Acting with Benz

This weekend, I took an audition workshop with 19-2 actor Benz Antoine. I often start to feel like I am doing nothing for my career, so I go out and do a workshop or take a class, which is a way to change things up a bit, and this workshop came recommended by a friend.
I was emailed a scene on Friday night and asked to prepare it for the following day. In my head, this meant we would work on it and learn things Saturday, then be asked to bring it in as an audition on Sunday, so I worked a lot on familiarizing myself with all the important stuff, learning the lines…but I barely scratched the surface of what was there. While driving to the workshop on Saturday morning, I did the whole scene with a recording of myself over bluetooth, and figured I was prepared for the day. I was very wrong.
I got there and we waited a bit until 10, then Benz asked who was ready to present their scene right now. When no one volunteered, I thought he might laugh and start explaining his process or something, but instead, he told anyone who wasn’t ready to go outside and work on their lines. I knew I wasn’t nearly as prepared as I could have been, which is why I hadn’t volunteered from the get go, but when he looked right at me and asked if I was ready to go up, I wasn’t going to refuse.
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There was only me and one other workshop participant in the room when I went up and did my scene. I completely blanked on one of the lines that I actually enjoy saying, I wasn’t dressed for the part at all, and worst of all, there wasn’t much going on inside. I knew exactly what was going on in the scene, but I hadn’t internalized any of it, and I had definitely not played it in a way that you would believe that I was someone who had a pimp.
Benz asked me how it went, why I didn’t like it and whether or not I could go up there and bring the things I said were lacking. I said of course, but not right this second. This was a mistake. When you are given direction at an audition, you should take a moment, take a breath and do the adjustment. I had done a lot of the groundwork, so although I was afraid of going up there and making the same mistakes, if I had just taken a few moments to internalize what I had worked on, I probably could have improved a lot on that first take. Instead, I went outside with the others who were learning their lines, and was back in the room just as the one girl who had watched me was finishing her second take. I then spent the next few hours stressing out about my decision, wishing (and volunteering) to go back up there and show him that I could have taken the direction as soon as he said it, that I was ready.
I did get my second chance to go up and do the scene better. And I got points for being so eager this time. I also got to play with some elements he commented on for other people’s scenes, which helped. I had to redo my slate because I powered through it, saying my name so fast you couldn’t catch it, which is something I learnt not to do in Dale Carnegie. This second take was better, but I also got some notes after doing it, as well as when we were all heading out for lunch. One thing I found interesting is that he didn’t tell me to change how I am to play the part, he told me to find a way to use what I am so that it fits, which I think is a really good way to think about it.
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I ate my lunch, then worked more on the scene, going through it to find all the moments, actioning all of my lines (figuring out what verb would describe what I am trying to do with each line) and so on. When I got back to the workshop, we went over Benz’s acting and audition tips, then he asked if anyone wanted to switch scenes. He didn’t know us when he chose them, and wanted to see our best work. Me and the other girl doing my scene, Emily, hadn’t been told which character we were supposed to work on, so we had both opted for the one that was in our age range, even though I think it would have been a lot easier to master the grieving widow rather than the working girl. Benz had also just mentioned that I was much more believable as the girl next door than a vixen, so I felt like I should change. If this were a real life audition, I definitely would have done better with another scene, and hopefully wouldn’t have submitted for a role I wasn’t connecting to. But, Debbie, during my last week at LAMDA, told me that one of my goals was to try for a prostitute (or one of those roles I am uncomfortable with) and use it as an acting exercise, not to be the best stripper Amanda can be, but to sort of get out of my head and remove me from the equation. So, I decided to stick with my part and use it as an acting exercise, since that is what you go to workshops for. I wanted to be challenged and do the thing that scared me. To fail, learn from it, then fail better.
Almost as soon as I decided this, we were sent off in pairs to work on our scenes.  Since Emily and I were playing the same character, that wouldn’t work, so we were given a new scene. Which was a little sad because I had just convinced myself to stick with it, but I actually liked the new scene, and found a million layers and transitions that I was so excited to play. Benz told us we could go last, since we just got the scene, but we ran it a whole lot of times and were ready to see what he thought. We ended up going second 😉
If you don’t know me, I am very mild-mannered and quiet. I also have a certain set of morals that I like all of the characters I write to have. So, when I am working on a scene, I often find the ways that I would feel that would make me say or do certain things. Our scene was about a girlfriend confronting the married woman who had slept with her boyfriend. I played the cheating, homewrecker wife. All of the levels and different emotions I was working with were all based on the backstory I had in my head, and where I obviously feel guilty for what I had done. If the plot of the movie followed the one in my head, I think the way I saw the scene would have been great. But, with what we were given, and keeping in mind that this is an audition to show our best work, they probably weren’t the strongest choices. Because I wasn’t being strong, I was being apologetic and letting her walk all over me. I also had to get rid of my resting smile face (when your face automatically looks like you’re smiling when you’re not thinking about it).
We got notes, with lots of things to work on, then we were offered to do our original scene, or our new one for tomorrow. I got extra time to deliberate, because each scene presented its own challenges and things for me to work on. While talking about having a pimp and making people believe I am a working girl would be really hard, it also isn’t really something I plan on auditioning for. I also got my second take at that scene. Finally, I decided to stick with the second scene, because it was something I was more likely to have to play someday, and because although the way I planned it out was well within my comfort zone, being unapologetic about sleeping with someone else’s boyfriend was not.
I stayed to watch the other groups do their scenes for us, then we got a mini training on how to fill out the audition sign in sheet, which was incredibly useful, because the very few times I have had to fill one out, I have done it wrong. For the ‘Time in’, I always write the time I arrived at, possibly to show how punctual I am. We are actually supposed to put the time we are called into the room at, because there are fines if the auditions are running too far behind schedule. I guess it also gives an indication of how long they actually kept you in the room with them, rather than how long you hung out in the waiting room.
We were encouraged to go home and work on our scenes, rather than go out and party, so I worked on answering all of the questions from my newly established Audition Process, and did the scene a multitude of times with my mom.
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Sunday morning, I got up very early and continued working on the scene, running it a few times with my dad before driving to the workshop, doing all of Stevie’s vocal exercises in the car.
For a while, I was the only one in the waiting room, so after signing in, I did the super woman power pose in the corner, as well as some bouncing, to calm my nerves and give me some grounding and confidence. The entire workshop somehow made me feel just as nervous as the audition I had for an actual Montreal Casting Director, even though there was absolutely no roles in the balance this time.
The reader for this workshop was a friend I had met on set, so it was really nice to be able to talk to her and feel less intimidated by the fact that I knew people in the room. I had also helped a friend with a self tape in that very room, so it was slightly familiar territory. I went in and set up the space the way I wanted it, did my slate, then went into it, trying to incorporate all the notes I had received and all of the work I had done. I also took risks with things I had come up with to stand out, and they paid off. I was told to do it again with some notes, and then a third time with different notes.
In the end, we got graded on these auditions, and I am pretty proud of what I got to, although I know I need to be able to bring everything I achieved in the third take on my first take in auditions. Still, I took directions well, I listened, and I know exactly what I need to do better next time. Very happy I took this workshop, and recommend it to anyone who wants to up their auditioning game 😉

“If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it, then I can achieve it.”

-Muhammad Ali

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