Keeping Yourself Focused During Auditions Is All About "Do's and Don'ts"
Keeping Yourself Focused During Auditions Is All About “Do’s and Don’ts”
Sara Mornell says there are a lot of things you need to do to make your audition successful, but avoiding these 3 “don’ts” that cause sudden death is key.

When actors come to me and say they really want to work on their craft, I know that I am not the coach for them. The audition goes against everything we are taught as actors. To me, acting is so intricate and complex that I know it’s something I will learn more about when I’m 90. Lately I have been more vocal about my philosophy that the audition must be taught as an art form and that has garnered one or two angry responses. However my job is to talk to you, the actors, and tell you what is not being taught.

1. As an actor we strive to connect. In an audition? Don’t. ‘Connect!’ We have all heard that at one point or another in our training. If you try and connect in an audition you will fail. The casting director observes your choices and looks at you to see if you look the part and if you have the essence of what they are looking for. If they are to act with you then that could affect or change your performance. Just this morning a new client came in fresh off getting her BFA from USC and had been auditioning for the past six months with no success. The first thing we did after talking for a few minutes was have her pretend she was coming into the room to read for me. Immediately she was thrown by my energy and affected by my rapid fire emotionless read and thus, her inability to connect. As soon as we identified this, she was able to start understanding that she is acting alone. When I am coaching actors I will act the scenes out first to find the relationship and break down the scene. I will then go into ‘casting director mode’ and read flat while watching their performance. Once there is a wall between the actor and the casting director we are free to do what we want in the room.

2. Rehearse … but if you do that in the room, you have lost the job. This is a final performance from the minute you walk in. You must have a perfect take on camera that can be passed onto a studio head who is making the decision to hire you. If you are fumbling or too big or not 1000 percent prepared (or 50 other things that affect the performance), then your tape most likely won’t be passed on. This has to be what I call a ‘cut, print, moving on’ take.

3. Be honest. To me, if I had to boil acting down to one word, it would be ‘honesty.’ The audition is the exact opposite of that and is a completely fake environment. It’s so much easier to act on a set where the love of your life is drowning and you are on a life boat trying to save him. But in reality, you would be in a boat trying to save the actor who is acting opposite you. In the room you are either standing or sitting and the supposed love of your life is looking at you with judgment and giving nothing for you to work with. So, how do you bring truth to your audition? It all starts by understanding the obstacles that you will inevitability face in the room.

So this is the start of understanding what needs to happen in a room or in front of a casting director. When sending clients off to auditions, I tell them to ‘kill it.’

Breaking a leg just doesn’t work in the land of film and TV. If you want to truly be in the arena then get ready to maim, massacre, and kill it.

Sara Mornell is a Los Angeles working actor, coach, and Backstage Expert. As a working actor Sara Mornell’s coaching comes from first hand experience rather than outdated teaching. After graduating from Carnegie Mellon’s BFA Acting program, she was signed by the Paul Kohner Agency upon arriving in Los Angeles. Several years later after recurring on “Judging Amy” and “Becker” (as the first actor CBS had allowed to cross over onto two shows simultaneously) as well as booking a pilot, Mornell took a step back from the business to reevaluate. It was at that point an agent asked her to coach a client on an audition and the results were immediate. As she began teaching, Mornell realized that she wouldn’t be comfortable advising actors if she wasn’t working as an actor herself. Making coaching the priority she has been able to work part-time as an actor and full-time changing actors lives. Until now, Mornell has been a referral-only coach who is responsible for taking actors like Jesse Williams (“Grey’s Anatomy”) and Kenny Wormald (“Footloose”) into major careers. Her clients also include veteran actors such as Rose Rollins (“The L Word”) and Ethan Embry (“Can’t Hardly Wait”) among hundreds of others. Her testimonials from working actors say it all.

Some of Mornell’s credits include “People Like Us,” “Six Feet Under,” George Clooney’s HBO pilot “Kilroy,” “Lie to Me,” “CSI: NY,” “Bones,” and most recently, “6 Miranda Drive” with Kevin Bacon.