by Diana Black
Actors know it, savvy TV and screenwriters doing the rounds of the marketing circuit know it and ‘newbies and aspirants’ better know it too. Lead with your most compelling material. The first time – any time – you send out material is not the time to leave your best until last.
Because unless they fall in love with your first, it will be your last.
Actors, you’ve got 10 seconds of your first reading. Writers,You have the top half of the first page and that’s being magnanimous. The ‘slow burn’ in either profession just doesn’t impress – unless you’re already successful and the producers and executives in charge know you and your style. Otherwise, you absolutely mustput under a bomb under their butts from the get-go or they’ll pass.
Don’t believe me? Okay, let’s try it…
Actors, put your CD hat on and take a look at a popular monologue on YouTube. Can’t think of one? Google ‘famous/popular audition monologues’ and a plethora will come up. Work your way down the list of actors brave or naive enough to put their butts on the YouTube video line – coz once it’s out there, it’s out there for good – I can just about guarantee. Even if you’re only a quasi-professional actor, if you’ve half a brain and an aptitude for the craft, you’ll spot the difference in probably… less than 10 seconds.
Acting newbies, check out the eyes of each performer. Do they really believe what they’re saying? Are they listening with more than their ears for the the response from the character they’re talking to (even if no one’s actually there but the generous person acting as camera operator)? How’s their body language – does it match the scene? And so on.
Because of those things aren’t there, the only response to this particular audition is going to be, “Thank you… next”.
Writing newbies, Google around for professional screenplays andTV pilot and episode scripts that have been posted online. (TVWriter™ has several articles on where to find them.) Drafts marked ‘final’ or ‘shooting’ are best. Take a look at least 10, preferably in the same genre. Were they able to set up the world, hook you and have you ‘in’ the narrative in the first paragraph/half page? Because that’s what you are looking for. The immediate sensation of the page lighting up like a Christmas tree, with the hint of gorgeous gift packages underneath…as in the pages to come…just begging to be unwrapped…as in read.
Sure you’ll find some stinkers. Totally unconvincing actors who were cast anyway. Lifeless opening for scripts that were bought and paid nevertheless, but odds are those successes occurred because those involved had something other than talent speaking for them – friends, connections, amazing agents, who knows? – and right now you and I don’t have any of that. We have to succeed on our merits. And by displaying those merits immediately!
Here’s the bottom line: Showbiz is a front-loaded industry these days. You’ve got to shine from the first moment you or your work are seen. If, as writers, we discover that the most powerful pages in our script are in the middle of the draft, or even more dangerous at this stage, at the end, or that the best aspect of our pilot script doesn’t show up until the middle of our projected series arc, we have to do everything we can to create the same impact at the front.
What? Sounds tough? It is tough. Showbiz success is a battle, and a hard-fought one all the way.
Or as the Klingons, who certainly aren’t strangers to hard-fought battle, might put it: “Qapla!”