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Am I Worthy?

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By Marci Liroff

How do you feel when you’re walking into the audition room? Are you truly feeling confident? Or do you think it’s like the lottery and hope that they “pick me. Just give me the job!” When you’re coming into an audition you have to ask yourself, “Am I worthy?” If you don’t think you are, then you’re not ready and you’re sending the room that signal.

Casting my latest film, I’m seeing several actors walk into the room in a very tentative way. I can almost see the thought bubble over their head: “I’m never gonna get this. I’m so bad at comedy. All the other girls looked like models.” I can tell that they don’t feel like they should be there and we’re going to discover that they’ve been fooling us all along. They don’t deserve it.

Years ago I was casting a pilot that called for a sexy young woman to work in a men’s high-end shave shop. A funny actor we loved came into the room (which included the creator, producer, writer, and director) and blurted out…

“Gosh, I never get these roles. I’m such a tomboy—everybody thinks I have a dick!”

A hush fell over the room for a moment and then we all laughed. She then did the scene with our lead actor and was truly funny. After she left, all the people in the room looked at me questioningly, like, ”Does she really have a dick?!” That’s all they could think about. They obsessed about it for the entire session. In her nervousness and self-deprecating humor, she had planted a seed and now they couldn’t see past it because she truly didn’t believe that she deserved to be there. She had successfully shot herself in the foot.

Some say “fake it till you make it.” In her TED Talk, social psychologist Amy Cuddy talks about how body language shapes who you are. She shows how “power posing”—standing in a posture of confidence even when we don’t feel confident—can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain and might even have an impact on our chances for success. In her video, she suggests going into the bathroom before an important meeting and adopting the power pose for a few minutes (think Wonder Woman: hands on hips, legs firmly planted and slightly apart). Hey, even I do it before important meetings with executives. It definitely works!

So much of how you present yourself is in your head. Once the preparation has been done, it’s all about perspective—and this is the good news: You are in control of how you view the audition process. You have the choice of how you’re going to view your audition and how you view it thereafter. Are you going to kick yourself time and time again that you didn’t do what you wanted to do in an audition? Or are you going to learn from it—specifically what went wrong or what sent you off the rails? Are you going to continue to let that voice inside your head tell you you’re no good? Or are you going to master that voice and banish it not only from the room but your head forever? You have this choice. Take back that power.

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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Learn The 4 Phases of TV Pilot Testing

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By Marci Liroff

In my Audition Bootcamp classes I take my students through what it’s like to test at the network level. It usually scares the crap out of them. They sit there, agog – their faces in a state of shock and fear. I’m one of those people that like to know everything about an upcoming situation before I jump into it – typical type-A personality. I figure if I have all the Intel, I can deal with it easier. It seems to take a lot of the “what if” anxiety out of the equation. I hope this exploration of what testing for a pilot helps you too when you get the opportunity.

The Preread
First, you read for me. No one meets the creative team (producers, director, studio and network executives) unless I know their work or I’ve auditioned them before. If I like what you did in this audition, I’ll bring you back to read for the producers and the director.

The Callback
If I like what you did in the preread, I’ll bring you in to read for the producers and director. First, though, I’ll have worked with you and given you notes based on my meetings with them (and with the network and studio) to ascertain what we’re looking for. If you do well in this audition, we’ll test you.

Testing for the Studio
Most pilots are produced by a production company (the studio) and aired on the network. First, you test for the studio. (Some studios are also networks, such as Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu.)

Since we want you to succeed we usually schedule a “work session” with our creative team to go through the scenes and make sure you’re ready.

Meanwhile, business affairs will be negotiating with your agent. For the test, the contract states that you are on “hold” with the studio and network for the next seven to 10 days until we either release you or pick up your option. This puts you in “first position” with our pilot; you can’t test for other projects because most networks won’t let you test in second position.

