Every actor has a love-hate relationship with sides. Those pesky pieces of paper that hold so much weight when it comes to who books the job! Some people love the art of getting into the character's head, while others never take the time to really get to know their character. Some people are quick studies and can memorize dialogue quickly, while others dread having to memorize anything. There will always be parts of the process that we prefer more than others, but the key is learning how to make friends with those areas that we don't particularly enjoy. Befriending your sides is a huge part of what makes an audition successful or a blunder!
So if your sides are so important, what is considered kosher in the casting room? There are many opinions about when it's appropriate to use your sides while auditioning, so following the individual casting director's direction is the most important part. Aside from being told what a certain individual prefers, however, there are some safe basic rules that talent can abide by to set themselves up for success in a new casting environment.
It's an initial audition and you have 11 pages of sides. Who decided this was a good idea?!?! Despite how much dialogue there is, in today's market there is no excuse to not have your sides memorized. You may have less than 24 hours notice. You may not be a quick study. But consider the position of production: there are a lot of talent auditioning. How many of those talent are going to have their sides memorized when you don't? And if you were looking for that "it" factor or connection from an actor, would you be more likely to get it from someone not worried about their lines or from someone whose eyes and head are bobbing up and down? Memorize your sides if you want to be in the running to book the job. It's that simple.
It's a callback with the director. You already nailed the initial audition and had your sides memorized. Brush up before heading into the callback room, but carry a copy of your sides with you. Why would you need them since you have it memorized? At a callback, you should expect to be given some direction. The professional actor is more focused on character and the given direction than they are lines, but it is wise to have the crutch there so that you are not tripped up during a great read. Leaning on your sides when making changes on the fly is acceptable and expected. (Read our last blog about being focused on the things that really matter.)
The bottom line is that no matter how good you think you are or how big your resume or reel grow, you will always need to connect with someone in the casting room. In on camera work, we connect through the eyes. If your eyes are busy reading a page, you lose that connection and someone else gets the job. If your eyes have us captivated, we will remember you for years to come -- and THAT is how a career is built!