Pilot Season Intensive Class

 

Pilot Season Intensive Class - Starts 1/31, Tuesdays for 4 Weeks.

Designed for serious actors who just want to work, tune up for this pilot season, and do it with someone who has perspective. Partnering with @theselftape, class will meet every Tuesday evening at 6:00 p.m. at their studios in West Hollywood.

For more information, drop me a note - scullyfilm@gmail.com -- or:

SIGN UP!!!: www.selftape.com

ROOM TENSION

Forget every bit of advice you ever heard about how to show up at auditions with a professional smile and a polite and gracious manner. Forget all the b.s. about headshots and resume formats, as well as how to intruduce yourself, slate, smile, dress, make eye contact, exude positive energy...ALL OF IT.

Nothing could be more misguided and crippling to an actor. That kind of behavior immediately sets up a power imbalance that puts you at a disadvantage. You, hoping for their approval, smiling your way to a callback, and them, holding the keys to the kingdom.

Don't do it. In fact, don't listen to anyone who gives you any sort of a blanket approach to walking into an audition room. Why?

Tension.

The crux of any audition, any public speaking situation and any job interview is TENSION.

We all deal with room tension at one time or another in our lives. Job interviews, dating, public speaking, etc. YOU are in front of US with a job, or approval, on the line. You are there to make your case, we are there to evaluate your case. Some people manage it, some don't.

The weird thing about tension is that it usually doesn't affect the people evaluating because they're used to it. And they don't take on the responsibility of breaking it, because interviewees are usually quick to do so.

Why do we do that?

Because society has taught us we must work to make that tension go away. We're taught, for some bizarre reason, that we have to impress, charm, or tap dance that tension away, so we do. Fortunately for most people, job interviews are a temporary gateway that they don't often have to pass through.

Unless you're an actor.

Actors repeatedly find themselves in these situations. Auditioning, if you think about it, is unlike any other form of job interview. Every job you get lasts...how long? A day or two? A week? Couple of months maybe? Then you're back at it. And contrary to what a lot of young actors tend to think, the higher you climb in this business, the harder it gets. Compare for a moment, if you will, how your pre-read feels in relation to a final callback for a pivotal role in a prominent feature, or pilot? The high-pressure, high-tension situation never, ever goes away, and (some would say) only gets greater as you work your way up the food chain.

So why not make it your friend? 

Easier said than done, right? Maybe not, if you think of it the right way.

First of all, you are not there to make people LIKE you. You are not there to be NICE. You are there to serve the story.

Period.

Everything you do should stem from that, and we can tell in a moment if you're an actor who has their mind on the distraction of what's going on in the room. You talk too much, show your cards easily, and interact in a way that works against the material. You can't help but respond to the feeling that the people on the other side are comfortable with that tension. But you can't control the producer who doesn't look up from his phone when you enter, so why should that behavior affect you?

Your power lies in how you handle that tension. Ultimately it comes down to how strongly you believe in your own work, of course, but we take our cue from you on how seriously we should take you as an actor. And I believe that if you are comfortable with tension, we will pay attention to you.

Actors who know their power lies in their work don't tend to feel the need to do too much beyond that. They accept that there is going to be tension in every room, and will often preserve that tension if it works for the role. 

These actors want you to feel threatened, moved, offended, awkward, etc. if the material calls for it. They see that akwardness as their ally if it fuels the scene itself or triggers their emotional responses. And it's that awareness of how to use the pressure of a given room to their advantage that sets working actors apart.

Next time you get a set of sides, take a moment and think through the psychology of managing tension in a room, and how it relates to that role, and that story. Chances are, the worst thing you could do is approach it the same way you'd approach a real job interview. With a smile and some bizarre pre-rehearsed body language or (worse) micro expressionswhatever the hell those are.

Trust your preparation, accept that tension is always a factor, and know that there is more than one way to deal with it. More often than not, if it is right for the story, it will be right for the room. 

