Cold Reading means that an actor will be asked to perform a scene with very little preparation, and so they will still be reading from the script. It is used almost exclusively in the audition process for all mediums including theatre, film, television and commercials. Sometimes, however, playwrights will ask actors to cold read their material so they can hear it aloud. Actors that excel at Cold Reading are able to still make strong choices and connect to their partners even though the material is not very familiar.
Tips on Cold Reading:
– Research the production: If it is a pre-existing script but you don’t know what part of the script or what character you are reading for, read the whole thing. You should always read as much of the script that is available. If it is for a television show – get familiar with the format. If it is a film, research the director and her style. You will get a lot of information on what types of choices may or may not work when you eventually do receive a script.
– USE the script. Don’t even try to memorize the script. They are having you read it because they know it’s impossible to make choices and memorize the script. Trying to memorize the script will make the scene about the memorization and not about your abilities as an actor.
– Connect with your scene partner(s). This will help you slow down and really live through the imaginary circumstance. It will also make sure that you don’t keep your eyes on your script but bring them up where the casting director and camera can see your acting.
– Don’t forget to act. Although you may be asked to do it quite quickly, you still need to be able to bring your craft to the work. Define the beats quickly, make any necessary character choices, personalize the emotional content of the scene, and know what you are going for and how you are going for it (objectives and tactics). You have to have STRONG ACTING CHOICES.
– Show them your potential. It does not need to be perfect. They know you just got the material, but they want to see what you are capable of, so take the pressure of perfection off the table and go for it! Show them how you work as an actor
– TRAIN for it. Believe it or not, the more times you pick up unfamiliar material and work on it, the better you will get. Take a class or, even more importantly, get in front of a mirror and make sure you are able to pick up entire sentences at a time – so you can work thought-by-thought rather than word-by-word. Put yourself on camera so you can see any bad habits you may bring to the table
Conclusion:Every actor will be asked to cold read sooner or later. Whether they have called you in for one role, and then decide they want you to audition for another or if the script is being changed at the last minute and they give you a new scene…it’s an important skill for any actor.