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2015 February

Archives for February 2015

10 Audition Tips You Need To Know Right Now

By Marci Liroffth

Last week I started casting a new feature film. It’s so thrilling to get to know new actors during auditions and put together the talent for the film!

I was largely impressed by everyone’s preparation. One scene has a three-page monologue, and about 90 percent of the actors were off-book. You could tell they’d put a lot of work into it—not just by learning the lines but by making bold and exciting choices for the character.

This stage always reminds me that there are still things that actors can learn when going through the audition process.

When we instruct you to bring your headshot and résumé to the audition, we actually mean it. It’s not just a suggestion. This is your calling card. You should bring it whether you’ve been instructed or not, just to be safe. I really don’t want to hear, “Oh, my agent-manager said they’d sent it over,” or “I haven’t done that for years.”

Unless you’re Angelina Jolie or Will Smith, you need to bring your pic and résumé to your audition!

When I talk to you before your audition and get to know you, I want your résumé right in front of me so that I can see not only your film and TV credits, but your training and theater credits—neither of which are available on IMDb.

This seems like a no-brainer, but since 9/11 you need to bring your photo ID when you come on a studio lot. I’m amazed at how many people show up without their ID and can’t get on the lot.

The “h” is silent in “nihilism.” If there’s a word in your script you don’t know the meaning of or don’t know how to pronounce, look it up beforehand.

When I have pre-reads (when you work with me before going on to the next step with the director or filmmaking team), I want to get to know you so we’ll chat for a few minutes beforehand. I want to see your personality. I want to see a part of you I won’t be seeing in the audition or haven’t seen yet in your work. For this movie I’m looking for people with that extra “special sauce” – so help me get to know you. When I ask what you thought of the script, have something intelligent to say so that I can see how your brain works, I can hear you talk and see how articulate you are. No one wants to hear, “I thought it was cute” about their project.

Don’t use the director or producers who are in the room as the characters in the scene and look directly at them. It makes them wildly uncomfortable. They want to watch you, not be part of the scene. Just look directly over their heads or use the cameraperson and the reader to direct your looks.

When you are referencing a third person in the scene (other than your reader), don’t direct your looks way off-camera. Just adjust your eye-line to the other side of the camera.

Remember not to slap your sides on your thigh or crinkle them, which can make a lot of unnecessary and annoying noise.

I was very impressed by how the actors dressed for the part to show us how they’re thinking about the character. Wear something that’s indicative of the character—but not a costume. Check out my blog “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ ” for more on how to dress for an audition.

If you come to the studio lot you may have to park 10 or 15 minutes away from the audition, so make sure you come early (as we suggest in our appointment request). And the ladies should make sure to bring a pair of flat shoes.

Before you come in you should know whether you’re going to sit or stand for your audition. When I ask whether you’d like to sit or stand, it shouldn’t take you a few minutes to decide!

Most of these may seem obvious, but you’d be very surprised by how many people make these mistakes. I’m here to help!

Make sure to check out my new online course “How To Audition For Film and Television: Audition Bootcamp”. You can view it on your laptop or your mobile device and your subscription gives you lifetime viewing privileges for this course. I’ll be adding lectures throughout the year.

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How To Make Friends With Directors

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By Marci Liroff

If there’s one thing you should know about me after reading my columns, it’s that I’m a big fan of preparation. When my casting director colleagues are asked, “What is your biggest pet peeve?” they seem to always answer, “Lack of preparation.” Preparation doesn’t always take the form of being off-book and having made distinct character choices. There are so many things you can be doing throughout the year to make yourself a better and more well-rounded actor.

In my article “How to Prep for the Fall TV Season,” I encouraged you to see at least one or two episodes of every new show (and existing shows) that is out there so that you can spend 100 percent of your time before your audition preparing for the scenes you’ve been given, rather than having to catch up on viewing the shows.

Another crucial thing to becoming an actor with range is to watch old movies.

I’d like you to become a walking film library. 

You may come across a director in an audition situation or on a set who, rather than being able to articulate what she is looking for, will give you an example of a character in a classic (or not-so-classic) film. Since you’re a student of cinema, you will know exactly to what she’s referring.

I’ve worked with several directors who are very visually creative and are driven by their “right brain” and can’t actually tell you what they need from you. Many of them resort to using film references. If a director told you that he needs the enthusiasm and guilelessness of Warren Beatty in “Heaven Can Wait,” would you know what he means? When a director and DP talk about the opening tracking shot from “Goodfellas,” will you know what they mean and how to sustain your performance throughout?

