Hollywood Has Become The Wild, Wild West

01072016_Nick_Bertozzi_NCD.jpg.644x650_q100Illustration By : Nick Bertozzi

By Marci Liroff

If you’re in L.A. and haven’t RSVPd to my April Audition Bootcamp, take a moment and check it out. Only a few seats left!

As a casting director, producer, and acting coach, I read, on average, about 20 scripts a week. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that indie filmmaking has become the wild, Wild West. People who have no experience decide they’re going to make a movie, wave a wand over their heads, and call themselves a writer, producer, or director. Make sure you know who you’re jumping in bed with before you start the project.

Recently, I was sent a script from a newbie producer to see if I could help him attach talent. The script was mediocre, extremely predictable, and filled with tired dialogue. Worse yet, it was absolutely riddled with typos, incomplete sentences, bad grammar, and giant leaps of logic.

Rather than answer with my usual, “Sorry, it’s not my cup of tea. Best of luck to you,” I took the time to send him my detailed notes. He answered with a very curt, “Thanks for your feedback.”

Today I mistakenly received an email from him that was actually meant for the writer: “We will not be using this casting director, she was pretty arrogant with her comments. Sorry. But she brought up several errors we should clear up because she’s right and I didn’t even notice them before.”

I’m all for creating your own content. It’s a great way to get your work out into the marketplace and not wait to be asked to the party.

That said, just because you have a camera (or a laptop) doesn’t mean you should use it. Just because you have an idea doesn’t mean it’s fully formed and ready to go out into the world.

If you’re going to create your own product, make sure to surround yourself with the most creatively talented, like-minded people you can find.

I can’t imagine any other business where you’d send out your product in such a half-assed manner. When I read a script that has several typos on the first page, it gives me great pause. Didn’t anyone proofread this first? If I get to Page 30 and nothing has happened to set up or move the story forward, I stop reading. If you’re this careless in presenting your project, how can I be partners with you?

You need to vet the people with whom you’re working. I had a writer call me the other day to cast his film, and a simple Google search found that the producer was being sued by the financiers for lying about an actor being attached and forging contracts. I called the actor’s manager, a good friend, who confirmed that her client had never been involved in the production and the team had to send a cease and desist letter to get them to stop using the actor’s name in reference to their project. They had shot the film for several weeks and production was halted because the producer hadn’t paid the crew, vendors, or locations for two weeks. And they wanted me to hop on to this moving train wreck?

Another producer hired me to cast her small, self-financed indie film. After things started moving too fast for her (because of a looming start date that she had approved), she got cold feet and pulled the plug and decided not to pay anyone on the crew. (I later recouped for my time worked.)

Moral of the story? Ask a lot of questions. Unless the filmmakers are a known quantity with a history of professionalism, protect yourself and check out the people with whom you’re going to be working—and do a thorough search.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you experienced this?

Like this article?
Help spread the word! Click to tweet!

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.)

The Power Of Inspiration

photo(1)L-R Anne Hubbel, Tiffany Shlain, Rose McGowan, Mamrie Hart, Kamal Sinclair

By Marci Liroff

In my last column, I wrote about how my film, “The Sublime and Beautiful,” made its world premiere at this year’s 20th annual Slamdance Film Festival. Slamdance started as a ragtag festival running simultaneous with the Sundance Film Festival, and features emerging talent in films made for under $1 million. While I was there, I tried (to no avail!) to get into screenings at Sundance, but tickets are at a premium and mostly sold out—or you stand in a long line outside in the cold, only to be turned away. But then I discovered the panels! The panels at both film festivals were eye-opening. Beyond being there for my film, I found my true reason for being there: inspiration!

Inspiration can sometimes be an elusive thing, but when it strikes, it’s so powerful that you just know you’re on the right path.

The Women in Film panel at Sundance was especially inspiring. Anne Hubbell from Tangerine Entertainment moderated, with guest speakers Tiffany Shlain (founder of the Webby Awards), YouTube sensation Mamrie Hart, actor Rose McGowan (at Sundance with the short film she directed, “Dawn”), and Kamal Sinclair, senior manager of the Sundance Institute’s New Frontier Story Lab.

