In episode 30 of Casting Frontier’s Bring It! series, casting veteran James Levine and session director/actor Charles Carpenter advise actors to stand out in the audition room by “anticipating ‘Action,’ but not anticipating ‘Cut.’” For clarity, they demonstrate ways to start and end scenes strongly while also showing practices to avoid. 

Do anticipate the word “Action!”

Immediately following the slate, James and Charles encourage actors to get into character before casting calls “Action.” Remember, the camera is already running by the time “Action” is called. So, when a performer stands around essentially waiting for permission to engage as the character, the first impression when played back is that of an actor breaking character. “It takes us out of the scene immediately,” Charles cautions. Worse yet, when James sees actors looking blankly into the camera and then they essentially pop into the scene as if a light switch is turned on, he admits he’s likely to skip reviewing the entire audition. In other words, that brief moment is very important to booking the job! Fortunately, it’s easy to fix. By giving life to the character that extra moment in anticipation of the word “Action,” you will stand out as an actor who knows what they’re doing, and thus increase your chances of receiving a callback. For more information on this topic, visit Bring It! Episode 9: What Does Action Really Mean?

Don’t anticipate the word ‘Cut!” 

When you’re finished saying your lines, and casting seems to be taking a long time in calling “Cut,” make sure to keep going. “Just because you ran out of dialogue doesn’t mean that the scene is over,” James says. “‘Cut’ is not your word,” he adds, meaning it’s not yours to call. So rather than breaking character, keep the performance going by adding a button, also known as a tag. Charles describes buttons as “the next thought that a character has that hasn’t been written.” It can show up as an expression such as a smile, smirk, wince, sigh, nod, or knitted brows. It can be an expressive interjection like “Ahem,” “Argh,” “Huh,” or “Mm-hmm.” Or it can be a brief remark limited to about five words. Buttons are a great way to go when casting asks you to take the material and “make it your own,” or “play with it.” They’re opportunities to show your flare and enrich the performance over all. And they bring closure to the scene, make a terrific impression, and increase your chances of landing a gig. For more on buttons, make sure to visit Bring It! Episode 8: What is a tag? 

In auditions, actors need to show a fully realized character which includes both the second before the camera rolls and the seconds after the dialogue is over. These two brief moments are full of potential and allow for a lot of great spontaneity, so have fun with them! And know going in that sometimes, maybe often times, the choices you make won’t end up working out for the role at hand. But that’s part of the creative process. When this occurs, make a practice of reflecting on possible mistakes and always look for ways to improve your work.

Determined to help actors cut through the mystery associated with the casting process, James Levine authored an enlightening book titled Bring It! along with Charles Carpenter and Jim Martyka, which will be released digitally in the near future. In the book, Levine shares helpful audition information from the vantage point of a casting director as it relates to commercial, film, and television acting. 

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