your own personal stamp on it. Break a leg!