If I could say one thing to local actors to immediately help their performance in film and give them a much better chance for landing that role in auditions, I would say this:
Big is Bad.
My advice to feature film and television actors is to bring it down. In some cases… way down. Now this advice is not without controversy. I’ve had one agent tell they think I’ve got it wrong… that it’s better to be too big than too small… that a director can bring a performance down to the right level more easily than bringing it up. Not in this director’s experience.
You see, in the audition room, using a 0-9 scale on “bigness”, I have many local actors coming in at 7, 8 or 9. I’m looking for 1.5. Now we have to go from an 8 to a 1.5? Sometimes on the second read through in the audition, they come down to a 6. But you see the problem– I don’t have time to keep this up. However, if the local actor comes in too low (a 1.0), it won’t take much to bring them up.
I think the bigness comes from the actor’s desire to show the director everything he or she is capable of. But may of the roles available are dayplayer roles… it might be “here’s your coffee sir.” And the local actor puts everything in it to show what an outstanding talent she is. Too big. Or even if it’s a principle role or a lead, film acting is so much different than theater acting… and theater is what’s available locally a lot more than film.
There have been moments in the audition room where I think if they just read the part flat with no emoting, it would be better than what they’re delivering.
Having said all that, please do remember that every director is different. And that especially with low budget indies, often first time directors– so you can throw out the rules. One director might be from a theatrical background and be looking for you to project to the last row in the house (heaven forbid!). But alas, it’s the reality of what’s out there. Do your homework before you go to the audition. Check out the director’s background.
I believe local actors have every bit the talent of the NYC/LA actors. What they lack is simply experience.