Good day my sweetly smiling squirrels,
Today we’re going to talk about cue cards. Why do i use them, why don’t i let you use your script, and how to make it all work.
So we’ll begin with some video demonstrations of how different things look on camera. I quickly wrote this copy this morning, and had Grace make the cue card so the words wouldn't be so in my head, so it would be more like when you guys come in and audition. There are 3 videos, one where i use only the cue card, a second where i hold the script up and off to the side, and a third where i hold the script low and in front of me like people always want to.
This is using a cue card.
This is holding the script off to the side, out of frame.
This is holding the script low and in front of me.
You can hopefully see that when i use the cue card, you can see much more of my face, and see my expressions better. The idea behind a cue card is that you should have the bulk of the material in your brain already. When the copy is long, we send it out in advance, and if it’s only a couple sentences, you should be able to mostly have it memorized within a few minutes. You are actors after all, right? The cue card is there for support, to “cue” you when you forget or start to stumble.
As you can see, i don’t have this memorized, but am basically reading it straight from the card. It’s always best if you can grab the beginning of your line and deliver as much of it into the camera as possible, before glancing back down to grab your next piece of script. It’s OK if you have to pause to find your place, everyone watching should understand that is how a cue card works. Had this been a real audition, i would have done a couple of takes, and any time someone tripped up, or stumbled over the words like i did, i would restart that take, but i wanted to show you all what it looks like. Also, i would have told myself to slow down for a second take because i tend to talk fast.
When we hold a script in our hands, we tend to only look at it, and often fail to ever actually maintain any kind of eye contact with the camera. As you can see in the third take, i have only the briefest of eye flickers up to the camera, and that because by the third run of the script, i had a good chunk in my head, and didnt' have to rely AS heavily on the script. Even in the second video, i can't manage to maintain solid eye contact with the camera and i'm looking away for a lot of it. In the first video, while eye contact may not ALWAYS be directly into the lens, a good 80% of it is directed in that general direction. You can see my eyes, my face, and my body and hands are relaxed.
Also, the white of the paper often changes the way the lighting works and makes everything darker if it happens to get in the shot, which Grace did an amazing job of keeping the script OUT of shot, and i did a good job by not moving that arm at all. And no matter where you hold the paper, it’s almost always in the shot, which is not pretty to look at, and often quite distracting to the viewer. That’s why i make you put it down or snatch it out of your hand. It also makes it so you/i can't gesture with our hands, which often makes us feel and look stiff and awkward. The last video should make you feel like giving me the direction to look up more, and relax.
Generally, if it’s more than a couple sentences i will send the copy out in advance so talent can familiarize themselves with the words and ideas in the script. If you can wrap your head around the basic points you are making in the script, it will help you memorize the actual words better than if you just try to memorize words in order. It’s all about substance and getting the points across and never about the ACTUAL word for word perfect script. Make sure you are reading for CONTENT. If you don’t understand the words you’re saying, neither will your audience. The audition is often the first time the clients will have heard their copy read out loud, and often it leads to us all discovering that some of the wording is weird and doesn’t come out right.
When i ask if you’re ready to come in or if you need a couple more minutes with the script, BE HONEST. If you want more time, i can give you more time!
So to sum up, i make you use the cards and not your script so we can see you better. The only time i will let you use your script instead of the cue cards is if you have some sort of vision issue, you can’t see that far, you didn’t bring your glasses for that distance, etc - in which case, i will obviously help you make whatever accommodations are needed. I would never want to put someone at a disadvantage or set them up to fail - that doesn’t help me in the slightlest, and it’s just mean and cruel. Also, as a small side note while we’re talking about this, i know a lot of actors have various reading struggles, and if that’s you - LET US KNOW, i will always do my best to make sure you have the copy ahead of time if you are dyslexic or something like that! It’s definitely nothing to be embarrassed or shy about, i want you to shine and if there are things i can do to help you get there, i’ll do it!