One of the themes repeatedly discussed was “community supporting community,” and the notion that you should not wait to be asked to the party by looking for permission to create. There are so many different ways to “crack the nut” to launch your projects, whether it be in film, television, Web series, or theater. Whatever your art is, surround yourself with advocates, put together your team of like-minded, incredibly talented, and creative people, look for your mentors, and keep your eyes open for your inspiration.

A Slamdance panel discussing short-form content had Chad Hurley (the co-founder of a little thing called YouTube!) and brothers Joe and Anthony Russo, who were at Slamdance in 1997 with “Pieces,” before Steven Soderbergh hired them to direct George Clooney’s “Welcome To Collinwood.” They then directed the pilot of “Arrested Development,” became executive producers–directors on NBC’s “Community,” and most recently co-directed “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”

In this panel, they talked a lot about how short-form content (i.e., Vine videos, short films) can be a “point of access” to decision makers. Joe Russo says his daughter doesn’t watch comedy TV the way we used to. Now she watches Vine videos for an hour and laughs hysterically to get her “hit” of comedy. He mentioned Vine star Rudy Mancuso as a good example of how you can be discovered, “because somebody like me sits in an office, laughs, and says, ‘Find this guy.’ ” They liked him so much, they contacted him about doing a project, all from watching his six-second videos! I wondered if all this short-form content was fostering short attention spans in the viewers. I think our brains, especially in the younger folks, are actually being rewired to only be able to view and retain short-form content.

The Russo brothers suggested that if you’re a filmmaker, you should have scripts ready so that when you get the opportunity, you actually have content to show. Decide what kind of career you want and use the question, “What do you want to be doing in five years?” to reframe your thinking and choose your path.

So I ask you: What do you want to be doing in five years, and how are you going to get 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.


Inside The World Of A Casting Director ~ Part 2 of 3

By Marci Liroff

In Part 2 of this series I talk about how I make lists for projects along with how to start working in a Casting Director’s office.

“What does a Casting Director actually do?” Well, I’m here to tell you all about it! Joy Wingard wrote to me from college saying she’s interested in being a casting director and wanted to know what really goes on in the world of casting.  Since I was crazy busy, I asked her to jot down a few questions and I’d answer them over the ensuing weeks.  She asked quite a few insightful questions that I wanted to share with you all.

Q: I’ve heard that CDs spend a lot of time going through their rolodex/files and looking for the right fit.  Do you find that you get to embrace the auditioning process often – or is it more of seeking the fit you know will already work?  

A: Rolodex and files are “old school”.  Everything I do these days is electronic.  I have a database of ALL the actors I know and like + everyone I’ve ever auditioned. I use Cast It for my database. Did you know that if you subscribe to Cast It Talent you get embedded in my database and ALL the major CDs around the world?

When I make my initial lists after reading the script and talking to the filmmakers about their vision and our marketing needs, I go through my database and put together a “wish list” of who would be great.  Some of them are out of reach based on budget, or they wouldn’t do said role, or are unavailable.  I also add to this list my ideas that are not exactly what the script calls for or what the director is looking for but is “outside the box” and creative which can sometimes really juice up the story by casting against type.  Then I confer with the agents and managers and get their pitches and add the appropriate people to the list. This giant list gets narrowed down based on our choices, the actor’s availability and $$.
If it’s a “name” list, we narrow it down to a much smaller list and start making offers.
If it’s a role that we want people to come in and audition for, thus starts the process and we are open and excited to see what people bring to the role.  A filmmaker I know once said, “I like it when an actor comes in and shows me something I didn’t know about the character.”  I think that says it all.

Q:  Do you feel it’s mandatory to start as an intern – or do you think it’s possible to get an assistant job if you’ve had some solid industry experience already (even if it isn’t in casting for film or scripted/episodic TV?)

A: For me, I wouldn’t hire someone as a casting assistant unless they’ve had AT LEAST 1-2 YEARS actual casting experience in SCRIPTED television or films.  Things move way too fast for me to train/teach someone. Once they are on board though, I train and teach them everyday.

Several successful casting directors out there today started as my intern (Tammy Billik, Janet Gilmore)

Do you have any questions for me? Feel free to ask them here!

Want more tips and general thoughts on life? Be sure to bookmark my blog and follow me here!
We welcome your comments and suggestions.
Glad you’re here!
« 1 2