"The best thing you can do is become a Buddhist."
She was only kind of joking- most of the advice she gave us was the encouragement to keep pursuing our careers, whether going to fruitless audition after fruitless audition or continuing to direct after a flopped show. She described her own initial failures and struggles when she made the switch from directing theatre to film without having any camera training as "being like a zombie... I kept coming back from the dead." That kind of perseverance has led her to direct such shows as Family Ties, The Nanny, Mad About You, Spin City, Arrested Development, The Bernie Mac Show, and Gilmore Girls.
She did give us some great audition tips for the world of film and television, and I'll list them here, as frantically scribbled down by a completely inexperienced film actress:
- The best ways to be seen by a casting director: Go to casting workshops, or be in an independent film that gets seen by influential people.
- In an audition, never feel like you NEED to get the job, or you will not be in the best mental place you can be, which is a centered, loose place.
- Read sides OUT LOUD on your feet a million times before the audition. It can never be stale or over-prepared... if you get the part you're going to have to do it in front of the camera a million times anyway.
- Read stage directions for character clues.
- Know where the character stands dramatically and psychologically in the scene.
- Be aware of where the "point" of the scene is.
- Don't "decorate" unnecessarily- if you're supposed to be the straight man, don't try to be funny.
- Don't ask yourself to get it perfectly right the first second: It's impossible. Just go in the moment.
-When you leave, let it go!
- Breathe life into the scene.
- If you are comfortable with it, they will be comfortable with you.
- They'll never tell you the truth. [Yikes!]
- DO NOT do a "stretch" piece in a general audition. Show off everything that's great about you, not your liabilities.
- Know who you are and how you come across.
Finally, one of my favorite bits of advice that she gave us was to put the "story you make up about yourself" (all the doubts and fears and self-criticism) out of your head. Keep the pure feelings (adrenaline, excitement), and be comfortable with yourself in them, because they will be there regardless, and use them to your advantage.