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The Totally Uncensored List of Casting Director Pet Peeves

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The Totally Uncensored Casting Director

By Marci Liroff

It’s that time of year again. During the summer break my casting director colleagues get together and celebrate the end of pilot season before episodic casting starts up again. Inevitably, we get to talking about our pet peeves in the audition room. Amid the cocktails, we regale each other with hilarious tales mixed with some scary ones.

In the interest of education, I’d like to share them with you so that you’re not “that guy” who’s making a bad name for himself in offices throughout the town.

Don’t wear perfume or cologne. Year after year this seems to be the #1 peeve from my colleagues. Please remember that we have to sit in an often small and cramped room without ventilation for hours on end. When you come in wearing your girlfriend/boyfriend’s favorite scent we have to live with it for the next several hours. Some of us are highly sensitive and allergic to perfume and get migraines and nausea. Think of the casting office like you would a doctor’s office. Don’t do it!

No weapons, not even fake ones. I’ve had actors pull fake guns and knives on me – it was very traumatic. If a scene asks you to pull a knife out of your jacket … please don’t do that in an audition. Especially if you don’t tell the CD before hand. This could lead to furniture being toppled and a big producer putting you in a choke hold.”

This one is very simple. Wear underpants.

This seems so basic I hesitate to even share it, but, make sure your picture and resume are stapled together before you arrive at the casting office. Don’t ask to borrow my stapler or my assistant’s stapler. Make sure your contact info and agent/mgr. is written on the photos and your resume in case they get separated – which happens all the time. When I ask you for your picture, don’t hand me three different choices and ask me to pick which one – make a choice beforehand.

Excuses. Leave them home. Actors that preface their audition with an excuse, “I was tired, sick – all it says to me is, “get ready, I am going to be really bad today.”

Coming in with a bad attitude. Never underestimate the effect being pleasant has on everyone.

Don’t prop yourself up with props. Don’t use a prop in a scene unless you are totally comfortable with it. I’ve seen props totally befuddle some people. A phone is fine. Just don’t set up a one-person show – unless you’re Carrot Top.

If it’s a driving scene, you don’t have to pretend to actually “drive” the car.

For The Men: I’m not going to have sex with you so don’t even TRY to seduce me into thinking you are a better actor than you are. Charm is good. Wit. Personality. But flirting in a creepy way is…well.. creepy.

Be nice and courteous to everyone. You never know: that receptionist could end-up being a director or producer some day. And the interns definitely “rat-you-out” when you leave. The guy who used to clean my toilets was nominated for an Oscar ten years later.

Don’t slap your sides on your thighs. It’s an unnecessary distraction.

Because producers and directors are rarely in the room anymore, actors feel like they can take their time and work out the material with us as if we’re their coach. As if they don’t have to impress us because we’re not the director or the producers. So they want to stop and start over and over again until they get a take they like. It’s us that you have to impress because we decide if we’re even going to send along your audition. I hear things like “let’s just play” or “let’s just try it a few different ways”.

We’re not your roommate or your acting teachers or coaches. How you are in the room is my only assumption of how you will be on set. So if you start and stop or swear or break down, I have to assume that’s how you will be on set.

Don’t eat during the scene. I auditioned a Julliard grad for a scene taking place during the Vietnam war and he insisted he couldn’t do the scene without also eating an apple. “That’s how I practiced it.” “But you’re under enemy fire.” “But I need the apple.”

When they don’t do the easy homework. The question, “So what exactly is this?” drives me bonkers. Just taking the time to go through all the information on the breakdown, not just their character description, but the names of the producers, the casting team, which studio/network the project is for, googling/youtubing clips helps inform their choices and gives them confidence to just focus on the character and be in the moment. I try to remind actors that if they treat their audition prep like a regular job interview, and go through all of the information that’s provided to them, it’s going to free them up to simply act.

Take a shower first.

If you just got the sides and won’t be ready to audition, then what happens when you get the job and they give you new pages the morning of the shoot?! You’re telling us that you can’t actually do the job even if you get it!

