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8 Ways To Survive The Dreaded Waiting Room

By Marci Liroff
You’ve prepared. You’ve rehearsed. You’ve worked with your coach and picked out the perfect outfit to wear on your audition. You’ve even arrived slightly early and found “Doris Day” parking right in front of the casting office. You’re all charged up and ready to go and you turn the corner to find 10 people sitting in the waiting room for the audition. Aargh!
I know exactly how this feels because I have to interview/audition like you do for a job sometimes. When I come to an office to meet a producer or director and I’m all pumped up and have to wait awhile, I get totally deflated.  All my energy and enthusiasm gets sucked out of me. Here are a few things you need to do to protect yourself from the elements and stay in your creative zone to do your best work.

1. Be on time and expect to wait.  Many times, the director/producer will show up late and screw up my meticulously scheduled day. Or we get stuck on a time-sensitive phone call about securing financing for the project. You may have to wait a long, long time and we get behind. Sometimes we get WAY behind and you have to wait an hour.  It’s horrible. It’s important that you do what you need to do to keep yourself from losing your energy and it doesn’t affect your attitude – whatever it is that works for you. I recommend using headphones or earbuds because it drowns out what’s going on in the room. Furthermore, if you have your earbuds in, no one will talk to you! It’s like your own form of privacy.
2. Don’t get caught up in the “scene”. There’s always that one guy/gal who’s bragging about all the auditions they’ve been on lately. It can sometimes make you feel “less than” if you’ve only had a few in the last several months. This is where the earphones come in handy! Don’t get sucked into the weird energy that sometimes exists in the waiting room. Concentrate on your scene and your character.
3. Stand up if you feel like it. For me, sitting too long just drains all my energy and I leave it on the couch or chair. Stand in the hallway (don’t go to far so that we have to come hunting you down when it’s your turn though!). After auditioning for years, you’ll know what works for you in terms of preserving and protecting your energy and state of mind.
4. Be careful not to diss the material – you never know who’s in the waiting room. It could be a friend of the writer or the producer’s wife.  You literally never know. 
5. Try as hard as you can NOT to listen to the other actor’s audition thru the door.  It’ll make you rethink your own choices and destroy your own reading. You’ve worked hard on your audition with lots of preparation. Stick to your choices.
6. Be nice to the casting assistant.  They are my eyes and ears.  If you’re rude or abusive to them, believe me I will hear about it and not be so inclined to bring you back. This would seem like common sense, but you’d be so surprised of the stories I’ve heard from my assistants. Believe me when I tell you that they will, one day, run a studio or direct your next film!
7. Check in with the assistant when you arrive and check to see that you have the correct set of sides.  Better to find out BEFORE you come in the audition room and hopefully you’ll have a few extra minutes to get up to speed if the version of the sides has changed. 
8. Bring comfortable shoes. This one’s for the ladies. My office moves around from project to project and we sometimes get offices that are buried deep into the studio lot and parking is miles away. If you’re in high platform heels, your “dogs are gonna be barking” by the time you get to our office and all you’ll be able to concentrate on are your aching feet! Throw a pair of sneakers or flip flops in your car for the walk.
I’d love to hear what other ways you cope with the waiting room in the comments below. It’d be great to share with each other what works for you!
  
Do you have any questions for me? Feel free to ask them here!
Want more tips and general thoughts on life? Be sure to bookmark my blog and follow me here!
 
We welcome your comments and suggestions.
 
Glad you’re here!
Marci 
 
(you can also read this article on Back Stage Magazine by clicking here)

7 RULES TO LIVE BY WHEN MAKING YOUR DEMO REEL

By Marci Liroff

When I first started teaching actors about the business and how they can empower themselves, it was common to see demo reels that ran between 5-10 minutes long! Now it’s more common to see 30/60/90 second reels.

My, how times have changed! I imagine the next time I write about this topic it’ll have changed again. Can’t wait to see what’s next!
1. Here’s the skinny. Get your footage uploaded electronically so it can be easily viewed. Edit a demo reel which has clips from all your work woven together. Here’s the key and it’s one of the biggest mistakes I see actors make with their demo reels: Front-load your reel with your strongest footage. By ‘strongest’ I mean the footage that features YOU. If you’re in a scene with Will Smith but it’s really his scene and it barely features you, you’re gonna look like a background player and aren’t going to impress anyone. In fact, you’re going to get lost in that footage. Don’t use scenes where the other person is out-shining you in the scene.  You want the viewer to be riveted to YOU. Yes, I’m very impressed that you actually got cast in a scene opposite Will Smith – that is actually a big deal – but if you come off looking like an extra in the scene, I’m not gonna be so impressed. Unfortunately, when I play demos for producers/directors/and executives – they mostly have the attention span of a gnat – and will only watch the first few moments, unless you’ve really caught their attention – so make your opening great. Don’t go on and on in those photo montages with music in the background in your opening. If you’re going to do that, I suggest it be no longer than 7 seconds. Or better yet, do that montage at the end. Get to a great scene in the opening where you’re speaking. I’ve seen so many demos where I can’t even tell who I’m supposed to be watching because there are so many actors in the scene.
2. It’s quality, not quantity. At the very least, make sure it is of broadcast quality in both picture and sound. Don’t put poor quality footage on your reel – it only makes you look bad…really bad! With so many actors self-producing content these days for their reels, remember it has to look just as good as the footage we’re seeing on television and in the theaters. If the quality is “less than” it reflects on you. Have someone with an objective eye (not a family member or good friend) go through your reel to help you edit. Be discerning. Imagine you’re the buyer. You don’t need to put something on your reel just because you were in it. It’s got to be great footage. If it doesn’t show you in the best of light – don’t use it.  If it looks homemade (like so much of the self-produced content I see) don’t use it! I’d rather see no footage than bad footage. You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube!
 
