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Google Is Your Friend

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By Marci Liroff

When my casting director colleagues are asked, “What is the one thing you tell actors to do before their audition?” they unanimously reply, “Preparation!” I often write about preparation, as it is key to a good audition or an upcoming job, whether it be in acting or another field. In my article “How To Prepare BEFORE The Job” I talked about what you should bring up with your representation (and yourself) before committing to a gig.

Preparation comes in many forms. You’ve learned your lines and are off-book. You’ve made distinct and unique character choices. In addition, you’ve researched the filmmakers, so you know their credits and expectations based on their previous work.

I continue to be shocked by how many actors come in either for a coaching session or an audition and spout lines about a subject they don’t know anything about. Worse, they are reciting words and they don’t know the meanings.

As an actor, you are asked to interpret the material. If your character is meant to talk about a topic that you know nothing about, I expect you to look it up and do the proper research. I want you to know it inside and out. On the rare occasion that the director might ask you to riff or do some improvisation, wouldn’t it be great if you’ve already done extensive research on this topic and you’ll easily be able to talk about it as your character? Those who don’t are caught with the “deer in headlights” look plastered across their faces.

Likewise, I’ve had several instances when I’m auditioning an actor and they don’t know the meaning of the words they are saying, nor how to pronounce them. When you mispronounce a word or don’t know the meaning or intention of what you’re saying, it lacks conviction. It takes me out of the scene and I stop believing you. As much as casting directors say that we want you to get the job, you lose us when you don’t do the simplest bit of homework. Correct pronunciation is the most basic part of your preparation, and it never ceases to amaze me when an actor doesn’t take this essential step.

Imagine you are a doctor who is performing surgery tomorrow. I will bet that you’d do research and reread the latest literature on the procedure. This is your job, folks; this is what you have chosen to do for a living. If you try to take shortcuts then that is the career you’re going to have. I can guarantee it.

What about you? What steps do you take to prepare? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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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ARE YOU FRYING YOUR JOB PROSPECTS?

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By Marci Liroff

There’s an epidemic going on and I had no idea it actually had a name. The culprit is “vocal fry.” Not only is it annoying but it’s ruining your chances of getting hired—not just as an actor, but for any job.

Vocal fry is the result of pushing the end of words and sentences into the lowest register, where the vocal folds in the throat vibrate irregularly and allow air to slip through. The result is a low, sizzling rattle underneath. (Kim Kardashian is the queen of vocal fry, but now that I’ve pointed it out you’ll probably hear it everywhere.) For a great example, look up actor and national public radio host Faith Salie’s vocal fry video on YouTube.

Sociologists say women and girls pick up this bizarre vocal pattern because it makes them feel like part of a macroculture.

Recent studies have documented its growing popularity among educated and successful young women in the United States, but this learned behavior might be frying their job prospects. According to researcher Ikuko Yuasa, vocal fry may be the result of young women striving to reach the male register by imbuing their speech with gravitas.

Not only is it irritating to listen to, but you may be permanently ruining your vocal chords. As an actor, your voice is gold and it must be protected at all costs. YouTube star Abby Normal reports in her video: “This sort of vocalization can cause more harm to your throat because your vocal chords aren’t smoothly rubbing together; they’re more clapping…it’s like whispering. Instead of a nice, even flow, you’re creating more friction on your vocal chords.”

And there’s another vocalization that, while not harmful to your voice, is harmful to how people perceive you: “Uptalking,” also picked up from friends, is a way of ending your sentences with a vocal inflection that turns up at the end like a question. I tell my coaching clients and those who are auditioning for me that uptalk results in the listener not taking them or their content seriously. I vocally show them through mimicry the importance of ending their sentences definitively, rather than sounding as if they want to communicate a point without being too decisive or potentially ruffling feathers. Uptalk is very passive-aggressive and it isn’t helping anyone in an audition, a business setting, or a personal setting, for that matter.