Speaking of signing a deal, when you get to the studio test location you’ll be met by a business affairs executive and about four pounds of paperwork (your contract) that you’ll need to sign before testing. You’ll be in a waiting area with three to four other people also testing for your role. It’s all nice and congenial and there’s a thick fog of tension in the air. While you’re meant to be prepping for your big opportunity you have to sign your life away (well, only the next five years!).

You’re asked to come into a small theater (think small screening room) or a conference room where the 20 or so executives are assembled to watch your audition. I’ll be sitting at the front of the room to read with you. Or, the actor you’re playing opposite will be there to read with you so we can see your chemistry. Even though these people want you to get the role, don’t expect a lot of warmth emanating from them.

At this point you’ll probably feel as if you’ve left your body and are looking down at your puny self. Resist this at all costs.

Remember what I told you about nervousness having the same physical sensation as excitement? Check out Jack Plotnick’s superb video on YouTube to get back on track.

You read, you say thank you, and you return to the waiting room and your fellow actors. At this point I may stick my head out of the room and say, “Hey, Johnny, we’d like you to come back in again. And you two can leave.” Yeah—it’s that blunt. But don’t overanalyze it. We might have loved what you did and want to see if Johnny can lighten up in the scene.

Testing for the Network
After your studio test, we narrow it down again. It’s a similar situation—a different room plus even more executives. You need to stay calm, not choke, and do exactly what you did for the studio test. From this point we have however many days your agent negotiated to pick up your option.

Some TV networks and studios are taping their tests, which I think is better and less stressful for all concerned. Instead of coming in and testing live in the room at the studio and network, we’ll tape your work session, get the perfect audition and take that in to the executives on a DVD. This way it’s comparing apples to apples. We tend to do this for single camera shows, and still do live auditions for multi-cam shows.

If you make it to any of these tests and don’t get the part, know you did your best and move on to your next audition. Pat yourself on the back that you got this far. It truly is amazing.

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I GET NERVOUS TOO!

By Marci Liroff

I’ve been casting movies and television for over 30 years. I’ve cast some of the most iconic and successful movies around and worked with some of the best directors, producers and screenwriters. Yet, every time I start a project I still get nervous and anxious. Every. Single. Time.

There is a very short window of time to do the “happy dance” once I get chosen to cast a movie. “Yay! I got the job!” Then comes the part where the producer or business affairs person calls my agent to make the deal, which is usually excruciating for me. Like I said, you have those nanoseconds to be happy you were picked, and then they pound you with the deal. Each year it gets harder. Seems that even after working all these years and creating a respectable “quote” (the salary I’m paid for each job), no one seems to pay attention to this anymore. They all want to get a “deal” for my services.
During the time in which they negotiate my deal I go into my usual loop of anxiousness. The damn voices in my head start chanting in chorus, “I have no idea how to cast this. They’re all going to find out I don’t know what I’m doing! How will I find all these actors?!”
Then the first day of work comes and I’m getting set up in my new offices (I move in to the production office for all the projects I do). I’m in my element. The calls start going out and rolling in. The email starts to explode. My staff and I are brainstorming. Ideas are flowing. It’s all coming together and I realize, “I got this.” It’s as simple as that. Once I start the process, all the anxiety and doubt quiets down and I realize I do indeed know what I’m doing and I’m actually quite good at it!
The wonderful actor and acting teacher Jack Plotnick describes it so eloquently to his class: “The physical sensation of what some people call ‘nervous’—i.e., your heart racing and butterflies in your stomach—is the exact same physical sensation as ‘excitement’.”

I’ve been coaching and teaching actors for the last several years. I recently let them in on this secret of mine. I realized that we all go through this when we’re waiting for our event to begin. For actors, it’s the audition or stepping on stage or in front of the camera.
I think that silly dance I do makes me humble, sharper and better at my job. Maybe next time I can teach the chanting chorus to do three-part harmony!

I’d love to hear your stories about your experiences with nervousness/anxiousness and how this article made you feel.  It’s always good to share with the community.
Glad you’re here!

Marci

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