LISTEN UP

The future of filmmaking is in not adhering to the 'permission-based system' that has existed for years. That is dying. Read how NY filmmakers are taking matters into their own hands here.

Benh Zeitlin's approach to filmmaking is worth a listen as well. Everything is changing now...

ROUNDTABLE

Everything about this discussion is worth hearing. Perspective is so important to any actor, and there's a lot of that in here. Check it out:

SHOWING UP

This seems like an interesting dialogue on the process of auditioning:

FAKING IT

This has everything to do with being an actor. Do yourself a favor and watch Amy Cuddy's TED Talk. We cannot always logically identify why we change or how we learn, particularly when it comes to the craft of acting. Once we learn to trust it, in spite of the leap of faith it requires, our own intuition is stronger than logical processing.

Shorts...

Check out www.shortoftheweek.com, in particular Erica Wexler is Online by Doron Hagay. Curation of content like this is such a great outlet for filmmakers. This short in particular is a great example of how it truly doesn't take much to create something compelling.

WIDE OPEN

All actors could learn from what comedians and certain filmmakers already know.

Follow what Louis CK has done the last few years, and listen to what Patton Oswalt is saying, or Werner Herzog (from the other side of the entertainment universe...) 

The business is wide open right now. 

 

KRUNK

There are certain film roles that are so dangerously unremarkable that only a small handful of actors could pull them off. Yet film roles they are, no doubt. Framed by television these roles would disappear, quite literally, or be deprived of their precious silence. But on the big screen, the quietly unremarkable role played by the remarkable actor is worth my money any day of the week.

Gary Oldman's performance as the iconic LeCarre anti-protagonist George Smiley in Tomas Alfredson's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is the definition of powerful subtlety. (The last actor to tackle Smiley was Alec Guinness, after Star Wars - a master of subtlety if there ever was one) Spanning several novels, Smiley is perhaps best described by Anthony Lane  - "a man whose great days, as a hopeful human, are already behind him, even though his finest hour, as a spy, may be yet to come". This is such a quintessentially British role, Smiley is as close to resignation as he is to redemption.

The challenge to making a role like Smiley compelling lies in the subtlety. Smiley is described as a man you would meet and instantly forget. He is middle-aged, defeated, and until he takes up the challenge, complacent. How do you make that interesting?

Krunk.

And that's something you either got, or you don't. 

There is no faking krunk. There is earning krunk. There is having krunk beaten into you. There is even natural-born krunk. But there is no faking krunk. 

Actors who define krunk? Betty Davis. Nicholson. Bogart. Meryl Streep. Morgan Freeman. Russell Crowe, to name just a few.

In this role, the only thing that makes the incredible subtlety of Smiley work is the weight of his entire career. It is almost as though Smiley was a very British Clint Eastwood role; but different than a British Clint Eastwood role in, say, a Guy Ritchie movie. Smiley is all about intellectual weight, which is the domain of a very small handful of actors.

Alfredson says Smiley is all about vulnerability, but in the dissection of what are layers and what are roots in a role - that may be a layer. The roots in Smiley, as in any man his age, lie in his Weltanschauung, or his world-view. When a performance is so completely clear in its world view, there is no visible separation between actor and role. It is complete.

The world-view is the hinge between an actor's life experience and what lies in a role. It is an actor's way into a role, and should become its backbone. What you dream about, is the perfect marriage of world-view, life experience, and a great role. This performance, like many of his others, has it all.

This year seems to be the year of possibility with movies. If there is more of the same to come, actors have something to hope for going forward. If you haven't, go see Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

 

 

FEAR

“Hope and fear come from feeling that we lack something; they come from a sense of poverty. We can’t simply relax with ourselves. We hold on to hope, and hope robs us of the present moment. We feel that someone else knows what is going on, but that there is something missing in us, and therefore something is lacking in our world.” 
― Pema Chödrön 



A few years ago we were bringing in MMA fighters to audition for a team of elite soldiers in a feature. One of them was a heavyweight who had won several belts. As he walked into the room and shook my hand, I remember thinking that he defined quiet confidence.

