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The Red Flags to Look For Before Signing on to an Indie Project

Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon

In light of the pandemic, I am offering special pricing for my private coaching (remotely of course!) Check out the info here.

Having cast and produced many, many film projects over the years, I’ve had a lot of experience—and I’ve seen everything from the good to the bad to the ugly. From the audition process all the way through your on-set experience, you’ve got to keep your eyes open for red flags that risk derailing the project or even yourself.

I was casting a big-budget studio film years ago, and the director proposed a scene in which he wanted me to cast two very young children. Once he explained the parameters of the scene, which included shooting late at night, explosions going off near the kids, and them being shot at, I immediately said no and attempted to explain why he wouldn’t be able to hire children for this scene: He’d never get a work permit in these conditions. His team then told me that they wouldn’t get a work permit or pay them through payroll—they’d pay them out of petty cash. I alerted the producer, who said he’d take care of it. The next thing I heard was that the kids and the lead actor had been killed while shooting the scene. A helicopter that was part of the scene came down on top of them after a Quonset hut was blown up and fragments of it flew into the tail rotor of the ’copter.

It’s an extreme example, but it shows that no one can afford to cut corners. And yet, I’ve noticed a lot of that on some of the films I’ve worked on. It’s especially prevalent in the indie film space. They lovingly call it “guerilla filmmaking.”

But if you’re asked to do a stunt and they don’t have a stunt coordinator to meet the required safety regulations, you must refuse.

Sometimes, the filmmakers request a voluminous amount of research and training when there is no offer. Within reason, some of these requests are valid. If you’re doing a baseball movie, we need to see you play. That said, if you find yourself in weeks of training for a part you don’t actually have yet, you might want to rethink these requests and get your rep involved.

So, use your “spidey-sense”; everyone has one. If you’re sent an audition with a request to meet after hours at the director’s home, request a daytime interview in an office setting. Remember, you have the right to bring a peer with you if you aren’t comfortable going alone. Or if a filmmaker says to you, “You know, it would be easier just to make the deal with you,” or “Ugh, reps are such a nuisance,” an actor should not engage. This is exactly why you have representation.

These issues can also come up with nudity riders. If you ask about one and the director’s response is, “You’re cool, right?,” that’s your sign to walk away. The SAG-AFTRA Basic Contract requires a nudity rider to specifically outline the nudity that is agreed upon along with any intimate contact. Make sure you’ve agreed to all of the terms together before you arrive on set. The production is not allowed to ask you to do anything that you haven’t agreed to in your rider.

Not all indies are bad, of course; just keep in mind what we all learned long ago from our parents: If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is! Listen to your instincts.

Make sure to check out my 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.)

How To Make the Most of Your Time While Filming on Location

By Marci Liroff

If you’re in Los Angeles in June, I’m teaching my 3-night Audition Bootcamp classes. Click here for more info. Class is almost full so grab your spot today!

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When you finally get cast in a project and have to go to on location, your work experience can differ from shooting in your home city.

I talked to two of my actor friends to grab their insight on how to take care of yourself when traveling for work.

Kathleen “Bird” York is an actor, screenwriter, and Oscar nominated singer-songwriter currently starring in the CW series, “In the Dark.”

Willie Garson has been a series regular on “White Collar,” and “Sex and the City.”

What are some of your best tips for being on location?

York: “Start getting up early to suit the time change so your 5 AM call is not a 2AM (Pacific time) call.”

Garson: “Be a citizen of THAT spot. Find the best breakfast, the best thrift stores, and my favorite, vintage record stores. Also, get OUTSIDE—where do people go to hike, and explore?”

What are some of the best ways to take care of yourself while you’re away from home on location? Do you prefer a hotel or to rent an apartment/house?

 York: “Airbnb. It’s nice to feel part of a neighborhood. And a kitchen makes it feel like home.”

Garson: “I prefer a hybrid apartment/hotel (The Sutton in Vancouver comes to mind). That way I can have my own stuff around and if possible, a washing machine (!), but still get cleaning service for the room.”

How do you keep yourself grounded when you’re not sleeping in your own bed – do you think actors have a special affinity to being a kind of “gypsy”?

York: “Actors like novelty. (We have zero job security, obviously same/same isn’t our thing.)

Garson: “Buy food you eat that make you feel good and use the gym. It’s not a vacation (even though a hotel can make it feel like one) it’s a shared experience of working. And definitely try to eat with someone, that’s important. Also, for grounding – return every phone call and email. “I’m on location” is not an excuse to drop out of life – you want that support and closeness when you return. I commuted to NY from Los Angeles for over 15 years for my TV shows, and if I didn’t support those real friendships, I wouldn’t have any.”

