Mindfulness For Actors, by Casting Director Joanna Colbert

In the twenty-five years that I have been a casting director, I have seen my share of anxious actors.  Casting directors know that auditioning can be stressful so I decided to develop a class geared towards helping actors mitigate their anxiety by using methods that I have come to find quite useful in my own life; mindfulness, visualization and manifestation.
Here are some examples of how to apply the Mindfulness (MFA), visualization and manifestation techniques to auditioning and your acting career :
The appointment:   Whether the audition comes through an agent or manager, a colleague, or a self-submission, this is when the anxiety starts; ’Tuesday, 3PM role of ’John Smith’… you start reading through the material and your ‘limbic brain’ (also known as ‘ice- age brain’ or as the author and teacher, Tara Brach refers to it as ’the veil’ or Jen Sincero, author of ‘You are A Badass’ as ’The Big Snooze’ ) gets activated, what this means is your conscious-brain starts goes on overload with the following type of thinking; ‘I’m not good enough to get this part’,  ‘there is someone else who is better than I am who will get the part’,  ‘this is my one and only chance of impressing this casting director’, etc.   This is the moment to begin using your mindfulness techniques which I will illustrate for you in this post.  If any variation of this ‘limbic brain’ thinking sets in, (and it does for most actors) stop what you are doing and find a quiet place to sit and take a few deep breaths, close your eyes and quiet your mind (this only takes a couple of minutes, I promise) when your mind is quiet and you can feel your breath, start to observe your anxiety, to quote the Philosopher, Krishnamurti  ‘observance creates freedom’, what this means is just by simply observing your fears (anxieties, etc)  they lose their power, they aren’t real, they are stories that your fear-based thinking creates, once this is realized, you can transform this fear into positive action which in this case is you can transform this ‘fear’ into giving a powerful and memorable audition. 
Now that you have observed and transformed your anxieties into positive action, you are ready to work on your audition from a place of cenetrdness and strength.  On a practical level, you will need to figure out who the character is, get to know him/her, learn your lines (in my office, there is no need to be completely off book, I find it to be more effective to have your sides in-hand (but more about that in a future blog post) and feel relaxed, grounded and confident as you learn your lines. If you don’t have access to the full script, just do your best to get the information from the scene and if you do have access to the full script, it is very important to read it thoroughly  and be as prepared as possible. casting directors take notice of confidence and preparedness (and again, you can be prepared without memorization). 
When you walk into the casting director’s office, there may be a room full of actors who look like you and the limbic -brain will once again snap into fear-mode,  ie.  ‘everyone in this room looks just like me, I am not unique’ etc. Take a moment to breathe (you can do this quietly in your seat, no need to do loud breathing) and return to your sense of centerdness by simply observing what is causing the anxiety, then move-through it and release it so that you can do your audition from a place of confidence, and then the ‘competition’ you see in front of you will not throw you off. The casting director will be looking for one thing and one thing only (insider-secret alert!) what every cd is looking for is your unique quality. If you are relaxed and confident, your true nature will shine through and your true nature is what the camera translates as ’ star’!  if you are stressed and tense, your innate talent, personality i.e. ’star quality’ will be blocked. 
Decide! Just like the name of the rapper Big Sean’s album ‘I Decided’, you have to decide that you want to be an actor. I can’t decide that for you, your neighbor can’t and your parents or friends can’t either. When I ask my students if they have decided to be actors, many of them hesitate. In order for me to be convinced that you are an actor I need to hire over and over again, you have to know it deep inside your soul! 
Know where you belong in the market place and see yourself there! I ask my students to make a list of ten television shows and films for which they think they should be cast. While the list should be realistic and business-minded, you can also reach for your dreams. Once you’ve made the list of shows, find out which casting directors work on those shows and respectfully reach out to their offices or have your reps do so. Then, imagine yourself on that set, driving into the gates, in your trailer, in the make-up chair etc. this is called visualization, which activates your sub-conscious to make things happen! 
  • Be prepared (not off-book) but confident with the material and know who the character is.
  • If you feel anxious in the waiting room, take a moment to sit quietly & breathe.
  • ‘Observance creates freedom’ ; just by observing your state-of-mind, you can move past the fear.
  • When you are relaxed, your true nature and unique quality can shine through and no matter who is in the waiting room, the casting director will remember YOU! 
  • Decide to be a working actor
  • Let your  uniqueness and star-quality shine through!
With these mindfulness techniques, you will be able to move through any anxiety and fear and do your best, most memorable audition! 
Suggested reading: 
Tara Brach www.tarabrach.com
‘You Are A Badass’ by Jen Sincero
‘Freedom From the Known’ by Jiddu Krishnamurti 
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Joanna Colbert began her career as a casting director in association with Juliet Taylor on Interview with a Vampire for which she conducted a nationwide search resulting in the discovery of Kirsten Dunst. Colbert then went on to work at Universal Pictures as the Manager of Casting and then Senior Vice President of Casting, overseeing such blockbusters as The Mummy series, American Pie, Meet the Parents, and Bruce Almighty. She formed Joanna Colbert Casting in 2001 and Colbert/Mento Casting in 2006. Her credits include: No Strings Attached, the Step-Up series, Cedar Rapids, The Mummy, Everything Must Go, Hollywoodland and The Good Girl. Colbert is currently producing several projects, including a documentary about casting and its influence on film titled Casting By, a feature film titled Atticus Run, The Black Version tv series and Kate McClafferty’s blog, 356 til 30.

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