Now, presumably this is a person who would get in a ring with just about anyone and fight them. A man who has mastered his fear.

We chatted for a while about his career as a fighter and eventually got down to the business at hand. He had a few basic questions and we did the best we could to make him comfortable.

But as the camera began to roll, something very interesting happened.

Fear set in.

Not butterflies, not nerves. Fear. He was terrified, and couldn't shake it. We stopped, took a moment, restarted, stopped, took another moment, put him at ease, restarted...but nothing worked. Even he finally admitted it - the camera scared the crap out of him.

I felt horrible for him, but at the same time knew exactly what he was going through.

And it's not fear. He's not afraid of auditioning. Walking into that room isn't exactly tapping into his fight or flight mechanism. He's not anxious, either.

Fear and anxiety don't adequately explain what he, or any actor, experiences in these moments. Everyone has them - even veteran actors find themselves having to work through their nerves. 

So, backing up a bit, what's the difference between fear and anxiety? Some say fear is your body's natural response to a specific threat, whereas anxiety is essentially anticipation of an unspecific threat.

Fear is seeing a dangerous person approaching in a dark alley, anxiety is walking down that dark alley thinking of what could happen.

Others say that anxiety is fear of fear itself - that you know you don't do well in dark alleys and that whatever you come across is going to scare you.

That's an interesting distinction. 

Research indicates that we all have something called ITC Neurons in the Amygdala (part of the brain that regulates emotion) that are our brain's way of controlling fear and anxiety. The science of this gets complicated, reaaaallly complicated, but basically it suggests that we are as capable of fear as we are of fear 'extinction'.

We can aquire a fear of a certain Pavlovian circumstance, and we can extinguish that fear as well. In the moment, it seems, we either recall the fear memories OR the extinction memories in which we overcame that fear. 

Speaking as someone who earlier in my career had a tough time with auditioning, this research on fear inhibition makes complete sense to me. I know how it feels to have your work become entangled in spider webs of doubt, self-awareness, and pressure. I know how inexplicable it is to experience it.

Back when I was acting, I remember that one of the things that kept me in the business was recalling performances (live) in which I'd gotten that feeling that I'm sure you've had, of having the audience in the palm of your hand. It doesn't happen often, but it can sustain you through tougher times.

We can 'unlearn' fear, but we can also learn how to control fear by recalling how we've done it before. But as many actors know, there is always the possibliity of a resurgance.

How does that happen?

For me, it is usually an indication of not setting up a scene properly. Expectations, deeply rooted objectives etc. - all the groundwork that allows the scene to play itself - all have to be in place. Deepen the truth of a scene, and set yourself up with a clear, definitive, forward-moving direction...and there is no space for fear.

As my great teacher Ted Kazanoff used to say, GET IT IN YOUR BODY, and OUT OF YOUR HEAD.

Make it all about the content, about getting it right then and there, and taking satisfaction in that. Empower yourself with your preparation and trust that you have done this before.

“Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth” 
― Pema Chödrön

***

One thing I do know - there is not one all-encompassing psychology for inhibiting fear - we all must find our own. Anyone who tells you their method is the answer is trying to sell you something. You have to lean into your own fear and accept it as you would your courage. 

I suspect much of it is rooted in our experience. We are result-oriented by nature, and any focus on results takes away from the moment. That may sound Buddhist, but I would not be the first to suggest an essentially Buddhist approach to acting and auditioning. 

Either way, you must know you're not alone.

We all live with fear in one way or another. We all process way too much sensory information when we should be narrowing our focus. We all have our dark alleys we must walk down.

Even MMA fighters. 

 

DIRECTION

I polled a handful of actors recently about something that's been on my mind this fall - Direction. These are all veteran actors whose ability and awareness I respect. They are speaking from experience.

