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How To Prepare BEFORE The Job

Lecter

By Marci Liroff

A couple of months ago, I was coaching a client for a project. I always like to get all the details of the project (who’s involved, which network, studio, etc.) whenever I work with someone so that I can guide them in terms of tone. She had already booked the job and was about to shoot the next day. I asked her to fill me in on these details, but she didn’t really know anything about the project. It was for a producer friend, but she had no idea whether it was for television, Web, or what—she thought it was possibly a Web series with potentially three networks involved. She had no idea if it was union or nonunion. It was all very confusing.

Most important, there was no contract or deal set in place. She knew the work would be unpaid but had no guarantee of any kind. If you’re going to do a friend a favor, at the very least make sure you get screen credit and a copy of your footage. More troubling was that she had an agent and a manager who didn’t question this. It wasn’t as if she was going out for the weekend to shoot a project with her friends—this was a Hollywood producer who has a body of work, and nobody asked any questions. I advised her to have her reps talk to the producer beforehand and get a contract.

For our work session she wasn’t off-book yet, but through repetition she began to have more of a grasp of the material. She confessed that deep down she wasn’t comfortable with the lines and felt they weren’t very well-written—which they weren’t!

I suggested that she’s (hopefully!) going to have a long career working with great material that will just flow out of her mouth, along with times when she’ll have less-than-great material.

If you’re going to be an actor you have to leave your judgment at the door—your judgment of the material and the character.

You have to find a way in, a “hook,” if you will, to your character so that you can empathize with him or her. Look at how fascinating Sir Anthony Hopkins was as Hannibal Lecter. It’s not just because the material was so good; it’s because he had compassion for the character.

I asked my client what her objective was in the scene. It was to warn the Queen that her sister was being treated badly, and that this could possibly result in an uprising. I told her to think of her counsel as being “of service” to the Queen. Her role is noble because it serves a huge purpose. Without her, the whole kingdom could fall due to the missing piece of information that she is giving. She was needed and vital to this story.

Suddenly she had purpose. She had a role in this puzzle.

Be sure to ask questions and get all the info you can before you start your project. Learn your lines to the point where you can be comfortable throwing them away and truly connect with the scene’s objective and understand why you are there.

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.

Glad you’re here.

Why Do You Act?

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By Marci Liroff

I’m sure you all saw Will Smith on the first episode of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” a few weeks ago. You probably remember him dancing with Fallon and showing us the evolution of hip-hop dancing. It was hilarious. But the real gem was buried within the interview. They were talking about fame, and Fallon asked Smith if it ever got scary for him. Smith replied that it can, especially now that his kids are coming into the business. “But I tell them…keep loving people. The thing is to make sure with your art that it is a gift to people to help their lives be better and brighter. What happens a lot of times when you see people fail in this business is that they’re in it for their ego, and they start doing it for them. It’s like, no, you’re trying to help people get through a day.” I see a lot of actors wrestling with this lately. I think they’ve lost sight of why they do this in the first place. The daily excitement of getting an audition, prepping for it, and going on the call has been replaced by disappointment (“I didn’t book it!”) and unrealized expectations. I’ve noticed several acting coaches and life coaches encouraging you to “live the red carpet life” and “get A-listed.”

Is that really why you became an actor, to get on a red carpet at a premiere? Should that be your goal? Should that even be your frame of mind? I say no. I say reject that message.

I want you to ask yourself why you became an actor. Why do you act? I asked this on my Facebook page recently and instructed folks to answer from their heart, not their head. I got some truly inspiring answers that might help you reconnect to the core reason you became an actor in the first place. Here are a few: “I’m an actor because I refuse to live inside of the box.” “I act to make a story come to life and hopefully trigger some emotional connection with the audience.” “My 6 1/2-year-old son said, ‘It’s my passion…who I am.’ ” “Because I need to be an actor.” “To move people through storytelling.” “To tell stories that offer comfort in this chaos.” “It is like breathing.” “Because I can’t not act. It’s too painful.” For me, it’s always been about the work. You are artists and born storytellers. When you lose sight of that and start thinking about being famous, you’ve already shifted your alignment with your art. Get back on track and ask yourself, “Why do I act?” I’d love to hear your answers! 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.

Glad you’re here. Marci

The Power Of Inspiration

photo(1)L-R Anne Hubbel, Tiffany Shlain, Rose McGowan, Mamrie Hart, Kamal Sinclair

By Marci Liroff

In my last column, I wrote about how my film, “The Sublime and Beautiful,” made its world premiere at this year’s 20th annual Slamdance Film Festival. Slamdance started as a ragtag festival running simultaneous with the Sundance Film Festival, and features emerging talent in films made for under $1 million. While I was there, I tried (to no avail!) to get into screenings at Sundance, but tickets are at a premium and mostly sold out—or you stand in a long line outside in the cold, only to be turned away. But then I discovered the panels! The panels at both film festivals were eye-opening. Beyond being there for my film, I found my true reason for being there: inspiration!

Inspiration can sometimes be an elusive thing, but when it strikes, it’s so powerful that you just know you’re on the right path.

The Women in Film panel at Sundance was especially inspiring. Anne Hubbell from Tangerine Entertainment moderated, with guest speakers Tiffany Shlain (founder of the Webby Awards), YouTube sensation Mamrie Hart, actor Rose McGowan (at Sundance with the short film she directed, “Dawn”), and Kamal Sinclair, senior manager of the Sundance Institute’s New Frontier Story Lab.

One of the themes repeatedly discussed was “community supporting community,” and the notion that you should not wait to be asked to the party by looking for permission to create. There are so many different ways to “crack the nut” to launch your projects, whether it be in film, television, Web series, or theater. Whatever your art is, surround yourself with advocates, put together your team of like-minded, incredibly talented, and creative people, look for your mentors, and keep your eyes open for your inspiration.

A Slamdance panel discussing short-form content had Chad Hurley (the co-founder of a little thing called YouTube!) and brothers Joe and Anthony Russo, who were at Slamdance in 1997 with “Pieces,” before Steven Soderbergh hired them to direct George Clooney’s “Welcome To Collinwood.” They then directed the pilot of “Arrested Development,” became executive producers–directors on NBC’s “Community,” and most recently co-directed “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”

In this panel, they talked a lot about how short-form content (i.e., Vine videos, short films) can be a “point of access” to decision makers. Joe Russo says his daughter doesn’t watch comedy TV the way we used to. Now she watches Vine videos for an hour and laughs hysterically to get her “hit” of comedy. He mentioned Vine star Rudy Mancuso as a good example of how you can be discovered, “because somebody like me sits in an office, laughs, and says, ‘Find this guy.’ ” They liked him so much, they contacted him about doing a project, all from watching his six-second videos! I wondered if all this short-form content was fostering short attention spans in the viewers. I think our brains, especially in the younger folks, are actually being rewired to only be able to view and retain short-form content.

The Russo brothers suggested that if you’re a filmmaker, you should have scripts ready so that when you get the opportunity, you actually have content to show. Decide what kind of career you want and use the question, “What do you want to be doing in five years?” to reframe your thinking and choose your path.

So I ask you: What do you want to be doing in five years, and how are you going to get there?

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.

Glad you’re here.

Marci

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