Can I Get a Do-Over?

By Marci Liroff

Spring Audition Bootcamp classes are starting in May in Los Angeles. Click here to sign-up.

While watching the 2017 Grammy Awards, I witnessed the most remarkable thing: The uber-talented singer-songwriter Adele took the stage for a sung tribute to her friend George Michael.

It soon became apparent that she was slightly off-key and her in-ear mics weren’t working. So she shut the orchestra down and on live television said,

“Can we please stop? I just can’t do it again like last year. I just can’t fuck this up, it means too much to me. I’m sorry for swearing and I’m sorry for starting over, but can we please just start it again? I’m sorry, but I just can’t mess this up for him.”

And with that, the audience rose to their feet cheering, the orchestra started again, and she gracefully began the song for a second time. In that moment, Adele won us over.

Last year, singer-songwriter and poet Patti Smith sang Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fallat the Nobel Prize ceremony.

A few moments into her rendition, she faltered. She had forgotten the lyrics. She was devastated. Again, like a pro, she stopped the band, apologized profusely, saying she was very nervous, and started again. She exhibited such grace and was so honest, vulnerable, and respectful of the material. I couldn’t have loved her more in that moment.

The do-over. It’s that awkward moment when you’re most human.

How often do we get this opportunity? In life, not often, but if you handle it correctly, you can steer the crowd in your favor. This made me think of actors and auditions.

In my classes and coaching, actors always ask, “Can I start over?”

Here’s my take on it—and you know I’m always going to tell you the truth, or at least my truth, having gone through several decades of the filmmaking process: If you’re at the beginning of a scene and get off to a bad start, say, “I’m going to start over.” Don’t apologize, don’t give a thousand “I’m sorry”s. Don’t ask for permission, just start again. This is you taking control of the audition room and letting us know you’ve got it under control. There’s no point in going through a three- to five-page scene if you know you’re not in the zone. But don’t abuse the privilege. I have had actors go over and over scenes, asking if they can do it again. It’s a glimpse into how you might be on set, and it doesn’t bode well.

I suggest that you not stop in the middle of a long scene when you’re almost at the end. Remember, we want you to know the material, be off-book, and give us the dialogue as written. But if you miss a word or a phrase, there’s no need for you to start over as long as you stay in the scene and stay in character. We’ll be impressed by this.

Here’s a good trick if you go up on your lines or get lost deep into your scene: Stop, raise your hand to the person you’re reading with, take a moment (which means a nanosecond), then continue where you left off. It’ll give you a beat to pull it together and not have to start over.

In my article “How Not to Fall Off the Tightrope in an Audition” I wrote  how to reframe and pivot within the audition if you get off-track. If you miss a word, it’s not the end of the world. That said, it’s how you handle it that will make you rise above and get your audience cheering for you.

Make sure to check out my new online course “How To Audition For Film and Television: Audition Bootcamp”. You can view it on your laptop or your mobile device and your subscription gives you lifetime viewing privileges for this course. I’ll be adding lectures throughout the year.

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