By Faith Hibbs-Clark, Founder of CMFA
“A kiss is just a kiss..." Right? This is a famous line from As Time Goes By, a song written by Herman Hupfeld in 1931. But in an audition, a kiss can be a disaster waiting to happen, and especially problematic when you are self-taping and alone.
Since the onset of the pandemic, most film and television auditions have become self-tape auditions. But even before the pandemic, most auditions were "off-camera reader" style which meant that you were alone on camera. Whether at home or at the casting office, there was no easy way to handle it.
So what can an actor do if a scene calls for a kiss? Before you start practicing the "air kiss" and risk making a complete fool of yourself, let's consider a good alternative:
Skip it altogether. Sometimes a kiss in a scene doesn't do anything to move the story along, so the easiest solution for an actor is to avoid that action altogether. You can communicate the intimacy of the scene without the physicality. There are many ways to convey affection in a scene without the need for an actual kiss. The writer might simply be wanting to show the connection that the characters have at that point in the story.
Consider the following 6 possibilities:
1. Proxemics - In body language, we talk about proxemics which is the study of the human use of space. Less physical distance between people can indicate intimacy in the relationship. As an actor, you can try leaning in slightly to show intimacy.
2. Breathing - Our breathing becomes slower and heavier right before a kiss. We also tend to breathe through our noses in anticipation of locking lips. This type of breathing can help communicate the imminent kiss without the actor actually having to pucker up.
3. Tone of voice - We have all heard of the person with a voice like a "velvet glove." The sound of it can make us melt. Try using a softer, more intimate tone in your voice to show the scene's intimacy. Your voice will become slower, softer, and raspier.
4. Eyes - Humans seek mutual eye contact. We love to gaze into another's soul through their eyes. It is an instinct we are born with, so when someone temporarily denies gaze, it makes the on-looker want to get our attention again. If you intentionally don't look and then slowly look at the other person in the scene, the action can feel like a kiss.
5. Color of clothing - Wear red. Red is a primal color. It is the first color a baby sees when it is born. It is no surprise that it conjures up other primal feelings of sexuality as well. Before hi-def cameras, actors were told not to wear red in an audition, but that is no longer true, so turn the heat up and bust out your best reds.
6. Lighting. - One of the many benefits of self-tape auditions is that you are in complete control. If you want to communicate intimacy in an audition, try dimming the lights a little to create a softer glow. You can even experiment with some warmer tones in your lighting.
Remember that you are communicating a story. Not everything has to be shown to communicate the feeling of the story. Explore these possibilities to help you use the power of "acting science" to book more film and television roles.
Want to learn more and practice these kinds of scripts?