Specifically, I was interested in how they approach both auditioning and working on set with regards to direction. Everyone who's taken my class knows I'm all about preparation, and a huge part of that is learning how to direct yourself until you are hired. But more often than not that continues onto the set. In the ratio of fending for yourself vs. relying on direction, most actors understand the concept but not all know how to put it into practice.

Here are a few of their responses:

"It REALLY depends on the show and people involved. I ALWAYS show up assuming that I might not get any direction beyond the basic blocking. In TV there is usually very little time to rehearse , so you really need to arrive with an idea of what you would like to do with the scene. ESPECIALLY because if you are the guest star , they tend to shoot your side first, so that the "stars" can work on their lines and find what they want to do with the scene. This means that you are sometimes acting with someone who is not sharp with their cues and is not really giving you what they will ultimately end up doing when the camera turns around on them. It can be really tricky. Obviously,you have to be in the moment and react to what they are giving you BUT make sure that you also do what YOU want to do. This is a really hard dance."

From another:

"PREPARATION IS FREEDOM. That is my motto. I would rather be over prepared than lose an opportunity because i am underprepared. AND I believe there is always opportunity - even when you are just given the basic blocking and told to go. Connect with the prop man before rehearsal starts, if you have an idea for a prop that might help the scene. Talk to the script supervisor about a line that seems weird or one that you might want to add. GET TO THE SET EARLY. You are not being "difficult' if you gently inquire about something BEFORE the ball gets rolling. Even your costume fitting is an opportunity to talk about how the scene might go."

And another:

"I always prepare for any audition as if i will get zero direction.  Similar thing goes for a role...I never want to rely on direction to get me there.  Its my character.  I should own it. But I am certainly always open for more inspiration and good direction.  you gotta always want to continue to seach and explore. For me, taking this approach free s me up to take direction in a way that works for the character  vs just trying to do what someone wants you to do...that to me, makes a flimsy performance."

And:

"My experience has been that it mostly is a fend for yourself situation and the rare but welcome exception is when a director asserts themselves in the process. I try to prepare as thoroughly as I can then throw away any attachement to choices I've explored in order to be responsive to the conditions in the room. When I've attempted to dictate my own sense of the tone the resulting performance is generally insensitive to the reader and lacking chemistry. In the few instances where a director is either hands on or has taken a special interest because of my performance it's typically a relief. There can be times when, instead of a relief, an assertive director is an audition killer because their personality or take on the material can collide with mine. But by and large the rare director who will work a scene is an encouraging sign of their interest in what I'm doing or have the potential to do."

Also:

"I worked with (Insert TV Star) on (Insert Primetime Show) and she didnt' know ANY of her lines. She had them all on cue cards on the floor. She didn't even look at me most of the time, she was too busy searching for her line. I sucked it up and played the scene as if she was giving me what i needed. In the scene we were in an argument , so it was really important that the energy stay intense. There were a few times when she was slow on her cue and i lost the energy on my side. I just backed up and said the line again. I did that several times. I knew the editors could piece it together. When we turned around on her , I actually did the same thing. She would deliver a line and if she was wobbly on it, i just repeated the line again. This enabled us to keep the energy of the scene up, instead of cutting and picking up the line. It was a risk - she could have gotten annoyed but it worked and she actually thanked me. The scene when it aired was great. I was REALLY PREPARED for this scene and that is the only reason i was able to do what i did."

Interesting...

And finally, two thoughts:

"Bottom line - don't expect anything but be prepared for everything."

"Bear in mind that most auditions are finished within the first 4-7 seconds."

(I don't entirely agree with the latter, but I think it has hyperbolic value.)

IMPROVISATION - Part One

It's always surprising how many actors have improv training, but how few use it effectively.

The vast majority of actors have some improv training, for good reason. As an exercise in any acting class, improv training is vital, and it remains at the core of many acting approaches (not just for comedy). It is also an incredibly valuable tool for rehearsal, particularly when you're dealing with audition material that feels...'inorganic', so to speak. Improv for the meaning and shape of a scene is a great way to make that dialogue your own. But how does it apply to actual auditioning?

