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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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My New Year Prayer For You

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By Marci Liroff

Here comes that time of year again. New Year’s Day brings with it a time of reflection on the past year. For many, it’s a time to restart programs, habits, exercise, and things we let slide during the last several months. It’s time to take stock of our lives and plan anew.

For an actor it’s a great time to reassess what’s working for you and what’s not. If you’ve been keeping a daily diary or spreadsheet of your auditions and meetings this year (as I suggested in my article “How Keeping a Diary Can Help You Book the Job”) you’ll be able to see your progress in black and white. This little trick will show you that this year you had 25–30 auditions and last year you had only 15. You’ll be able to track your callbacks and feedback.

Perhaps it’s time to let go of old precepts and thoughts and shift your mindset. I always come back to this. Your perception is the one thing you have control of in this business.

So much is out of your control (how you look, you’re too old or young, you remind the director of his ex-wife), but after you’ve sufficiently trained and prepped for the role you are the only one who can control how you’re going to let it affect you. You have the choice of how you’re going to view your audition and how you view it thereafter. Are you going to kick yourself time and time again after each audition when you didn’t do what you wanted to do? Or are you going to learn from it — specifically what went wrong or what sent you off the rails? Are you going to continue to let that voice inside your head say, “I’m not right for this. I always screw up in comedy — I’m no good,” or are you going to master that voice and banish it not only from the room, but your head forever? You have this choice.

You also learn from what you did right — those times when you feel comfortable in your own skin and you come ready to play. You’re prepared, you’re flexible in those moments when you get a director who wants to work with you in the room. You’re there to have fun and get the job done. You come in as a collaborator rather than someone who just needs to book a job. Once again, it’s your mindset. We pick up on the energy you bring into the room.

Reflection can also take another path. In my article “Why Do You Act?,” I talked about Will Smith being asked by Jimmy Fallon if fame can ever be scary. His reply was right on the money. Smith replied that it could be, especially now that his kids are coming into the business. “But I tell them…keep loving people. The thing is to make sure with your art that it is a gift to people to help their lives be better and brighter. What happens a lot of times when you see people fail in this business is that they’re in it for their ego, and they start doing it for them. It’s like, no, you’re trying to help people get through a day.”

As this new year begins, I urge you to keep loving, be mindful, be good to yourselves, and be of service to those around you. You are artists and you have a story to tell.

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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THIS ADVICE WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE

By Marci Liroff
I want you to re-frame the way you’ve been thinking about meetings and auditions.
 
I’ve been reading a lot of comments to my articles and blogs using the phrase “the other side of the table” when referring to the Casting Director or the other people you’re auditioning for. 
 
Stop it! Here’s the new thinking: What if you thought of the whole auditioning process as a collaboration between filmmakers? What if you included yourself in that group? After all, you are one of the filmmakers too. We desperately need you in this process.
 
When I’m casting my projects, teaching my classes, and coaching actors I wake up and have that Christmas-morning feeling in my stomach—the happy feeling filled with anticipation. I get so excited to work with wonderful actors and filmmakers. 
 
Websters dictionary defines EXCITEMENT as:
Noun
  1. A feeling of great enthusiasm and eagerness.
  2. Something that arouses such a feeling; an exciting incident.
It occurred to me—that is exactly the feeling you should have when you come in to audition. Think about it. As an actor, how often do you actually get to act? Probably not as often as you would like. What if you thought of your audition as an opportunity to show us your stuff? What if you woke up on the day you had an audition and thought, “Yay! I get to act today and show them what I’ve been studying, prepping, and researching. I get to come in and play with the other filmmakers. I get to help them solve their problem. I get to be of service to the project and bring in my own special and very specific piece of the puzzle that they’re tirelessly putting together.”
 
You’ve got to stop this deadly “me against them” loop that’s going on in your head. Delete the word “gatekeepers” from your brain and anything else that you think is standing in your way. Replace it with this mantra: “I am a filmmaker! I am a collaborator!” We are all working together to bring the project to fruition.
 
When you’re truly prepared for your audition—you know the character and you’ve prepped and researched properly—you should feel like you can’t wait to get into the audition room. You should be excited to engage as a participant, as one of the filmmakers. After casting for the last century or so, I’ve come to realize that SO much of it is in your head. Once the preparation has been done, it’s all about perspective—and this is the good news. YOU are in control of how you view the audition process. It’s all up to you. 
 
Now go out there and remember that we’re all in this together.
 
I’d love to hear how this article made you feel.  It’s always good to share with the community. Leave a comment, share this blog with a friend.

Glad you’re here!  
 
Marci

 

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