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Is Your Agent One Of The Good Guys?

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By Marci Liroff

My relationships with agents and managers are essential to my business.

Since I’ve been casting for several years, some of these relationships go back over 35 years, to the days before cellphones, fax machines, and (gasp!) email. Back then, agents would stop by my office to sit in the lobby, read the scripts, and submit clients by going through their book of photos. Hard to imagine, isn’t it?

Nowadays, communication is lightning-fast and a lot can be lost in translation when we take the “face-to-face” out of the equation. As an actor you need to make sure that your agent is representing you with integrity and precision. From my years-long relationship with an agent or manager, I learn whether I can trust them to have good taste and honesty when I’m negotiating a deal or checking a client’s quote (what they earned). If an agent lies to me about an actor’s salary I know I can’t trust them—at all.

When an agent or manager tries to go around me and deal directly with my director or producer, I realize they don’t respect me or the process. The other day an agent said that his client needed to read with the director, not me. I pointed out that I’ve worked with this director for the last 12 years and no one goes straight to him unless I know their work intimately or I’ve read them before. I explained that the casting director isn’t a hurdle to be jumped over, but a relationship to foster. That actor got to come in and work with me beforehand and get the bonus of all the inside information I had before she read for the director.

When I release a Breakdown or put out the word to the agency and management community (through Backstage, for instance) that I’m casting a project, the submissions start to flow. Actually, it’s more like a barrage. Many times agents use photos that are 10 years old and black-and-white (which we don’t use anymore), or résumés that aren’t updated. Or they’ll call or email with a client suggestion and not include a link to their demo along with a photo and résumé. Lazy? Careless? Overworked? I’m not sure—but it’s not effective in the least.

You’ve got to “police” your agent (and his or her assistant) to make sure your most up-to-date information is being sent.

When we go through the Breakdown we view it in the order it’s submitted. Many other casting offices will view it by agency—viewing the “biggies” first. I don’t play favorites by representation. I make my choices of who I want to see by the photo, résumé, training, and video clips, not by my favorite agents. That said, if an agent with whom I have a longtime relationship calls me and says, “You’ve got to meet this kid!” I do it because I trust them.

Some agents submit what we call a “laundry list” of their clients. I hate this. Instead of actually reading the screenplay, they just read the Breakdown character description (the equivalent of not reading the book in college and only reading the Cliff’s Notes). Because they haven’t read the script they don’t understand the tone of the project and their submissions are usually off. Instead of suggesting a small handful of handpicked clients, they send all their clients in that age range. I truly appreciate the agents who go the extra mile (which, frankly, shouldn’t be extra) and read the script and send me well–thought-out choices.

After over 35 years as a casting director there are only a couple of agents and managers I won’t deal with. This is due to their lack of integrity and professionalism. That said, if there’s an actor I need to see, I don’t hold it against them that they’re represented by these asshats. I find a way to get them in anyway.

When signing with a potential representative, you need to do the groundwork to check their reputation within the industry. Ask around and make sure you’re with one of the good guys.

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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10 Audition Tips You Need To Know Right Now

By Marci Liroffth

Last week I started casting a new feature film. It’s so thrilling to get to know new actors during auditions and put together the talent for the film!

I was largely impressed by everyone’s preparation. One scene has a three-page monologue, and about 90 percent of the actors were off-book. You could tell they’d put a lot of work into it—not just by learning the lines but by making bold and exciting choices for the character.

This stage always reminds me that there are still things that actors can learn when going through the audition process.

When we instruct you to bring your headshot and résumé to the audition, we actually mean it. It’s not just a suggestion. This is your calling card. You should bring it whether you’ve been instructed or not, just to be safe. I really don’t want to hear, “Oh, my agent-manager said they’d sent it over,” or “I haven’t done that for years.”

Unless you’re Angelina Jolie or Will Smith, you need to bring your pic and résumé to your audition!

When I talk to you before your audition and get to know you, I want your résumé right in front of me so that I can see not only your film and TV credits, but your training and theater credits—neither of which are available on IMDb.

This seems like a no-brainer, but since 9/11 you need to bring your photo ID when you come on a studio lot. I’m amazed at how many people show up without their ID and can’t get on the lot.

