5 Great Ways to Master Your Cold Read Audition
(By Jim Webb)
Doing a cold read audition is a lot like getting thrown into a pool when you haven’t yet learned how to swim. You haven’t had much time to prepare, to learn your lines, to develop your character, to understand the story. Yet, into the pool you go. Sink or swim, it’s all on you.
Naturally, inexperienced actors will kick and thrash about in the “cold read pool”, before fear and fecklessness grips them and they inevitably drown. But does it always have to be this way? Must every actor suffer the same fate at a cold read; thrashing about, attempting to swim, before the pressure of the moment consumes them and they sink to the bottom like a rock?
Fortunately, there are some things an actor can do to survive a cold read audition. Below are a few:
Remember, a cold read audition is an audition, not a reading
Remember, a cold read audition is still an audition. It’s not a reading. Even though you’ve had little time to study the material, you are still expected to perform the role, not just read it. That means keeping your head up as often as possible, rather than burying it in the script.
Keep as much eye contact with the reader as you possibly can. Keep your face alive and engaged for the camera. You’re not just reading, you’re acting!
Grab your lines and go!
One way to keep your head up while doing a cold reading is to grab your lines and go. In other words, read a few words to yourself, lift your head and say those words to the reader, before dropping your eyes back down to grab the next few words.
You repeat this process throughout the course of the audition, even if it means taking your time and performing your audition very slowly, in a way that feels almost unnatural. It’s better to go slowly and give a great performance than to speed read and give a lousy one.
Related: What is a “Cold Read”?
Use your thumbs to follow along
Because you’re doing a cold read, it’s very easy to lose your place in the sides or script. Using your thumbs to keep your place is crucial. Hold your script at chest level, without covering your face, hold the script with both hands, when possible, and ease your thumbs down the page as you go from one line to the next. Simple, right?
Using your thumbs in this way not only maintains your place on the page, it maintains your confidence. Your thumbs essentially tell you what to say next. There’s a confidence in that. You don’t have to search for your next line. You know exactly where to find it. Always.
Identify the “moments”
Who says that doing a cold read means you can’t perform at your best?
All you have to do is identify the important “moments” in the script. Use whatever brief time you have to prepare, not to learn as many lines as you can, but rather, to identify as many key moments as you can.
For example, if there’s a line that your character says that defines their character, one that alters their relationship with the other characters, one that demonstrates a change in the character, one that is particularly emotional – those are moments to concentrate on, with what little time you have to prepare.
The rest of your audition might be a little flat and stale. But when those moments – those all-important moments – come up, you will be prepared.
Use your normal auditions to practice your cold reading skills
When you receive sides or a script for a normal audition or booking, take the opportunity to practice your cold reading skills.
That is, you’ve just received your sides and you know you have time to prepare adequately for the audition. But before you get into your normal preparation – learning your lines and building your character – why not take a moment to perform the sides like you would at a cold read?
As the old saying goes, “Practice makes perfect”. That adage applies to your cold reading skills, as well.