This is a broad topic, but one that I think warrants a little discussion. It's been on my mind lately, from casting American Reunion recently and coaching on a highly improvisational set this summer. I realize it's one of the basics, but the actors who know how to utilize it are pure gold. It applies both to auditioning and work on set, but for now, let's talk about improv in auditioning.

Ever heard this in an audition - "You're not stuck to the page, make it your own"? It's probably phrased differently in varying situations but generally speaking - this is a huge opportunity that you should know how to handle. 

First off, if you don't already do it, start listening to podcasts where actors and directors discuss how they work. You will notice that more and more filmmakers are incorporating improv as a way to capture organic moments in their work. Many directors regard the script as a template, and a lot of scripts are written in a much more simplified, condensed manner than an actual shooting script. Those that are, are dependent on actors who know how to expand on the existing structure while remaining true to the story and tone. Auditioning for these projects is, in part, about seeing what you will bring to the work on set.

But how much freedom do you have?

Well, typically that's a sliding scale that varies with what type of project it is. Television obviously has way less leeway with the script, sometimes none at all, and it probably wouldn't serve you to improv in any episodic audition where you haven't been encouraged to do so. Film is another story, as are improv-based comedy shows. 

In both, you have to intuit what the tone of the material is and come up with the best version of your work within that context. You may be a more dramatic actor reading for a broad comedy, or vice versa, and never feel quite right with what you're doing. Which is better - to take a stab at the broad comedy even though it doesn't feel right, or to bring the material to you? I say STICK TO YOUR GUNS and find a way to make it your own, but that's part of another discussion. Either way, your version needs to be defined by your improvisation, and a little goes a long way. And I mean, a little.

Make no mistake, improv that isn't rooted in the text will invariably feel gratuitous. Knowing the scene inside and out, and how it fits in the story, is about the most impressive thing you can do. You know the lines, yes, but you also understand the scene in a deeper sense. Since you can basically never predict what you're going to get in any room, being quick on your feet with improv frees you to fill the scene when the pace or timing aren't optimal - or when there are gaps in dialogue. 

I am constantly amazed at how the better actors always find a way to put their own small stamp on material without it feeling as though they've rewritten it. Taking small chances with adding something of your own, particularly as a coda to a comedic scene, can be incredibly effective. Moreover, it makes us want to see what you might do with a little more freedom to improvise. When that happens, be prepared for it. Have some ideas before you go in, of course, but more importantly - take your time to digest any redirection. How you handle improv is what will set you apart. 

Preparation, in this sense, is knowing the song well enough to take a solo when you get the nod. You're not changing the tune, you're expanding on it. You can't control whether your take on it is the right one, but if it's true to you, we'll remember it.

 

HEELS

"We don't rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training" - Archilochus

It's been a busy fall and winter working as a dialogue coach on a feature for Paramount and acting on NBC's 'Undercovers'. I haven't posted anything in a while, but being on set has been a great experience and it has given me a lot to talk about.

In acting again, as well as shadowing directors last year, I've noticed how hard it can be to do a guest star spot, particularly on procedural shows that have been on long enough to become a well-oiled machine. Veterans who have worked on scores of different shows still have to adjust to each new show the same as young actors - the pace of shooting, the amount (if any) of rehearsal, and the tone, among other things. Holding up the train in any way because you weren't prepared or aware is the last thing you need to add to your list of distractions. Again, this goes back to what you can control and what you can't, but it's all about your work, isn't it? In a way, it's the same argument for being a control freak in auditioning - you do what you need to do to get it right.

The other consideration is what you bring to the set in relation to what you did in the audition. How long has it been? I talked to someone the other day who worked several months after their audition, for example, and they couldn't remember what they'd done. The pace and timing of a half hour vs. an hour long drama are completely different, but they still both have to be tight. There isn't a lot of room for play in either the way there is in a feature, and your approach once you get on set should probably be to dance with the date that brought you. That's not to say that you have to completely duplicate what you did in the audition, but you take what you did and apply it to the real situation without losing what made it work in the first place. That sounds simple enough, but the variables are endless and in a lot of cases (again) preparation is your friend. When the audition is over - make notes on what worked, particularly for comedy. You never know when further callbacks will happen, or if you'll be hired directly and expected to show up with what they liked. Your approach may be more or less thorough than another actor needs, but all of this should become a part of your process, your methodology on set. 

