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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.)

Take That Crap Off Of Your Demo Reel

TAKE THAT CRAP OFF OF YOUR DEMO REEL!

By Marci Liroff

Did that headline get your attention? I hope so. As a casting director, producer, and acting coach, I spend a good portion of my day viewing demo reels. Despite the recent changes in how a demo reel is produced, we still need to see a quality piece of film that shows you off at your best.

In the past, your demo reel would be anywhere from five to 10 minutes, depending on how much great footage you could gather together. The length of a demo reel—along with what is suitable for it—has changed over the years, and our brains have been rewired in terms of the speed at which we get an impression of who you are. When I’m sitting with film and television executives, I’m always amazed when they take a nanosecond to look at your audition (or demo reel) and say, “That’s our guy!”

A few years ago, it was inappropriate to put anything on your reel that wasn’t professionally produced. By that I mean the footage was always from a network television show, a studio film, or an indie. With the advent of inexpensive video cameras, the Internet, and Web series, all that has changed. So much of what I’m seeing now is either footage that you and your friends shot and cobbled together for an “indie project” or literally self-taped auditions edited together. There are also plenty of production houses staging “scenes” in their studios that you can use for your demo reel. Unfortunately, the quality of these productions is not very good. The writing, lighting, acting, and directing are subpar. I’d rather see nothing than see a bad demo reel. That bad impression will take a while to rectify.

There are many different opinions on this topic, but I like to see broadcast quality in picture and sound. Homemade videos look like homemade videos. They look like a scene out of all those Mickey Rooney–Judy Garland “let’s put on a show” movies. I know I’m generalizing here, and of course there are exceptions, but what this footage doesn’t show me (and what is crucial for me to see) is that a studio, a network, or a group of filmmakers has hired you. Along with your great acting, I can see that you have a record of being cast in legitimate projects by other professionals in this business—not just a scene or two that you’ve paid someone to put together for you.

Make sure to front-load your reel with your absolute best work. (And don’t start it with a photo montage set to music; that style went out in the ’90s.) As I mentioned before, most of the people viewing your demo reel have the attention span of a gnat and if you don’t grab them immediately they will click away.

Make sure your scenes feature you, not the other people in the scene. Just being in a scene doesn’t mean it’s worthwhile to show.

I shouldn’t have trouble identifying which character you are in a group of actors. You and your editor have to be merciless in editing your reel.

Monologues tell me nothing except that you can memorize a large piece of material and are probably better for theater auditions. We need to see you interacting with your partner. We need to see you listening. For me, this is the most important part.

In lieu of including everything, you can also post short individual clips of your scenes on various shows. Categorize them under “drama” and “comedy” so that we can view exactly what we need. They are, hopefully, short and concise and feature the best of you.

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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.)

Greatest Movie Performances By Child Actors

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By Marci Liroff

Child actors should study these truly astonishing performances from these actors when they were very young.

There’s so much to learn from these inspiring performances.

I guarantee a good time for you and your entire family!

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A Little Romance– Diane Lane

A Perfect World – T.J. Lowther

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn – Peggy Ann Garner, Ted Donaldson

Annie – all the kids

Beasts of the Southern Wild – Quvenzhané Wallis

Billy Elliot – Jamie Bell

Boys Town – Mickey Rooney

E.T. The Extra Terrestrial – Henry Thomas

Empire of the Sun – Christian Bale

Finding Neverland – Freddie Highmore

Forrest Gump– Michael Connor Jeffries

Harry Potter Series – all the kids!

Home Alone – Macaulay Culkin

I am Sam – Dakota Fanning

Kramer vs. Kramer – Justin Henry

Lord of the Flies (original) – all the kids

Miracle on 34th St. – Natalie Wood

Oliver – Mark Lester, Jack Wild

Paper Moon – Tatum O’Neal

Rabbit Proof Fence – Everlyn Sampi, Tiana Sansbury

Shane – Alan Ladd

Stand By Me – all the kids

The Black Stallion – Kelly Reno

The Champ – Rick Schroder

The Little Princess – Shirley Temple

The Miracle Worker – Patty Duke

The Piano – Anna Friel

The Red Balloon –Pascal Lamorisse

The River Wild – Joseph Mazzello

The Sixth Sense – Haley Joel Osment

The Sound of Music

To Kill A Mocking Bird – Mary Badham

Whale Rider – Keisha Castle-Hughes

What Maisie Knew – Onata Aprile

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape – Leonardo DiCaprio

Where the Wild Things Are – Max Records

Witness – Lukas Haas

Mature Audiences (teens)

Kick Ass  – Chloe Moretz

Little Miss Sunshine – Abigail Breslin,

Taxi Driver – Jodie Foster

The Professional – Natalie Portman

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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Help spread the word! Click to Tweet!

(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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