3. Use your best footage first and your newest footage at the top of the reel.  I suggest you do not go too far back into your repertoire – if you’re pushing 50, the scene when you were 20 will only confuse people and sorry honey, you’re not that guy anymore!
4. When you’re editing a demo reel, I suggest you do a separate comedy reel and a separate drama reel. If I’m casting a comedy, I want to view and show just your comedy footage and vice-versa. If we want to see your range, we can always view the other reel, but I find that most of the filmmakers I work with want to see *just* your comedy footage if we’re doing a comedy and don’t want to wade through all the drama footage on your reel.
I also really appreciate it when the clips are labeled at the top of the clip so that I know what show/movie this clip is from.
5. Some people are doing clips instead of demos. These are very useful as well. Each clip is it’s own self-contained clip that runs about 30-60 seconds. This way there’s a large variety of clips to choose from and I can pick and choose what I want to see (and send to my team). This seems to be the norm these days.
 
6. I suggest you upload your demo reel/clips to your profile page on Actors Access for easy viewing along with your resumé and photos. There’s also a great site called Cast It Talent you can subscribe to and upload pic/resume and reel/clips to your profile page and send that package to anyone who requests it.
You should also upload your reel/clips to your IMDb profile page. If you have a website, then of course your demo reel/clips are going to live there as well. If you’re going to upload your reel to a site like YouTube or Vimeo, please make sure you have your contact info easily viewable – either on the video itself or in the description below. Hell, you could post it in both places! These days, a lot of Casting Directors and comedy talent scouts are combing the web for new faces. You can’t imagine how many times I stumble across an actor’s video online and there’s absolutely NO contact info! Don’t forget to include your website, twitter name, and Facebook Page (if you have one) – this helps to market yourself across many different social media platforms.
 
7. Make it easy for people. I really don’t like receiving large files to my email from ‘You Send It’ when I’m working on a project. I just don’t have the time to download these files – remember, it’s not just your video file, it’s literally hundreds of them. You want to make it really easy for people to view your reel. Send an easily clickable link.

To read a version of this article on BackStage.com click here!

 
Do you have any questions for me? Feel free to ask them here!
Want more tips and general thoughts on life? Be sure to bookmark my blog and follow me here!
 
We welcome your comments and suggestions.
 
Glad you’re here!
Marci

Inside The World Of A Casting Director – Part 3

By Marci Liroff

In Part 3 of this series I talk about the good, the bad and the ugly of being a casting director along with finding balance in your life. Good advice for all walks of life!

“What does a Casting Director actually do?” Well, I’m here to tell you all about it! Joy Wingard wrote to me from college saying she’s interested in being a casting director and wanted to know what really goes on in the world of casting.  Since I was crazy busy, I asked her to jot down a few questions and I’d answer them over the ensuing weeks.  She asked quite a few insightful questions that I wanted to share with you all. 

Q: What do you enjoy the most & the least about being a CD?

A: The most?  Getting a script and lovingly working with the filmmakers to put together a fantastic cast.  Finding someone new, or thinking of someone for a part that is totally outside the box and getting my team on board and hiring them.
Making the call to the agent/mgr and actor to say “you’ve got the part!” brings me such joy!
Another part I truly love is working with the actors. I love to help them create a great character and guiding them through the audition process.

Enjoy the least?  The politics.  There are way too many politics involved in my job. Enough said.

Also, it’s not my favorite thing to negotiate with a lawyer. In the old days (when I first started) I’d negotiate with the agent. Nowadays, the agent hands it off to the client’s lawyer and I’m spending days on end going back and forth with the lawyer. Seems to me that’s Business Affairs’ job.

Q:  I understand having passion for a job and loving it enough to embrace it wholeheartedly and spend most of your time doing it, but do you find that you’re able to have enough time away from the job to embrace a life outside of work?

A: Finding a balance between work and your “life” is key to any career.  For me, even when I’m not officially working, I keep my eyes peeled – I’m always ‘looking’ in a sense.  When I’m reading a magazine, the newspaper or online, I’m constantly clipping out (or bookmarking) articles about actors on the rise and adding them to my database.

But, you do have to know how to totally “unplug” and live your life or you will be just a shell of a person!  This holds true for an actor.  Whenever I meet an actor who feels burnt out or wants to walk away, I tell them to make sure to do something you love.  You need inspiration from somewhere right?  Go to the beach, a concert, kick up your heels and go dancing, paint, be with your kids, dogs, loved ones, cook, eat great food, meditate. How can you be an actor (or a great person) if you’re not living a full life?

Do you have any questions for me? Feel free to ask them here!

Want more tips and general thoughts on life? Be sure to bookmark my blog and follow me here!

 
We welcome your comments and suggestions.
 
Glad you’re here!
Marci
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