Being prepared is something they always tell you makes a difference. They. All of them. We hear it often enough. Bumper sticker slogans about good luck being the result of hard work and preparedness. Is that a word?
What I have found, often comically, is that it makes little difference in the end. You do the work in advance. You practice your lines. Put together your audition. You conjure up every moment in great detail. In your imagination. The night before.
Then you get there and they throw you a curve. They. The ones with fuzzy aim to start with. So you miss the catch. Lose the job. Laugh a little later. What more can you do?
Of course, if you hadn’t shown up prepared, then that would be the one time it would have counted. You can bet on it.
After a long dry spell, I had two auditions. Two days in a row. Back to back. One was for a commercial with an insanely large, can change the course of your life, paycheck. The other was for a small budget film with only three days of small budget work. Still, it’s a movie, which means a credit on IMDB.
For both of them, I prepared days in advance. The commercial was looking for Venice beach type performers. Clowns, mimes, living statues, stilt walkers, unicyclists, balloon sculptors, jugglers. I had submitted my mime shot, but they did not specify if they wanted to see me just for mime, or if they also wanted to see me on stilts, or unicycle.
So I prepared all three. Put together a cute little mime routine, lasting no more than a minute. I planned on having my unicycle and stilts in the lobby, so I could quickly switch skills and come back into the room. Maybe a three part audition. If they would let me. They. The ones working the camera and making the decisions.
Most importantly, I chose a theme. A black and white wardrobe, with bright red touches. A red scarf. A red gerber daisy on my hat. A red umbrella. For each section of my planned three part audition, I practiced a quick costume adjustment, sticking with that theme.
“Good, you’re just a mime, so you’ll be quick. Come on in.”
“Well, I have my stilts and unicycle, too.”
It was decided the two stilt walkers already on their stilts would go in ahead of me.
That was fine. One of them was a guy I’ve worked with before and he is really much better than I am so I was glad to have chosen my mime bit first and perhaps I shouldn’t even try the stilts since he is there and really I’d like him to get the job because his wife is expecting any day now and they can surely use the money besides they can hire a guy on stilts and a mime so perhaps I should have just gone in the room when I was asked to and not even mentioned the things I had planned.
Turn off that channel. Focus on your audition.
I hopped on my unicycle, noticing there was carpeting on the floor. The rooms were small. Ceilings were low. This was not an ideal location for auditioning Venice beach type performers.
I rode down the carpeted hallway and into the carpeted nearby rooms. Not well. My riding, I mean. I’d never tried riding my unicycle on carpeting before, and as it turns out, it makes it difficult to pivot. I could ride straight, but turning was a challenge.
When I went into the room, the guy asked to see the unicycle first.
“Could I start with mime?” It was my strongest chance of getting hired. I’m a pretty good mime. Barely passable on the unicycle or stilts.
That part went well. He laughed more than once. Told me the client is going to love the black and white and red theme. Encouraging.
I made my quick change and got on the unicycle.
“The room is a bit small, and riding on carpet is tricky, so I may cheat and hold onto the wall.”
He said that was fine, but I didn’t think it was. So I let go of the wall when he turned on the camera and made a circle around the tiny room.
Actually crashed. Furniture got knocked over. A chair, I think, and something else. Some kind of stand. My umbrella turned inside out the way umbrellas do on windy days in Manhattan. It was rather funny. Not at all what I had planned, but my clown training kicked in and I used the crash to get a laugh.
Even so. Crash on camera and you have lost the job. No matter how well the cute little less than a minute mime routine went, nor how much they are going to love your black and white and red theme.
“Should I put on my stilts now?”
For the second audition, the small budget film, we were told there would be no script. So we should prepare a song or a dance, and be ready to improvise.
The role was a court jester at a Renaissance Faire. Which is kind of funny. Since I had once played a court jester at a Renaissance Faire.
Feeling confident in my qualifications, I rehearsed a period sounding song, and brushed off a few of my old jester routines. Improvisation is not something done truly off the cuff. Most comic people have a few bits of schtick safely tucked up their sleeve.
When I got to the audition, I was given a scene from the script. Surprise!
Forget about the song and dance. Forget the comic schtick. Now I have to learn these lines quickly and couldn’t they have sent this to me yesterday? No problem. I was early, and there are two guys ahead of me in line.
About that. Both of them are young and blond and handsome. How was I called in to read against them? Then, up from the floor below comes the sound of bells. Jingle bells. The kind of jingle bells worn by a court jester.
There is a midget standing at the top of the stairs. Yes, I know, they prefer dwarf. Or little person. Each of those sounds more demeaning than midget. So now if I’m cast, I would be taking a job away from an actor who probably doesn’t get called in to play a wide range of roles. Court Jesters and Leprechauns. How does he feel about that? He doesn’t seem to mind, since he is wearing bells on his three pointed hat.
I decide they should give the part to him, but still go into the room and read my un-improvised scene as well as I can.
“That was lovely,” she said. The director. I believe she meant it.
When I didn’t hear back from the commercial, I have to admit I was disappointed. Not only because of the insanely large, can change the course of your life, paycheck. It’s hard walking away from an audition when things do not go smoothly. Sure, I laughed it off at the time, but was hoping for a second chance at the callback.
It’s much easier when you know you did well. That film, for instance. No matter what the outcome, I couldn’t have done anything better than I did. Now it was up to the director to decide if she wanted a handsome young blond guy, a little person, or me.