I’m fortunate enough to spend a few hours each week with some of the finest people on the planet. Mostly actors, but also a few producers, directors, writers, coaches, publicists, casting assistants, agents’ assistants, hyphenates. We meet to jam, basically. We brainstorm strategies for tackling this industry as it is and for transforming this industry into what we want it to be. We talk about typing, targeting, and timing. We conspire to create content. We keep each other focused and, well, sane.
During one of our September meetings, a brilliant writer/actor in class said, “They want you for what you make look effortless.”
I love that. It’s so true. Whatever it is you’re providing — if you’re an actor, that’s your interpretation of the sides at your audition; if you’re a writer, that’s your well-crafted sentences that take readers on a ride; if you’re a producer, that’s your detail-oriented logistic ninjaosity that saves everyone money and time — when you make it look like it’s just “no big thing” that you created the intended result, you’ve made it look effortless. And the buyers want that.
I watched an infomercial for something called a Magic Bullet this weekend and actually left that half-hour commercial thinking I could be a fine cook (even though I burn water and am not to be trusted in the kitchen, ever) because this thing made prep, cooking, and clean-up look effortless. Now, I know better, because I have an entire closet filled with exercise equipment of some type or another, each bought with the enthusiasm of “look how easy it is” that didn’t measure up to the truth of using the dang thing.
But the point is, when it’s made to look effortless, it is desired.
When athletes are in the zone, they can pull off a half-court shot at the buzzer and make it look like they sink that shot every time. Same with the hole-in-one, the amazing end-zone catch for a touchdown as the clock ticks over to 0:00, the outfielder’s gravity-defying leap to catch a ball destined for the seats far above his head. Effortless work looks phenomenal. It makes us cheer.
And it takes a lot of work.
Ever watch one of the late-night talkshows and cringe when actors who are hugely talented but clearly not media-trained struggle during the back-and-forth that the host makes look so effortless? Some actors are just not built for the chitchat. We see it on red carpets (but not much of it, because those who know they’re not good at it get training in handling the impromptu mic-in-the-face moments before they’re faced with them) as well as on talkshows.
Ever been on a date with someone who’s just trying too hard? It’s painful to watch from across the restaurant. It’s even more painful to watch from right across the table. That’s what happens in the audition, if you’re not in the zone before you perform. Think about it! You’d be uncomfortable if you walked in to audition and had to watch a casting director trying to convince the producer she was right for the job. It’s not fun to watch an athlete try when you can see on his or her face that the zone is nowhere to be found. That uncomfortable date would be even more horrible if the chef were also stumbling around in the kitchen, visibly unsure of what ingredients to use.
So, when you come in for your audition, take a moment. Get into the zone. Make it look effortless. And if you haven’t been able to “get there” before you walk into the room, what makes you think you’ll be able to magically “get there” while in the room, with all of that pressure?
Make sure you’ve prepared. Make sure you’re well-trained before you even attempt to get work. Practice enough that you can make your choices look effortless when you score that audition. Start with what you already make look effortless and build from there. What are you seriously badass at doing, right now? Sure, part of the fun of acting is stretching beyond your comfort zone, and you should do that too, of course, but start by embracing the effortless. It’s different for everyone, and everyone has something, so start there.
Washington actor Rich Hinz contributed a wonderful piece to The Actors Voice: POV. (Do y’all read that regularly? It goes up the 1st and 15th of the month.) Rich’s piece is about acting with a disability and how actors can (and should) embrace what they bring into the room with them, every time, and use it to add to what they show us they can do. He talks about “trying to hide the unhideable [as] a prescription for failure.”
Talk about bringing what’s effortless into the room! I love it. What’s your “effortless”? Pop it in the comments area below so we can celebrate you. And then, when invited to do so, bring it.
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001246.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.