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An Ode to Actors

Photo courtesy Ian Schneider

By Marci Liroff

I posted an inspirational tweet the other night on Twitter, Instagram, and my business Facebook page.

It got more reaction (and interaction) than anything I’ve ever posted.

The only other thing that came close was when Robin Williams died and I posted something about depression with a suicide hotline. And I didn’t even write it! I was quoting a former actor:

“Actors are some of the most driven, courageous people on the face of the earth. They deal with more day-to-day rejection in one year than most people do in a lifetime. Every day, actors face the financial challenge of living a freelance lifestyle, the disrespect of people who think they should get real jobs, and their own fear that they’ll never work again. Every day, they have to ignore the possibility that the vision they have dedicated their lives to is a pipe dream. With every role, they stretch themselves, emotionally and physically, risking criticism and judgment. With every passing year, many of them watch as the other people their age achieve the predictable milestones of normal life—the car, the family, the house, the nest egg. Why? Because actors are willing to give their entire lives to a moment—to that line, that laugh, that gesture, or that interpretation that will stir the audience’s soul. Actors are beings who have tasted life’s nectar in that crystal moment when they poured out their creative spirit and touched another’s heart.

In that instant, they were as close to magic, God, and perfection as anyone could ever be

And in their own hearts, they know that to dedicate oneself to that moment is worth a thousand lifetimes.”

What’s the takeaway from this?
One: I have a large actor following. Two: People like to be honored for their hard work. And three: People like to be inspired. But I knew there was more. I went directly to the source, writer David Ackert.

When was this written?
I wrote this in 1998, almost 20 years ago. Since that time, it has taken on a life of its own. It has been quoted all over the internet, in numerous books and publications, and has been translated into several languages and repurposed for singers, dancers, musicians, and painters.

What prompted you to write this?
In 1998, I was madly in love with a woman who was not an actor. She couldn’t understand why I was dedicated to a profession that was so unstable. One day I’d be working on a TV series, the next day unemployed. It was scary for her that I had so little control over my financial security, and clear to her that I wasn’t about to change professions, so eventually she ended the relationship. I was devastated, and wrote the passage to remind myself and anyone else struggling through a similar hardship that an artist’s relationship to their art is a uniquely precious experience, and while it comes with many sacrifices, it is ultimately worth pursuing.

Why do you think this has resonated with so many?
I believe that artists have a wholly unusual experience of life. They are dedicated to a dream and will pursue it at any cost. Most people don’t know what it means to believe in an irrational idea that’s so powerful that it completely defines them. That’s why the artist’s journey is simultaneously blissful, heartbreaking, and deeply lonely. I think the quote resonates for artists because it reminds us that we share that same swirl of juxtaposing feelings. And it is my hope that the quote inspires artists to pursue their self-expression without apology or regret.

What work are you doing now?
I retired from the entertainment industry in 2009 when I discovered that I could create, perform, and produce original content in the business world. Once I learned how to broaden my definition of success, I gained access to opportunities that were much more attainable than Hollywood stardom. Now I channel my creativity on my own terms.

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.

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.)

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How to Defeat Self-Doubt

Photo courtesy: Tertia Van Rensburg

By Marci Liroff

My Los Angeles Audition Bootcamp starts May 16, 23, 30th, 2017. Only a few spots left – sign up here!

I started casting a new film this week. In the days leading up to it, I got extremely anxious. It happens every time I start a project. The loop in my head goes something like this: “I have no idea how to cast this film. They’re all going to find out I have no idea what I’m doing.”

Can you imagine? I’ve been casting for almost four decades and I still have self-doubt.

Once I start the project, within the first morning, I realize I actually do know what I’m doing and I’m very good at it. As the ball starts rolling I immediately recognize the familiar day-to-day back and forth of the casting process.

Since I’m an independent casting director, I don’t keep an office. Like a gypsy, I move to a new space each time I start a project. Perhaps that’s part of the issue; I can’t picture where I’m going to work or who I’m going to work with. Once I get relaxed into my new surroundings, I can marinate on my casting ideas and they start flowing. Like riding a bike, it all comes back very quickly.