Take heels, for example. I was talking to a friend with a recurring role on an HBO show, who said she recently rehearsed an important scene twice without a hitch on set before shooting it. Then wardrobe gave her heels. Suddenly the timing of her movement and her mark were completely off from what she'd rehearsed, (the heels made her stride shorter) and she had to scramble to adjust. Everyone in this business becomes quick on their feet eventually, and this seems like a small detail but a quick minute of asking to rehearse the scene in those heels would have made a big difference to her performance. Forget that she missed her mark a couple of times, that happens to everyone. But she's the kind of actor who likes to be precise, and this threw her off.

In a completely different instance, another friend had to deliver one line in a show just as a helicopter came into view. The timing of the helicopter was different than what had been rehearsed and he just couldn't get it right. Five takes and two hours later, with ten minutes before twilight, you can imagine how this actor felt...

What could you do differently? Well, that should all stem from what you need as an actor. Most actors benefit from learning all the different component parts of a scene by getting it in their body and out of their head. That means doing it. Do it with the actual props you will be using, for example - and if they're not around, ask for them. Miming props in blocking or rehearsal is never going to be the same as the real thing. The same goes for wardrobe, and any technical details - points of focus, timing cues, frame awareness...but we'll talk about some of that later. 

Sets now are all fast-moving trains when it's time to shoot, and sometimes you are hopping on and off without any time to settle into things. Actors have to pick up on all of those component parts and how they're going to come together, in addition to the politics of how each set works. The expectation, more often than not, is that you will nail it in the same way you did in the room. Every actor shows up hoping to do just that. But being prepared for each situation isn't always about lines and blocking - it's about being aware, and being as thorough with every single detail as possible. Once they're rolling, a prepared actor is a free actor.

MAKING EXPOSITION WORK

There may be nothing more uninspiring than the role that is obviously there for exposition alone. The forensics guy, the medical technician, the psychiatrist...the list is a long one. But any role can have exposition put into it, and you have to find a way to make it work. Usually it varies with how good the writing is, but the majority of scripts have some sort of exposition in dialogue to further the plot. How obvious it is correlates directly to how difficult it is to make it seem, well...like it's not exposition, but either way, there is one thing you can count on:

The actor who must get across what is important without it feeling expository.

For tv, medical dramas, procedural dramas, horror movies, thrillers, and just about ANY sci-fi, there's going to be exposition in certain roles. Usually it comes in a couple of different forms--

The Expert and The Historian.

The Expert forwards the plot by spitting out technical information as though it was second nature. The Historian, by making discreet reference to past events. Any role can become either for a scene or part of a scene, and in those instances it's vital to find a way to get the information out without it being obvious.

With The Expert, a few things are critical. First of all, for a lot of stock roles we have to believe this is what you do every day. That doesn't mean you treat the circumstances as though they are everyday, it means you de-emphasize the information that is not important. A coroner going through a routine autopsy may be going through a laundry list of things, most of which don't matter that much. What does matter is that we buy the coroner as an expert and that the crucial information is set apart in some way. What is everyday and what is not? Complex terminology has to feel as though it is completely familiar, and yes, correct pronunciation makes a big difference. "We believe it may be hypoxanthine phosphoribosyltransferse deficiency, but we can't be sure without molecular genetic testing." What?? I know...

But it's also sometimes about making a deeper choice with a stock role. The deeply concerned, attentive psychiatrist is not always as interesting as the bored one who makes a discovery they didn't expect. Of course, it has to be appropriate to the scene, but the contrast between what is commonplace and what is exceptional can be very effective. Take the stock out of the stock role and the exposition isn't as noticeable. 

