Since I’ve been doing rather badly on my auditions lately, I decided to take Jodi Rothfield’s Auditioning for the Camera class. I’m glad I did.
Jodi Rothfield is as highly respected casting agent in Seattle. I’d been wanting to take her class for a long time. She was endorsed by one of my teacher’s at Freehold, George Lewis. I can’t remember his exact words, but it was something to the effect of, she is an ethical and real person in a business not known for that. Because of that comment, I was looking forward to meeting her. I was not disappointed.
Jodi is a boisterous, passionate person, in that way that people from New York can carry off. For those of you who know Robin Lynn Smith, I’d say there is a similarity of energy that I found comforting.
I showed at up her office. She was efficiently handling conversations with the people already there, while informing me that still owed her $75, and telling everyone to ignore the signs that said that everything in the fridge was a dollar, and that really it was free for the class, and to sit down and make myself comfortable, and that bathrooms were around the corner. She sat at her desk in the ping-ponging conversation with everyone.
When everyone arrived she ushered us into the casting room. The first part of the class was lecture. She tells you what you need to have and to do to show up as a professional for an audition. Very helpful. Some of it I knew, but the questions you are supposed to ask when you get called by a casting agent for and audition was great. Not only did she tell you what you were supposed to do, but she gave you the reasons why you did them. Most of which distilled down into “this will make your life easier, and the casting director’s life easier.”
One of her main points of the day was that “Auditioning is the most unnatural thing you will do as an actor.” She stated this over and over again. All her tips and tools presented that day were to help you survive this crazy process.
Another point she made is that acting for the camera, and acting in general, is about connection. But how do you connect with an inanimate assembly of plastic and metal? It’s not going to give you any feedback or respond to your demands. You can play your action at it all day long, it doesn’t care…it can’t.
She gives you three simple questions to ask when you do a cold read, and a process to answer them for yourself, so that when you go in front of the camera, you have something to work with. For the second part of the class she gave us some text from commercials she’s cast. She gave us some time to work through her process on them. Then we went in front of the camera. The rest of the group got to watch you on the TV.
I went first, because I like to get the painful experiences over with as soon as possible. I got worked over a lot, but that was OK, I didn’t expect less, and it was handled humourously and compassionately. My big issues were trying to read my lines from the paper, while also trying to have them somewhat memorized. It doesn’t work real well.
We would do readings in acting class where you would look down at the paper, get a chunk of lines, then look up at the person you were reading with, say your chunk of line, then look back down. Repeat. This doesn’t work for auditioning for the camera. You need to be able to read lines and remain connected at the same time. Your script has to become and extension of your body so you can glance at it and move it naturally at any time you need to. This is very hard. Did I mention that auditioning is the most unnatural thing you can do as an actor?
We watched each other as we went up. She corrected and encouraged. After lunch we did the same thing again. It was amazing how much better everyone was with just that one earlier session. Not that we all couldn’t improve a lot, because we could all use a lot more work, but everyone was improved.
After the second round, Jodi opened it up for questions. She is very actor friendly and very supportive. If we had questions, or needed recommendations for things, she offered herself up to being called and emailed. You really got the vibe that she wanted to help you and was in your corner.