We received a great question that we think many of you may also have:
I have a question mostly for Casting Directors. Here in Atlanta there has been a great deal of concern about actors not having auditions fully memorized before the audition. For both film/TV and commercials. Now, unless things have changed, In Hollywood, they really didn't want you to have the audition completely memorized. However here in Atlanta they do. My question is how do you handle the audition when the Casting Director or their rep who is reading with you, loses their place in the script? Do you stop, and tell the reader they messed up? Or do you continue and have who you are auditioning for think it was your fault.
I had an audition for a Indy film last fall and was very familiar with my scene. After my audition, the casing director asked me back that afternoon to read for the Director and Producer, but to please have my scene memorized. Which I did. But during the audition, with the casting director reading, she lost her place, and the only way the audition was saved, was that I had the script in my hand. Which I later found out that Casting Directors in Atlanta want you to be script free. What are your thoughts?
First, let me address the question of having auditions fully memorized. I'm aware of the situation here in Atlanta about casting directors insisting on having auditions memorized and how that differs from how things are in Hollywood. Here at yourACT On-Camera Acting Classes (http://www.youract.tv), we are affiliated with the Margie Haber Studios in Los Angeles (http://www.margiehaber.com), where Margie teaches a cold-reading technique used by many stars. Margie is author of "How To Get The Part Without Falling Apart" and has coached the likes of Brad Pitt, Vince Vaughn, Halle Berry, Heather Locklear, Sophia Bush, and many others.
She was very surprised when she first started teaching her workshops in Atlanta to discover that actors were asked to be "off book" for auditions. As you said, not only is this rarely asked for, but often is not really wanted for auditions in L.A.
Some reasons why casting directors in Atlanta may want memorized audtions may be:
1) Actors in Atlanta generally don't have multiple auditions each week, or even in a single day, and so have more time to memorize effectively. Actors in Hollywood audition more frequently and so it's not realistic to expect them to be prepared until they've had a script longer, say, for a call-back.
2) Evidently they have found that actors here don't know how to cold-read properly, for example, they are "buried" in the script and don't connect with the reader, so there is no eye contact and the scene suffers.
3) They may have had bad experiences with actors who audition well, but can't memorize lines and so they don't do well on the set. It may be for this reason that they don't want you to even hold the script in your hand - they may see it as a crutch that you won't have on the actual job.
I studied in L.A. for a decade, and we were always taught to keep the script in our hand at all times, unless it was a call-back situation where they had given us at least a week with the script to get it memorized. Personally, I strongly disagree with not having the script in your hand at the initial audition. That way if you do get lost, you have a safety net...it saves time in the event that you get lost and it keeps you from having to be prompted for the line, etc. If you only have a few lines, like an "under 5", you should definitely memorize your script and shouldn't need it in your hand. If it's a long script and you are cold-reading, know the story. You can only do an effective cold-read if you understand the who, what, when, where, and why of the relationships and situation.
It is definitely an advantage to be a "quick study" with lines - you will find on the set that you'll have revisions to the script at the last minute, both for film, TV, and commercials, and you have to learn them quickly. My experience, however, is that if you know good cold-read technique, a good cold-reading is far superior to an audition where most of your energy is focused on remembering your lines, lines that you may not have had that long to study.
The second part of your question, about what to do if the casting director or reader messes up, is pretty straightforward. No, you absolutely do NOT stop and tell the reader they messed up! That will just embarrass them, especially if the director, writer, producer, or other VIP is in the room. Don't make them look bad. It won't be appreciated. It's a difficult situation, but if you stay in character and just ad lib until you can get the scene back on track you will show them you are a professional. I had an agent tell one of my classes that they expect mistakes in auditions, what sets the good actors apart from the rest is how they handle those mistakes.
Hope this helps! Maybe if enough actors in Atlanta brush up on their cold-reading skills or we start getting so much work due to the new tax incentives that we're too busy to memorize auditions, then we can change things to be more like they are in Hollywood.