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Mastering The Cold Reading Process

By - The Actor's Life

So, what's a cold reading... Is it about the temperature in the room. Is it about the script?

Put simply - if your auditioning you'll need to know about the cold reading. It is basically getting handed a script - and acting the part with little or no preparation.

Most of the time, when an actor is performing, you'll get time to look at the lines, memorize them and put some time into thinking about the character. However, sometimes when you get cast in a film or a television commercial - you won't get the script until the very last minute. This is when practice and skill at the cold reading will become very important.

So, what are some techniques that you can use to become better at cold reading?

Well, the first thing to think about is working on cold reading techniques with your acting teacher or coach. Working with your coach and having them tape or video tape you is a great way to discover some of your bad habits.

If you don't have a coach or a teacher, and you'd like to practice on your own - try it with anything written. Just pick up a newspaper or a book or a script. Look at the first line or two - immediatley make a choice about how you'll perform it - and say the line out loud. That's it. That's a cold reading.

At first you'll want to do it over and over again until you get it right. And, sometimes you'll have difficulty memorizing more than one or two lines. But keep practicing. Try memorizing as much as you can. Try making different choices about the character or what's going on - without reading ahead of course. That's the whole point. It's your choice about how to read the character.

Once you're feeling comfortable, try it with a partner. Read the lines with a partner. Always remember that you should be listening to your partner - and that this is as big a part of acting as is saying your lines. So, only look at your lines as you need to - when you're ready to speak, glance down and have a quick look. Memorize briefly - then make a creative choice - and speak.

The key is to make a choice.

If, during an audition, you get a few minutes to look at the script before you go on - try to go all the way through it at a glance. Try and glean just the essence of your character so that the choices you make during the cold reading will be stronger.

Don't worry too much about feeling a bit awkward about the cold reading. It's an awkward process and tends to go a bit slower than the actual scene will play when you actually know it and run through it for real. The goal of the cold reading is to discover what kind of choices you'll make as an actor. This is what shows the true talent of the actor and helps the casting director to find an actor who will make original choices that are interesting to watch.

And that's the key. Make choices. Be interesting - and be in the moment.

In fact, enjoy the moment.


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