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How Far Would You Go To Get Cast?

05.26.2016_Nick_Bertozzi_Note_CD.jpeg.644x650_q100Illustration by Nick Bertozzi

By Marci Liroff

What’s the wildest thing an actor has done to get the job?

Years ago, when I was working for Fenton-Feinberg Casting, I heard a knock at the door and stepped outside to find a lovely birdcage with a pigeon inside. I brought him inside and put the cage on my desk for further inspection. We found a manila envelope taped to the bottom with a photo of a woman and a note: “Please see me for Brenda Starr! I’m perfect. Attach this little piece of paper to my homing pigeon’s leg and he’ll fly home to me to give me your message. I hope you grant my wish!” No résumé, no contact info, no name on her photo. Yes, folks, yet another reason I keep haranguing you to make sure your contact info is everywhere!

We closed the doors to my office so the bird couldn’t fly away. My boss, Mike Fenton, carefully reached into the cage to grab the bird.

You could’ve cut the tension with a knife. It was as if we were performing surgery.

He got the bird and positioned him with his feet toward me so I could attach the little slip of paper to his leg with a rubber band. As soon as I touched him, he broke free from Mike’s grasp and started flapping like an Angry Bird all over my office. He managed to take down all of my posters and poop on everything. It was like a Marx Brothers sketch. We were laughing hysterically at this point. Hair askew, bird poop all over us, and a bird still on the loose. He finally landed on top of the curtain rod, panting and squawking.

We let the bird calm down—as much as a bird can calm down—and attempted another try. Mike gingerly grabbed him again, and because the poor bird was probably in shock by that time, I successfully managed to get the message on his little leg. We walked outside and launched him.

He flew off, never to be seen or heard from again. We never heard from the nameless actor. To this day, it still stands as the best stunt an actor has ever pulled. I admire her tenacity. Maybe she’ll read this and we can finally connect!

A colleague of mine told me this story about another actor who had a certain, ahem, agenda. “For a sex scene, a young actress came in wearing a mini–tube dress with no panties for a director-producer session. Awkward. It was all guys except for me—and they were less than gentlemanly. They asked her to do the scene again. Ultimately I had to step in to protect her—which they didn’t like. Not pretty.”

Another colleague of mine was an intern years ago in a casting office and a woman kept calling and calling, demanding an audition. “Jesus wants me to be in the Broadway musical you’re casting!” After numerous phone calls from the woman, the CD in charge of the show said, “OK, if Jesus can pay for you to fly to New York, you can come audition next Tuesday.” She did. And she booked the job in “The Color Purple.”

What’s your craziest audition story. How far did you go?

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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Stop Saying No in Auditions

12.17.2015_Note_CD_Nick_Bertozzi.jpeg.644x650_q100Illustration By : Nick Bertozzi

By Marci Liroff

Megatalented television producer Shonda Rhimes just came out with a new book, “Year of Yes,” which chronicles the 12 months she spent agreeing to do anything and everything that scared her. It wasn’t just a “yes” to putting herself in harm’s way, like jumping out of an airplane. Most of us would say no to that. But she realized she wasn’t saying yes to much of anything, which meant she was avoiding new possibilities and opportunities. As she told NPR, “I was going to say yes to all the things that scared me, that made me nervous, that freaked me out, that made me think I’m going to look foolish doing it. Anything that took me out of my comfort zone, I was going to do it, if asked to do it.”

I realized this new habit of Rhimes’ could be embraced by many of the adult actors with whom I work. I reference specifically “adult” actors because most of the children with whom I work don’t seem to have the same fears about taking risks. Kids will do just about anything for you in an audition or on set because their egos haven’t developed enough to worry about looking stupid. They take chances and risks and play the clown because it’s fun. They say yes to any game you set forth because their imaginations are still limitless. As we get older, we start building that “wall” to protect ourselves from uncomfortable situations and start to say, “No, I’m not going to do that, I’ll look like an idiot.”

