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Have you ever heard the term sides? There’s often a lot of confusing terminology when it comes to acting and the film industry. So what is a side?
The term ‘sides’ refers to a portion of a script that an actor will receive for an audition. This could range from a few lines to a few scenes. The term dates back to Shakespeare when the paper was limited and expensive. But they’re now used to keep storylines confidential during the audition process.
But what should you know about sides, and preparing for your auditions?
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Why Do Actors Only Get A Small Section Of The Script For Auditions?
We actors are often told that we should always read the whole script before developing our characters, so why do Casting Directors only give us a small section of the script for an audition? There are a few reasons.
Firstly, actors usually get very little preparation time when it comes to auditions. You may get your sides tonight and be expected to audition tomorrow. Or you may even get your sides at the audition, getting only 5-10 minutes to look over the script.
So expecting actors to read the full script just for the audition is just unrealistic. They understand that if you were to have more context you could potentially give a more accurate performance, but they try to give you as much information as possible in the sides that they give you. Some actors may also get a hundred auditions before landing a job. It would be unrealistic to expect an actor to read that many scripts for these jobs.
Secondly, movies and TV shows are very strict about confidentiality. Casting Directors often bring in dozens of actors for a single role. If they all received the full script or a larger section of it, these people could potentially leak vital information. This could completely ruin the release of the film or TV show, potentially causing the production to lose a lot of money, and it’s no secret that movies aren’t cheap to make.
Learning Your Lines
The amount of time that you’ll get to rehearse your sides will vary on the audition. Sometimes Producers need a quick turnaround, only giving the Casting Director a few days to find an actor. In this case, you may have less than a day. So do you need to perfectly memorise your lines for an audition?
Not necessarily. If you do have enough time, you should at least try to learn them. But when you don’t have much time, just do your best. At least become familiar with the scenes, and during the audition keep the script by your… side! See what I did there?
Remember that the most important thing is your actual performance. The better you know the lines, the less they will get in your way, and the more you can focus on the scene. That’s why you want to learn them in the first place. But if you struggle, don’t worry. An audition isn’t a test of your memory. Just focus on the performance, the Casting Director doesn’t care if you take a quick glance at the script every now and again. Just whatever you do. Remember, DON’T STARE AT THE SCRIPT!
Make Strong Decisions
Just because you haven’t received the whole script doesn’t mean that you can’t develop a good character. An error that most actors that are just starting off would make here, would be to worry about making the ‘right decision‘.
You will never know for sure what the Casting Director is looking for specifically. You can only guess. But I’d urge against this. Instead focus on developing a character from the section of the script that you have, even if it’s only 1 line.
It’s not about getting it right, it’s about making strong decisions. The Casting Director knows that you were only given a small section, if you simply make a strong decision and go for it, whether it’s right or wrong is irrelevant. The Casting Director will still see that you’re a good actor.
They may like your interpretation. They may give you a bit of direction if they want to see something slightly different or just to see how you cope with being directed on the spot.
And most importantly, no matter whether you get the job or not. If you made strong decisions and were able to adapt to direction, the people in the room will remember you. And you may be asked to audition for another production in the future, or you may even be asked to audition for a different character on the same production.
Remember, Tom Hiddleston auditioned for Thor before he got Loki. Sure, he wasn’t right for the role of Thor, but he made strong choices and went with what he had. And look where he is now.