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CAN THE CASTING OFFICE TEST YOUR CONCENTRATION?!

By Marci Liroff
Whenever I’m casting a movie and working with actors I marvel at their sheer concentration. To be able to create a believable character and a “world” around you in a small audition room is always a miracle to me.
When I get hired on a television show or a movie, the production usually has me move in to their offices so that I’m close to the creative team for auditions. It’s often a game of Russian roulette to see if I get the “cool” office space or the crap one. I’ve had some very, shall we say “interesting”, experiences along the way and it’s brought me to share this story as I witnessed actors trying to stay in character through some difficult circumstances at our casting offices.
The last film I cast had a very cool-looking office space. It had been completely redone to look very architectural and quasi industrial. My office was very long and narrow, very hip looking. BUT, one entire wall was floor to ceiling windows, which looked onto, you guessed it, the waiting room. It was like working in a fishbowl. All the actors waiting to audition could look into my office and watch the auditions. Not cool. Immediately we fashioned a “screen” with a sheet that also served as a backdrop for our filming. One problem solved.
Turns out the walls were paper-thin so that when you’re in my office auditioning, you could hear another actor in the next room auditioning with my casting associate Michelle. Again, not cool. There were actually times when they would sync up and would be reading the lines at the same time in two separate rooms. If you’re not prepared and “in your character” and able to shut out all the elements you could be very tripped up by this.
Because this office didn’t have much in the way of natural light, we had to use our professional lights – which are seriously HOT! They didn’t have central air-conditioning – which is usually whisper quiet. There was a built-in wall unit that was very effective, which we had to turn off during the auditions so that we’d get great sound. This resulted in making my office feel a lot like Suzy’s Easy-Bake Oven. Remember those? It’d be freezing cold in the waiting room and we’d have sweat streaming down our faces and would be peeling off our clothes as the day went by.
Just when you think we’ve solved enough problems, in the week that we were doing the final casting where we had our director piped in thru my laptop to direct on Skype from London, they decided to put in a new roof and a new air-conditioning unit on said roof. Banging, drilling, pounding, hot mopping with tar, toxic fumes….you get the picture. And yet, it’s your “time to shine”! It’s your audition. Again, I was amazed at how most of the actors who came in just went with the flow, planted their feet and gave some truly incredible performances in spite of all these problems.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized this was great preparation for when you actually get on set. If you think that once you’re on set, everything will be easier and you can relax, then you haven’t really experienced the full spectrum of what can go wrong while you’re shooting.
Several years ago I cast and associate produced a film staring Cary Elwes and Alicia Silverstone called “The Crush”. We were night-shooting a particular scene where Elwes’ character drove Silverstone’s character up to a lookout point. We had chosen a truly gorgeous lookout point by the bay in Vancouver. Both of them were dressed to the nines because they were coming from a dressy party in the scene. That night, of course, it starts pouring and it’s about 40 degrees outside. Then the fog roles in. Because we had to get our shot, we forged ahead. Then the foghorn starts blowing every five minutes. We call the Sherriff, and the Sea Patrol to get them to turn it off…”We’re shooting a movie here!” we protested. They just looked at us like we were crazy people. “The fog horn is so that anyone out at sea will avoid hitting the light house!!”
So, we did what any smart film company would do. We held umbrellas over their heads and had them do as many lines as they could in between the 5-minute timing of the blaring foghorn. They were shivering, eating ice so that we wouldn’t see their breath, and trying to stay in their character. If that wasn’t a test of their concentration, I don’t know what was!
You’ve got to be able to “bring it” in any given situation and not get caught up in all the external things that you can’t control.
I’d love to hear your stories about concentration (and distraction) in the audition space and on-set. It’s always good to share with the community.

Glad you’re here!

Marci

8 Ways To Survive The Dreaded Waiting Room

By Marci Liroff
You’ve prepared. You’ve rehearsed. You’ve worked with your coach and picked out the perfect outfit to wear on your audition. You’ve even arrived slightly early and found “Doris Day” parking right in front of the casting office. You’re all charged up and ready to go and you turn the corner to find 10 people sitting in the waiting room for the audition. Aargh!
I know exactly how this feels because I have to interview/audition like you do for a job sometimes. When I come to an office to meet a producer or director and I’m all pumped up and have to wait awhile, I get totally deflated.  All my energy and enthusiasm gets sucked out of me. Here are a few things you need to do to protect yourself from the elements and stay in your creative zone to do your best work.