This passive-aggressive tone is said to have origins in California “Valley Girl” culture, but D.C.-based vocal coach and speech pathologist Susan Miller says the uncertain, youthful tone has moved across states and genders—despite the assumption that women are the prime culprits. “I would say that the majority of employers come to me because people sound young,” says the coach, who trains employees to sound more professional. “And it’s the uptalk, the uncertainty, more than fry.

“Voice is important to show authority, to show that you’re confident and you know your subject matter,” Miller adds. “It can be the deciding factor between getting a call for a second interview or being passed over for someone else.”

Linguist Robin Lakoff drew attention to the pattern in her book Language and Women’s Place, which argued that women were socialized to talk in ways that lacked power, authority, and confidence. Rising intonation on declarative sentences was one of the features Lakoff included in her description of ‘women’s language,’ a gendered speech style which in her view both reflected and reproduced its users’ subordinate social status.

Take a moment and listen to your vocal patterns by recording yourself having a casual conversation with a friend. Are you guilty? If so, stop it! Ask your friends, coach, or acting teacher to call you on it so you can be stronger in your auditions.

Do you know people who do this? If so, send them this article and help them become more conscious of these vocalization patterns.

Make sure to check out my new online course “How To Audition For Film and Television: Audition Bootcamp”.

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Tweet this: Are you guilty of these 2 annoying voice patterns? “Are You Frying Your Job Prospects?” http://bit.ly/1oqxxfR via @marciliroff
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Is Your Acting Teacher Making You Sick? – Part 3

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By Marci Liroff

In my May 29 and June 12 columns, I spoke to some acting teachers and coaches about some of the horror stories I’ve been hearing from actors about their classes. But what happens to these actors when they finally come to the realization that those classes are hurting them? How would other teachers describe these walking wounded?

Acting coach Jeffrey Marcus responded, “For me, the walking wounded are the people who come to me depleted of all their self-esteem and confidence from, sometimes, a word said or a hope or dream dashed by their last teacher. Actors are sensitive. When they put their trust in a teacher, pay them their hard-earned dollars, pour their heart and soul into the work, and then get trashed because the teacher taught a famous actor who became a star…they must know.”

“There is a teacher in town…and I can always tell from the dead look in their ex-students’ eyes where they just studied when they come to me.”
Jeffrey Marcus

With so much bad behavior running rampant among teachers, what kinds of relationships are healthy? Marcus gave a thoughtful reply, saying, “It is my job to be of service. I am there to challenge, support, encourage, enlighten, and expand limitations. I am there to send them out with more joy and confidence with which to face the travails of the industry. Hollywood is tough. Class should be a safe haven from which to drink from the well and get replenished for the week ahead.”

“Acting can be a brutally difficult craft,” actor and licensed marriage and family therapist Julie Carmen told me. “Coddling students can set them up for a crash when the business rejects them, but abusing, humiliating, ridiculing, and insulting an acting student is totally unethical, dangerous, and counterproductive. Ideally, actors grow when they join companies, attend class daily, and do their inner work to discover the range of their personal palette. The most valuable trait is courage. Nurturing, attunement, and secure relationships breed courage.”

As for his part, actor and teacher Jack Plotnick thinks teachers and therapists aren’t that different. “I believe that an acting teacher should have the same relationship that therapists have with their clients,” he says. “I try to create a safe space where they never feel judged. I make sure that no one but me comments on their performance. I am always sharing with them that it doesn’t matter what I think about their performance. What matters is what they think. Acting runs on ‘empathy,’ which means that an audience can only experience what you experience. That’s why I tell actors they must be selfish and only interested in their own experience in the scene. Because any part of them that is trying to impress the teacher or deliver a good product is a part of them that is not having a rich emotional experience, thereby giving the audience a rich emotional experience.”

What about you? Have you ever experienced what you’d call inappropriate or cult leader behavior from your acting teacher? Why did you stay in the class?

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.

Want to share this post? Here are ready made tweets!
Click to Tweet: Is Your Acting Teacher Making You Sick? Part 3 from @marciliroff bit.ly/1uKsrOX
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