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How to Network

Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon

By Marci Liroff

In light of the pandemic, I am offering special pricing for my private coaching (remotely of course!) You can buy a steeply reduced package now and use it later (must be used before the end of 2020) Check out the info here.

This week, I’m talking about a dreaded topic: networking. I say “dreaded” because even I used to hate networking! Forcing myself to go out into the world with the sole purpose of meeting people in my business in order to garner connections (and possibly work) has always seemed inauthentic to me. If people like my work, why can’t they just reach out to me and hire me? Why do I have to mix and mingle with people? It’s exhausting!

That was the old me, but I’ve since read up on this topic to find out how to take the bad taste out of my mouth. I’ve learned that networking isn’t a one-way street; it should be beneficial for both parties. It’s not just “What can this person do for me?” but “How can I help and enrich this person with my expertise?” If you give value without strings, it will come back to you in spades. I’m not suggesting you work for free, but reframing the way you think about networking will change your energy around it and will attract like-minded people.

A popular way to network these days is through social media. I’ve written a lot on the topic in my column on Backstage. The first and most important rule is to use proper etiquette. In the world of social media, you should behave as you would at a dinner or cocktail party with guests you’re just meeting.

I hope you wouldn’t barge into a room of strangers and tell them to watch your demo reel.

Same thing with social media. In addition to social media, here are my four favorite networking tips to get you going:

1. Google Alerts. Set Google Alerts for the people you’d like to meet. Go and see them when they’re speaking on a panel. Ask questions and engage with them. No stalking!

2. Tweetups. Tweetups are essentially in-person social gatherings and networking events organized through Twitter—a great opportunity for turning social media interactions into in-person meetings.

3. Social gatherings. This is the time to shine and be yourself and not just talk about work. Natural, everyday social gatherings with friends are a great way to make real connections with people with whom you can circle back down the line to make work connections.

4. Turn to your friends and family. I’ll bet your friends, family, and work colleagues know several people that you’d like to meet. The best way to meet someone is through a personal referral! Ask around. Do your homework.

To further shed light on how actors should go about networking, I turned to actor and entrepreneur Ben Whitehair, who has taught me much about how actors can and should interact with casting directors and film professionals.

There are so many ways to network with casting directors. What has worked for you?
I’m now actual friends with dozens of casting directors, and in each case, I followed three guidelines: Always add value; remember that casting directors are people, too; [and] practice patience.

In my online business academy and coaching community for actors, working.actor, we are constantly talking about how important it is to remember the mantra “Offer instead of ask.” Casting directors are bombarded by actors, and most actors are asking for something—follow me, watch my demo reel, give me an audition. A wildly more effective approach is to add value for the casting director. Maybe that’s simply expressing your gratitude, offering tips or resources related to what the casting director is posting about, or promoting a film they cast to your followers.

It’s also so helpful to remember that casting directors are fellow human beings in this crazy industry. They want to get a break from their busy lives on social media, be treated with kindness, and interact with genuine people. Find ways to interact on a human level instead of only talking shop.

I also find that when I focus on building relationships over time rather than trying to get something in the short term, it always works for me.

What are the no-nos?
The biggest one is what we discussed before—asking for something instead of adding value. If someone feels like you’re just trying to get something from them, they won’t be inclined to help you. Beyond that, I’m shocked how many actors have not taken the steps to make sure their own social media profiles are optimized and professional, [which requires a] quality profile photo, well-written bio, link to your IMDb page or website, quality content, what city you live in, etc.

How should an actor approach a CD or other industry professional on social media?
The first step is to listen. Before even reaching out, pay attention to what that specific person is interested in. What do they post about on social media? What sorts of things are they interested in? What do you have in common? It can feel intimidating, so start with simple interactions and look for any opportunity to add value.

What are some other ways an actor can network?
Outside of social media, there are so many ways to network and build relationships with industry professionals. Film festivals, for example, are a wonderful place to meet directors, producers, and writers. I’m also a huge fan of attending industry events such as Q&As, panels, screenings, and educational workshops.

Charity events and organizations are also a wonderful avenue to meet people. There are plenty that are related to the entertainment industry, but that’s not a necessity. Again, do the listening—there’s a very good chance the person you want to connect with has a favorite charity they are involved with.

