This month, I interviewed Your Audition Friend’s Mara Klein about her new company that solves a very common actor problem: having an experienced and enthusiastic person to read lines with for audition prep and/or self-tapes. Mara has a wealth of experience—and this interview is packed with truly good tips for auditioning…seriously. It’s awesome to see a business created for actors that is so helpful and practical.
Read on for Mara’s tips on getting ready for an audition, self-taping, and how she’s using her acting skills in her entrepreneurial endeavors!
Well, I’m an actress based out in LA and that’s pretty much the only thing I ever remember wanting to be. So I guess you could say that colored my whole childhood. I grew up in Maryland right outside DC and did community theater & school plays there, then went to college at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts studying drama. Right after graduation I moved to LA, which I’d wanted to do my whole life, and LOVE it here … Even though I’m an east coaster at heart. I’ve had some professional success with roles on shows like Casual on Hulu, Startup on Crackle, & Fresh off the Boat to name a few. While still pursuing acting, I’m now an entrepreneur too! Which I’m still wrapping my head around… cause life never turns out as planned.
That’s very cool, we are all about that entrepreneur life at Ms. in the Biz! Tell us about Your Audition Friend.
So, what I came to realize as an actor, was that so much of what we do is dependent on another person. By definition acting can’t happen in a room alone, it necessitates an audience. Yes, even in audition prep. I found I ALWAYS needed to run my lines aloud to feel comfortable, which meant either paying for a coach or begging favors of friends (which comes with it’s own added stress). Not to mention the growing popularity of self tapes where you actually NEED a reader.
So that’s where Your Audition Friend comes in. Basically, the name says it all, we’re here to be your “friend” throughout the audition process. Just like a real friend we drive to you, except we’re there on your time, fully present for you, without any pressure or guilt associated, and there’s no favors to pay back 🙂 You get someone practiced who can help you run lines, get your audition on it’s feet, be a reader for your tape, give constructive feedback, calm your nerves, even call in the car right before you enter the audition room. Whatever you need. So you stand strong in your talent without worrying about the rest.
What inspired you to start the business?
Honestly, I never thought I would. I never viewed myself as an entrepreneur – I’m an actress. But I got to a point in life where I was sick of working a day job to pay the bills while I was waiting for acting to do so. I wanted something else I could do in tandem with acting that didn’t feel like taking half my day off (to wait tables or nanny or work in an office). Something that fed my creative soul, felt challenging, and gave back to my community.
There was a lot of soul searching that happened over a year or so while I was looking for my “calling.” Then I realized I already do what Your Audition Friend is offering (though I hadn’t come up with the name yet). I was trained for it, was already being hired to run lines with professional actors who trusted me, I’ve been a reader for various casting offices, I’m an EXCELLENT friend, and I really do enjoy helping people and watching them succeed. Plus, bonus – it exercises my acting muscles. Not only that, but there’s a market for it and no exact service available so it felt USEFUL! Actors have acting coaches and self tape studios, but no one was offering the in-between. I talked it over with a lot of friends in the industry and was met with an overwhelming positive response that a service like this SHOULD exist. And figured I was uniquely positioned to make it so.
What is your top tip for actors who are prepping for a big audition? Anything you frequently see people miss?
Well, first off, don’t think of it as a BIG audition. I find acting to be such a mind game and there are so many ways we self-sabotage that has nothing to do with your actual talent. The biggest thing I see get in people’s way are nerves and stress. So I say do everything you can to minimize that.
I find when you qualify your auditions (this one matters, it’s a life changing role, I want it so bad, I would get to act opposite this award-winning actor) or fixate on them after the fact, it only increases stress and messes with the flow of your work.
So, do that and then yes, of course do the work! Do as much work as it takes to make you feel comfortable, fluid, strong in your performance with the lines second nature. That may be my top tip – know your lines so well that you don’t have to think about them. Then look at the audition as a chance you get to show what YOU can do, not do what you think they will like. A chance you have to ACT today! Because how many days go by where you don’t get to practice your craft? When you shift your mindset to the positive and focus your energy on that, it gives you a confidence and that kind of “fuck it” energy in the room that’s attractive.
So, it’s not about the “big audition” it’s about the fact that you get to act today! And then as soon as it’s over and you walk out of the room, let it go and don’t hold on to any woulda/coulda/shoulda from that audition that you carry over into the next. I once had a teacher say to plan something fun to look forward to after an audition so that’s not the only thing in your day. I sometimes find that helpful in letting it go.
You already have an impressive client list of working actors. Do you see any common threads in their attitudes towards the audition process?
