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Is There One Way To Become Successful?

By Marci Liroff

Is Backstage Magazine schizo? After going through the “Experts” advice along with the regular columnists’ articles (such as myself, Stephen Tobolowsky, and Secret Agent Man) I’ve noticed a huge discrepancy from one writer to the next. We are actually contradicting each other week after week. I imagine this is confusing to the reader.

Some examples I’ve noticed in the last few weeks:

  • Don’t bring headshots to auditions; no one uses them anymore. Or, even worse, “I don’t bring headshots to auditions anymore, I’ve outgrown that.”/ ALWAYS bring headshots because the CDs need the hardcopy for your audition.
  • Don’t connect with your reader – you should be able to act on your own because CDs and their associates don’t really give you what you need anyway / You need to connect with your reader to give a fully realized performance.
  • Don’t memorize the dialogue word for word. Put your own spin on it. /Honor the writer and do not change the dialogue as it will make the show creator (who is usually the writer) furious.
  • Take Casting Director workshops because it’ll help you network with the gate-keeper / Don’t ever pay for what amounts to an audition. CD workshops are not an educational experience – you’re just paying for access to a casting office.

It seems that everybody wants the answer. Everybody wants the magic pill. How do I do it? How do I get there?

I’m here to tell you that there is no one answer.

There are many ways to get from point A to stardom – or better yet, to be a successful working actor.

I’m often asked for referrals to acting classes or head shot photographers. I send actors, managers and agents my well thought-out lists. These are my suggestions of acting classes that I’ve actually sat in through the years so that I know, first-hand, what the classes are like. Yet, I still get responses like, “Well, which ones do you like? Which are the best?” I’m sending you the ones that I like on a narrowed down list. You now have to do the research to find out which acting coach or photographer clicks with you. Finding the right teacher or photographer can be like finding the right shrink. Only you know which one you’re going to let in. By auditing classes and going through photographer’s websites and meeting them, you need to use your gut to find the person who you can trust and who will inspire and push you. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. There is no “best”. It’s not “one size fits all”. There is no right answer here.

The takeaway here is that our articles are all opinions and points of view based on years of experience in this field. There is no “industry standard” on the right way to attack your acting career. Take it all in, continue to do your research, and use your instincts to figure out which advice is best for 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.

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How To Prep For The Fall TV Season

By Marci Liroff

If you’ve read my columns, you can probably tell I’m definitely a type A personality. I write a lot about doing research and diligent preparation for your upcoming auditions and jobs. In my article “How Keeping a Diary Can Help You Book the Job,” I talked about how noting your auditions and meetings in your diary–journal–Excel spreadsheet will help you keep track of all the folks you’ve met and see your career trajectory through the years in black and white.

Now that the fall TV season is upon us and it’s time to buckle down and start doing your research again. In order to get ahead of your competition, you need to see at least one or two episodes of every TV show that’s out there—including the new season.

When you get a last-minute audition, it would be smart to have already done your research on the show so that you can understand the world they’re creating, the tone of the show, and how you will fit into it. This way you can spend 100 percent of your time concentrating on the scenes you need to learn rather than catching up on episodes of the show.

I spoke to actor Jen Levin, who has a very precise way of doing her research.

“My process is to research like crazy! I print out the fall premiere dates (I almost always use TVLine). Then I see where I have room on my DVR to record those first few episodes of each new show. I also use Hulu to help out with watching all the new shows.

“When I’m watching a new show, I have a notebook or my iPad to take notes. I make notes on the major characters and their relationships to each other; what the tone of the show is like; the locations of the show (both the city and what sets seem to be used a lot); and finally, I use IMDb to make notes on the producers, directors, and casting directors. I keep those notes so if I get an audition for one of those new shows, I have a lot of my research already done. I also go through my contacts to see if I have met any of the team connected with the show. If I have, I typically send a little congrats note to them, saying how much I enjoyed their new show.

“I try to watch at least two episodes of each new show since many things can change from the pilot to the second episode. I just update my notes as I go along. And for any shows that become a part of my regular viewing, I’ll update those notes from time to time as well.

“I keep the notes on each show until the show is canceled. I’ve found these notes extremely helpful, especially when I have last-minute auditions. I think being prepared has helped me to stay calm at my auditions and focus on making the best impression that I can. This is a smart way for actors to prepare for the unknown. I’ve had same-day auditions where I’ve had an hour to get to the casting office. That isn’t enough time to Google a show and figure out the plot, characters, and tone.”

What about you? How do you research the new fall shows?

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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How To Replenish Your Self-Confidence

14842038610_eacf3cbe20_hphoto credit: IdeaLuz Photography

By Marci Liroff

I received this note from one of my followers on Facebook, who lives in a major hub of film and television production in North Carolina. “I was wondering if you have ever written any articles about children losing interest in acting, or confidence being lost from lack of or no work. My daughter (on her request) has been signed with an agent for almost three years now. I have spent the time and money to take her to countless auditions, acting lessons, singing lessons, and even traveled a few hours away just to have video auditions taped by professionals, but she has not landed a single job in all of this time. I have even tried to submit her for countless ‘extra’ parts and have never been contacted for any of them as well. Now when she gets a request for an audition, she lacks the motivation and confidence to do so, saying, ‘What’s the point? I am never going to get it.’ ”

The pursuit of getting an acting job on camera or onstage is a tough road for most adult actors, and young actors must have thick skin—with their heads and hearts in the right places—to survive. The one thing most actors have (the good ones, anyway!) is that they’re in it for the love of the craft. They simply have to act; they have to perform—it’s their lifeblood.

In my article “When Is The Right Time For Your Child To Become An Actor”, I examined the notion of making sure your child wants to act for the right reasons. Whenever I meet child actors I always ask how and why they got into acting. The ones who repeatedly begged their parents over the years to take acting classes, are in plays at school, and truly enjoy being a storyteller are the ones who make it. Thankfully, they’re not at a point yet where they have to earn a living. Let’s not forget this is supposed to be fun—especially for kids.

I would submit to the concerned mom that perhaps the end is not the means in this situation. What is her child looking for in terms of being an actor? So far she hasn’t landed any roles, even background roles.

All actors need to recognize the fact that being an actor is not just when you’re in front of a camera or onstage—it’s the entire journey.

From immersing yourself in acting-dancing-voice classes to getting your headshots taken, the preparation is actually part of the job. Yes, I recognize that actually landing a job is the cherry on top of the sundae, but it can’t be the main goal. You’ve got to appreciate the rest of the experience in total and can’t feel defeated just because you didn’t get the role.

I suggest this child learn to thoroughly enjoy and appreciate her acting classes and use them as an opportunity to express herself as an artist. On a practical level, what about local stage productions? Is she involved in school plays? How about registering with all the local colleges and universities that have film programs? They are always producing short films and need actors—especially kids.

Most important, it’s perfectly acceptable for this child to take a step back and stop auditioning for a while until she regains her confidence and rediscovers her motivation to pursue acting. There are so many local places that need child volunteers: animal shelters, reading to young children at schools or libraries, collecting clothes around the neighborhood to donate to Goodwill or other suitable organizations—the list is endless. I’ve found that being of service is a great way to take the focus off of you and replenish your creativity.

What do you do when you feel defeated and your journey feels futile?

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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Click to Tweet: You’ve got to find balance in life and acting “How To Replenish Your Self-Confidence” http://bit.ly/1qP4SYq via @MarciLiroff pls share
Click to Tweet: R you or your child frustrated with rejection? “How To Replenish Your Self-Confidence” http://bit.ly/1qP4SYq via @MarciLiroff pls r/t
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