HERE'S WHAT HAPPENED
When I was a college theatre major, it was fairly common to need a monologue for an audition. Since I've transitioned to film acting, though, I've never needed one for a professional audition, so why write about how to prepare a monologue?
If you're new to acting, some indie film auditions will ask you to audition with a monologue of your choice. Additionally, it the wake of Covid-19, a lot of casting offices promoted open auditions that asked for monologues.
Each time I've seen a request for a monologue, I've wished that I already had one prepared so it would be easier to meet the deadline or get notes on it before submitting. Searching for one can take a lot of time.
Additionally, let's say you finally get into the room for a live audition in today's self-taping world. You're killing it. You've memorized your lines, broken down your script like a boss, and taken direction like a champ.
Then casting asks, "Do you have a monologue prepared? We'd like to see you do something different to get a feel for your range."
"Uh....no. I've never really needed one since I'm not a stage actor. I thought I was just doing this material. I didn't see a note about having a monologue ready in the breakdown. Here's another excuse, and another, and another."
"Oh, okay. Well, thank you!"
You might have just lost yourself a job, actor friend. We film actors still need to have monologues prepared for auditions, just in case.
Since we don't perform monologues as often as stage actors, it's not as crucial for us to to have multiple or rotate them as often. However, we don't want to be caught off guard if someone randomly asks us to perform a monologue at a callback.
In this post, we'll discuss five practical monologue rules for film actors so you're always prepared for an on-camera audition with the best possible material. We want to give casting every reason to say yes to us, so you'll give yourself an edge by implementing these five rules.
1. YOU ONLY NEED TWO MONOLOGUES
Again, we're not stage actors, so don't get too overwhelmed with finding a million monologues from various time periods. Find material that you like and go for it.
Pick one comedic and one dramatic piece that will show your range if you do them back-to-back. Do not freak out about contemporary or classical.
Theatre kids typically need four or five monologues with a mix of genres and time periods: comedic contemporary, dramatic contemporary, comedic classical, dramatic classical, and one wild card.
Film actors aren't asked to perform monologues as often as stage actors because most of our auditions start with self-tapes, which means way more submissions for the casting office.
They only have time to see how well we deal with the client's material in that initial phase, and a bulk of our auditions will only consist of those initial rounds.
However, if you are asked to perform a monologue twice by the same casting director, prepare a different one of that same genre in case you audition for that same casting director again. In other words, find a new monologue if you perform one for casting.
If you're a film actor that's constantly getting asked to do monologues for some reason, then go memorization crazy. But if you're like the rest of us that rarely get asked, then having two different monologues ready will make you look way more prepared than most.
2. DELETE NAMES FROM THE MONOLOGUES
It's hard to find film monologues because they're either too iconic or the scripts are dialogue heavy. Anything that sounds really obvious will make everyone tune out your performance.
We should choose monologues that make a casting director ask, "What's that from?" even if it sounds familiar to them. Sometimes names and unique details will give it away, but my acting coach gave me a tip I didn't know was allowed.
You can omit or change the names of characters or unique details in a monologue that make it a dead giveaway. How freeing is that? It's not a huge copyright issue if we're using the material behind closed doors and not getting paid directly for performing it.
One caveat to that tip is to please still avoid very iconic, overdone monologues that casting directors will immediately know even if you edit the proper nouns. Those iconic pieces still likely have famous tag lines that can't be edited. For example, there are no proper nouns to edit in the line, "You can't handle the truth!"
3. TALK TO SOMEONE WHEN YOU PERFORM A MONOLOGUE
You know how sometimes you get a monologue and suddenly think it's ok to talk to the ceiling or look like you're talking to a crowd? Yea, that's not gonna work. Out of all the monologue tips out there, this is one of my favorite monologue preparation exercises.
We still need to treat monologues as if they're dialogue, which means we need to deliver the lines to a person--an actual person.
Here are three things to consider:
Do not run your lines in the mirror. Ever. How you feel is what matters, not how you look. Just make sure you say your lines to an actual person at some point during your rehearsals to understand how that feels.
4. GET COACHING FOR YOUR MONOLOGUES
A good acting coach will ask another actor to stand in front of you so you're not delivering your lines to the wall. Ask them to react to what you're saying with simple expressions. That can be shaking their head yes, shaking their head no, or contorting their face into an obvious expression.
I don't care how well you prepare, your material will not be at its strongest unless you have a third party professional give you notes. Perform your monologues in acting class before you perform them in an audition.
I didn't do this and I wanted to kick myself when I saw the before and after. Arvold, a very reputable casting office in Virginia, actually requested self-taped monologues twice one year to get a pulse on new talent in the Southeast. How cool?!
I submitted my self-edited monologue in the first round, even though I knew I should wait for feedback from my acting coach. It wasn't horrible, but it hadn't been critiqued either. I didn't have time to take it to class before the submission deadline, so I took it after that initial round.
After getting notes in class, I had a completely different performance. Guess what? Arvold released the second round of submissions, but I couldn't submit again! If I had followed my gut and waited, I would've had a stronger submission.
Don't procrastinate because you never know if an opportunity will present itself next week! If I had prepared my monologue sooner, I would've had a stronger performance when I needed it.
5. REHEARSE YOUR MONOLOGUES MONTHLY
I was a slacker on this rule because I didn't schedule a reminder in my phone. You always have your phone with you. Plus, you can set an alarm to remind you.
We need to schedule monologue rehearsals at least once a month so we don't forget our lines. Please don't assume you'll remember them.
Twice a month is probably better.
Commit to running your lines by the end of that day no matter what. When you see the reminder, open the monologue on your laptop or a picture of it in your phone so you remember to do it.
Better yet, film it and ask your other actor buddies to watch it. Ask them to do the same. If you can't meet in person, share your recordings via video chat, and give each other notes.
How great will it feel when you're ready to go the next time you see a self-tape audition request that asks for a monologue? What if another casting director releases a self-taped monologue open call soon?
Start searching for your two monologues today, and don't close your browsers until you find them.
If you find a monologue on a writer's site, please follow their rules for usage. They typically prefer that you contact them for permission, and most writers will grant it for use in auditions and class only.
They usually ask for a very low donation fee as well. Pay it! You never know if that writer will be working on a TV show you audition for one day. It's also a great way to network.
Additionally, consider sending your taped version of their monologue. They may really love to hear their words come to life. They may want to write something specifically for you. They may remember you once they book bigger writing jobs. They may know a producer they want to share it with.
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