Quite often there are times when the casting director asks “could do something else for us?” To make things even worse they provide you with a script to perform.
This is when an actor has only a few minutes to prepare for their performance.
How do you make your performance believable? How to study a character for acting? Also, how do you provide something that the casting director is looking for?
I have has faced similar situations multiple times. Fortunately, while I have was studying acting my coach had equipped me with the proper knowledge to handle such situations. Also, I created my own routine or checklist to prepare for a part in minutes. Here I am going to share some knowledge with you.
For character analysis for actors, I have created a Worksheet that has 100 questions to build character for a role. If you use this worksheet it could be the bible of your character. Get it here.
How to Get Into Character For Acting?
In my experience, the character is defined by his or her physiology, psychology, and sociology. If you are able to get these three things right about the character your half of the job is done.
Using this method your goal is not to just understand these three things but bring them into action in front of the camera.
Before we dive into details let me just tell you, do not rely on this quick method if you have a few days or a day to prepare for the character.
Especially if you have got the part, spend a great amount of time preparing the character. Also, do get into character exercises that are mentioned here.
This method is just for audition purposes!
So now let’s just start with the process.
Each person has their own physiology so have to find the physiology of the character.
Generally, the script gives a lot of ideas about the physical appearance and manner of the character. Even the casting director provides you with a basic idea about the physical appearance of the character.
When you are at an audition you don’t have to worry about clothes and makeup.
Since you have been requested to perform something instantly, even the casting director wants to consider your appearance or makeup. He or she will solely judge you based on your performance only. So don’t worry about it.
So focus on creating a physicality. There are several ways to create physicality instantly. But my personal favorite is the “finding the center”.
This technique is developed by famous coach Eric Morris. I came across this technique while attending an acting workshop.
You can read more about his technique in his book No Acting.
When I used it for the first time I was surprised how instantly I was able to create physicality.
So, how do you use this technique?
To begin, you must find any corner of your home where you can walk around without any obstruction.
I personally recommend you to wear something comfortable like a track-pant and a t-shirt.
Well, you want to ensure that you should be able to feel your body from head to toe. In tight clothing, it is often not possible.
So once you have the place and the right clothing let’s find the center of the character.
In order to find the center, you must understand a little about body language. The body language conveys tells a lot about the person.
You can check the post on the importance of body language in acting to understand it properly.
To give you an example, a person with overconfidence or ego will always have his or her nose up. That means the person has the center at the nose.
If you consider the opposite emotion that is if a person is low on confidence, his forehead always points downwards. That means the persona has a center at the forehead.
If you practice these two centers you will notice that the body that acts as the center is always an inch ahead of the rest of your body.
This is the most important part of this technique.
Whatever body part you choose as the center has to be always an inch ahead of your body. In other words, it should lead rest of your body.
Try practicing the technique with different centers and you will find that you can create different body language.
Just by changing the center, you will be able to create a completely different physicality.
I believe this is the quickest way to get into character for acting with no time to prepare.
You must also check out our article on how to develop a character acting.
Once you have done the physicality, it is time to build the psychology of the character.
Do many actors ask how to connect with a character in acting? how to get deep into character?
Psychology is the answer!
I personally, feel the psychology of characters takes time. The reason is you do not want to just understand the psychology of the character but live it.
And going from understanding to living takes weeks of time. That is why you heard good actors take months to prepare for the role.
And greats like Daniel Day-Lewis take almost a year to live the psychology of the character.
But how to go about it when you have just 5 minutes to time to prepare for your acting audition?
To begin with, read the audition script thoroughly. You will get a lot of information about the character.
If you are not able to understand the character from the script, ask a few casting directors to brief you.
While trying to understand the character what you should be looking for in the script or brief from casting director?
If are clear about these three things, you have enough ammunition to create temporary psychology of the character.
I came across these method acting techniques in the book The Power Of The Actor By Ivana Chubbuck (Check out the book on Amazon).
1. Moment Before
The moment before gives you an idea about where the character is coming from.
If I explain it in short, you have to find out what happened with the character a few moments ago. Did he have a fight? Was he happy? Was he working? Was he sleeping?
Whatever might have happened sets the psychology of the character for the scene.
For instance, he had a fight with his girlfriend, and in the present scene he is talking with his mother but he might not be in jovial or happy mode. The character will be upset.
Even if the scene is not about his girlfriend, you will have to add a little emotion to the previous scene.
The issue with auditions is that most of the time, the scene is a standalone scene created just for the purpose of the audition.
In such a case get the idea from the casting director.
And if he or she says “surprise us”, well surprise them!
In other words, invent something that you think would make the scene great.
2. Scene Objective
If you have taken any method acting class, you might have heard about it. Scene objective is nothing about what your character is trying to achieve in the scene.
One thing I have learned in short acting experience is to keep the objective as simple as possible and direct it towards the other character in the scene.
