Mastering cold reads is essential to auditioning, especially in this commercial market. Taking classes that focus on cold reads will provide you with the tools you need to deliver a great first impression every time. Practicing at home keeps you sharp and prepared for last-minute auditions.
When you are handed a script, you might have five to ten minutes (if you are lucky, more) to review it. You might not. Regardless, read through or skim the material; if you have the time, find an area in which you can read it aloud. Actually speaking the words reveals things in the text, allows you to tackle any pronunciation problems, and helps you to begin to blend your own voice with that of the character. It will also help to eliminate nerves, awkwardness, and stumbles during your read in front of the casting directors.
Go Big or Go Home
You won’t have time to develop a fully fleshed-out character in such a limited time, but you can make some distinct choices. Those auditioning you have heard the dialogue countless times. They are looking for a fresh take. It is better to be wrong than to be boring. If they find you interesting, they can give you direction–either at that time or during a call-back. Dig into your skill set and pull out accents, attitudes, physicalities, and personalities with which you are comfortable–because you have practiced them. Think, and be unexpected, while still showing understanding of and respect for the script.
Scan For Clues
Clues can be found in your dialogue, in other characters’ dialogue, and in “stage” directions and descriptions (where applicable). What do you or others say about your character? What is the setting? Who is your audience? Who are you addressing? Narrow that audience down to a single person–someone you know personally who fits the addressee or target demographic. What message are you attempting to convey? If you are selling something, what is it? Look beyond the product. If the product is a car, the car company isn’t just selling the car–they are selling fun, convenience, affordability, luxury, adventure, comfort, safety, towing capability, spaciousness, or any number of other things. The clues are there in the script. Know what is being sold, and choose your character and audience accordingly.
Don’t Undermine Your Cold Read
Hold the paper near eye level and to the side so that it does not block your face, but in order that you may reference it when needed without looking down (your worst angle!). If you fumble, keep going. Stop for a second or two if needed, but do not break character or get flustered, quit, or apologize. You are not asked or expected to be perfect. All that is required of you is your best effort.
With training and practice, you will always be prepared to give your best effort every time!