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How To Handle A Physical Audition

Illustration by: Nick Bertozi

By Marci Liroff

In case you didn’t get an email announcing my next Audition Bootcamp classes in Los Angeles, here’s the link. I’d love to work with you.

AUDITION BOOTCAMP IN LOS ANGELES

This week I called upon my Twitter followers to ask for questions for my column.

I like to know what the community needs from me in terms of advice. Here are a couple of questions:

“So many times, I get an audition scene that has so much action in it, or it’s intimate and a kiss is called for. I never know how to play it. What should I do?”

Great question. My coaching clients always ask me the same thing. Sometimes it seems like we pick the most impossible scenes for your audition. Believe me, we’re not doing it to trip you up. We need to see what your character will do in all emotional (and physical) situations. We need to see your range.

Obviously, you can’t get in a brawl on the floor with the casting director (although I know some of you would probably like to!). But there are definitely ways to show that you’re slapping or getting slapped—you can react by pulling your head back and grabbing your cheek in shock. Imagine and create the hot sting of blood rushing toward your cheek. If done well, it’s very believable.

My best advice in this situation is not to ask what we want you to do, but rather ask, “How have you been blocking this scene?”

Remember, we’ve been auditioning this scene for the last several days, if not weeks. We know exactly how it should work in the audition setting. When I was casting “Vampire Academy,” we chose a scene where our lead character was having a fight training session. We needed to see her throw some punches, and when the romantic lead threw her to the floor and they were inches from each other’s faces, we cheated it by having her throw herself against the wall and imagine he was on top of her.

Another question I often get is this: “What’s the worst that can happen when we have a ‘bad’ audition? Never called back? Career over?” First of all, no, your career is certainly not over. But you must ask yourself why you had a bad audition. Trace the steps back to understand what sent you off the tracks. Nerves account for a lot of people blowing an audition. Many get nervous because they’re not thoroughly prepared. If you’re not completely off-book, you won’t be able to execute any of the direction you may receive. If you slugged back a double macchiato before your audition, your body might be careening with caffeine.

We can usually tell when you’re just having a bad day or you weren’t sufficiently prepared. If you come in and stink up the room because you weren’t prepared, it will be a while before I call you back for another audition.

The best thing you can do in this situation is learn from it, make the changes you need to, and then move on. If you hold on to that memory when you come into your next audition, it will overwhelm you with the fear that you’re going to make the same mistake. Learn and move on.

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.)

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Your Audition’s Most Important Moment

Illustration by: Nick Bertozzi

By Marci Liroff

Have you ever watched a few thousand auditions? Well, I have! People ask me how long it takes for me to know whether someone is right for the role or not. Because I’ve been a casting director for so long, I answer, “Usually a few seconds.”

Remember, I have a good instinct for this. I’ve been working with actors for almost four decades. Imagine that several of those in the decision-making process haven’t worked with actors for that length of time and they only know what they respond to. Add to that the fact that the internet has rewired our brains to have the attention span of a gnat. The internet is a fast-paced world, and we’ve become used to being stimulated at all times. If our brain isn’t stimulated, there are a million other places to click to receive what we need.

Our brains crave instant gratification. It’s like an addiction.

If you ever watched audition tapes with a filmmaker, network, or studio executive you’d be horrified. All that hard work you’ve put into your audition goes unnoticed, because they look at your audition for a few seconds and decide whether they want to continue viewing it. If you don’t grab their attention immediately at the top of the audition, they’ve clicked away. Simple as that. They’ve moved on to the next guy.

Because I’m in the room with actors throughout their audition, I can see that they warmed up in the second half of the scene. They actually got really good, authentic, and made distinct choices. But—and this is a big but—unless the creative team was in the room, no one saw it because the actor didn’t grab them at the beginning of the scene. You’ve got to be riveting in the first few seconds or no one will get to see how great you were at the end.

Take a look at the audition with Henry Thomas for “E.T. the Extra Terrestrial.” I was fortunate enough to be on the casting team for this film. We were all behind the camera weeping. He grabbed our hearts from the moment he started the scene and didn’t let go until the end. He had a clear objective and didn’t waver. Notice how Thomas is “in it” from the word go?

Kids are great at accessing their imaginations. Their imaginations are huge because they still live in a world where play is acceptable. As an adult you’ve got to get back to the child within you where any self-conscious behavior is banished. Remember to get back to the world of “play” when you were a kid and connect to your vast imagination.

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.)

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Stop Saying No in Auditions

12.17.2015_Note_CD_Nick_Bertozzi.jpeg.644x650_q100Illustration By : Nick Bertozzi

By Marci Liroff

Megatalented television producer Shonda Rhimes just came out with a new book, “Year of Yes,” which chronicles the 12 months she spent agreeing to do anything and everything that scared her. It wasn’t just a “yes” to putting herself in harm’s way, like jumping out of an airplane. Most of us would say no to that. But she realized she wasn’t saying yes to much of anything, which meant she was avoiding new possibilities and opportunities. As she told NPR, “I was going to say yes to all the things that scared me, that made me nervous, that freaked me out, that made me think I’m going to look foolish doing it. Anything that took me out of my comfort zone, I was going to do it, if asked to do it.”

I realized this new habit of Rhimes’ could be embraced by many of the adult actors with whom I work. I reference specifically “adult” actors because most of the children with whom I work don’t seem to have the same fears about taking risks. Kids will do just about anything for you in an audition or on set because their egos haven’t developed enough to worry about looking stupid. They take chances and risks and play the clown because it’s fun. They say yes to any game you set forth because their imaginations are still limitless. As we get older, we start building that “wall” to protect ourselves from uncomfortable situations and start to say, “No, I’m not going to do that, I’ll look like an idiot.”

Along with saying no out of fear, you close yourself off to the opportunity to do great things. When actors audition for a role, many times I see them staying within the boundaries of the material but not taking any risks by making bold character choices. It’s as if they were told to color within the lines. But after a while, that gets really boring for your audience (and the actor, I imagine).

The performances that grab us are the ones where the actor is doing something unexpected—where you don’t know what they’ll do next and it can be surprising and scary in the same breath.

Take a look at Johnny Depp in the movie “Black Mass.” Yes, we all know Whitey Bulger is a bad guy, a criminal, a killer. But Depp plays him so quietly, so reservedly. I’ve heard actors worry that they aren’t doing enough; they should study what Depp is doing in his most explosive and terrifying scenes. He fully sits back into his character and says yes to who he is at heart. Depp told a reporter, “For me it was walking that tightrope between playing a very dangerous, unpredictable walking time bomb who could also be emotional and even sensitive.”

I’d so much rather have you come in and make the wrong choices than no choices. Take a stab at it and say yes. That, I can work with!

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.)

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