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How to Navigate Zoom

By Marci Liroff

Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon

Since many of us are pivoting to online teaching, coaching, and casting meetings, learning video etiquette is essential these days. I’ve got some tips on how to best prepare for a Zoom call. In order to have a smooth experience, I highly recommend working on these technical details ahead of time. You can use a friend or family member to test them out!

I recommend logging on about five minutes before the beginning of the meeting to ensure all your technical details are in working order. Close out unneeded applications on your computer to keep the video chat running smoothly; clear out the barking dog, screaming kids, and naked husband; set up your laptop at eye level; and adjust your camera so we can see you—but not too close. We don’t need to see your nose hairs or that your roots have grown out!

Concerning your eye line, this is one of the few times as an actor that you should look into the camera. It will be more personable for those that you’re speaking with. Just as with a good self-tape, make sure you’re not backlit. Natural light is fine, as long as you’re facing the light. Otherwise, there are many lighting devices available for purchase online.

If you’re the host, make sure you introduce everyone if you all don’t know each other. Proper business etiquette should still be adhered to. Do a quick summary of housekeeping rules for the chat; you can request that participants mute their mics when they’re not speaking, or do it yourself! The meeting’s host has the power to run the show. To better dictate a speaking order, use the chat box feature to talk to others and physically raise your hand to speak or use the raised hand icon.

However, you should know that your privacy in the chat room isn’t always protected; a host who records the session may be able to see your private chats, depending on their settings.

A pinned video allows you to disable the active speaker view and only view a specific speaker.  It will also only record the pinned video if you are recording locally. Pinning another participant’s video will only affect your local view and local recordings, not the view of other participants, and it will not affect cloud recordings.

When you’re on the call, treat it like a meeting! Dressing professionally will make you feel more professional. But if you decide to be business from the waist up and party from the waist down, be sure you know exactly how low your webcam is pointed if you know what I mean. Many reporters have been caught wearing only their boxers during Zoom interviews!

As far as other distractions: Keep them minimal! Avoid noise pollution from overhead fans, window air conditioners, and more. And take a beat to listen yourself. Talking over each other in this medium just causes confusion. Don’t multitask, either; the temptation is huge, but your focus should be on the call. And mind the clock. Stay on task and don’t waste others’ time. Zoom fatigue is real for those working from home with a schedule full of meetings.

With that last point in mind, only invite those people who are essential to the call. If you can loop someone in with an email with bullet points rather than have them sit in, you probably don’t need them there. Fewer participants make for a smoother meeting.

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.

What a Casting Director Says in an Audition vs. What They Mean

By Marci Liroff

Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon

Do casting directors speak in code? Have you been kept up at night trying to decipher what they mean when they say something innocuous like “Thanks for coming in”? I’ve been trained to be both honest and inspiring at the same time, and I want to help you in your craft, not rain on your parade. With that in mind, here are a few of the responses you may hear in the audition room, and what I actually mean when I say them.

“Thank you very much.” Means just that: Thank you for coming. I’m not sure if I’m calling you back.

“That was good.” Again, just that. I don’t mince words, so if I say your audition was good, I mean it! For other CDs out there, they may not know what to say and they’ll just resort to this one, too.

“Interesting take.” This can mean one of two things: It was interesting, or I’m being kind. “Interesting” could mean it was actually in the wrong direction from what the role is calling for, and I’m getting the impression you don’t have a good grasp on who the character is.

“Good adjustment.” If I like what you’re doing, I’ll give you direction or some adjustments. I want to see if you can take direction, or if you’re locked into the performance you’ve planned. Sometimes, I’ll give you the wrong direction just to see what you’ll do with it. Directors will also do this to see if you’re listening to them and if they can work with you.

“Thanks for your preparation.” I see a great number of actors each day for meetings and auditions, and it always blows my mind when an actor comes in and isn’t prepared and full of excuses as to why he’s not ready to be in front of me. When an actor comes in off-book with strong choices for the character, I like to thank them for how thoroughly they prepared. I know it seems odd to thank someone for what should be a given, but I like to give praise and encouragement whenever possible.

“Let’s try it again like this.” You’ve probably heard “Make strong choices.” What this means is that you have to bring something to the audition, not just recite the lines.

If you make strong choices for the character but they’re going off in the wrong direction from what we’re looking for, I’ll work with you to get it right because I can see you’re a smart actor and I want to help refine your performance.

“Thanks for your audition, but you’re not right for this.” If I like your work but you’re clearly not right for the role (you don’t look like the family I’ve already put together, or you don’t match with the woman I have cast opposite you), I want to praise you for your work and let you know, from the horse’s mouth, that you’re not going any further in this process. It’s not because you did something wrong, but because you’re just not right for the role. That said, remember that casting directors have amazing memories and take copious notes when casting a project—we will bring you back for the next project if we see a good fit! 

“I’m going to call you back to read for my producers and director.” This means I like what you did in our preread and you’re ready to go on to the next step. You may have brought in the performance we want and I want you to come back and do the same thing, exactly. Or we worked together to bring your performance to what I know the team is looking for. It’s at this point that many actors make a mistake. They get coached between the two auditions and completely change the performance. I’m not saying don’t get coached; I think you should always get coached for your auditions! Just make sure to clue your coach into the notes that the casting director gave you in the audition so that you can replicate it for the callback.

“Don’t quit your day job.” For the record, I would never, ever say this. Anyone who does is a dream killer and shouldn’t be working in casting.

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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