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Hollywood Has Become The Wild, Wild West

01072016_Nick_Bertozzi_NCD.jpg.644x650_q100Illustration By : Nick Bertozzi

By Marci Liroff

If you’re in L.A. and haven’t RSVPd to my April Audition Bootcamp, take a moment and check it out. Only a few seats left!

As a casting director, producer, and acting coach, I read, on average, about 20 scripts a week. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that indie filmmaking has become the wild, Wild West. People who have no experience decide they’re going to make a movie, wave a wand over their heads, and call themselves a writer, producer, or director. Make sure you know who you’re jumping in bed with before you start the project.

Recently, I was sent a script from a newbie producer to see if I could help him attach talent. The script was mediocre, extremely predictable, and filled with tired dialogue. Worse yet, it was absolutely riddled with typos, incomplete sentences, bad grammar, and giant leaps of logic.

Rather than answer with my usual, “Sorry, it’s not my cup of tea. Best of luck to you,” I took the time to send him my detailed notes. He answered with a very curt, “Thanks for your feedback.”

Today I mistakenly received an email from him that was actually meant for the writer: “We will not be using this casting director, she was pretty arrogant with her comments. Sorry. But she brought up several errors we should clear up because she’s right and I didn’t even notice them before.”

I’m all for creating your own content. It’s a great way to get your work out into the marketplace and not wait to be asked to the party.

That said, just because you have a camera (or a laptop) doesn’t mean you should use it. Just because you have an idea doesn’t mean it’s fully formed and ready to go out into the world.

If you’re going to create your own product, make sure to surround yourself with the most creatively talented, like-minded people you can find.

I can’t imagine any other business where you’d send out your product in such a half-assed manner. When I read a script that has several typos on the first page, it gives me great pause. Didn’t anyone proofread this first? If I get to Page 30 and nothing has happened to set up or move the story forward, I stop reading. If you’re this careless in presenting your project, how can I be partners with you?

You need to vet the people with whom you’re working. I had a writer call me the other day to cast his film, and a simple Google search found that the producer was being sued by the financiers for lying about an actor being attached and forging contracts. I called the actor’s manager, a good friend, who confirmed that her client had never been involved in the production and the team had to send a cease and desist letter to get them to stop using the actor’s name in reference to their project. They had shot the film for several weeks and production was halted because the producer hadn’t paid the crew, vendors, or locations for two weeks. And they wanted me to hop on to this moving train wreck?

Another producer hired me to cast her small, self-financed indie film. After things started moving too fast for her (because of a looming start date that she had approved), she got cold feet and pulled the plug and decided not to pay anyone on the crew. (I later recouped for my time worked.)

Moral of the story? Ask a lot of questions. Unless the filmmakers are a known quantity with a history of professionalism, protect yourself and check out the people with whom you’re going to be working—and do a thorough search.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you experienced this?

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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.)

The Moment Before and The Moment After

The Moment before and the moment after

By Marci Liroff

Any good actor knows he needs to prepare the “moment before” any scene. Often forgotten is the “moment after.”

When I’m holding auditions for my projects, I see so many actors who have done their research on the project, made character choices, and are off-book. Yet when the scene starts, I see them turn on their “acting switch” and start acting, rather than just leaning back into the character and the scene at hand.

You have to know what happened leading into the scene you’re reading (whether it’s an audition or on set). Many times, you’ve only received a set of sides, no script, and a minimal character description with no way of knowing what just happened. Guess what? You have to make it up and flesh it out. Find clues within the material and come up with your own “moment before” so that you have an organic place from which to come.

The action and emotional moments don’t just come with your first line. They come from the second the scene starts, even before the camera is rolling. There are golden moments before the first line is delivered.

I always ask my cameraperson to shoot plenty of “heads and tails” to catch this magic. “Heads” (what we get on tape) refers to the specific choices that a smart actor does to set the scene before the first line. “Tails” is the amazing emotion we see at the end of the scene when most people are so into the role that they unconsciously show us something about the character we didn’t even know. Remember not to stop the scene and turn off when the scene ends. Stay in the moment and continue your emotions until you hear “cut” or the creative team comments on your performance.

