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I’m Ready For My Close-Up

By Marci Liroff

I’m addicted to Variety’s “Actors on Actors” series. Some of the interview/interviewee pairings include Matthew McConaughey and Jeff Bridges, Viola Davis and Tom Hanks, Adam Driver and Michael Shannon, and Sally Field and Hailee Steinfeld (to name a few)

The episode that caught my eye recently was Hugh Grant and Colin Farrell.

They were discussing camera work. They both agreed that they felt they were never as good in their close-ups, which are usually shot at the end of the day, as they were in the wide shots, or when it’s the other actor’s close-up and they’re off-camera doing the scene. As Grant said, “Then I’m bloody marvelous! But then they say, ‘Turning around on you,’ and then there’s an hour to wait while they set everything up, and you get tight and tense.” Farrell agreed: “There’s a certain looseness, fluidity, sense of ease that I experience off-camera that instantly leaves my side once the camera turns around to my close-up.”

They never truly came to a resolution, but Farrell wondered if a certain amount of tension could be equated with awareness. Translated: It may help plug you into your character.

The anxiety surrounding the close-up also comes up in Rob Lowe’s first book, “Stories I Only Tell My Friends,” in which he recalls a harrowing experience on his first film, “The Outsiders.” The scene was a large action scene shot in the middle of the night. There were dozens of extras, a rain and wind machine, five cameras rolling, and the scene called for Lowe’s character to have an emotional breakdown with his brothers.

They shot the scene eight or nine times; the director, Francis Ford Coppola, felt like he got it, and Lowe felt pretty certain that he gave 100 percent.

Then Patrick Swayze, who plays his older brother, said, “Good job, buddy. I think it’s time to do your close-up.”

Lowe wrote, “I can feel my legs go to rubber and my pulse skyrocket,” and he started to panic. “None of the cameras were close-up?” Swayze answered, “Oh, no. They were all extremely wide. Now we’ll punch in and really get the emotion!”

He tried the scene several times and no tears. He had left it all on the ground in the wide shot. They called a 10-minute break.

Lowe crawled off the set and locked himself in his trailer. It was at this point that Howell sat Lowe down and told him a narrative. A hushed hypnotic story of their life together as orphaned brothers and how much he means to him. Lowe said it was the most giving, loving and generous thing one actor did for

Lowe left his trailer and went back to the set and nailed it.

I often wonder if, in your on-camera classes, they just focus on technique for auditions. Do they tell you what happens on set? If you’re on set and you have any questions, make sure to make friends with the 2nd assistant camera person. Ask them where they are framing you. Is it a master? A close-up? Two shot?

You’ve got to know where the camera is, what your blocking is, and which is a wide or close-up shot, then forget it. Forget it and lose yourself in your character.

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.

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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Perfection is a Creativity Killer

Photo by Ricardo Viana

By Marci Liroff

These days we have casting sessions without the director or the producer in the room. You’ll be “going on tape for producer(s)/director” because often times they are on location or simply not available. What I’m noticing is that many actors are hung up on perfection. That nasty “P” word vexes their audition time and time again. They want to do it over and over again until they’ve reached what they think is perfection.

When I’m coaching actors I have some clients who just want the work session to be over and done with. “Is that good enough? Please, can we move on to the next scene?” They truly don’t like the process and just want it to stop. In stark contrast, I have a few clients who simply will not turn anything in unless it is perfect.

What is “perfect” anyway? Who is the judge of that?

You? Me? The casting director who receives it? The creative team who looks at your work and decides whether you’re going to get the role?

As an artist, you’ve got to be your own editor and judge. You’ve got to know in your gut whether your performance is truthful, organic, and spontaneous. It’s a delicate balance. In life, we don’t get to go over and over and replay each experience until we get it right (although some of us definitely keep choosing the same toxic people in our lives and keep playing the same scene out but with different characters.) But I’m talking about the actor who is concerned about how each line comes out, the accent on each word, how his hair looks, or what his hands were doing in the scene.

There are many pros and cons to self-taping. I’ve had many actors tell me that they feel like they’re in a vacuum and don’t know which choices are the right ones. The thing is, there is no “right” here. The right choice is the honest and true choice. Ask yourself, – Are you coming off as a real human being? Or are you making choices that are clichés of what you think this man would do. Are you getting deep down into his soul or are you just skimming the surface with your choices.

Human beings are flawed. Life is messy and complicated.

The performances that show us these traits are the ones that are more compelling to watch because the actor is letting us in to his psyche, not just revealing what he wants to show us – but what he doesn’t want to share. That’s what’s infinitely more interesting to watch than perfection. There is no such thing as perfection and those that are striving for it are not only kidding themselves, they’re shortchanging us and them.

In life, we don’t always know the answers to the questions – we’re searching, we’re discovering. The performances that show us this journey are the most fascinating ones to watch.

I’m not suggesting you turn in a self-tape that’s sloppy, where you don’t know your lines or your performance is half-assed. But please lean toward thinking of yourself as a fallible human being and your performance will automatically be more honest and captivating. The more you start embracing the dark and messy side of your soul, the more we’ll want to watch. It’s only human.

What are you doing to “keep it real?” I want to hear from you.

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.

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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How To Handle A Physical Audition

Illustration by: Nick Bertozi

By Marci Liroff

In case you didn’t get an email announcing my next Audition Bootcamp classes in Los Angeles, here’s the link. I’d love to work with you.

AUDITION BOOTCAMP IN LOS ANGELES

This week I called upon my Twitter followers to ask for questions for my column.

I like to know what the community needs from me in terms of advice. Here are a couple of questions:

“So many times, I get an audition scene that has so much action in it, or it’s intimate and a kiss is called for. I never know how to play it. What should I do?”

Great question. My coaching clients always ask me the same thing. Sometimes it seems like we pick the most impossible scenes for your audition. Believe me, we’re not doing it to trip you up. We need to see what your character will do in all emotional (and physical) situations. We need to see your range.

Obviously, you can’t get in a brawl on the floor with the casting director (although I know some of you would probably like to!). But there are definitely ways to show that you’re slapping or getting slapped—you can react by pulling your head back and grabbing your cheek in shock. Imagine and create the hot sting of blood rushing toward your cheek. If done well, it’s very believable.

My best advice in this situation is not to ask what we want you to do, but rather ask, “How have you been blocking this scene?”

Remember, we’ve been auditioning this scene for the last several days, if not weeks. We know exactly how it should work in the audition setting. When I was casting “Vampire Academy,” we chose a scene where our lead character was having a fight training session. We needed to see her throw some punches, and when the romantic lead threw her to the floor and they were inches from each other’s faces, we cheated it by having her throw herself against the wall and imagine he was on top of her.

Another question I often get is this: “What’s the worst that can happen when we have a ‘bad’ audition? Never called back? Career over?” First of all, no, your career is certainly not over. But you must ask yourself why you had a bad audition. Trace the steps back to understand what sent you off the tracks. Nerves account for a lot of people blowing an audition. Many get nervous because they’re not thoroughly prepared. If you’re not completely off-book, you won’t be able to execute any of the direction you may receive. If you slugged back a double macchiato before your audition, your body might be careening with caffeine.

We can usually tell when you’re just having a bad day or you weren’t sufficiently prepared. If you come in and stink up the room because you weren’t prepared, it will be a while before I call you back for another audition.

The best thing you can do in this situation is learn from it, make the changes you need to, and then move on. If you hold on to that memory when you come into your next audition, it will overwhelm you with the fear that you’re going to make the same mistake. Learn and move on.

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.

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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