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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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THE UNIVERSE IS LISTENING

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By Marci Liroff

One of my Skype coaching clients in the North Carolina market raised a very good question the other day: “Is taking all work offered necessarily a good thing?”

She wrote, “I’m wondering your opinion on this. About two years ago, I decided that I wanted to work on quality projects and not just collect credits. Many regional actors have the mentality that more is better and thrive on the attention they get from posting about their projects on social media. I know some just want to work. But I feel we won’t raise the bar if we take these poor-quality, poorly written unprofessional jobs. I get outstanding film and TV auditions weekly. You helped me with two of them.

“Am I making a mistake by saying no to the opportunities that I feel I’ve moved on from? I am a professional actor and I feel these projects would detract from the quality work I have done and I’m capable of. Some of my friends, who are very talented, seem to think ‘work is work’ and ‘work begets work.’ I understand that, but is it at the cost of not getting the really professional projects?”

This is such a timely discussion. Yes, I do believe work begets work on several levels. It gets you out there and seen within the community in which you want to continue working. There are networking opportunities. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run into a producer or director with whom I haven’t worked in a while when I’m working on a studio lot, and it results in a job offer. Sometimes you literally have to be standing in front of them to remind them that you exist! I also strongly believe in the momentum and energy created in the universe when you are actually doing the work, not just talking about the work.

The universe listens and often rewards you.

That said, I think you have to go with your gut on this one in terms of whether you think a project is of poor quality all around. Being seen in that light can actually be harmful and doesn’t necessarily bring you anything good. When I see a film, short, Web series, or what is obviously a self-produced project, and it’s poorly conceived and unprofessionally completed, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth for everyone concerned with the project.

Don’t forget that this kind of work also has the potential to harm your psyche and your spirit creatively.

If you’re going into auditions and projects with a chip on your shoulder about the quality of the project, it affects your performance.

You have to look at the whole picture and glean whether you’ll be learning something, either from associating with like-minded and uber-talented people or from playing a character you normally wouldn’t have the chance to.

There really isn’t one solid answer or rule of thumb here. There are so many things to consider in your choice. Yes, it’s your choice, and don’t forget that.

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. 

Glad you’re here! 

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How To Prepare BEFORE The Job

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By Marci Liroff

A couple of months ago, I was coaching a client for a project. I always like to get all the details of the project (who’s involved, which network, studio, etc.) whenever I work with someone so that I can guide them in terms of tone. She had already booked the job and was about to shoot the next day. I asked her to fill me in on these details, but she didn’t really know anything about the project. It was for a producer friend, but she had no idea whether it was for television, Web, or what—she thought it was possibly a Web series with potentially three networks involved. She had no idea if it was union or nonunion. It was all very confusing.

Most important, there was no contract or deal set in place. She knew the work would be unpaid but had no guarantee of any kind. If you’re going to do a friend a favor, at the very least make sure you get screen credit and a copy of your footage. More troubling was that she had an agent and a manager who didn’t question this. It wasn’t as if she was going out for the weekend to shoot a project with her friends—this was a Hollywood producer who has a body of work, and nobody asked any questions. I advised her to have her reps talk to the producer beforehand and get a contract.

For our work session she wasn’t off-book yet, but through repetition she began to have more of a grasp of the material. She confessed that deep down she wasn’t comfortable with the lines and felt they weren’t very well-written—which they weren’t!

I suggested that she’s (hopefully!) going to have a long career working with great material that will just flow out of her mouth, along with times when she’ll have less-than-great material.

If you’re going to be an actor you have to leave your judgment at the door—your judgment of the material and the character.

You have to find a way in, a “hook,” if you will, to your character so that you can empathize with him or her. Look at how fascinating Sir Anthony Hopkins was as Hannibal Lecter. It’s not just because the material was so good; it’s because he had compassion for the character.

I asked my client what her objective was in the scene. It was to warn the Queen that her sister was being treated badly, and that this could possibly result in an uprising. I told her to think of her counsel as being “of service” to the Queen. Her role is noble because it serves a huge purpose. Without her, the whole kingdom could fall due to the missing piece of information that she is giving. She was needed and vital to this story.

Suddenly she had purpose. She had a role in this puzzle.

Be sure to ask questions and get all the info you can before you start your project. Learn your lines to the point where you can be comfortable throwing them away and truly connect with the scene’s objective and understand why you are there.

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.

Glad you’re here.

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