Is working on location different than working in your hometown in terms of day-to-day production?

York: “100 percent different. You can inhabit your character more easily when away from your “identity” town. You can live as someone else and truly inhabit how much that environment would shape your character. (If the location used is indeed where the story is set).”

Garson: “Working on location is easier, but often longer hours. But you don’t have the daily encumbrances of children, pets, house chores, mail, etc—-even though you may miss them all, your responsibilities are mainly on the work, which is a relief for sure.”

Do you find that your relationships with others (cast and crew) is different when you’re on location?

York: “Yep. Positive and negative. Cast can get into cliques and if you’re not in that clicque initially it can get lonely. You have to be okay with that and not assume the cast will become your social safety net. Find local friends. Also, the crew is often local on locations. They won’t have the same needs to connect on the weekends as you will. They have their own lives, so you really have to be proactive to create a plan for yourself to stave off feelings of loneliness and isolation if it’s a long shoot. Challenge yourself to find a new interest or set a goal to accomplish something while out of town. (I wrote a 2-hour pilot – for a network, but still, it gave me focus on days not shooting the series).”

Garson: “Location friendships, romances, allegiances, spring up very fast. You’re a traveling circus with a shared experience in the trenches together. It’s important to be who you are, not misrepresent yourself and suddenly become this different person. Some of my closest friendships will never be broken after a deep bonding on location that lasts forever.”

 

Make sure to check out my 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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Nothing but Proper Prep Work Will Ready You for the Audition Room’s Curveballs

I know, I know. It’s been quite awhile since I’ve blogged! But, I’m back!

If you’re in Los Angeles in June, I’m teaching my 3-night Audition Bootcamp classes. Click here for more info. Class is almost full so be sure to take advantage of the 10% offer if you sign up before 5/20/19.

In the meantime – here’s my latest blog.

One question I’m consistently asked as a casting director is “What is your biggest pet peeve with actors and auditions?” My answer is in line with most of my colleagues: lack of preparation.

What exactly is preparation? What do casting directors and the filmmakers consider good, solid preparation? Let me break it down for you by telling you a story about a coaching client of mine.

My client got a big break to go in and audition for a role in a television series that was being recast. He was so excited for the opportunity, only to be cut off at the knees because his manager let it slip that none of the producers wanted to see him for the role. The casting director strongly believed in him and made it her mission to give him the opportunity to at least read. The script was great—the kind where the dialogue just rolls off your tongue.

You’ve just got to get out of your own way, know the material inside and out, and make some solid character choices.

Since my client was not in Los Angeles, we worked on the scene using Skype for a solid week. We’d work for about two hours each day, discussing his character, the story, and how he fit into it. The scene was meaty, so there was a lot of good stuff to dig into. Throughout the week, we’d read through the entire script, even scenes he wasn’t in so that he could become immersed in that world.

Audition day finally came, and he was pumped. He read on tape for the casting director, and she was truly impressed—then she brought out a second scene. My client gulped; his agent had only given him the one. “There are two scenes,” the CD clarified. “And the second one is even better! How about you take a look at it in the hallway and we’ll just try it anyway?” My client didn’t miss a beat. He didn’t even leave the room; he looked over the “new” second scene (which we had gone over at least a dozen times over the course of the week) and was ready. “Let’s do it.” He read the second scene in the room and wowed yet again. He walked out, head held high, and called his agent to chew him out for not adequately preparing him. Turned out it had been a miscommunication between offices.

But then he called me. “Marci,” he said, “when she handed me the new scene, I started to panic, but then I remembered that we had gone over this so many times. I was totally ready for this.”

And here’s why I’m using this story to illustrate what preparation can cover. Next, he said, “Here’s the thing: I’m in the best shape of my life right now; I’m on a daytime talk show; I’m in a Broadway show eight times a week. My brain will never be sharper than it is now. My body is engaged and worked out like an athlete because of all that I’m doing every day. I truly amazed myself at how easily I slipped into this second scene and didn’t freak out.”

Your work and your preparation is not just for a specific audition or job. It’s daily. You wouldn’t run a marathon without training months to get there, and it’s truly the same with acting. You need to be in acting class as your foundation and build from there. You can’t just take camera and audition classes. You’ve got to watch lots of movies and television so that you can study the work. Read, research, go to the gym. Most importantly, you must live a rich life so you can have something to draw from in your acting. My client didn’t get the job, but the producer and director fell in love with him and wrote him a recurring role in the series. They continue to work together to this day. Now that’s what I call preparation!

Make sure to check out my 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.)

Like this story? Help to spread the word. Click to tweet.
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