It isn’t always going to be Shakespeare, is it?


Has this ever happened to you? You get an audition and the adrenaline kicks in because this is what you’ve been waiting for these past weeks; a nice, juicy speaking part in a film. And then you read the material and the brakes are slammed on. The material is just awful. The dialogue is cardboard. The concept is right off of an assembly line. This is not going to be a good project based on what you’re reading. So, what do you do?

Deep breath. Exhale. This happens all the time and it isn’t always as bad as it seems at first. Most importantly, attitude is everything. You could focus on the dialogue and sabotage your audition or you could focus on how to make your audition the best that it can be under the circumstances. Breaking into Hollywood means sometimes doing that project that makes you cringe. Get over it.

When the dialogue seems off, the very first thing you need to do is make sure it isn’t you. I don’t mean that in a condescending way. Sometimes you can miss the point of some of the dialogue or there is a joke in there that causes the lines to sound clunky on purpose.

At least ask yourself if you might be misinterpreting the material. Things aren’t always what they seem. A movie like Tucker and Dale vs. Evil might not have looked very interesting just from the sides, but if you read the whole script you see how it stands out from the usual horror fare.

Practice saying the clunky line a variety of different ways. Sometimes it is that simple. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard an actor in an audition say a line the wrong way when everyone else in the room thought it was obvious how you should say it. I am the first to admit when the script is bad, but actors have to make sure it is the script and not your first take on it.

So, let’s assume you can tell that the material is just plain bad.

Resist the temptation to rewrite the material during the audition phase. Many times the producer is aware that they aren’t going to be in contention for Best Screenplay. You will have plenty of opportunities on the set to spruce up the dialogue. And changing words or sentences is only going to throw your reader. It is important that you come in to every audition prepared to read the scene as written.

However, if one word is really causing you problems, then change it, especially if it is a small word that is easily dropped or modified. If your character says, “yikes!” at one point and that seems clunky, just cut it. But think long and hard first on whether or not the writer put that particular “yikes” in there to reveal character. Consider the options before making even a tiny change. Is there a way to make that word work? Was the writer using the term on purpose? Sarcasm is a funny thing. When in doubt, leave it in.

Often an actor can save a bad line by just throwing it away. Say it and move on. Somebody was paid to write it and there is a chance that they are not going to change it. Say it and don’t let it become an issue. You have an entire scene to perform. Letting one line distract you from the work is a rookie mistake.

And never let them see your opinion of the bad material. Whether or not they are aware of the bad material, and they may be, it isn’t your job at an audition to comment on the script. Book the role and you have at least a shot at fixing the dialogue.

If it’s drama, treat it like drama! I don’t care if you’re auditioning for a soap or Sharknado, if it isn’t a comedy, it’s a drama. As someone who has cast more than his share of horror films, I can tell you that we are vigilant in the casting office for people who don’t take the material, or genre, seriously.

Make the most of every audition, even when the material is weak, and you will find yourself booking more and then you can pass on the bad material. Until then, take lemony material and make it lemonade!