Mar
25

An Actress Confesses … and Discovers

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For the first time in many years, I have 2 national commercials that both “star” me running at the same time. Sometimes they even run back-to-back, I’ve been told. A 3rd one will start airing soon, so people are seeing me and thinking I’m working alot but I booked all of those last November & December. Nothing yet this year. Till now. Today I booked another commercial. I shoot it this week.

The audition was unusual for many reasons – one was the fact that I was told Friday night after 10pm that I had a callback for a national commercial the next day at 4:30pm. I didn’t remember the first audition and then realized I was going “straight to callback” (something that happens more often in NYC but rarely in LA.) I made a note to thank my agents (because only good agents can make it happen) and I left a previously scheduled workshop on Saturday afternoon to make it (by-passing an insane 405 freeway) to the audition in Studio City.

It was not what I had expected.

You know, I’ve been a working professional actress for over 30 years, but I think I need to learn what constitutes a good audition.

I walked out of this one apologizing to the other actors as we all shook our heads and said we’d never had one like that. It involved an older couple with a younger couple in a situation I can’t talk about but let’s just say that everyone plays an equal part. We did about 6-7 different takes – each time the director calling out, “Stephanie, don’t do that ___” or “Stephanie, do ___” or “Stephanie! Now keep that and turn ____” – as if I was the one actress who couldn’t seem to get with the program. I’m not used to that. I’m usually the one who nails whatever the director had in mind.

The director never said anything to anyone else, and it always began, with “Stephanie! _____” By the last take, I felt I’d given him every single little subtle nuance he wanted and I may have stopped breathing (as I was using all my energy to focus) but my tail was between my legs as I left. I could still hear the director calling my name (with impatience?) like an echo. I just wanted to whimper my way home.

I walked out of that audition ranking it as one of the TOP 3 WORST AUDITIONS I’d ever had. Then, as I got into my car, I realized that I had actually BOOKED the other 2 worst auditions … and they were REALLY BAD! I kid you not! – Like thinking someone else’s lines were mine (because I re-typed the script while on pain-killers for my foot) – or working with an actor who was angry and uncooperative and kept doing things that made it very difficult for me (plus I got a speeding ticket on the way to that one), I mean, real gunk stuff. And I was absolutely flabbergasted when I booked those 2 auditions. … Funny that they came to mind as I left this one.

But this was the one I walked out of not knowing what I should have/could have done better/differently. I wasn’t sure why I kept wanting to apologize. I just felt … inadequate.

I find this to be a wonderful opportunity to look at ego, actor’s ego, and our sense of what is required in an audition vs. what is needed and what is being sought – and also acknowledge how important it is for an actor to have a grounded center from which to dive into the soup.

In retrospect, I can see how the director learned if he could get what he wanted with me. While I was feeling inadequate (as I was honestly doing my best), he was just focused on getting the complete picture he was looking for. (I mean, I TEACH film directors to work with actors, for goodness sake – so I’m not totally clueless about this.)

But when you’re the actor – and you need to manifest something with your body, thoughts, emotions & voice – there can be no other perspective than yours – and/or your character’s – acting is a SUBJECTIVE art.

Thus, my ability to see the director’s perspective (that I help train young filmmakers to develop) magically melted away as it all became about what I was thinking and feeling (which, yes, included more judgment than necessary.)

Here’s where the subjective art needs to have at it’s center the kind of grounded space that mindfulness meditation supplies. (Don’t get me wrong, other things supply that, too, mindfulness is just where I cultivated the muscles – that – ha – just got a bit strengthened by this humbling experience.)

And on that note, I throw down some tobacco (an Indian way of saying thanks) for the much needed acting jobs (which are the source of my health insurance) after a long period of not working. I’m missing a sweatlodge ceremony as I write this, but I especially throw down some tobacco for the lessons. Always more to learn. Always good to get over yourself. I’m going to go meditate now.

Mitak’oyasin.

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