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What to Do When You Don’t Have Time to Prepare

Ideally, we would have time to prepare our best work for every audition and project. Yet despite our best intentions, sometimes the industry doesn’t set us up for success.

Twenty-four-hour turnarounds for self tapes are not uncommon. So, how do you turn in a good audition on a tight schedule? Here are some thoughts to consider.

1. Change your mindset.

Instead of panicking over how little time you have to prepare, remember that everyone has been given a similar timeline. This is your opportunity to stand out despite a fast turnaround. Approaching your work from a place of sharing what you have to offer as opposed to proving your worth will help you appear more grounded, professional and confident.

2. Context clues are your friends.

Even if you have no time to research the source material or read the full script, you can usually give yourself a leg up by thoroughly reading the audition breakdown. Project titles, casting directors and character notations can all give you clues as to the tone of the project.

For television, if you’ve never seen the show, watch a couple of clips and trailers on YouTube. For film, find out if the director has a consistent or distinct style. Sometimes just a little bit of digging can go a long way.

3. Play to your strengths.

No one knows you better than yourself, and that includes all the tools and techniques that make you stand out. Strong improviser? Throw a fun button on the second take. Strong memorization skills? Make sure you’re completely off-book, even for the lengthy ones. A fast turnaround tends to weed out the insecure and inexperienced. Make sure you rise to the top.

4. Maintain a state of readiness.

Being prepared for last-minute auditions will keep you from scrambling every time. Find a support network of actors who can hop in to be your readers so you can trade off. Keep a couple of self tape studios on file for emergencies. Make sure your self tape equipment is maintained and ready to go at all times. If you already have the technical side of things covered, you’ll free yourself up to focus on the material.

5. Connect to the text.

When you’re feeling stuck, you can tear yourself apart trying to fulfill every imagined expectation. There’s only so much preparation and troubleshooting you can manage.

If you’re feeling stiff and disconnected, try physically stepping away, shaking out your body or stretching to relieve muscle tension. Then take some grounding breaths and give yourself a calm space in which to approach the work. The best thing you can do for yourself is to find an honest connection with the text and let yourself shine through.

At the end of the day, a quick turnaround does not condemn or prohibit good work. Rely on your training and experience, trust your talent, and have some fun with it.

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