I’ve put in much more than the 10,000 hours Malcolm Gladwell suggests would make you an expert in any field – including the field of job interviewing – so perhaps my fellow underemployed Americans would appreciate a professional actor’s (read: continual interviewee’s) tips about keeping your confidence intact when hustling for work, as auditions are tougher than you might think.
An audition is actually the delivery of a full performance – without the benefit of props, costume, professional hair styling or make up. Or pay. It also must be delivered while balancing ten pages of script and seeming like your not just pretending while you are performing alongside someone who is just pretending as they just a hired “reader.” All this is done in front of a firing squad of hiring types who openly judge me as I pour my heart out with someone else’s words – which could easily crush your confidence.
Yet, that is not the spirit crushing part of my job interview. That’s just the “art” part.
The real confidence test at my job trial starts long before when I receive “the sides” – a phrase from a century ago when Hollywoodland lacked email, fax, photocopiers or even dittos with that wonderfully weird ink smell. In the days when secretaries’ typed each script actors only received “their side” of the story – which encompassed the scenes they were in.
Today we are often gifted the entire story to read before an initial meeting with producers or casting people. Sometimes the reading is great; more often it is a chore that takes about an hour. However, when the script is deemed “too important” for actors to read it in advance of their auditions – you spend way more than one hour figuring out what the hell is going on in the scene you are asked to bring to life.
When I begin the work on the five to twenty pages of dialogue in my sides that I am asked to learn and regurgitate with charm – I have to pull out my emotional baggage, to give it to a character. Depending on the type of artist you are that takes somewhere between 15 minutes and 10 hours. Professional coaches are often hired and paid by the hour to do this. Or if you are a studied actor, fellow thespians will be called in to practice and or direct you to this dark/vulnerable/funny place, which may end up costing you more when you are asked to return the favor.
Onto the day of the audition, I imagine that men spend 15 minutes preparing their face, shoes, clothing and car to get to the audition. That is enviable to me as a female since my hair, makeup, and wardrobe must meet prom night standards. This plus commute time equals a minimum two-hour commitment for all actresses, regardless if you like to play dress up or not.
Then there is the first hour after the audition which years of experience will teach you is the only one you should ever allow yourself to think about this potential job because if you will be offered it, you will get that call within that hour.
Sadly, new actors (meaning anyone younger than Betty White) will spend much more than one hour hoping and overanalyzing the audition and themselves. This process will not help you land this job and can crush your chances for the next. At the very least we will do this until an agent or director or friend in the project gives you “feedback.”
Feedback is a gentle word for someone else’s opinion of why you didn’t get the job.
This self-flagellation will certainly be revisited when we eventually see for ourselves, who got the job I spent at least 3 hours on. And after many decades in the business, you’ll probably know this person. Which is it’s own special penance.
In summary, here are the Clift notes after putting myself through this insidious job-fetching process for longer than Lindsay Lohan has been alive:
Do your homework. Whether that’s understanding the script or the company you might work for. And if the job’s important to you, invest some money in your prep or intel as you are worth the investment.
Look appropriate for the job, in a way that makes you feel good, but don’t try to reinvent yourself. Reinvention is easier when you have an income to support it.
The interview itself should be the shortest and therefore easiest part of the process. Think of it like a first date that will be over and gone before you know it – so don’t save your best stuff for next time or there won’t be one.
Start the clock the minute you walk out the door and only allow yourself the next hour to think about everything you just did from prep to curtain call. And if by chance you later hear who got that job you put time and energy into – – wish them well. Someday you will get the right job for you and all those good wishes may work as a force field when the playa haters turn on you.
(Diane Farr is an actress and author. Her second book, “Kissing Outside The Lines,” is a comic look at interracial marriage in America and available at http://amzn.to/kisslines. You can find all her writing at www.GetDianeFarr.com, or follow her at www.twitter.com/getdianefarr or www.facebook/getdianefarr.)
COPYRIGHT © 2012 DIANE FARR