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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 in spite of 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 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 just from thoroughly reading the audition breakdown. Project titles, casting directors, 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 clips and trailers on YouTube. For film, does the director have a consistent or distinct style? Sometimes just a little bit of poking around can go a long way. 


3. Play to your strengths.

You know what makes you stand out. (If you don’t, start taking note). Highlight that. 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 has a tendency to weed out the insecure and inexperienced. Make sure you rise to the top.


4. Maintain a state of readiness.

Since we know this is a part of the business, staying 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 reader so you can trade off. Keep a couple 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 will free yourself up to focus on the material. 


5. Connect to the text.

Your worst enemy is getting in your own head. You can tear yourself apart trying to fulfill every imagined expectation. At a certain point, 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 breathes 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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