A sure-fire way to beat the competition in an audition is to understand exactly what it is the casting director is looking for. Here at The Reel Scene we are fortunate enough to have a variety of industry professionals on board, ready to offer their insight and advice - including casting directors.
Do I really need to know my lines?
One of the most common questions we hear from new actors when we’re talking about auditions is, ‘are we really expected to memorise all of these lines for our audition?’ The simple answer is YES! Here’s why…
Casting directors aren't just looking for someone who can read lines. We can all read lines! They want someone they can connect with throughout the audition, and that’s just not going to happen if you keep having to look down at your script. You want to show them exactly what you’re capable of as an actor.
They’ll also want to see how well you take direction. This is so important when it comes to being cast for anything. Do you take notes well, and can you instantly apply the feedback to your performance?
Whilst it’s great for them to see your interpretation of the script, they’ll also want to see how well you fare when they push you in a direction you hadn’t planned for. Because the reality is, you won’t always be on the same page when it comes to how you envision the character.
Knowing and feeling comfortable with your lines allows you the freedom to really think about what they’re asking from you and deliver a winning audition.
I don't have time to learn my lines!
Now let’s discuss the reality of time. Life is busy, and you’re probably thinking, ‘how on earth am I going to learn lines on top of everything else I have going on?’. Perhaps you’ve got multiple auditions coming up, or you’ve been given a script at the last minute and only have an evening to prepare. It happens! Our advice is to prioritise the most important audition. Choose the script and character you connect with the most and put your time and energy into that.
But what about the others, I hear you ask! The reality is, you can’t and won’t be "off book" (meaning you don't need to refer to the script) for every single audition. Do your best to memorise the very beginning and end of the script, whilst having a clear understanding of what’s happening throughout. Go to the audition with the energy that the script calls for, and if you can nail the first paragraph with confidence then you’ve given the casting director a glimpse of what you have to offer. Whilst the industry can be quite unforgiving, none of us is perfect and you will get it wrong now and again.
How can I improve my script learning skills?
There are a number of techniques that can help you to learn your lines faster. We’ve found they’ve done wonders for our students.
- Practise learning lines! Even when you don't have an audition. Take scenes from your favourite films, monologues or plays, and learn lines from them! Your ability to memorise lines improves with practice. Students have told us how being under pressure to constantly learn scripts has improved their ability to remember dialogue and learn new scripts even after finishing the course
- Learn your lines in different environments! Sitting in your quiet bedroom learning your lines is great, but it's common for actors to forget everything once they're in a stressful environment, such as at an audition or on set. Michael Caine, in his great autobiography Blowing the Bloody Doors Off: And Other Lessons in Life talks about the importance of learning your lines in a variety of locations and scenarios:The nerves don’t show on screen, though, because I knew my lines like I knew how to spell my own name. But even now, after more than a hundred major movies, preparation is still crucial. I will still learn my lines until they’re a reflex, until saying each line on its cue is as automatic as saying, ‘Bless you,’ to a sneeze.
Any actor who wants their career to endure has to do the same. To learn my lines I would always say them to myself over and over. Walking down the street. In the shower. Making my dinner. It was absolutely continuous. Once I knew my lines, I would rearrange the furniture at home or in my hotel room to be how I imagined it might be on set, and mock up props and practise using them. You should be able to recite your lines in the middle of an earthquake! Because once you know your lines properly, you've freed yourself up to focus on your performance and tasking notes.
- Apps like Line Learner allow you to record your lines (and those of your scene partners) and then practise them - the app inserts pauses where your lines would normally go, so you can speak your lines. But if you forget, it can prompt you.
- Attending regular workshops and drop-in classes can also really help you when you’re finding yourself struggling. Be sure to check out our website for upcoming courses and workshops and follow us on our social platforms to keep up to date with upcoming and current news!