I recently discovered your blog and am loving it! I appreciate how honest you are with your bookings and disappointments and even sharing parts of your life (like your bday party pictures). I study acting at a class that seems to be more tailored for the "hobby" actor than the career actor. But lately, I've been getting the bug to be "seen". My biggest challenge is... my nerves. I wondered, how does she calm her nerves? I see that at times you have to do live events or audition playfully eating an ice cream bar. Have you ever had to figure out how to combat your own nerves? I also struggle with my own ability to feel like an "actress". At times I wonder, who do I think I am trying to pull this off! I do wonder if you ever felt the same. Especially because you seem so sure of yourself (it really does come across in pictures!). Also, have you ever dealt with unfriendly competition? How do you handle that if you have?
PS, I'm considering taking classes for the beginner actor at Larry Singer Studios, thanks to your mention on your blog :)
Kudos again for creating your blog, it's wonderful!
Melissa, thank you so much for the email (I love how honest and candid you were) and for reading my blog!
I'm sure most actors feel some sense of nervousness when they walk into a casting/audition. For me, the key is to not care whether or not you book the job. And I know that's easier said than done. When I go to a print casting or a commercial audition, I usually have a pretty nonchalant attitude about it. If I book the job, great! If I don't, who cares? But when it comes to TV/film auditions, I have a harder time combating my nerves.
The nervousness generally comes in when you start focusing on the real-life stakes, "Wow, this series regular role can make me a star....I can pay my rent for 6 months from this print job....This commercial will FINALLY make me SAG Eligible!" These types of thoughts are preventing you from focusing on the most important stakes, the stakes within the scene. If you aren't focused on your character and the circumstances, it WILL read in your performance.
And the fact is, chances are high that you won't book the job, regardless of how much the role can change your life, earn you money, give you your SAG card, etc. If you concentrate on just having fun in the room and giving the best performance that you can, it'll be easier to forget the things that are making you nervous.
You also need to remember that the casting director is on your side. They want you do a great job, they want to see you nail it.
In order to cut down on my nervousness, I have a few tricks that have been helping me a lot in the last several months. Keep in mind, this is what I do for TV/film auditions. My number one is showing up early. I try to arrive at least 20 minutes prior to my audition time. This gives me time to catch my breath, cool off and re-hydrate, touch up my hair/make-up, and give my sides one last look. Then, I just zone out. I think about the scene, I imagine it in my mind. I do a few mouth exercises (quietly...) to loosen my tongue. I stretch if I need to, take deep breaths, or lean my head back and close my eyes. Every actor has their own methods for combating nerves and learning to relax. You just have to try a few things and see what sticks.
I understand what you mean about not feeling like an actress sometimes. When I first moved to NYC and was studying acting in school, I thought I was the SHIT!! Then, I had to wait tables full time to support myself and wasn't doing ANY acting. Every time I would tell someone that I was an actress and they would respond with, "What have you been in...?", a little piece of me would die inside. For me, I know that the insecurity came from feeling like an actress on the inside, but not being taken seriously by others. Once I starting modeling and booking commercials/indies/small tv roles/etc. it was easier to call myself a model or actress because I could actually answer those annoying questions with real work examples.
But at the same time, that's not fair. When a med student graduates, they are considered a doctor, even if they don't have a job yet. The same with law students, teachers, etc. But as an actor, I have to be starring in a big movie in order to be considered one? Screw that! We put in the work just like other people, it just takes a bit longer for us to reap the rewards. Melissa, if you have the passion and drive, study the craft, and put in the work, you're allowed to call yourself an actress, regardless of how large or small your resume is. They key is learning to take pride in what you do, at any level.
I have only had one direct experience with unfriendly competition. This bitch was just plain rude. A few years ago, I went to an audition for a "pilot" (I didn't know any better at the time....) where they were only seeing girls for the character I was auditioning for. When I walked into the waiting room, all of the girls (about 8) were white. I went to use the restroom and as I was washing my hands, there was a girl at the sink next to me, applying her makeup. She asked me what character I was auditioning for and I told her that I was pretty sure all of us were reading for the role of 'Kate'. Then she rolled her eyes and said, "Ugh, these casting directors don't know what they're looking for."
Now, if all of the girls had made up a wide range of ethnicities then her comment would have made a bit more sense. But, all of the girls auditioning were white, save for myself. To me, it was meant to get under my skin. My response to her was, "Well maybe the casting directors are more concerned with talent than skin color." I then walked out of the restroom without waiting for a response from her. I had no desire to entertain her or her negative energy. Stay away from people like that.
Other than that, I haven't had any other experiences with unfriendly competition in an audition setting. I have had run-ins with annoying "bragtors". A bragtor is an actor who brags a lot. Yes, I just made that up and I may need to copyright it. Anyway, these are probably the worst that you will see. When you're in a waiting room with a bunch of actors, sometimes people are friendly and will chat you up. Before you know it, you're forced to feign interest while they check off the details of their 'busy' schedule. You can remedy this situation by pretending to listen to your iPod.
Melissa, I want to thank you again for reading my blog and for sending me your email. I answered the questions as best I could, at the risk of seeming long winded! I hope that I've been of help to you and anyone else that reads this post.