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My Life as an Intimacy Coordinator on “Hightown”

Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon

By Marci Liroff

I’ve always reveled in being a multihyphenate. In addition to casting, producing, coaching actors, and designing jewelry, I recently added another feather to my cap: I’m now a certified Intimacy Coordinator for film and television.

I started working in this field at the end of 2018, and (miraculously) got a job during the pandemic working on a television series called “Hightown” for Starz. When a scene calls for nudity or simulated sex, it’s my job to make sure that the actors are safe in all scenes and have clearly given enthusiastic consent. Collaborating with the actors and filmmakers to help bring their vision to the screen is truly gratifying.

Without an intimacy coordinator, actors are often left to their own devices to map out how an intimate scene should go.

There is a high risk of blurred lines and abuse in a workplace where workers are required to kiss and simulate sex.

To combat this, it’s becoming best practice to have a coordinator on set. In fact, HBO has made it mandatory that one is hired for all of its shows that include this content.

Think about it: When a production executes a stunt, it hires a stunt coordinator who makes sure that every member of the crew remains safe, is educated, and has given consent to perform the task at hand. This requires interviews with the production team to determine exactly what is called for in the scene down to the smallest detail. It also requires extensive choreography, planning, and safety meetings. Now, with intimate scenes, the same thoughtful attention to detail can be given to create a safe environment for the actors involved, as well to ensure that the vision of the director and producers is met, thereby saving the production time and money.

In a nutshell, here’s what I do: During pre-production, I meet with the production team to determine what is called for in the scene. I then meet with the actors one-on-one to discuss ideas for the scene. During this time, we confirm what areas of their body, in line with their nudity rider, they are comfortable revealing. In addition, we discuss consent for potential choreography for intimate scenes, and I invite any concerns to be raised.

I find that most actors are hard-wired to say “yes.” Not just “yes,” but “yes, and….” You are trained to jump into most circumstances with trust and an open heart. But you should know that your “No” is very powerful. For instance, there’s a clause in your SAG-AFTRA contract stipulating that you have the right to say no to a scene while you’re in the middle of shooting, even if you’ve agreed to it and have signed a nudity rider. We can then compromise on the scene and continue shooting, or we can employ a double for you. The double can only do what’s in your nudity rider, and the production can use the takes you’ve already shot. The new SAG-AFTRA 2020 agreement also affords you several other rights where this content is involved; it was written with the help of the industry’s leading intimacy coordinators.

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 To Get on the Emerging Talent List

By Marci Liroff

Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon

We’ve become a society of lists. We’ve had David Letterman’s Top 10 lists, to-do lists, and myriad year-end best-of lists. As an actor, some of the most coveted to appear on are “emerging talent” lists. You might ask: How do I land a spot on one of these much-sought-after rosters?

Of course, you know me: I’m always bucking the system. Should it really be your goal to get on these lists? I don’t think so. If that’s the case, you may be traveling down the wrong path. I’d rather see you expend your energy and talents on creating and maintaining a solid foundation in which to be a versatile performer. Chasing the red carpet life or striving for the A-list is an invitation to a hamster wheel you’ll never get off.

What I’ve seen in the last several years is that these lists are somewhat bogus in the way they characterize “new” and “upcoming” talent. As a longtime casting director, I’ve got to be plugged into who is new and hot on the scene. They may appear new to you, but my colleagues and I have been tracking (and hiring) these actors for years before they even get mentioned on such a list. 

It’s important to ask yourself: Do I want to be famous, or do I want to be working with amazing filmmakers and turning out rich and authentic work?

Both paths take a lot of effort and tenacity. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you will get plucked out of obscurity and be an overnight success. I would wager that most, if not all, of the actors on these lists have been banging the drum for several years before you ever hear about them. 

These performers have been taking classes for years, working on short films for free, appearing in Off-Off-Off-Broadway plays, doing one-line day player gigs, working several jobs to pay the rent, creating their own content, and networking to build relationships within the industry. There have been sleepless nights spent wondering how they’ll pay their bills and take care of their family, and missed holidays and birthdays because they’re on location doing a bit part in what could be their “big break.” Lots of sacrifices happen that go unnoticed by the general public. It all looks so easy and simple when you finally become aware of someone for their amazing work on screen or stage, but the work that went into it is never mentioned. 

These lists are designed to make it look like a discovery story, but if you look closely, you’ll see that path is not paved with 100% success stories. The odds are stacked against you in your pursuit of movie star dreams. 

My hope is that you’ll take this time to reflect on why you’ve chosen this career in the first place. That simple act can help you manage your expectations and goals. 

I like to ask the kids I audition why they want to be an actor. If they say, “Because I have to,” I know they’re on the right path.

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 Makes You Stand Out in an Audition

By Marci Liroff

I’ve been teaching several online classes over the last few months, and one question that consistently comes up is: What makes my audition stand out? It’s a tough one to answer because, as a longtime casting director, I know a talented actor when I see one. So much of it is subjective, but my years-honed instinct for noticing talent usually wins out. 

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, actors are strictly auditioning remotely. This means we casting directors are viewing large numbers of self-taped auditions, along with holding auditions over online platforms like Zoom, Skype, WeAudition, and others. If you aren’t fully prepared to self-tape in your home and audition over these platforms, now is the time to learn.

I attended a Casting Society of America webinar the other day that focused on self-taped auditions. One of the takeaways was that, for now, CDs are definitely cutting actors some slack in terms of the technology. No one is expecting a perfect tape.

We do not want you putting yourself in harm’s way by going to a professional taping facility.

We realize that many actors live alone and don’t have the proper equipment, much less a good reader. We’re happy so long as you are well-lit, the sound is good, and you’ve done the proper prep.

But in terms of really standing out, there’s a lot to be said for good old-fashioned charisma and magnetism. That’s something you can’t buy. Obviously, being über-prepared is a given. After that, showing us your authentic self is first on my list. I can always tell when an actor is pushing and straining to become the character. There is no try, just be. You should disappear into the character. Look at a few of Meryl Streep’s characters and you’ll see that she is no longer there, because she’s subsumed by her character.

Additionally, we often suggest that actors make a strong choice when they’re auditioning. My coaching clients constantly tell me they’re worried that their strong choice will be the wrong choice. Especially with self-taped auditions, you can feel as if you’re acting in a vacuum, as there is no immediate feedback in the room. But here’s what I see: If an actor makes a strong choice that’s headed in the wrong direction, and if they seem to be right for the role, I want to work with them to steer them back in the right direction. Because they’ve made a strong choice, I can see they are an intelligent actor and have done the work, which indicates that giving them adjustments, notes, and direction is worthwhile.

The thing that I miss about live auditions is that indescribable feeling I get when I’m in the presence of a talented human being. Their ease and confidence while performing can change the chemistry of a room. I’m sure you’ve felt this when you’re at a dinner party and your seatmate is easy to talk to—or, on the flip side, if they have toxic, inauthentic energy. You can feel it immediately. That energy is infectious, and it can inspire us or it can make us feel like we want to run out of the room! Do what you can to bring the best of the IRL experience to the camera.

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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