1. Be on time and expect to wait.  Many times, the director/producer will show up late and screw up my meticulously scheduled day. Or we get stuck on a time-sensitive phone call about securing financing for the project. You may have to wait a long, long time and we get behind. Sometimes we get WAY behind and you have to wait an hour.  It’s horrible. It’s important that you do what you need to do to keep yourself from losing your energy and it doesn’t affect your attitude – whatever it is that works for you. I recommend using headphones or earbuds because it drowns out what’s going on in the room. Furthermore, if you have your earbuds in, no one will talk to you! It’s like your own form of privacy.
2. Don’t get caught up in the “scene”. There’s always that one guy/gal who’s bragging about all the auditions they’ve been on lately. It can sometimes make you feel “less than” if you’ve only had a few in the last several months. This is where the earphones come in handy! Don’t get sucked into the weird energy that sometimes exists in the waiting room. Concentrate on your scene and your character.
3. Stand up if you feel like it. For me, sitting too long just drains all my energy and I leave it on the couch or chair. Stand in the hallway (don’t go to far so that we have to come hunting you down when it’s your turn though!). After auditioning for years, you’ll know what works for you in terms of preserving and protecting your energy and state of mind.
4. Be careful not to diss the material – you never know who’s in the waiting room. It could be a friend of the writer or the producer’s wife.  You literally never know. 
5. Try as hard as you can NOT to listen to the other actor’s audition thru the door.  It’ll make you rethink your own choices and destroy your own reading. You’ve worked hard on your audition with lots of preparation. Stick to your choices.
6. Be nice to the casting assistant.  They are my eyes and ears.  If you’re rude or abusive to them, believe me I will hear about it and not be so inclined to bring you back. This would seem like common sense, but you’d be so surprised of the stories I’ve heard from my assistants. Believe me when I tell you that they will, one day, run a studio or direct your next film!
7. Check in with the assistant when you arrive and check to see that you have the correct set of sides.  Better to find out BEFORE you come in the audition room and hopefully you’ll have a few extra minutes to get up to speed if the version of the sides has changed. 
8. Bring comfortable shoes. This one’s for the ladies. My office moves around from project to project and we sometimes get offices that are buried deep into the studio lot and parking is miles away. If you’re in high platform heels, your “dogs are gonna be barking” by the time you get to our office and all you’ll be able to concentrate on are your aching feet! Throw a pair of sneakers or flip flops in your car for the walk.
I’d love to hear what other ways you cope with the waiting room in the comments below. It’d be great to share with each other what works for you!
  
Do you have any questions for me? Feel free to ask them here!
Want more tips and general thoughts on life? Be sure to bookmark my blog and follow me here!
 
We welcome your comments and suggestions.
 
Glad you’re here!
Marci 
 
(you can also read this article on Back Stage Magazine by clicking here)

Inside The World Of A Casting Director ~ Part 2 of 3

By Marci Liroff

In Part 2 of this series I talk about how I make lists for projects along with how to start working in a Casting Director’s office.

“What does a Casting Director actually do?” Well, I’m here to tell you all about it! Joy Wingard wrote to me from college saying she’s interested in being a casting director and wanted to know what really goes on in the world of casting.  Since I was crazy busy, I asked her to jot down a few questions and I’d answer them over the ensuing weeks.  She asked quite a few insightful questions that I wanted to share with you all.

Q: I’ve heard that CDs spend a lot of time going through their rolodex/files and looking for the right fit.  Do you find that you get to embrace the auditioning process often – or is it more of seeking the fit you know will already work?  

A: Rolodex and files are “old school”.  Everything I do these days is electronic.  I have a database of ALL the actors I know and like + everyone I’ve ever auditioned. I use Cast It for my database. Did you know that if you subscribe to Cast It Talent you get embedded in my database and ALL the major CDs around the world?

When I make my initial lists after reading the script and talking to the filmmakers about their vision and our marketing needs, I go through my database and put together a “wish list” of who would be great.  Some of them are out of reach based on budget, or they wouldn’t do said role, or are unavailable.  I also add to this list my ideas that are not exactly what the script calls for or what the director is looking for but is “outside the box” and creative which can sometimes really juice up the story by casting against type.  Then I confer with the agents and managers and get their pitches and add the appropriate people to the list. This giant list gets narrowed down based on our choices, the actor’s availability and $$.
If it’s a “name” list, we narrow it down to a much smaller list and start making offers.
If it’s a role that we want people to come in and audition for, thus starts the process and we are open and excited to see what people bring to the role.  A filmmaker I know once said, “I like it when an actor comes in and shows me something I didn’t know about the character.”  I think that says it all.

Q:  Do you feel it’s mandatory to start as an intern – or do you think it’s possible to get an assistant job if you’ve had some solid industry experience already (even if it isn’t in casting for film or scripted/episodic TV?)

A: For me, I wouldn’t hire someone as a casting assistant unless they’ve had AT LEAST 1-2 YEARS actual casting experience in SCRIPTED television or films.  Things move way too fast for me to train/teach someone. Once they are on board though, I train and teach them everyday.

Several successful casting directors out there today started as my intern (Tammy Billik, Janet Gilmore)

Do you have any questions for me? Feel free to ask them here!

Want more tips and general thoughts on life? Be sure to bookmark my blog and follow me here!
 
We welcome your comments and suggestions.
 
Glad you’re here!
Marci
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