OK, I’ve met some amazing people. Now what?
To maximize these opportunities, remember to follow up! “What’s the best way to connect with you?” is a great way to ask permission to follow up and learn how that person wants to be reached. Giving your contact information to others is fine, but you’re then relying on the other person to do the work. Rather than focus on handing out your business cards, put your energy toward being the person who reaches out after meeting. Almost no one does that, so sending an email or note about how great it was to meet them will set you apart. Bonus points if you can find a way to add value in your follow-up by sharing an article or resource related to the conversation you had when you met them.

Make sure to check out my 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.

Warning: I grant permission to share my blog as written with no additions or deletions. Posting my blog is in no way an endorsement of another site unless you obtain my written consent.

How Actors Should Use Instagram – According to Casting Directors

By Marci Liroff

Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon
In light of the pandemic, I am offering special pricing for my private coaching (remotely of course!) You can buy a steeply reduced package now and use it later (must be used before the end of 2020) Check out the info here.

With Instagram running lead on social media these days, let’s take a deep dive into how an actor can best use the platform.

There is much discussion and debate over whether to have just one account or to have a personal account (otherwise known as a “Finstagram,” or “Fake Instagram”) and a separate account for professional actor business. Whether you have one or multiple accounts all depends on what you want to share with the public. Some choose to keep their personal account private, for friends and family and not for public viewing, and have a second, public account for career- and industry-related posts. Or you can just do it all from one public account (like Reese Witherspoon and Demi Moore appear to do, for example).

First and foremost, social media is all about great content. So, what makes great content? That’s subjective, of course. I like to see a nice mix of work photos along with life photos. Not “lifestyle” photos like those sponsored posts you’d see on an influencer account; I mean real-life photos of friends, family, colleagues, and the kids (once they’re old enough and the family has agreed their image can be shared), behind-the-scenes photos (#BTS), images and perhaps quotes that move and inspire you, and things that are generally cool and uplifting to share with the public.

A good example of an actor who nails this balance is Lacey Chabert (@thereallacey) of “Mean Girls” and “Lost in Space” fame. Chabert consistently has an interesting IG feed filled with photos of herself on set, clips of projects she’s starring in, her baby girl, and her friends and family. It doesn’t feel like she’s trying to sell something to her followers—she’s just sharing a small peek into her life.

When it comes to engaging others on Instagram, I don’t like when someone tags me to get me to look at their feed.

Unless we have a relationship, don’t tag me; to be honest, I’ll just block you.

I also think it’s very strange (and stalkerish!) when someone likes about 100 of my photos all at once. Again, this is a lame attempt to get me to look at their feed, and there’s usually nothing worthwhile to see on the other end. Don’t do it. 

To gauge other casting pros’ opinions on Instagram etiquette for actors, I spoke with a few of my casting colleagues. Here’s what they had to say:

Rachel Imbriglio (“9-1-1,” “Light as a Feather”): “What they should not do is make an off-topic comment about themselves on a casting person’s IG posts. If they want to follow, great.”

Joy Dewing (“Rent” and “Kinky Boots” national tours): “Put your goddamn contact info on there! I’m not gonna slide into your DMs with an appointment!”

Cara Chute Rosenbaum (“American Crime Story,” “The Mindy Project”): “Be specific and purposeful about tagging. If you’re going to tag a CD in something, it should be content they can watch or a picture with info about the shows you’re in, how to reach you, etc.—not just photos of you hanging out looking cute. And make sure that the CD you are tagging is someone who engages with or allows themselves to be contacted or tagged on social media. If it’s a CD with a private account, respect that boundary!”

Tineka Becker (“X-Men: Apocalypse”): “Keep in mind that we often don’t have time to catch IG stories or live feeds before they disappear, so make sure you’re posting to your feed as well. I much prefer posts where I can see your personality (i.e., videos or candid photos of you experiencing life) as opposed to selfie after selfie after modeling shot after selfie.”

Make sure to check out my 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.

Warning: I grant permission to share my blog as written with no additions or deletions. Posting my blog is in no way an endorsement of another site unless you obtain my written consent.