The “h” is silent in “nihilism.” If there’s a word in your script you don’t know the meaning of or don’t know how to pronounce, look it up beforehand.

When I have pre-reads (when you work with me before going on to the next step with the director or filmmaking team), I want to get to know you so we’ll chat for a few minutes beforehand. I want to see your personality. I want to see a part of you I won’t be seeing in the audition or haven’t seen yet in your work. For this movie I’m looking for people with that extra “special sauce” – so help me get to know you. When I ask what you thought of the script, have something intelligent to say so that I can see how your brain works, I can hear you talk and see how articulate you are. No one wants to hear, “I thought it was cute” about their project.

Don’t use the director or producers who are in the room as the characters in the scene and look directly at them. It makes them wildly uncomfortable. They want to watch you, not be part of the scene. Just look directly over their heads or use the cameraperson and the reader to direct your looks.

When you are referencing a third person in the scene (other than your reader), don’t direct your looks way off-camera. Just adjust your eye-line to the other side of the camera.

Remember not to slap your sides on your thigh or crinkle them, which can make a lot of unnecessary and annoying noise.

I was very impressed by how the actors dressed for the part to show us how they’re thinking about the character. Wear something that’s indicative of the character—but not a costume. Check out my blog “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ ” for more on how to dress for an audition.

If you come to the studio lot you may have to park 10 or 15 minutes away from the audition, so make sure you come early (as we suggest in our appointment request). And the ladies should make sure to bring a pair of flat shoes.

Before you come in you should know whether you’re going to sit or stand for your audition. When I ask whether you’d like to sit or stand, it shouldn’t take you a few minutes to decide!

Most of these may seem obvious, but you’d be very surprised by how many people make these mistakes. I’m here to help!

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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How To Make Friends With Directors

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By Marci Liroff

If there’s one thing you should know about me after reading my columns, it’s that I’m a big fan of preparation. When my casting director colleagues are asked, “What is your biggest pet peeve?” they seem to always answer, “Lack of preparation.” Preparation doesn’t always take the form of being off-book and having made distinct character choices. There are so many things you can be doing throughout the year to make yourself a better and more well-rounded actor.

In my article “How to Prep for the Fall TV Season,” I encouraged you to see at least one or two episodes of every new show (and existing shows) that is out there so that you can spend 100 percent of your time before your audition preparing for the scenes you’ve been given, rather than having to catch up on viewing the shows.

Another crucial thing to becoming an actor with range is to watch old movies.

I’d like you to become a walking film library. 

You may come across a director in an audition situation or on a set who, rather than being able to articulate what she is looking for, will give you an example of a character in a classic (or not-so-classic) film. Since you’re a student of cinema, you will know exactly to what she’s referring.

I’ve worked with several directors who are very visually creative and are driven by their “right brain” and can’t actually tell you what they need from you. Many of them resort to using film references. If a director told you that he needs the enthusiasm and guilelessness of Warren Beatty in “Heaven Can Wait,” would you know what he means? When a director and DP talk about the opening tracking shot from “Goodfellas,” will you know what they mean and how to sustain your performance throughout?

I’ve witnessed actors in meetings with directors (and at my dinner parties) who have simply wowed a director with their endless knowledge of film history. A vast knowledge of actors’ performances along with classic shots shows a filmmaker that you have been paying attention and aren’t just interested in yourself, but are drawing from the past to make inspired choices. When actor Dennis Christopher met with director Quentin Tarantino for “Django Unchained,” they talked about film for hours.

I’ve prepared lists of my favorite films from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s that I believe are films you simply must see (check out the Resources page on my site. Scroll down toward the bottom – AMAZING list of resources here btw). Films such as “The Birds,” “Bonnie and Clyde,” and “Lolita” in the ’60s. “Harold and Maude,” “The Last Picture Show,” and “Midnight Cowboy” in the ’70s. Check out “Blood Simple,” “Silkwood,” and “Blade Runner” from the ’80s. These are but a few of my favorites. Study them. Track your favorite actor and see where they began and where they are now. Look at Leonardo DiCaprio in his first movies, like “This Boy’s Life” and “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.” Then watch what he does in “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

See you in the movies!

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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