Don’t look around the audition room and ask if anyone else is going to be coming in. If they were, they’d already be here.

Assume that if you’re there it’s for a reason.

Don’t start commenting on how you don’t match the description or people in the waiting room don’t look like you, or ask if everyone is there for the same role. Just focus on the task at hand – which is your audition, right now.

Asking the CD permission to do something during the reading – instead of just making the choice and letting it be fresh and exciting to our eyes.

If your agent sends you an audition for a role with specific needs and you know you are not qualified (i.e. authentic native language, dancing or singing ability) please cancel.

It’s your job to know your conflicts. Do not audition if you know you have a date conflict. Work in partnership with your agent & casting.

If you have a time conflict: it’s one thing to call ahead, find out the time perimeters and ask if you can come earlier/later, that’s fine. But don’t just show up hours early (or late), expecting us to drop what we’re doing in order to audition you.

We have a small office and when you pace outside the door and rehearse your scene LOUDLY, EVERYONE inside that office – including the actor auditioning and the producers/director sitting watching that audition – can HEAR YOU. And it’s RUDE. And please don’t all have GabFest 2015 right outside the door either with your fellow actors.

If you have somewhere to be and we’re running a little behind, don’t just leave. Let us know and we’ll squeeze you in. And please, for the love of god, do not slap the casting director reading with you! Or try to kiss them. Or give them a lap dance. You know what? Just don’t touch the casting director.

If I give you an adjustment, please don’t explain to me why you made the initial choice for the character. I didn’t say that you sucked, I didn’t say you were wrong – You don’t have to justify your choices. Sometimes I’m giving you a note because I know what they are specifically looking for and I want to help you get the job. Sometimes I’m doing it because I want to see if you can take direction.

Please please don’t show up with ANY illness, fevers, coughing, rashes…puking in the trash cans! Yep it happens. Keep your germs at home. If you get can’t get rescheduled then ask to self- tape or you may just have to miss it. Some of us are immune suppressed, pregnant and have kids – or just want to stay healthy(not a big request) NO AUDITION is worth us getting sick over.!

Believe it or not, all of these stories are true (as shared by my casting colleagues). I’ll bet that the actors reading this have equally unprofessional stories to tell about the producer who was on the phone the entire time they auditioned. Or, the casting director who never once looked up from her computer to connect during their audition. (tell me your stories of how YOU were treated unprofessionally, and I’ll do a blog on that!)

Thankfully, these stories are the exception and I’m continually amazed and impressed by the talented actors who come through my door.

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.

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(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.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 Tech Skills Every Actor Needs

Kiev, Ukraine - October 17, 2012 - A logotype collection of well-known social media brand's printed on paper. Include Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Vimeo, Flickr, Myspace, Tumblr, Livejournal, Foursquare and more other logos.

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By Marci Liroff

I’m shocked that many people still don’t know how to use some of the most basic online platforms. Here’s a handy guide to make sure you’re up to speed on some of the essential sites with which you need to be familiar.

Skype
Know how to use it before your coaching or audition session. I’ve had too many coaching sessions recently during which the client is using Skype for the very first time and has no idea how to use it and the clock starts ticking down on our session because we’re spending most of it simply trying to connect. Bad enough to do this in a private coaching session with me, but so much worse during a Skype appointment with a director! The other day, I had a client try to connect with my personal account on Facebook because she insisted that we needed to be connected there in order to use FaceTime. It took me several emails to explain that these are two completely different platforms.

Use your time wisely beforehand to figure out how Skype works. Test your sound. Test your Internet connection to make sure our video call will be smooth and not freeze every few seconds. Sometimes I find that FaceTime works better than Skype. It all depends on where I’m doing the session and my Internet speed.

PayPal
I use PayPal daily to get paid for my private coaching and classes. It’s a seamless, user-friendly website and app. I’m still surprised when people don’t know how to use it and I have to spend my time sending emails explaining how to sign up, connect your bank account and credit card, and send a payment. Did you know if you choose “friends and family” (in the U.S.) the vendor (me) won’t be charged a service fee? I explain this in detail in all my payment instructions and people still don’t get it.