What to Do With Your Free Time During Quarantine

By Marci Liroff

Photo Source: Shutterstock
In light of the pandemic, I am offering special pricing for my private coaching (remotely of course!) You can buy a steeply reduced package now and use it later (must be used before the end of 2020) Check out the info here.

You’ve done the 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. Your closets are organized and pristine. You’ve decluttered your home and donated the things you haven’t worn in years. Now what? At this point, I think we’ve all realized that we’re in this for the long haul. As actors and filmmakers, what does this mean for us? How can we stay creative and productive while working from home? Here’s a primer I’ve put together that will help you keep your mojo and your sanity.

Take care of yourself. First and foremost, we must be taking care of ourselves and of those we love. Our mental and physical health is the most important thing right now. What we’re dealing with is unprecedented. I’m not the expert here, and don’t pretend to be, but it’s OK if you don’t know what to do and if you feel lost. Please reach out to mental health professionals if you are finding the day-to-day more difficult than usual. Oh, and if you’re not already doing this, wear a mask whenever you go outside, do not gather in groups, social distance at least 6 feet (10 feet is even better), wash your hands often, and don’t touch your face!

Reconnect with yourself. It’s a great time to practice mindfulness and self-reflection. I found a great app called Calm where you can find guided meditations and sleep meditations. I have never meditated before, and it’s really helping. It’s also a good time to examine your life. Is this what you want to be doing coming out of the lock down? Now you have the gift of time on your hands to fully explore this. It’s the perfect time to journal. Get your feelings and thoughts down on paper so you don’t have to wrestle with them when you’re trying to sleep.

Give yourself the permission to hit the pause button. As artists, we are told that we must be pursuing our craft at all times. It is hard to get out of that mindset and just sit with ourselves and do nothing. At this point, we’re rewriting the playbook every day. Be kind to yourself.

Learn a new scene every day. Even without a global pandemic, I suggest this to actors to keep their minds stimulated and growing. There are plenty of free resources online to find good scenes.

Take online classes in your field. Several universities are offering free classes. Simply Google “free university classes” and you will find an abundance of them. Be bold and jump into an area you’ve always wanted to study. The SAG-AFTRA Foundation is also hosting free seminars from industry experts. Backstage Magazine has daily digital on-camera programming with casting directors, talent agents, acting coaches, and more as part of The Slate.

Exercise! I’ve never been a person who gets that amazing endorphin rush from exercising, but I’m now finding it crucial to work out every day. Even long walks (while wearing a mask and maintaining social-distance guidelines from others) are a life-saver. Just before lock down, I started taking Pilates classes and had started getting so much stronger. My good friend turned me on to this amazing Pilates trainer, Frank Zito, who is sharing his mat Pilates classes online – for free! Make sure you go through all of them (there are about 10 as of now)

Make online dates with friends and family. Isolation has brought out the social butterfly in me. I’m making Zoom dates with friends and family. Having virtual “cocktails” with groups of people is keeping me connected in a new way. It certainly doesn’t take the place of the real thing, but I’m so grateful we have such great technology.

Unplug for awhile. This one is key for me. I’m a news junkie, and at the end of the day I find my head about to explode from the horrible global news. I’ve made it a habit to cut down on my news stories and to unplug from everything at 6 p.m.

Read a book. It is great to have so much time to read. Novels, non-fiction, and self-help books are stacking up in my Kindle. Right now, I love being transported to another time and place.

Catch up on your shows. With the immense amount of content from streaming platforms, we’ve never had a better time to consume a variety of TV shows and movies. Study up on what’s out there!

Revisit an old hobby, or pick up a new one! I started playing the piano again. It’s been sitting in my dining room collecting dust for years. It’s amazing how the muscle memory of my brain remembered songs that I played when I was a child. I’ve also taken a deep dive into adult coloring books and I’m drawing mandalas. My friends are doing jigsaw puzzles.

Find time to volunteer. At this point, giving your time and energy to those in need will help you mentally. Some ideas are making masks and reaching out to elders in assisted living through video.

What are some of the things you’ve been doing to keep yourself creative, healthy, and sane?

Make sure to check out my 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.

Warning: I grant permission to share my blog as written with no additions or deletions. Posting my blog is in no way an endorsement of another site unless you obtain my written consent.

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