I coach my clients to create a short sentence of a main objective to trigger their emotions going into a scene. Keep the stakes high for your objectives and the scene will have a deeper emotional life; “I have to get this information from her or I’ll lose her/I’ll die/she will leave me.” Along with this, you can create a visual “flash memory” of photos of what led up to this event. You have to be able to smell it and feel it as well.

The moment before isn’t what just happened. It’s what your character did that morning. Did you have a rough night sleeping? Did your car crap out on you on the way to meeting your boss in the scene? All of these things can play into your moment before and give you a richer performance.

If you’re auditioning for a very emotionally raw or intense role, protect your audition. You’ve probably spent the last 20 minutes or so in the waiting room amping up and zoning into your character. Then you come into the room and the director wants to chitchat with you or the introductions might distract you. A good casting director will instruct her team to start the scene and save the conversation for later. You can be proactive and politely say, “Let’s jump into the scene and I’d love to talk after.”

That said, if you have one or two lines such as “Here’s your coffee, sir,” you don’t want to do anything other than walk up and deliver the coffee. Adding too much “business” at the top (or end of a scene) is distracting and calls attention to what should be a simple action of moving the plot forward.

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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.)

The Totally Uncensored List of Casting Director Pet Peeves

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The Totally Uncensored Casting Director

By Marci Liroff

It’s that time of year again. During the summer break my casting director colleagues get together and celebrate the end of pilot season before episodic casting starts up again. Inevitably, we get to talking about our pet peeves in the audition room. Amid the cocktails, we regale each other with hilarious tales mixed with some scary ones.

In the interest of education, I’d like to share them with you so that you’re not “that guy” who’s making a bad name for himself in offices throughout the town.

Don’t wear perfume or cologne. Year after year this seems to be the #1 peeve from my colleagues. Please remember that we have to sit in an often small and cramped room without ventilation for hours on end. When you come in wearing your girlfriend/boyfriend’s favorite scent we have to live with it for the next several hours. Some of us are highly sensitive and allergic to perfume and get migraines and nausea. Think of the casting office like you would a doctor’s office. Don’t do it!

No weapons, not even fake ones. I’ve had actors pull fake guns and knives on me – it was very traumatic. If a scene asks you to pull a knife out of your jacket … please don’t do that in an audition. Especially if you don’t tell the CD before hand. This could lead to furniture being toppled and a big producer putting you in a choke hold.”

This one is very simple. Wear underpants.

This seems so basic I hesitate to even share it, but, make sure your picture and resume are stapled together before you arrive at the casting office. Don’t ask to borrow my stapler or my assistant’s stapler. Make sure your contact info and agent/mgr. is written on the photos and your resume in case they get separated – which happens all the time. When I ask you for your picture, don’t hand me three different choices and ask me to pick which one – make a choice beforehand.

Excuses. Leave them home. Actors that preface their audition with an excuse, “I was tired, sick – all it says to me is, “get ready, I am going to be really bad today.”

Coming in with a bad attitude. Never underestimate the effect being pleasant has on everyone.

Don’t prop yourself up with props. Don’t use a prop in a scene unless you are totally comfortable with it. I’ve seen props totally befuddle some people. A phone is fine. Just don’t set up a one-person show – unless you’re Carrot Top.

If it’s a driving scene, you don’t have to pretend to actually “drive” the car.

For The Men: I’m not going to have sex with you so don’t even TRY to seduce me into thinking you are a better actor than you are. Charm is good. Wit. Personality. But flirting in a creepy way is…well.. creepy.

Be nice and courteous to everyone. You never know: that receptionist could end-up being a director or producer some day. And the interns definitely “rat-you-out” when you leave. The guy who used to clean my toilets was nominated for an Oscar ten years later.

Don’t slap your sides on your thighs. It’s an unnecessary distraction.

