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Tips for Cold Reads

Updated: May 3, 2023

Read through it completely first

This might seem like an obvious one, but it really is a crucial step. As soon as you are given the scene that you’ll be reading make sure to read it in full. During the initial read through, try not to analyze it too much, this is just to get the overall big picture. Once you’ve read it through all the way then you can go back and begin to analyze and decide on what choices you want to make with the scene. Since there is limited time with the script with cold reads (obviously, as that’s what a cold read is), it may seem tempting to analyze right away, but get that big picture in your head before you do so.

Make a choice, something a little out of the box if possible, but don’t get too crazy

Make a solid and strong choice(s) within the script. You can definitely play around with the choices and choose to go outside the box with the script. With that said, don’t get too crazy. Keep in mind the genre that the script falls into. If it’s intended to be a rom-com, don’t play it like a horror movie. But maybe you add a little more drama to the role. Making a different choice than the obvious can help you stand out and show your creativity, but if it’s too crazy, you’re going to be dismissed.

You don't have long to make an impression, so start strong

Oftentimes in life, I feel like we try to emphasize the endings. Since the end of anything is the last thing people see/hear etc., it’s what they are going to remember. However, when it comes to auditioning as a whole, not just with cold reads, you have a very limited amount of time to make an impression. If you don’t come out of the gate at your best it is very unlikely you will move forward in the process. Casting agents and directors have tons of people to get through with minimal time to do it, so if they aren’t impressed right away, then you’ll be cut.

You don’t have to be off book, but the less you stare at the script the better

Casting agents and directors know that cold reads are exactly that, cold. They know you have very limited time to study the scene. It is unlikely that you’ll be completely off book by the time you walk in to audition, so it’s ok to still have the script in hand. With that said, do everything in your ability to be as close to off book as possible. If you have your nose in the script the entire time, one it doesn’t look good for your ability to quickly learn lines (something pretty damn important in film and especially in TV land) but also it blocks your face and therefore your facial expressions, AKA your acting. Getting an overall idea of what’s happening in the scene and what the tone is and then using the script as a quick reference is a better bet.

Ask where your eye line is

The last helpful tip I’ve got is to ask where your eye line is, especially if they are recording it. They may not want you looking towards the camera, but off to the side a little. Even if they aren’t they may want you to read directly to them or to a reader (if they aren’t the ones reading for you). You may have a scene partner. In this case you probably don’t need to ask where your eye line is as you’re going to be acting with them. Asking just shows a level of professionalism and consideration for them and can help you stand out. Plus if you ask and follow that eye line (crucial to actually follow it, by the way, in case that wasn’t obvious) they can focus on your performance instead of questioning why you chose to look three feet above their heads as if you were performing to the balcony seats in an auditorium.

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