So recently (after Christmas and before New Year) I was asked to submit a self-tape audition for a role in a new independent feature film called She's Not So Ordinary. I had not read the script, I had no context of character dynamics, relationships or backgrounds, all I had was 3-4 pages containing snippets of a few different scenes involving the character of Tony.
Tony was in the middle of a war, and was having moments of flashbacks mixed with flash bangs, moments of sheer terror contrasted with assertiveness. There was a lot going on. I was asked to put all of this on camera and send it through to the producer prior to the new year; which I had to do anyway as I was departing on an overseas trip as of January 3rd anyway. The timing was right for all of this, but I just needed my delivery to match it.
If you've ever done a self-taped audition you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. If you're not in the industry and therefore haven't, then let me share what an absolute sheer terror and delight a self-taped audition can be.
Normally, an audition takes place as a casting directors place of business, in a studio or another small room with a few key people in attendance and running the show. You will have the casting director, a producer and if you're lucky the director may be in attendance. You then get about two opportunities to impress them. You very rarely know how you went, they always thank you and smile and you usually walk out unsure of how you went. Still, you're relieved that it's done and dusted and unless your agent informs you of success or you hear back directly, then it's more often than not a safe bet that you were unsuccessful. You're annoyed for a moment but then understand that this is the nature of the industry, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.
Despite this, apart from control of your own performance, you don't have to worry about anything else. However when you are asked to self-tape an audition, YOU are the casting director, YOU are the producer and YOU are the director; this is where the 'fun' begins. Now if you're anything like me, you are your own worst critic, let's face it, we all usually are. Firstly, i have no room in my house that resembles a studio or professionally kitted out space. Secondly, I have little to no professional camera equipment and thirdly, imagine trying to film yourself and decide which of the 1000 takes you think is best!
This is where my experience comes into it. I now know that I simply cannot continue to film take after take after take because the only result of that will be the creation of immense confusion. We can all critique ourselves to the nth degree, but long ago, in respect to self-tape auditions, I decided that I would only do three takes of each scene, ever. If I sucked, I sucked, but I had to create some firm ground rules in order to eliminate any obsessive-compulsive impulses to film 50+ takes of a scene, which as you can imagine would be an incredibly hard task to find the 'best' one, or what you feel to be the best one.
So I did my three takes and to my pleasant surprise, I was actually rather pleased with the performances I had given. I quickly edited and cut them together to create the completed clip before I had any urge whatsoever to break my hard and fast rules - and it was done!
Here is the short self-tape audition that I then submitted to the producer of 'She's Not So Ordinary':
Final self-taped audition for the role of Tony in She's Not So Ordinary
So there it was. I sent it, I felt confident and a few days later, I was on a plane on my way to Asia. Upon my return, almost ten days later, I still had not heard anything, not a good sign. So I messaged a friend who originally told me about this opportunity and she gave me very positive news, which was "well between you and I, I was told your audition was really good".
Wow, what amazing feedback to hear, suddenly I didn't feel so bad about not having heard anything back from the producer yet. Soon after this the email came. I was asked to come in for a final, live audition to the studio where the producer, DOP (director of photography) and director would be present.
The night before the audition, it occurred to me that I actually wasn't sure what I'd be doing in this final audition. I had no script, or idea what I was going to be doing. The following morning, the morning of the audition, I sent the producer a final message but it was all probably a little too late. This is where, in retrospect, I began to feel where everything started to go downhill.
Upon my arrival to the studio, I was given a script with some dialogue for a scene that I had not read. I made it known that I had not seen it before and was pushed back to another timeslot in order to allow me some extra time to familiarize myself with the dialogue.
Soon it was my time to walk in and audition. I did so, occasionally looking down at the script for cues, feeling more confident on the second performance, but then that was it. As anticipated, two opportunities to perform and that was it. I was then asked to wait outside whilst the finished auditioning for the role. Whilst I waited, the DOP came out and we had a brief discussion, he actually complimented me on my performance and mentioned how authentic and believable he felt it was and that he believed the emotion. OK, this was good. A few minutes later, the producer came out and walked me into another room; she too complimented me on my performance despite that I had literally only just seen the dialogue ten or so minutes before. This too was good; I honestly wasn't expecting either of these two bits of feedback from anyone in room.
It was then that I was informed despite liking what I did, the director didn't feel that I'd be suitable for the role of Tony, my heart sank into my belly for the briefest of moments. The producer seemed genuinely disappointed in delivering this news to me but informed me (as I already knew anyway) that the director has the final say.
So there it is, it just wasn't meant to be. That said though, the producer also told me that she has three scripts completed for three other films that she will be making and told me that she'd like to work with me at some point, which is fantastic!
I walked back to my car actually feeling very positive. I felt positive about the initial self-taped audition I completed, I felt positive after receiving such great feedback from two of the three film professionals in the audition room and I felt positive that despite not successfully landing the role in this film, the producer of it would like to work with me on one of her other future productions. To me, I walked away feeling successful and at the end of the day that is all which really matters.
Success is a very personal state of mind, its definition will undoubtedly differ from person to person, but if you can walk away from anything you do in life feeling like YOU have succeeded, then who can possibly convince you of otherwise? Sure, I didn't get the role, but it doesn't even matter. I succeeded at impressing complete strangers with both a self-taped audition as well as with a live performance I wasn't entirely confident with, as well as meeting a new producer who liked what I did enough to specifically tell me about the potential for future collaboration. This is all success according to me.
And so began a brilliant weekend... :)