During an audition or reading, are hand or body movements too distracting?
July 6, 2007 12:36 AM   Subscribe

During an audition or reading, are hand or body movements too distracting?

For scripts and monologues what would work best? People with experience are most welcomed to answer!
posted by gttommy to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Generally speaking, if you don't move your body and hands, you seem stiff or nervous.
But if you're gesticulating wildly, that's also bad.
Act like you would telling a story to a friiend, +10%(because you're probably more then 2 feet away).
(if you have no idea how you look talking to a friend, tell a friend to record you talking to someone without your knowlege. Use the tape to see what you do when talking. Imitate.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 12:49 AM on July 6, 2007

I'm not an actor, but one lonely night housesitting I read Audition: Everything an Actor Needs to Know to Get the Part by Michael Shurtleff. I thought it was terrific. I have used its techniques in job interviews.
posted by Methylviolet at 1:08 AM on July 6, 2007

If you don't gesticulate, people have no choice but to pay more attention to your face and voice, assuming your venue is small enough that they can reasonably do so, or that you are being projected appropriately. Spalding Gray used this to great effect in his monologues and readings, such as "Swimming to Cambodia." Conversely if you are the only person reading on the stage of a 2500 seat theatre, some physical movement may be appropriate, if only to bridge the chasm between you and the balcony.
posted by paulsc at 1:11 AM on July 6, 2007

Are you talking about theatre or film/television auditions? Big difference there.

In theatre, as long as your gestures are a natural extension of the character, they will probably demonstrate your willingness to experiment and your ability to interpret the material. If they are stagey or unnatural or distract you (or them) from what you're saying, then it's bad news. For audition purposes, assuming you have access to the material before you start or are performing a monologue, try to find just one or two key points that cry out for some illustrative gesture, and stick to that. Because of nerves, unless you actually have a plan for your hands (even if it's to just keep them still) then you run the risk of letting them wander, tap, fidget, etc.
posted by hermitosis at 6:09 AM on July 6, 2007

Aaaaaand I just saw your tags.

In the case of film auditions, don't just gesture because you suspect you ought to. Unless there is some key movement that will totally help you nail a joke or illustrate something, then just focus on giving a fantastic performance from the shoulders up, since that's what they're going to be paying attention to.
posted by hermitosis at 6:13 AM on July 6, 2007

Two things, although all of my experience is with musical theatre:

1. If you are going to move a part of your body, move it. It would be better not to move rather than half-ass something. In other words, follow through.

2. That being said, I know for singing auditions (might not apply to you), it was always recommended to me not to pace, shift my weight, or move my hands or arms. Just stand there and sing with your mouth and your face and your eyes.
posted by Zephyrial at 6:33 AM on July 6, 2007

Best answer: What works best is to move in a way that seems natural, but that also seems to be an extension of your character -- or, if you're speaking, your point.

This is easier said than done. When actors get body training (if they get good training), there are two goal that must be achieved in sequential order:

1. To learn how to have a neutral body and how to be comfortable having a neutral body. In other words, if the role calls for it, you should be able to be completely still. But you should be able to do this without feeling uncomfortable or constrained. It's hard to act when you're uncomfortable, and it's harder still to hide your discomfort from the audience. But once you learn to keep yourself neutral, you'll no longer engage in gratuitous "ticks" -- personal quirks that contradict what you're trying to do with your character.

2. Character movement. Real people generally aren't completely still. So once you've learned to make your body neutral, you can then layer a character-specific sort of movement on top of this "blank canvas." Depending on what kind of actor you are, this layer can be something completely made up, or it can be a part of your personal movement that you let show through the neutral mask.

I doubt anyone can reach these goals overnight. They take years of training (and similar training for the voice). I haven't been through such training. I know about it through reading and through relationships with actors, but I'm a director not an actor.

So if I had to act tomorrow, knowing that I can't reach these goals in time, I'd opt for whatever made me most relaxed. Relaxation is key, because if you're relaxed, you're not self-conscious, and if you're not self-conscious you can tell a story rather than display an ego. So if -- without years of training -- I'm only relaxed when I move freely, I'd move freely.
posted by grumblebee at 6:59 AM on July 6, 2007

grumblebee is wise. Also nthing on commiting to movement. And relax! Especially if this is amateur theatre for which you are auditioning, being relaxed and ready and willing to learn is very much to your advantage.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:38 AM on July 6, 2007

Working actor here.

Grumble speaks wisdom about training. But the shortcut is indeed relaxation.

If you're going to be on camera at your audition, make sure one of the first things you ask when you're in the room is where the frame is. If they're shooting you from shoulders up, then hermitosis is right, your arms and hands aren't going to be seen by the important people (i.e. the ones who'll view the tape later and make the callback and casting decisions). But if they're shooting wide, or if it's a smaller production and the casting people and producers are in the room, then you'll want to know that you've got some room to move and gesticulate.

Of course, it's film. The merest raise of an eyebrow will read, and read big, up on the screen. If you can manage intimate relaxation on camera, you're halfway there.

One last thing; auditions are awful. They're stressful for you and they're stressful for the casting and creative people. Just remember that they are PRAYING that you are the right actor for the role. They want you to be great because they want to find the right person. So don't fall into the common trap of assuming an adversarily relationship with the "guys on the other side of the table." Be friendly, be professional, but most of all be aware that your are all there to create art. Your art will be in your acting, and with luck, your work will match up with their larger needs in the film.

(Gosh, I sound far more starry-eyed than I should, given how long I've been doing this.)

Do good work. Break a leg!
posted by minervous at 8:44 AM on July 6, 2007

I think your practical advice for an audition tomorrow has been given above: relax. On film, nothing is more excruciating than tension.

If you want to go into more detail, the word we're looking for is what Stanislavsky called "realism" and what Grotowski called "organicity." Your gestures, or your lack of gestures, are awkward and distracting insofar as they are untrue. From the joint perspective of the last hundred years of performance theory, the root of this "truth" is in action (doing) rather than communication (indication, representation). I won't try to tell you how to do that, because a proper response would take a couple hundred pages at least.

Which couple hundred pages? If you're actually interested in acting, and want the quick and dirty, my pick is "A Practical Handbook for the Actor". If you still want to read more, I recommend the significantly more advanced "The Actor and The Target." And if you still need more, you can always commit the rest of your life to research and training.
posted by tsmo at 9:03 AM on July 6, 2007

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