“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” – Thomas Edison
Oftentimes, there is a disconnect between what we do as actors and how we were raised. No one wants to put themselves out there in a vulnerable way; we were often taught as children that to stand out is wrong, either by our parents, our peers, or society as a whole. From an early age, many of us were told to behave a certain way, to be like every one else, to be a “nice boy or girl” — ultimately to fit in and play it safe. Add to that our own fears and anxieties about separating ourselves from the pack, either by making a bold stand, voicing our individual opinion, or doing something we consider daring? Suddenly we have every reason seemingly to stay with the herd, to do everything in our power to try to stay safe.
And yet, it is that very daring and creative part of ourselves that is vital to us as actors. It is our individuality that makes us unique, and those unique ideas will be what will make us stand out as artists. But due to the constant battle many of us internally wage against our upbringing and the societal ideas of “fitting in,” we often dare not make the choices that would have us stand out in the audition room.
Actors will spend extraordinary amounts of energy trying to figure out what the casting director is looking for, what that casting director will like, or how “they” want it to be done. But the actors who stand out are those who toss those thoughts aside and make bold choices, without regard for “right or wrong,” “good or bad,” or what others will think of them. Those are the people and actors that we are attracted to; those are the actors that work.
Think of the all the actors that audition for a particular role. Most of them will fall into the category of being good (after all, this is Los Angeles). But if you let yourself fall into that category of being merely good, you are relying on what I call the “lottery” to book that job. If you get the gig it is simply thanks to the luck of the draw — because your look was right, they needed your ethnicity, etc.
You never want to be in the category of “good.” Get out of the middle of the road. Make bold and daring choices that no one else will. That is the best way to make an impression in the room. It’s scary to make these choices, I know. That little voice will often creep back in at the last second, trying to get you to play it safe, or maybe only go halfway with your choice. But don’t just SURVIVE your audition. Really live in it! Everyone loves Robert Downey Jr., for example, but no one loves him because he makes safe, boring choices in his work. We love him because is daring, he doesn’t shy away from making interesting choices, and he certainly doesn’t worry about what other people are going to think.
Make the choices that you are scared of. Experiment. Play. Push yourself to the edge and occasionally fall off that edge. That is the only way to learn what works, to get noticed, to stand out. It is what you MUST bring to every audition.
So, get out there and fail. Fail boldly. And enjoy.