An Actor Prepares to Audition
Acting is acting. The script will be shorter, the character usually won't have quite the depth or as much 'color' as many theatrical roles, but you still have to bring believable life, on film, to a character that may be your 'type', but is not you. That's acting.
One of the most important skills an actor can have is to be a good reader. When you first audition with your script, you may only have a few minutes to analyze it. Usually, you'll find yourself reading most of the copy in the audition. Even then, you cannot sound like you are reading.
This may not seem like a talent to you but you would be surprised. Most people can't do it, but an actor has to be able to. You should hear most copywriters read their own copy -- they're terrible! ... and they wrote it!
If you are not a good reader, work at it. It will hold you back considerably. A good way to practice this is to read the newspaper out loud. Then do it standing, facing your TV, use it as the camera. When you get more comfortable reading, try looking up and returning back to the page.
Track your finger down the side of the paper while you are reading. Looking away isn't going to help much if you lose your place.
Try to do this reading as naturally as you can. Just 'talk'... as if to a friend... perhaps to your best friend.
Remember commercials are really just little scripts, little stories that have to be told believably. You're job as an actor may be to convince the audience that Carlson's Bar B Q Sauce is the absolute best you've ever tried! As silly as it may seem to you, the audience still has to believe you. (If you like it so much, maybe they will too.)
If your performance is unnatural, the audience won't give the product a second thought. If you're auditioning, the client won't give you a second thought.
Even though you are an actor, you never want to be caught 'acting'. Whether your lines are memorized or you are reading, your delivery should be no different than when you are simply talking.
A good way to check this is to talk to someone normally, then pick up something and read it to them, or quote some lines that you have memorized. There should be no difference between your natural speaking voice and your performing voice (unless it's a different character. If it is, read something closer to 'you'.).
See if you slip into "actor mode" when you start performing. If so, you've got something else to work on. Practice talking, then reading and have the two seamlessly flow.
Any preparation you do as an actor or with the script must not show. We learn how to act in order to act without it looking like we have learned how to act. Every time you perform the script, whether auditioning or performing, it should sound like an improvisation. You are thinking up the words you are saying about this product or in this scene and you're doing it for the very first time.
One little trick that makes everything sound a bit more like a "real Person" is to 'stutter' every once in a while. Not actually stutter, but use it as a technique to make it sound like you are really thinking about what to say next. i.e.. "I-I-I didn't know what to do next." "Do you really think that...that he'd do that?" Don't make every thought sound memorized.
Auditioning successfully is when a lot of little abilities and characteristics come into focus at the same time. Like the points we brushed on today, sometimes simply being aware of them is enough to pop your performance up a notch… and that just may be the difference between booking the job or not.
By Steve Carlson
Article printed with permission from iActingStudios.com and Rick La Fond. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved. - iActing Studios is a premiere provider of Online Acting Classes. They feature hundreds of hours of in-depth classes; hosted by professional instructors and coaches who've taugh some of Hollywood's most famous A-listers.