Understanding the Art of Cold Reading

Q: What is a cold read?

A: A cold read is when an actor auditions for a part with an unknown script, which is quite common in commercial or film auditions. Typically, the actor is given a script before the audition, but sometimes this does not occur.

Q: How does one learn how to cold read?

A: There’s no real proven formula, but a beginner should start line by line. In the early stages, an actor might only memorize a handful of words at a time, but practice will improve this skill. After reaching a certain comfort level, the actor can try doing cold reading with a fellow actor. A cold reading is more measured than a normal reading and may feel awkward at first. This is a normal part of the process, and there is no cause to worry. A casting director is more interested in feeling the actor’s personality than in hearing a perfect read.

Q: Is there a proven preparation technique before an audition?

A: If possible, actors should read the entire script upon arrival and memorize as much they can. Doing this will give them a sense of the characters involved and what the particular scene is about. A handy trick for experienced actors is to remember the first and final lines. The casting director often pays closest attention to how an actor starts and finishes.

Q: What other strategies will help during an audition?

A: During an audition the actor feels tempted to sneak a glance at the next line as the other actor speaks. This is not recommended. How an actor reacts to a fellow actor is just as critical as saying the lines. Actors should wait their turns to respond and then peek at their next lines. Memorize as many words as possible within the few seconds available. Then, have eye contact with the acting partner and say the line. Reading lines while staring at the script is a guaranteed way to lose out on a part. As difficult as it may sound, the actor should remain in character while reading.




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