I’ve witnessed actors in meetings with directors (and at my dinner parties) who have simply wowed a director with their endless knowledge of film history. A vast knowledge of actors’ performances along with classic shots shows a filmmaker that you have been paying attention and aren’t just interested in yourself, but are drawing from the past to make inspired choices. When actor Dennis Christopher met with director Quentin Tarantino for “Django Unchained,” they talked about film for hours.

I’ve prepared lists of my favorite films from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s that I believe are films you simply must see (check out the Resources page on my site. Scroll down toward the bottom – AMAZING list of resources here btw). Films such as “The Birds,” “Bonnie and Clyde,” and “Lolita” in the ’60s. “Harold and Maude,” “The Last Picture Show,” and “Midnight Cowboy” in the ’70s. Check out “Blood Simple,” “Silkwood,” and “Blade Runner” from the ’80s. These are but a few of my favorites. Study them. Track your favorite actor and see where they began and where they are now. Look at Leonardo DiCaprio in his first movies, like “This Boy’s Life” and “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.” Then watch what he does in “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

See you in the movies!

Make sure to check out my new online course “How To Audition For Film and Television: Audition Bootcamp”. You can view it on your laptop or your mobile device and your subscription gives you lifetime viewing privileges for this course. I’ll be adding lectures throughout the year.

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Learn The 4 Phases of TV Pilot Testing

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By Marci Liroff

In my Audition Bootcamp classes I take my students through what it’s like to test at the network level. It usually scares the crap out of them. They sit there, agog – their faces in a state of shock and fear. I’m one of those people that like to know everything about an upcoming situation before I jump into it – typical type-A personality. I figure if I have all the Intel, I can deal with it easier. It seems to take a lot of the “what if” anxiety out of the equation. I hope this exploration of what testing for a pilot helps you too when you get the opportunity.

The Preread
First, you read for me. No one meets the creative team (producers, director, studio and network executives) unless I know their work or I’ve auditioned them before. If I like what you did in this audition, I’ll bring you back to read for the producers and the director.

The Callback
If I like what you did in the preread, I’ll bring you in to read for the producers and director. First, though, I’ll have worked with you and given you notes based on my meetings with them (and with the network and studio) to ascertain what we’re looking for. If you do well in this audition, we’ll test you.

Testing for the Studio
Most pilots are produced by a production company (the studio) and aired on the network. First, you test for the studio. (Some studios are also networks, such as Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu.)

Since we want you to succeed we usually schedule a “work session” with our creative team to go through the scenes and make sure you’re ready.

Meanwhile, business affairs will be negotiating with your agent. For the test, the contract states that you are on “hold” with the studio and network for the next seven to 10 days until we either release you or pick up your option. This puts you in “first position” with our pilot; you can’t test for other projects because most networks won’t let you test in second position.

Speaking of signing a deal, when you get to the studio test location you’ll be met by a business affairs executive and about four pounds of paperwork (your contract) that you’ll need to sign before testing. You’ll be in a waiting area with three to four other people also testing for your role. It’s all nice and congenial and there’s a thick fog of tension in the air. While you’re meant to be prepping for your big opportunity you have to sign your life away (well, only the next five years!).

You’re asked to come into a small theater (think small screening room) or a conference room where the 20 or so executives are assembled to watch your audition. I’ll be sitting at the front of the room to read with you. Or, the actor you’re playing opposite will be there to read with you so we can see your chemistry. Even though these people want you to get the role, don’t expect a lot of warmth emanating from them.

At this point you’ll probably feel as if you’ve left your body and are looking down at your puny self. Resist this at all costs.

Remember what I told you about nervousness having the same physical sensation as excitement? Check out Jack Plotnick’s superb video on YouTube to get back on track.

You read, you say thank you, and you return to the waiting room and your fellow actors. At this point I may stick my head out of the room and say, “Hey, Johnny, we’d like you to come back in again. And you two can leave.” Yeah—it’s that blunt. But don’t overanalyze it. We might have loved what you did and want to see if Johnny can lighten up in the scene.

Testing for the Network
After your studio test, we narrow it down again. It’s a similar situation—a different room plus even more executives. You need to stay calm, not choke, and do exactly what you did for the studio test. From this point we have however many days your agent negotiated to pick up your option.

Some TV networks and studios are taping their tests, which I think is better and less stressful for all concerned. Instead of coming in and testing live in the room at the studio and network, we’ll tape your work session, get the perfect audition and take that in to the executives on a DVD. This way it’s comparing apples to apples. We tend to do this for single camera shows, and still do live auditions for multi-cam shows.

If you make it to any of these tests and don’t get the part, know you did your best and move on to your next audition. Pat yourself on the back that you got this far. It truly is amazing.

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