Ahhh the dreaded cold read. It’s something that a lot of actors fear. That’s because usually there is no opportunity for preparation. A script is thrown in front of you moments before you’re to appear on camera, and panic can set in. You worry that you’re going to deliver the lines completely flat, you aren’t going to figure out what’s going on in the scene fast enough to deliver a satisfactory performance, and it’s just going to be painful and you’re going to be terrible. Yes it might not be the most comfortable thing you’ll have to do, but it’s a big part of the audition process and something that you’re going to have to get a handle on if you want to book acting jobs.
At AMP Talent Group, we want our clients and talent to excel in every opportunity so we recommend you keep these tips in mind to help you improve your cold reading skills for audition purposes, we’ve highlighted 6 important keys to cold read success:
Arrive early for your audition: Sometimes if you arrive early you will have the opportunity to read over the sides and begin your preparation early. This way you can at least be familiar with what you’re going to be saying and doing. If you are able to get the material beforehand, spend less time on the actual lines that you are going to be delivering, instead focus on the story and situation, as well as try and get a feel for the character that you’re going to be reading. This way you can at least ground yourself in the world of the scene and you won’t require quite as much attention on the actual words, so you can feel yourself as the character in that environment.
Research the project you’re auditioning for: Even if you know you’re going in to do a cold read audition, you can still go online and find out some details about the audition. You can also ask your agent to provide you with some more information if possible as well. You should find out the type of project that you’re going out for (commercial, feature film, TV show), as well as the time period of the piece, and what the story is. While you might not be able to find a ton of information on the project, you will definitely be able to get some background information that will at least put you ahead of most of the actors who will be walking into the audition blind.
Be Flexible: When you’re going through your cold read, it might not be blatantly clear from the outset if you’re reading a comedy or a drama. I mean, hopefully it is, but there is a possibility that you won’t get the tone of the script right away. This is why you need to enter into your reading with complete flexibility. Go in with the mindset that they might ask you to read the script in a certain way that you weren’t expecting, or maybe you’ll even discover things in the middle of the reading that take it to a whole different place than you expected. Considering that this will be one of the first times you’ve read through this passage of the script in its entirety, you definitely can’t be opposed to figuring out certain things from the inside. So be loose, flexible, and ready to go in any direction.
Take risks and do more than just read: Even though it’s a cold read, you don’t want to sit there like a pile of concrete and just read the lines in a voice that will put the people holding the audition to sleep. You still want to be lively, take action with your body, and use your voice as an instrument to get yourself into character and convey emotion. Even though it’s just a cold read, that doesn’t mean you can’t make strong choices and go with them. In fact, you will standout more at your audition if you make a decision and try something out. Even if it’s wacky, there are no wrong artistic choices during a cold read. You want to show them that you were able to read over the script, and in just a couple of quick minutes, be able to make a strong artistic decision and do something with the character that nobody else has done. They want to see how you interpret the script, just as much as they want to gage your actual performance.
Look up at the reader: Unless this is the first time you’ve ever acted or been to an audition before, you will know that you must always look up at the reader when you deliver the lines. You should never read directly from the page, but be following along with your finger and make sure that you use the person reading with you as a reference to get yourself into the moment and be authentic. Try and look up and connect with the reader as often as possible. Just be sure that you keep your thumb on the page and follow along so you don’t lose your place during the read. The people running the audition understand that the material is completely new to you; therefore they don’t expect the audition to be perfect. Also, taking your few minutes before the audition starts to get a good grasp of the scene, story, and your character is going to be hugely instrumental in allowing you to go with the scene and connect with the reader, instead of having your eyes married to the page the whole time.
Practice your cold reads: If you want to take it one step further and work on your cold reading skills, then you should practice reading passages and memorizing as many of the words, as quickly as you can. At least learn to memorize important points, or key phrases that you can use and rely on so that you don’t have to be looking down at the page every two seconds during your audition. By practicing this technique, you will slowly start to improve your ability to retain words and dialogue very quickly so that you can be that little bit more off book when it comes time for your audition. By working on your cold reading skills on your own time, you will be miles ahead of the competition when it comes to stepping up and delivering a great cold read performance.
Cold reading only has to be a painful experience if you make it one. You can decide to ignore it and just do your best on the day of the audition, or you can take matters into your own hands and prepare yourself so that when a cold read audition comes your way, you’re ready to attack it and destroy it. Casting directors are testing you when they give you a cold read; they want to see how you handle it and what you do with it. So make sure you do everything in your power to show them that cold reads don’t faze you, in fact you look forward to them.
Remember, audition for your career, not for the job and you will feel more confident about your performance!