Think there must be some acting and auditioning rules that everyone knows except you? Well, there are, but they’re not the old school rules you were taught in acting school.
Sam Stiglitz’s goal for actors is to make sure they are armed with the information needed to knock their auditions out of the park. To be the smartest, most informed actors that walk in the room. To make the most exciting choices. To be disruptive.
Stiglitz is the founder of Audition Pro LA, a referral-based coaching business that helps actors create their own process to carry them from the first audition to the first take. After six years of running Audition Pro LA, she has become one of the most sought-after acting and audition coaches in Los Angeles.
The “rules” are not what you’d think. The rules are there are no rules. If there were, everyone would know them, and everyone would book the job. Instead, think of the rules as posts you hold onto to keep you grounded in what’s real, what to hold onto:
1. Learn to let go
“You will get a lot of rejections.” This is what everyone tells you when you decide to pursue a career in show business. But this is not strictly true, according to Sam Stiglitz.
“As an actor, you don’t hear ‘no’, you hear nothing. Constantly. So actively being rejected doesn’t happen that often. It’s just a purgatory of not knowing,” she explains.
Stiglitz says actors should put their heart and soul into each audition but “they still have to learn to let it go.”
“Rejection can be a relief as an actor. It’s a wonderful and creative job, and I’m not discouraging you from doing it. But this whole adage that you get rejected a hundred times before you get the job is not just entirely inaccurate.“
While she has witnessed actors achieve the fabled “overnight success” from a single audition, she warns that this is rare.
“I think most overnight successes were auditioning actors who you just hadn’t heard of before. For every big star, there are thirty casting directors who can tell you about their last audition,” Stiglitz adds.
So don’t fear. Rejection happens. Learn to let it go.
2. Casting is rooting for you to get the job
Stiglitz understands that the strict guidelines actors are given are arbitrary. The “Never wear this” and “Never shoot against this backdrop” or even, “No landscape headshots” are merely personal preferences.
“These are totally ridiculous,” says Stiglitz. “You won’t fail to get the job because your headshot is facing the wrong way, or you wear a white shirt.“
“Casting is on your side. Producers and directors are on your side. They are rooting for you to get the job because it makes their job easier.“
More than anything else, Stiglitz says actors should not overthink the minor details.
“Just concentrate on the quality of your work,” she says.
3. Do not wait for permission to do your best work
According to Stiglitz, actors often make the mistake of waiting for permission to do their best work. “They’re trying to guess what people want instead of giving their take on the role,” she says.
When they get a breakdown and sides in a script, they immediately wonder: “What do they want? What should I give them?“, as opposed to, “What do I see? What do I want? What is my take on this?“
“Your job as an actor is to make choices and show them your take on the scene,” Stiglitz explains, adding that as soon as actors realise they can’t hack the game, a monumental shift occurs in their approach.
4. Discover your unique acting and auditioning process
Stiglitz does not believe acting is one-size-fits-all. Every actor has a unique approach to their craft and auditioning, and Stiglitz helps them discover their own style.
“If I were coaching you, I would get to know you as a person. How you see the world; what your ticks and fears and worries are. And then I would use all that to get you into the scene. There’s no correct way,” she says.
Acting is about what the individual brings to the table from a storytelling perspective. It is about how they relate to the story, and the many flavours their personal experiences bring to it. This is why Stiglitz believes that people with diverse backgrounds can be excellent actors.
She will take a singer, an influencer, a chef – whoever – and turn them into actors.
“The reason I can do this – and why it is easy – is because you are telling a story in a particular medium. If you are cooking, you’re telling a story through food. If you’re dancing, it’s through dance. It’s just a matter of helping someone translate their skills into acting,” Stiglitz says.