Along with saying no out of fear, you close yourself off to the opportunity to do great things. When actors audition for a role, many times I see them staying within the boundaries of the material but not taking any risks by making bold character choices. It’s as if they were told to color within the lines. But after a while, that gets really boring for your audience (and the actor, I imagine).

The performances that grab us are the ones where the actor is doing something unexpected—where you don’t know what they’ll do next and it can be surprising and scary in the same breath.

Take a look at Johnny Depp in the movie “Black Mass.” Yes, we all know Whitey Bulger is a bad guy, a criminal, a killer. But Depp plays him so quietly, so reservedly. I’ve heard actors worry that they aren’t doing enough; they should study what Depp is doing in his most explosive and terrifying scenes. He fully sits back into his character and says yes to who he is at heart. Depp told a reporter, “For me it was walking that tightrope between playing a very dangerous, unpredictable walking time bomb who could also be emotional and even sensitive.”

I’d so much rather have you come in and make the wrong choices than no choices. Take a stab at it and say yes. That, I can work with!

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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Hollywood Has Become The Wild, Wild West

01072016_Nick_Bertozzi_NCD.jpg.644x650_q100Illustration By : Nick Bertozzi

By Marci Liroff

If you’re in L.A. and haven’t RSVPd to my April Audition Bootcamp, take a moment and check it out. Only a few seats left!

As a casting director, producer, and acting coach, I read, on average, about 20 scripts a week. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that indie filmmaking has become the wild, Wild West. People who have no experience decide they’re going to make a movie, wave a wand over their heads, and call themselves a writer, producer, or director. Make sure you know who you’re jumping in bed with before you start the project.

Recently, I was sent a script from a newbie producer to see if I could help him attach talent. The script was mediocre, extremely predictable, and filled with tired dialogue. Worse yet, it was absolutely riddled with typos, incomplete sentences, bad grammar, and giant leaps of logic.

Rather than answer with my usual, “Sorry, it’s not my cup of tea. Best of luck to you,” I took the time to send him my detailed notes. He answered with a very curt, “Thanks for your feedback.”

Today I mistakenly received an email from him that was actually meant for the writer: “We will not be using this casting director, she was pretty arrogant with her comments. Sorry. But she brought up several errors we should clear up because she’s right and I didn’t even notice them before.”

I’m all for creating your own content. It’s a great way to get your work out into the marketplace and not wait to be asked to the party.

That said, just because you have a camera (or a laptop) doesn’t mean you should use it. Just because you have an idea doesn’t mean it’s fully formed and ready to go out into the world.

If you’re going to create your own product, make sure to surround yourself with the most creatively talented, like-minded people you can find.

I can’t imagine any other business where you’d send out your product in such a half-assed manner. When I read a script that has several typos on the first page, it gives me great pause. Didn’t anyone proofread this first? If I get to Page 30 and nothing has happened to set up or move the story forward, I stop reading. If you’re this careless in presenting your project, how can I be partners with you?

You need to vet the people with whom you’re working. I had a writer call me the other day to cast his film, and a simple Google search found that the producer was being sued by the financiers for lying about an actor being attached and forging contracts. I called the actor’s manager, a good friend, who confirmed that her client had never been involved in the production and the team had to send a cease and desist letter to get them to stop using the actor’s name in reference to their project. They had shot the film for several weeks and production was halted because the producer hadn’t paid the crew, vendors, or locations for two weeks. And they wanted me to hop on to this moving train wreck?

Another producer hired me to cast her small, self-financed indie film. After things started moving too fast for her (because of a looming start date that she had approved), she got cold feet and pulled the plug and decided not to pay anyone on the crew. (I later recouped for my time worked.)

Moral of the story? Ask a lot of questions. Unless the filmmakers are a known quantity with a history of professionalism, protect yourself and check out the people with whom you’re going to be working—and do a thorough search.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you experienced this?

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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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