Thanks! So the thing I’ve learned most from them (that I totally now steal for my own auditions) is how much time and work they put into each one. I’m talking hours … and these are people with really busy lives. So, seeing how much work they do with everything else going on, kinda shamed/inspired me into doing more myself. And it’s doing work that actually matters so you feel prepared. Meaning it’s not just memorizing the lines, which actually doesn’t take that long, but getting them into your body so it’s second nature.
By this I mean they all rehearse their auditions as if for a play or performance, say it aloud, do various “acting” exercises, get weird with it, try out different choices. And they make the preparation fun. So after all this they feel confident in their performance when it’s time to audition or tape. Then they can let it fly, really let go and throw it away so the audition looks so easeful, real and spontaneous you would never know how much time they spent. Also, should they get an adjustment are seamlessly able to incorporate it because they’re not stuck thinking about the lines or combatting nerves. Nerves don’t even come into play – cause what do you have to be nervous about when you’re that prepared?
Self-tape requests have become much more prevalent in recent years, but I feel like many people still struggle with it! How has that changed the game in your opinion?
SO true!! I find the majority of auditions are now self tapes, especially the first round, then maybe a callback in the room.
I used to hate them! They were so much extra work and always stressed me out figuring out how to get them done in time, who to ask for favors, etc. But now I actually LOVE self tapes! I think it’s all about your perspective … Sure, going in the room means a lot less work on your end, but with self tapes I find I have more control and ability to craft the performance.
You get to try a bunch of different choices and then watch them back, see what works, and pick the best take. If you flub a line who cares? You get as many takes as you want. So embracing and focusing on that aspect has changed the way I feel about them and I encourage my clients to do the same. I think the biggest thing is not to fight them as more of the industry moves that way, but embrace the flexibility it gives you, and also know you can do this without even leaving your home! Make the process of filming as easy and streamlined as possible! So that when one comes through you’re not stressing about how you’re going to do it, but you have a system in place.
That’s great advice. Do you have any tips for how to make the filming process easier?
Look, if you have an iPhone or comparable smartphone, you have the ability to record yourself at home. So, do that!
You’re most comfortable in your own space anyhow, and just think… you’re even saving a drive to the casting office if it were in person. I would recommend investing in a tripod & phone clip (there are some good cheap ones on amazon for around $20 – I like this one), tape in front of a solid colored wall or simply hang a sheet (I literally tape one up) and you’re good to go with natural light. Or invest in some lights if you want to have the flexibility to record at night (say if you work a day job & get a lot of last minute auditions).
Just know technically what’s important is that you’re well lit without shadows on your face, and that the audio is clear and crisp. Know that CDs aren’t looking for film quality tapes, just the equivalent of how they would film you in their office. Once you have a set up once, you NEVER have to worry about it again – all you need to do is get yourself a good reader. Cause that’s what informs your performance. Call a friend or that’s exactly what Your Audition Friend is here for. 😉
Is there anything else actors can do with self-tapes to make themselves stand out?
There are certain times when I’ve seen people have fun with self tapes and make them more filmic be it with framing, location, or with their own interludes to make them stand out. I wouldn’t say do this all the time, but you’ll know when inspiration strikes and there’s a character you have an idea for and want to run with. (Go watch Dacre Montgomery’s audition tape for Stranger Things and you’ll see what mean.)
How does your actor side inform your entrepreneurial side? (Of course, your company is acting-related, but do you feel that your experiences as an actor have helped you on the business side as well?)
I’m sure they have. I mean being an actor is kinda like being an entrepreneur except your product is yourself. You still have to market and constantly be on the lookout for opportunities and network and hone your product, etc.
When I started the business I definitely felt out of my depth having no formal training in it. But have since realized I know more than I think, because of everything I’ve had to do on my own to brand and market myself as an actor. I also believe that in order to be an actor you have to be tenacious, fairly resilient (the amount of times we hear no and keep going), ok feeling out of your comfort zone (hello vulnerability), and really believe that you have what it takes. All qualities that I think entrepreneurs possess. So they line up quite well.
Tell us what else is on the horizon for you, and where we can find you online!
Well, I’m mainly focused on the business these days, which you can find at www.yourauditionfriend.com if you’d like to learn more or want to book us! There’s also @yourauditionfriend on Instagram where I post various audition tips and tutorials, mainly things that inspire me as an actor. As for my acing side, you can catch me in an episode of Startup on Crackle that comes out this month, on stage in What Happened When at the Echo Theater Company (late Sept – mid Oct run) & I just shot a commercial for something I’m not allowed to say!