Because producers and directors are rarely in the room anymore, actors feel like they can take their time and work out the material with us as if we’re their coach. As if they don’t have to impress us because we’re not the director or the producers. So they want to stop and start over and over again until they get a take they like. It’s us that you have to impress because we decide if we’re even going to send along your audition. I hear things like “let’s just play” or “let’s just try it a few different ways”.

We’re not your roommate or your acting teachers or coaches. How you are in the room is my only assumption of how you will be on set. So if you start and stop or swear or break down, I have to assume that’s how you will be on set.

Don’t eat during the scene. I auditioned a Julliard grad for a scene taking place during the Vietnam war and he insisted he couldn’t do the scene without also eating an apple. “That’s how I practiced it.” “But you’re under enemy fire.” “But I need the apple.”

When they don’t do the easy homework. The question, “So what exactly is this?” drives me bonkers. Just taking the time to go through all the information on the breakdown, not just their character description, but the names of the producers, the casting team, which studio/network the project is for, googling/youtubing clips helps inform their choices and gives them confidence to just focus on the character and be in the moment. I try to remind actors that if they treat their audition prep like a regular job interview, and go through all of the information that’s provided to them, it’s going to free them up to simply act.

Take a shower first.

If you just got the sides and won’t be ready to audition, then what happens when you get the job and they give you new pages the morning of the shoot?! You’re telling us that you can’t actually do the job even if you get it!

Don’t look around the audition room and ask if anyone else is going to be coming in. If they were, they’d already be here.

Assume that if you’re there it’s for a reason.

Don’t start commenting on how you don’t match the description or people in the waiting room don’t look like you, or ask if everyone is there for the same role. Just focus on the task at hand – which is your audition, right now.

Asking the CD permission to do something during the reading – instead of just making the choice and letting it be fresh and exciting to our eyes.

If your agent sends you an audition for a role with specific needs and you know you are not qualified (i.e. authentic native language, dancing or singing ability) please cancel.

It’s your job to know your conflicts. Do not audition if you know you have a date conflict. Work in partnership with your agent & casting.

If you have a time conflict: it’s one thing to call ahead, find out the time perimeters and ask if you can come earlier/later, that’s fine. But don’t just show up hours early (or late), expecting us to drop what we’re doing in order to audition you.

We have a small office and when you pace outside the door and rehearse your scene LOUDLY, EVERYONE inside that office – including the actor auditioning and the producers/director sitting watching that audition – can HEAR YOU. And it’s RUDE. And please don’t all have GabFest 2015 right outside the door either with your fellow actors.

If you have somewhere to be and we’re running a little behind, don’t just leave. Let us know and we’ll squeeze you in. And please, for the love of god, do not slap the casting director reading with you! Or try to kiss them. Or give them a lap dance. You know what? Just don’t touch the casting director.

If I give you an adjustment, please don’t explain to me why you made the initial choice for the character. I didn’t say that you sucked, I didn’t say you were wrong – You don’t have to justify your choices. Sometimes I’m giving you a note because I know what they are specifically looking for and I want to help you get the job. Sometimes I’m doing it because I want to see if you can take direction.

Please please don’t show up with ANY illness, fevers, coughing, rashes…puking in the trash cans! Yep it happens. Keep your germs at home. If you get can’t get rescheduled then ask to self- tape or you may just have to miss it. Some of us are immune suppressed, pregnant and have kids – or just want to stay healthy(not a big request) NO AUDITION is worth us getting sick over.!

Believe it or not, all of these stories are true (as shared by my casting colleagues). I’ll bet that the actors reading this have equally unprofessional stories to tell about the producer who was on the phone the entire time they auditioned. Or, the casting director who never once looked up from her computer to connect during their audition. (tell me your stories of how YOU were treated unprofessionally, and I’ll do a blog on that!)

Thankfully, these stories are the exception and I’m continually amazed and impressed by the talented actors who come through my door.

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.

Like this article? Help spread the word!

(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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