Acting Tips: Additional Talent & Memorizing Lines

I enjoy auditions, and the process of breaking down a script, memorizing the lines, and getting ready for auditions. And you really can’t go on too many auditions.

But this weekend, I had three auditions, and one of them had more than 8 pages of dialogue plus an “additional talent” demonstration.

I worked most of spring break — that’s good! — and all of last weekend. Then, this weekend, I worked most of the day on Saturday, and half a day on Sunday. Again, that’s good — but it’s nearly bedtime on Sunday night, and I am not all that excited about school tomorrow.  I need a weekend!

Oh, well — it will get hotter in Texas soon, and nobody wants to film in Texas in the summer. So it will slow down too soon. Winter and spring are the busy times for actors in Texas.

An Actor’s “Additional Talent”

Wondering what I mean by demonstrating an “additional talent” in an audition? That’s when a casting director wants an actor to demonstrate something other than acting.  Could be singing, dancing, playing a musical instrument, skateboarding, playing a sport, or demonstrating a skill like handling a firearm or driving a car. (Not that kids my age are usually allowed to do those last two!)

On an actor’s resume, there’s a section for “Additional Skills” or “Additional Talent”, and that’s where you list all the things you can do that might come in handy on a film set. There are parts that need people who can do all kinds of things, and the more versatile your skill set is, the more chances you have to get hired. My resume has 18 “additional skills” listed, and each one has a description of the skill and how good I am at it — for instance, I’m an intermediate horseback rider and guitar player, but an advanced/professional juggler and clown.

My agent warns people not to get too silly in listing “additional talents” — I saw one resume where an 18-year-old actress claimed she was an expert at kissing and applying make-up. But at the same time, if you have specialized skills (especially those you got in the real world), it’s important to list them. Experience in the military, a medical setting, with animals, in martial arts, and with sports is always sought after. But there are also scenes that need someone who can sew, ride a bicycle, or dance a waltz or a Texas two-step.

The audition I had this weekend called for a “1-2 minute” demonstration of at least two “additional skills” from a list they provided. One of the choices was to sing or play a musical instrument — preferably with a song from a movie. So I played Miserlou, the theme song from “Pulp Fiction”, on my guitar. Then instead of dancing to it, I put together a short juggling routine with some choreography. It was fun!

How to Memorize Lines

Memorizing a lot of dialogue quickly can seem scary to a beginning actor, but there are some tricks that help a lot. I got one of the three scripts on Wednesday, one on Thursday, and one on Friday. The one I got on Friday was the longest — and it had to be taped on Saturday. So I had just one evening to memorize what was essentially an 8-page monologue.

That’s a lot of words to memorize, but my acting coach Nancy Chartier is really good at teaching actors how to memorize lines effectively. Here are the steps I use to memorizing lines perfectly.

  1. Read the casting notes and script through, out loud, to get a sense of what the story is. The casting notes describe the character, and give you some context about what the casting director is looking for — comedy skills, the ability to cry on cue, a character who has a specific accent or look.
  2. Memorize the lines flat, with no inflection. That means you just learn the words without worrying about what they are supposed to sound like. (No accent, no emotion — just the words.) If you can, memorize just before you go to bed, and then again first thing the next morning.
  3. Memorize one chunk at a time, like the first sentence, or chunk of sentences you say, before another role responds. Then memorize the next chunk, and add the two together and say them from memory.
  4. If there are actions, memorize the movement along with the dialogue, so your brain is used to multi-tasking technically with movement and dialogue.
  5. If you start guessing at words, look at it again and say it as you are looking at it. Usually, it’s important that you don’t change the dialogue at all, so guessing doesn’t usually work.
  6. Once it’s memorized, then lock it in for speed; saying it as fast as you can with no pauses, commas, or periods. Compress it like a cookie for a computer. This is important, because when you kinda sorta have it memorized, the nerves play tricks and make you forget lines.
  7. When you have it memorized, practice it in front of a mirror, or set up your phone to record yourself doing it. That way, when you’re in front of the casting director, you’re ready to do it with feeling, emotion, inflection, and action.

Some actors find that copying the lines down (hand writing them out, or typing them into a keyboard), helps them memorize them. I don’t think it helps me — but it’s worth trying several techniques to see what works best for you.

One thing to remember is that when you’re actually doing the role, you’ll probably be in costume, or on a set with props and other people. That helps a LOT with putting it all together. But for an audition, you probably won’t have any props, and you’ll just be by yourself in a room with two or three casting people watching you, and probably a camera pointed at you.

So you have to know your lines, and what actions to take, and be prepared to do it without the reinforcement you get on a real set from all the props that make it easier.

Kameron Badgers

Besides the three auditions, I also had a photo shoot over the weekend. I kind of like this jacket I inherited from my cousin Zach — what do you think?

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