“Just Be Yourself” vs. Being Someone Else

Auditioning

March 23, 2009

Talent are typically taught to pursue everything all at once. We are told that’s what we are supposed to do in order to be read as versatile. Unfortunately, by doing so, we often lose who we really are and find ourselves creating a forced persona or a performance veneer to play through when we are asked at an audition to “just be yourself.”

If you’ve gone through training that has focused completely on you becoming someone else, the whole idea of being yourself may seem like a total kick in the head.

Aren’t you supposed to be someone else? Isn’t that what acting is?

In a word, no. It’s not. And you’re not.

If that were the case then Spencer Tracy screwed up horribly. (And, frankly, he’s one of my all-time favorites.) He never gave you the impression he was ever acting.

Truth be told it’s more likely you’ll be asked not to act than the alternative. I mean honestly—who wants to see you “act”. It’s a very uncomfortable, unnatural experience and far too often a great deal of “training” encourages just that. Simply “acting” like you’re acting.

Proper training should stretch your comfort zone while preparing you for what you’ll most commonly expect to experience out in the field in a professional setting, and what’s needed and wanted from you under those circumstances. That’s what would benefit you most. It should help you develop your abilities and hone your skills.

However, it’s quite possible you have only a rough idea of what your type might be. For example, if up until this audition you’ve been concentrating solely on the romantic female lead (the ingénue, in musicals), then suddenly finding yourself attempting to play a college student trying to manipulate your mom into buying you a new computer in a DELL computer ad may make you feel like a fish out of water. It doesn’t mean you’re wrong for the role—just unaccustomed to the experience.

You’ll learn more about who you are, how you’re perceived and what you bring to the table by exposing yourself to as much work as you possibly can. Many talent simply don’t make themselves available to the work in which they’d most likely flourish, often due to some fixed idea they have of themselves, such as refusing to open yourself up to do commercials, for instance. Ironically, this work could very well open a great many doors in the direction of the work they dream of most: film and television. Anonymity is a great career killer. Which is why a proper talent agent and consistent and constant promotion on your part is so vitally important.

It’s fascinating stuff without a doubt. Especially when the talent repel either what or who and how they are seen by their agents, their public and those most inclined to hire them.

If the actor has a lot of drive and determination and they focus their efforts toward a specific goal and do so quickly and consistently, they can make a dramatic shift in type and how they are perceived.

But they always run the risk of becoming the effect of others and an industry that is not all that forgiving or gentle with them.

You have to be made of stronger stuff as your mettle will most certainly be tested, regardless of the forces at work… either for or against the actor.

Now, if your type changes, and it most inevitably and assuredly will, or your type falls out of favor with the trends, then a complete reevaluation of who you are and how you’re perceived must be done if you hope to continue in this business and within the medium you’re likely to have the most success (e.g. commercial voiceover, television, stage or film).

Nothing stays the same, and type is no exception. If you had been relatively successful at one time and now you’re not, something changed. It may be the market or the fact that you stopped making yourself available to the work by “letting it go on automatic”. You may have changed agents or you have no agent at all. Then again, it may be your type has changed so dramatically and those who once had a call for your type now require something entirely different. There are a handful of factors that could be at play here. So, determining how you’re perceived right now is a very good place to start.

Who you were right out of college may be very different than who you are now, 10 years later. And the types available when you left college may have changed dramatically. It’s very likely you did too.

Suffice it to say, there is a constant reassessment of how the industry sees you and who you are type-wise within it.

If you discover your type, very distinctly, and you fully embrace how you’re perceived, you’re likely to become quite successful. Without question. The problem often is that talent either don’t believe they are perceived in a certain way, or don’t care to be perceived that way.

Since defining your type is a continual process, it’s necessary you reevaluate who you are and how you read from time to time throughout your career; because, like everything else in this world, nothing stays the same.

We are not given much direction for anything except stage, and even then it can be, and often is, rather iffy. Therefore a great deal is left to the imagination. It’s just as well because our job, as talent, is to exercise our imagination as much as possible, take after take.

In fact, the more you engage your imagination and access your personality, the more honest and realistic your performance is likely to be.

In voiceover, this is often referred to as the ‘non-announce announce’. No one wants you to sound like an announcer, even though you are assuming the role of the announcer. They want you to sound real. As if everything on the page is what you actually think and you are simply thinking out loud.

This is also true of film. In fact, I find film and voiceover to be parallel media: They both rely heavily on the imagination and on the individual personality of the talent. And they both require you determine how intimate your delivery will be. It’s ultimately up to you to define who you are within the parameters of the specific production and fully animate the text and/or action within the context of the scripted situation.

Who you are will come through as you become more familiar and comfortable with the medium, the role you are playing, and how you are perceived within the context of nearly any production.›

Copyright © 2009 by Kate McClanaghan, Inc. All Rights Reserved