Then why the anxiety and self-doubt? I’ve taken great pains to analyze this to try and nip it in the bud. As a perfectionist, I find that that quality can actually work against me sometimes. There are such huge expectations on me when I’m in charge of a project. I’m so swept up in doing everything right that I forget the big picture.

Renowned acting teacher Howard Fine wrote this about self-doubt and insecurity in terms of the acting community. I think it’s a great lesson for us all: “Let me explain the positive benefits of self-doubt. Those who question their talent work harder. The doubt translates to a work ethic. The insecure actor will not take anything for granted. To those of you who feel insecure about your talents, it is your very sensitivity toward life and toward your fellow human beings that is a core part of your talent. You must seek to find balance. It is OK and natural to question your talent. Do not think that this disqualifies you from having a wonderful life and career. In fact, you share the trait with many whose work you admire.”

I agree with Fine on many of his points. What I’ve learned to embrace is that this feeling keeps me humble and keeps me on my toes. I don’t rest on my laurels. I’m constantly pushing myself to be better at my job.

As an actor, you’ve got to exude confidence in your work. Even if you don’t feel it inside, you can act “as if” and it will telegraph. I’ve often cited social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on this topic. Take a look at her video. It’s life-changing.

There’s nothing better than an actor who comes in to audition, who is comfortable in her own skin, and who’s there to “play”; it allows us to relax and feel like we’re in good hands. Confidence is sexy and it’s infectious.

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.

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.)

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Can I Get a Do-Over?

By Marci Liroff

Spring Audition Bootcamp classes are starting in May in Los Angeles. Click here to sign-up.

While watching the 2017 Grammy Awards, I witnessed the most remarkable thing: The uber-talented singer-songwriter Adele took the stage for a sung tribute to her friend George Michael.

It soon became apparent that she was slightly off-key and her in-ear mics weren’t working. So she shut the orchestra down and on live television said,

“Can we please stop? I just can’t do it again like last year. I just can’t fuck this up, it means too much to me. I’m sorry for swearing and I’m sorry for starting over, but can we please just start it again? I’m sorry, but I just can’t mess this up for him.”

And with that, the audience rose to their feet cheering, the orchestra started again, and she gracefully began the song for a second time. In that moment, Adele won us over.

Last year, singer-songwriter and poet Patti Smith sang Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fallat the Nobel Prize ceremony.

A few moments into her rendition, she faltered. She had forgotten the lyrics. She was devastated. Again, like a pro, she stopped the band, apologized profusely, saying she was very nervous, and started again. She exhibited such grace and was so honest, vulnerable, and respectful of the material. I couldn’t have loved her more in that moment.

The do-over. It’s that awkward moment when you’re most human.

How often do we get this opportunity? In life, not often, but if you handle it correctly, you can steer the crowd in your favor. This made me think of actors and auditions.

In my classes and coaching, actors always ask, “Can I start over?”

Here’s my take on it—and you know I’m always going to tell you the truth, or at least my truth, having gone through several decades of the filmmaking process: If you’re at the beginning of a scene and get off to a bad start, say, “I’m going to start over.” Don’t apologize, don’t give a thousand “I’m sorry”s. Don’t ask for permission, just start again. This is you taking control of the audition room and letting us know you’ve got it under control. There’s no point in going through a three- to five-page scene if you know you’re not in the zone. But don’t abuse the privilege. I have had actors go over and over scenes, asking if they can do it again. It’s a glimpse into how you might be on set, and it doesn’t bode well.

I suggest that you not stop in the middle of a long scene when you’re almost at the end. Remember, we want you to know the material, be off-book, and give us the dialogue as written. But if you miss a word or a phrase, there’s no need for you to start over as long as you stay in the scene and stay in character. We’ll be impressed by this.

Here’s a good trick if you go up on your lines or get lost deep into your scene: Stop, raise your hand to the person you’re reading with, take a moment (which means a nanosecond), then continue where you left off. It’ll give you a beat to pull it together and not have to start over.

In my article “How Not to Fall Off the Tightrope in an Audition” I wrote  how to reframe and pivot within the audition if you get off-track. If you miss a word, it’s not the end of the world. That said, it’s how you handle it that will make you rise above and get your audience cheering 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.

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.)

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