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Understanding how to use all your “Sides of Self” when preparing for an audition, role or performance.

By: Randall Sims

About 20 years ago I began studying an acting system developed by Judson Vaughn. An outstanding and successful actor for many years in Los Angeles and Atlanta, Judson had begun tinkering with a new process for teaching actors not only how to act better but also how to create original content via a process known as “Fodder with Compounding Obstacles”. There’s not enough time to go in to that wonderful creation here but future articles and classes at KIRA will delve deeply and powerfully in to that process of creativity and imagination.


That process yielded a fundamental building block system for actors known as “The Concepts”. These 30 or so items were all related to the creation process enabling the actor to use all the gifts and resources available to him or her to develop a truly original and inventive approach to auditioning and performing. One of those concepts is known as “Side of Self”.

For years actors have been taught that in order to inhabit the character you’re performing one must dig deep in to one’s own emotional past and dredge up some experience that will aid in manifesting an honest and true performance befitting the description of the character and the story he or she is part of. Known as “the Method” this system still serves as the main creative force behind many successful actors and their unforgettable performances. It does work just not very reliably.

And besides, most of you are not auditioning for the main role in most projects.

Using old emotions to generate fresh and original performances is not a very successful or efficient way to approach the creation process. Old experiences are good for many purposes in life but for acting the best and most interesting results come from what’s happening now to the actor. To that end, I encourage actors to find a side of self or a slightly different shade of YOU, if you will, as the foundation for creating an honest and believable performance for the audience.

If you watch the successful actors in the business, it always seems like they are kind of the same person in every performance even though the characters, circumstances and settings are drastically different and varied. Why does this work for audiences? Well, it works because none of us think Anthony Hopkins really eats people. Nor do we want to think he has experiences in his past enabling him to somehow relate to Hannibal Lecter. What makes the performance an all timer, like many of his performances, is simply the fact that he is still very much his own true self inhabiting an absolutely terrible place and time and doing terrible things.

What makes the actor stand out in an audition setting and on set is his or her ability to make an unreal and fabricated world come to life not only for the audience but for the actor as well. Simply put the only effective way to do that is to always be yourself in whatever scenario you are given. So when preparing for that audition or performance always make sure your foundation is squarely and securely set on YOU and not some forced or made up version of you. The freedom and confidence you will possess knowing that you are enough and every emotion and experience necessary to make the performance work is already inside of you will allow you to explore and find so many varied version of you to make the experience truly memorable and rewarding for you the artist as well as the person.

If you want to learn more about “Sides of Self”, “Fodder with Compounding Obstacles” and the Fundamentals of Visual Storytelling join me for my new class starting soon at KIRA. More details to follow.

About the Author: Randall Sims is an Actor, Acting Teacher and Casting Session Runner in Los Angeles, California. He frequently teaches Wednesday Workouts at Keep It Real Acting Studios.