On Being an Actor and Auditions

Actors: they call them ?the talent,? and if you?re lucky enough, the moniker fits. For MediaU?s first course, we had the good fortune to team with four highly talented and committed actors who were pivotal to bringing the lesson to life. Here on the blog, we?d like to introduce them and showcase some of their advice and experience with the course. ?

Nefe Iredia

Nefe Iredia.

Born in Sugar Land, Texas to Nigerian immigrant parents, Nefe Iredia?s earliest foray into acting left her convinced it was not the career for her. In fifth grade, she auditioned for the titular role in a children?s production of Mary Poppins. ?My sister — who was in the 3rd grade — booked the role, while I was given the role of chimney sweeper. As a kid, I was devastated and subsequently told myself acting was not for me.? ?

The story of how Nefe returned to acting puts a new spin on that age-old tale of the ?aspiring small-town girl heads to New York to pursue her dreams?: She was pre-med in college, but a career in medicine never quite felt like the right fit — not ever after relocating to New York, where she worked in cancer research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital. ??I found my way back to acting after dating an actor in NYC who introduced me to?the professional world of acting – I was hooked and never looked back.?

Nefe subsequently moved to Los Angeles and has been seriously pursuing acting for the past three years. A member of the Screen Actor?s Guild, she has appeared in shows on CBS and Disney. The visibility of these gigs is great for any actor?s career, but Nefe is particularly invested in one very specific demographic: her family. ?The network bookings have allowed my family to see glimpses of what I do, making my pursuit of an acting career more of a realistic goal in their eyes,? she tells me. Not to mention, it gives her mother bragging rights with her friends back home.

When she arrived on the set of MediaU?s Directors & Actors: Casting!, Nefe found herself in the midst of a shoot that put the audition process center stage (no pun intended). This was no problem for Nefe: while some actors grimly accept auditions as a necessary evil, Nefe enjoys the challenge they offer.

?You don’t typically get an opportunity to play or explore with other actors in first auditions,? she observes. Actors are more typically paired with a reader at this stage, and they may deliver lines with very little in the way of emotion or color. ?A good actor has to be able to give a lot when they may not be receiving anything. Being able to do this, for me, validates my abilities as an actor.?

This flexibility and sense of play, she asserts, is central to an actor?s job. ??Acting is about bringing your understanding of a character into the audition room, having fun, and being open to explore various possibilities. You’ll never know what you can discover. When you let go of your inhibitions and just allow yourself to?have fun in the audition room or onset, it can open the actor up to create some of their best work.?

Nefe found working with director/instructor Peter Marshall on Director & Actors: Casting to be a far more fulfilling collaboration than your typical audition offers. ?So often, actors are made to feel like we’re on the lower end of the totem pole and have no say in any part of the creative process…Peter granted me the freedom to play and explore. He gave me permission to make bold choices and challenged me by giving on-the-spot redirects.? Ultimately, she adds, ?I learned that the actor is a large part of the creative process and that successful collaboration is the key to achieving a desired end-result.?

?Participating in this shoot with Peter helped me rediscover the joy in acting,? she says. In fact, right after her callback audition, Nefe emailed her manager to thank her for submitting her for the job, and to let her know that ?this had been the most fun I have ever had during an audition process.? ?Fittingly, Nefe?s experience filming the Casting course spurred the very sense of empowerment and motivation that MediaU aims to create in the students who take it.

?I left feeling like a real actor — I was allowed to discover new things about the character and try different things on the fly. At the end of this project, I left with a new-found confidence in my acting abilities and the power I have as an actor in the collaborative process.? That confidence is something Nefe is determined to carry far beyond this shoot. ?I make every effort to bring the same spirit I discovered while doing this project to each phase of the audition process for other projects. This experience reminded me that I can take artistic risks without fear of being wrong- there is no right way, just my way. Thanks to this process I will never forget that I, as an actor, am an artistic leader. ?

Marissa Flaxbart

Author Marissa Flaxbart

Marissa Flaxbart is a writer, creative, and development consultant for film and television who lives and works in Los Angeles.

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