Again, figure out how this website works in advance so that you won’t be stressing out about making a time-sensitive payment.

Self-taping
We’ve talked a lot about this subject, but you need to understand exactly how to make a great self-taped audition. These days, we’re casting from locations all over the globe and we want to include actors not in Hollywood. We depend on your self-taped auditions. A very simple and clear-taped audition is all we need. Lately I’ve been seeing several self-taped auditions that are more like short films (exterior locations, supporting actors, musical soundtrack), but those additional elements just distract from what we need to see—you interacting with an offscreen scene partner. For your self-taped audition, I don’t need to see what kind of filmmaker you are. Please reacquaint yourself with my blog “How to Self-Tape Your Audition Like a Rock Star” for specific details.

Video upload sites
Learn how to post and password-protect your videos on a site like Vimeo so that you aren’t sending giant files over email that I then have to spend time downloading. Since you don’t own the intellectual property (the material you’re using for your auditions), make sure you’re not posting to YouTube for all to see. I’ve had producers get very pissed off at me when they see our auditions on YouTube that leaked scenes of our script.

I’m sure by the time you read this there will be several more technologies, online platforms, and apps you’ll need to learn. In the meantime, there are plenty of online support videos that explain in detail how to sign up for these various sites and apps. Make sure you do the research now so you’re ready when the opportunity arises.

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.

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(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.)

 

Why You Should Stay Curious

CURIOUSITY

By Marci Liroff

They say that curiosity killed the cat, but that simply cannot apply to actors. I find curiosity one of the sexiest qualities a person can have. As an actor you’ve got to be continuously curious and fearless to dig deeper into your role while being open to discovering what’s behind the closed door.

As you can imagine, I get dozens of Facebook friend requests daily. I’m one of those people who like to keep my personal Facebook page private, so I created a business page to interact with the acting community. I check each request to see if it’s someone I’ve met recently and my addled brain can’t make the connection, or if it’s an actor I don’t know trying to “friend” me. I usually send those actors a friendly response: “Hi there! This is actually my personal page, for friends and family—I’m sure you understand. Thanks so much for reaching out! I set up another page where we can talk so please feel free to connect over there to get all the updates on casting, private coaching, and my Audition Bootcamp.” I give links to my Facebook business page, my Twitter account, my online class for actors, my website, my blog, and the archive to my articles on Backstage. The usual response is one of gratitude to be exposed to so much information.

That’s why I was so gobsmacked to receive this response after sending my usual “connect with me over on the other page” reply. “Joe Facebook” said, “I went to Stanford and I’m on national TV. I’m good, but thanks.” “I’m good.” Really? You’re good? Believe me, I’m not so full of myself to think that everyone has to follow me on Facebook and Twitter, but are you really going to close yourself off to learning anything new? At the very least, check out the Resources page on my site, which is chock-full of industry-related links and useful information.

When I was in my early 30s, I thought I knew everything. Of course, that was my ego talking, as I didn’t want anyone to know that I actually didn’t know everything.

It took me quite a while to let down my defenses and open up to stop talking, listen, and learn.

Does “Joe Facebook” really not have anything to learn from someone who’s been in this business for decades? This weighed heavily on me for a few days until curiosity got the better of me (see what I did there?) and I looked him up on IMDb and Actors Access. Sure enough, there’s not a single credit. Going further down the rabbit hole I found his YouTube channel, where he has no personal acting videos posted but has subscribed to a number of musicians’ channels—still no acting-related channels.

I spend hours each day doing research to make me a better casting director. As an actor, you never stop learning and studying. I teach my students to read several websites daily to know what’s going on in their business. You need to watch at least two episodes of all the shows that are on TV. Not only do you need to watch the latest movies, I urge you to be a walking, talking library of film history. See plays, concerts, and art; unplug from your devices and plug into nature. Be curious. Trust me, you don’t know everything.

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.

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