“That line there? Just… throw it away.” (waves hand in “shoo, fly” manner.)
~ Various Directors and Casting Directors
If you’ve been an actor for any length of time, it’s likely you’ve heard it. If you’re a director, you may even have used it a few times.
Either way, it probably didn’t really help produce the results you were looking for.
And, it’s a huge pet peeve of mine.
“Throw it Away”
The problem with this ambiguous statement is that it gives the actor nothing to work with. It’s a kind of lazy director-speak. A shortcut for a number of possible comments.
And every actor will take it differently.
What the hell is that supposed to mean, “throw it away”? Not say it? Mumble it? Deliver it in a monotone fashion? Maybe to myself rather than the reading partner?
Usually, what the director is trying to say (or, avoid saying) is one of a few similar things. Such as:
- You’re making that line/moment too important. Be more casual or matter-of-fact with it.
- You’re over-acting, making it too big and stagey. Tone it down some. Be more “natural”.
- Your choice is a little to excited or emotional than I want for the character in this situation.
Wouldn’t it be better if the director would just actually say one of these things?
I mean, as an actor, you can only do it better if the director would just take the time to explain the action and expectation of the line or the moment.
And, why wouldn’t they?
Well, maybe they have explained it to you, and you missed it. Maybe they need to save time.
Or, worse, maybe they’re trying to protect you.
In an audition situation, they’re probably trying to save time.
The director or casting director has hundreds of people to see, and to explain the full situation and character relationship to every single actor would take too much time.
They could also be testing you to see if you can recognize when you’re over-doing it, or trying too hard — in your head instead of in the moment.
The audition process IS a weeding out process, after all. The more quick-tests you can pass/fail, the easier it is to whittle down the options of actors they can work with.
In a rehearsal situation, the director WILL take the time to explain things to you, give you adjustments and redirects, explore choices, etc.
But, maybe you’re not getting it.
It could be that they’re not explaining themselves well. (And most good directors will take the blame for it.)
Or, it could be that you’re so stuck on whatever choice you made, that you can’t adjust your delivery of the line, or vision of the moment, no matter what is said or done.
So, the director gives up, and resorts to ambiguous shortcuts out of frustration: “Just, throw it away!”
Throw it away? My choices that I spent all night making? My big moment? My all-important line?!?
If you’re the kind of actor that takes changes, adjustments, and redirection personally, then you might just fit into that stereotype of the “sensitive artist” whose emotions need to be tip-toed around.
And that’s when the director might feel the need to protect you…
Maybe the director won’t dive too deeply into the reasons for the adjustment for fear of offending your sensitive little actor emotions.
So, they choose this polite little shortcut phrase that’s supposed to say all of those corrections at once, and hope that you’ll figure it out.
What’s an Actor to Do?
So, you hear the so-called direction to “throw it away”.
And, it doesn’t provide any direction, which is what you need and expect from the director.
What do you DO?
Your job as the actor is to find out what the hell they mean by that. Don’t allow this ambiguous phrase to go by unaddressed.
Take a moment to find that common ground with the director. Explain your view of the moment. Ask a clarifying question. Should you exude a calmer confidence? Quietly hide a fear? Express a lack of interest?
Another reason for a director to use this shortcut phrase is that they don’t have a relationship or solid rapport with you.
Taking a moment to find that common ground will will build that rapport, show the director what you’re like to work with, and prove that you are willing to learn and take direction.
It might even make the rest of the rehearsals, or future auditions better and clearer.
What Do You Think?
Am I right? Am I wrong? Did I miss something?
If you have a question, or want to share any insight to agree or disagree with me, PLEEEASE help me make this a conversation by posting in the comments below. 🙂