For instance, your character is on a date in the scene. Your scene objective could be to charm the girl.
And if your character is in a conversation with a person whom he or she hates, your scene objective could be to be harsh to the other character or get out of the conversation as soon as possible.
Best way to find the scene objective is to answer this simple question:
“What do you want from other characters in the scene?”
3. What Are You Doing?
This seems to be a simple question but it is the most important out of the three because it will make your character alive.
Just observe yourself when you are around people or in a situation. You are always doing some activity.
You might say doing something is physicality but when you observe in real-life situations your activity dictates your psychology at the moment.
There is a lot of thinking going on when you are involved in an activity.
In addition to physical doing, there is another type of doing which is internal. This is applicable in a situation where the character is not physically active.
Like traveling on a bus or a train.
Like waiting for your order at a restaurant.
Like trying to sleep in your bed.
These are instances where you are internally active.
For audition, I advise you to not go for internal activity.
Firstly, it requires a lot of practice and it also needs the camera to be much closer to your face. Generally, it needs close up and in auditions usually, mid close is used.
So, how do you decide the physical activity during an audition?
The first you should do is to see if there is any prop that you can use. If you are doing an audition on a live set, it is great.
But here I will consider a situation where you do not have and you are standing alone in front of a grey screen.
I would not suggest mime for physical objects but what you can do is create imaginary people around you to whom you can gesture.
And if the scene involves only two people, you can mimic using very simple objects like coffee mugs, tv remote.
Let me share with you two tricks that I use:
I carried a few things in my pocket like a handkerchief, pen, pieces of paper like receipts, mouth freshener, and chewing gum. These are some things that you can just take out of your pocket and use in the middle of the scene. It just fits into any scene but not if the scene is from periodic drama where these things didn’t exist.
The other trick I used whenever the scene was set in the house of the character is a mirror. You can do the scene while you are looking at the mirror and getting ready to go out.
If you follow these three things you will be able to create temporary psychology for the audition.
Sociology means how your character behaves with other characters. Finding the sociology of the character will give what kind of relationship shares with the other character.
The good thing about auditions is there are either one or two characters to interact with. So it won’t take time to know what kind of relationship your character has.
The most scripts will give a lot of information about the relation between the two characters and even the casting director might provide you with some useful inputs.
Let me be clear when I say relationship I mean what kind of emotions are involved when your character interacts with the other.
For instance, if the given relationship is of a father and son, there can be a lot of emotions like hate, love, anger, etc.
When you are looking to get into character for acting in a short time, look for the simplest emotions. I would suggest just picking one out of these two:
Don’t get into too much complexity. Just ask if your character loves the other character or hates him or her.
Once you have that just play that emotion when doing the scene. It is more than enough for the audition.
Moments Before Director Yells “Action”?
Now you have the physicality, psychology, and sociology of the character.
How to boil it down and actually get into character for acting?
You follow this step by step procedure to get into character for acting moments before you face the camera:
Step 1: Adopt The Physicality
For me, I always begin with physicality. Minutes before the audition, I start to walk and move in the character’s physicality.
The great thing about getting into the character’s physicality is that it instantly gives the feel of the character.
Since, you know what body center to use for the character, just actively start applying it. Move around for a couple of minutes and you are good to go.
Step 2: Where You Coming From?
Once you are in the physicality try to think about where you are coming from.
There are several method acting techniques that help you give the feeling of where you are coming from.
Since we don’t have time, I will provide you technique that instantly throws you into the moment before.
Since you know where the character is coming from, start asking questions about the situation or conversation you had a moment before.
Ask this question in the head. Also, tell yourself the answers to these questions as the character.
Here is a train of questions and answers about a situation where the character heard from his girlfriend that she wants to break up with him.
“Is she really want to break up with me?”
“Yes, she was serious.”
“What happens if she leaves me?”
“I cannot let her go. I love her.”
“what should I do to stop her?”
“Convince her that you still love her.”
With each question and answer, you will dive deep into the skin of the character.
Step 3: What Do You Want in the Scene?
The above step is designed to bring your character to an emotional point from where the scene can originate and flow naturally.
Once the scene begins, don’t think about step 1 and step 2, just focus on step 2 that is what do you want from the other character.
Now bring your focus to the character in the scene. Try to focus on what do you want from the other character.
We have already discussed the scene objective in detail. Just apply that.
All you have to do is follow the script to try to achieve the objective.
The only thing that can go wrong is if the object is not according to the script. So make sure you choose the most suitable objective for the scene.
Every line of dialogue that you speak should be with the intention to achieve that objective.
If you have some experience of acting, you will realize that each and every method acting technique is designed to bring up to the edge from where you can free dive into the scene without any baggage. I advise you to practice this process daily so that it doesn’t take time when you are at auditions.
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