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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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(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 Totally Uncensored List of Casting Director Pet Peeves

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The Totally Uncensored Casting Director

By Marci Liroff

It’s that time of year again. During the summer break my casting director colleagues get together and celebrate the end of pilot season before episodic casting starts up again. Inevitably, we get to talking about our pet peeves in the audition room. Amid the cocktails, we regale each other with hilarious tales mixed with some scary ones.

In the interest of education, I’d like to share them with you so that you’re not “that guy” who’s making a bad name for himself in offices throughout the town.

Don’t wear perfume or cologne. Year after year this seems to be the #1 peeve from my colleagues. Please remember that we have to sit in an often small and cramped room without ventilation for hours on end. When you come in wearing your girlfriend/boyfriend’s favorite scent we have to live with it for the next several hours. Some of us are highly sensitive and allergic to perfume and get migraines and nausea. Think of the casting office like you would a doctor’s office. Don’t do it!

No weapons, not even fake ones. I’ve had actors pull fake guns and knives on me – it was very traumatic. If a scene asks you to pull a knife out of your jacket … please don’t do that in an audition. Especially if you don’t tell the CD before hand. This could lead to furniture being toppled and a big producer putting you in a choke hold.”

This one is very simple. Wear underpants.

This seems so basic I hesitate to even share it, but, make sure your picture and resume are stapled together before you arrive at the casting office. Don’t ask to borrow my stapler or my assistant’s stapler. Make sure your contact info and agent/mgr. is written on the photos and your resume in case they get separated – which happens all the time. When I ask you for your picture, don’t hand me three different choices and ask me to pick which one – make a choice beforehand.

Excuses. Leave them home. Actors that preface their audition with an excuse, “I was tired, sick – all it says to me is, “get ready, I am going to be really bad today.”

Coming in with a bad attitude. Never underestimate the effect being pleasant has on everyone.

Don’t prop yourself up with props. Don’t use a prop in a scene unless you are totally comfortable with it. I’ve seen props totally befuddle some people. A phone is fine. Just don’t set up a one-person show – unless you’re Carrot Top.

If it’s a driving scene, you don’t have to pretend to actually “drive” the car.

For The Men: I’m not going to have sex with you so don’t even TRY to seduce me into thinking you are a better actor than you are. Charm is good. Wit. Personality. But flirting in a creepy way is…well.. creepy.

Be nice and courteous to everyone. You never know: that receptionist could end-up being a director or producer some day. And the interns definitely “rat-you-out” when you leave. The guy who used to clean my toilets was nominated for an Oscar ten years later.

Don’t slap your sides on your thighs. It’s an unnecessary distraction.

Because producers and directors are rarely in the room anymore, actors feel like they can take their time and work out the material with us as if we’re their coach. As if they don’t have to impress us because we’re not the director or the producers. So they want to stop and start over and over again until they get a take they like. It’s us that you have to impress because we decide if we’re even going to send along your audition. I hear things like “let’s just play” or “let’s just try it a few different ways”.

We’re not your roommate or your acting teachers or coaches. How you are in the room is my only assumption of how you will be on set. So if you start and stop or swear or break down, I have to assume that’s how you will be on set.

Don’t eat during the scene. I auditioned a Julliard grad for a scene taking place during the Vietnam war and he insisted he couldn’t do the scene without also eating an apple. “That’s how I practiced it.” “But you’re under enemy fire.” “But I need the apple.”

When they don’t do the easy homework. The question, “So what exactly is this?” drives me bonkers. Just taking the time to go through all the information on the breakdown, not just their character description, but the names of the producers, the casting team, which studio/network the project is for, googling/youtubing clips helps inform their choices and gives them confidence to just focus on the character and be in the moment. I try to remind actors that if they treat their audition prep like a regular job interview, and go through all of the information that’s provided to them, it’s going to free them up to simply act.

Take a shower first.

If you just got the sides and won’t be ready to audition, then what happens when you get the job and they give you new pages the morning of the shoot?! You’re telling us that you can’t actually do the job even if you get it!

Don’t look around the audition room and ask if anyone else is going to be coming in. If they were, they’d already be here.

Assume that if you’re there it’s for a reason.

Don’t start commenting on how you don’t match the description or people in the waiting room don’t look like you, or ask if everyone is there for the same role. Just focus on the task at hand – which is your audition, right now.

Asking the CD permission to do something during the reading – instead of just making the choice and letting it be fresh and exciting to our eyes.

If your agent sends you an audition for a role with specific needs and you know you are not qualified (i.e. authentic native language, dancing or singing ability) please cancel.

It’s your job to know your conflicts. Do not audition if you know you have a date conflict. Work in partnership with your agent & casting.

If you have a time conflict: it’s one thing to call ahead, find out the time perimeters and ask if you can come earlier/later, that’s fine. But don’t just show up hours early (or late), expecting us to drop what we’re doing in order to audition you.

We have a small office and when you pace outside the door and rehearse your scene LOUDLY, EVERYONE inside that office – including the actor auditioning and the producers/director sitting watching that audition – can HEAR YOU. And it’s RUDE. And please don’t all have GabFest 2015 right outside the door either with your fellow actors.

If you have somewhere to be and we’re running a little behind, don’t just leave. Let us know and we’ll squeeze you in. And please, for the love of god, do not slap the casting director reading with you! Or try to kiss them. Or give them a lap dance. You know what? Just don’t touch the casting director.

If I give you an adjustment, please don’t explain to me why you made the initial choice for the character. I didn’t say that you sucked, I didn’t say you were wrong – You don’t have to justify your choices. Sometimes I’m giving you a note because I know what they are specifically looking for and I want to help you get the job. Sometimes I’m doing it because I want to see if you can take direction.

Please please don’t show up with ANY illness, fevers, coughing, rashes…puking in the trash cans! Yep it happens. Keep your germs at home. If you get can’t get rescheduled then ask to self- tape or you may just have to miss it. Some of us are immune suppressed, pregnant and have kids – or just want to stay healthy(not a big request) NO AUDITION is worth us getting sick over.!

Believe it or not, all of these stories are true (as shared by my casting colleagues). I’ll bet that the actors reading this have equally unprofessional stories to tell about the producer who was on the phone the entire time they auditioned. Or, the casting director who never once looked up from her computer to connect during their audition. (tell me your stories of how YOU were treated unprofessionally, and I’ll do a blog on that!)

Thankfully, these stories are the exception and I’m continually amazed and impressed by the talented actors who come through my door.

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.

Like this article? Help spread the word!

(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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