The Historian, in the same way, is always more interesting when a deeper choice is made. Well written scripts tie exposition in as a by-product of what is at the core of a scene. The better the writing is, the less noticeable the exposition. Horror movies are riddled with difficult exposition, and just because the dialogue is clearly informational doesn't mean there isn't a way to make it seamless. It may seem completely obvious, but sometimes you have to find your own deeper connection to past events, even though they're not written into the scene. Think of it in the context of how most people would only play what is on the page and it starts to make sense how a strong choice can make the information seem more tied in.

I know, it seems pretty basic. It should. It's not a big picture discussion at all, but until you get on set you're your own director, which is to say you have to know how to approach text. Everyone has to deal with exposition at some point, and admittedly it's sort of a discussion about making pigs fly, but it's a skill. The fact is, every piece of exposition has to be disguised in some way or it would seem gratuitous. You're a big part of that.

GETTING THE SCRIPT

Ever heard this? --

"There is no script."

"No script?"

"Nobody has it. That's what they told me."

I'm sure a lot of you have. Then you find yourself sitting in the waiting room next to someone with a copy of it, bound by their agency's shiny document cover.

Or they're saying--

"They didn't email it to me until late last night."

Quietly, I'd like to elaborate on what is a very common situation. The fact is, unless there is an issue with original material, or the script is being kept under wraps by the studio, there is almost always a way to get it. If it's out there, you need to read it. If you want to have any idea how to approach sides you've been given, you need to read it. You have to know that the field is not level if you have no perspective of the project as a whole, or how your character fits into it. You need...to read...the script. Let me explain...

First of all, what's it like to audition when all you have is the sides? Typically, you will always have questions - everyone has questions - about your preparation. You bring your instincts, common sense, intuition, and methodology into preparing material, and still you have no idea how that will align with the director's, or producers' for that matter. If you only have the sides, you must make a judgement call on what the tone is, how your character fits into the bigger picture, and how relationships progress. You are going off what you envision, but basically you are working in guesses. A lot of guesses. You prepare the best you can and hope it works, because the alternative is to ask a million questions before you start and risk having your brain rewired as a result. This is acting in a vacuum.

Most of the time, what you pick up from reading the script is crucial to how you approach your sides. Page count is critical, for example. Next time you get sides, think of what it means that a scene is on page 15, let's say. It will most likely be a set up scene. In television, set up scenes are de-emphasized and often contain a fair amount of exposition. They need to be easy and fluid, even though the instinct is sometimes to make more of them. They provide relief to later scenes when a character is challenged in some way, and you have to see them as an opportunity to show that character in relatively normal circumstances. If it's a lead, know that we probably have to be in their corner by this scene - how does that change your approach?

Another scene on page 99 will be all about the journey this person has been on the last 99 pages. Is the final act a slow train pulling into a station or a fireball hurtling towards us? If you don't know how we get to that point or what the movement of the piece is at that page count, you're guessing a hell of a lot. Of course many other things appear when you have a script and there are a million scenarios to discuss, but hopefully you get the idea.

If you think of things from the other side of the table, think of how invested a director is in getting the story right. That means knowing a script backwards and forwards - storyboarding, setting up locations, shots, etc. All of that is the subjective framing of what you bring to the role. You will never know exactly what they envision, but you have to know they approach casting as a way to get great ideas - to see things in fifty ways that might not have occurred to even the best directors. Actors help directors more than they know, and the process can be invaluable to them. Your insight on how a script might work, how a story could be stronger, how a character's arc could be more interesting - these are all things you get from knowing a script very well.

There will always be talented, smart actors up for the same role you are. There will always be actors whose resumes are stronger, and whose auditions are more polished. You don't have to be any of the above to be the one we respond to most. You just have to be the actor who makes choices that are informed and true to what you envision. That comes from reading the script, twice if need be. Regardless, the one question you don't want to be asked right after your audition is--

"You didn't get the script, did you?"