Directors and casting directors can tell if an actor’s self-tape audition took the actor a couple of takes or many. The way they can tell is whether the scene and the actor look well rehearsed. Rehearsing for camera is dangerous because it’s very difficult for the well rehearsed actor to fool the camera into thinking something spontaneous is happening. We’ve all heard the phrase “You can’t lie to the camera”.
Over-rehearsing can also be problematic on set. Actors tend to think about scenes as a whole instead of a collection of pieces. Filmmaking is the process of creating pieces which will be put together into a whole. It’s the art of creating the individual steps of a journey separately and assembling them in editing in order to create the illusion of a complete journey taking place uninterrupted from beginning to end. The well rehearsed actor has a harder time creating in pieces. By rehearsing a scene in its entirety over and over again, the actor can become dependent on playing the whole scene in order to play any piece of it well.
How do you accomplish anything great on camera when rehearsing is so dangerous? The answer is by creating and playing characters and not scenes. The actor’s process teaches the actor that she or he already is the character and that great acting comes from how well the actor plays individual moments. On camera, great acting comes from maintaining a clearly defined character whose inner thoughts and emotions are spontaneous. When it comes to auditions, self-tape or otherwise, the biggest mistake actors make is ignoring the character description or character breakdown in favor of exploring the scene.