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An Ode to Actors

Photo courtesy Ian Schneider

By Marci Liroff

I posted an inspirational tweet the other night on Twitter, Instagram, and my business Facebook page.

It got more reaction (and interaction) than anything I’ve ever posted.

The only other thing that came close was when Robin Williams died and I posted something about depression with a suicide hotline. And I didn’t even write it! I was quoting a former actor:

“Actors are some of the most driven, courageous people on the face of the earth. They deal with more day-to-day rejection in one year than most people do in a lifetime. Every day, actors face the financial challenge of living a freelance lifestyle, the disrespect of people who think they should get real jobs, and their own fear that they’ll never work again. Every day, they have to ignore the possibility that the vision they have dedicated their lives to is a pipe dream. With every role, they stretch themselves, emotionally and physically, risking criticism and judgment. With every passing year, many of them watch as the other people their age achieve the predictable milestones of normal life—the car, the family, the house, the nest egg. Why? Because actors are willing to give their entire lives to a moment—to that line, that laugh, that gesture, or that interpretation that will stir the audience’s soul. Actors are beings who have tasted life’s nectar in that crystal moment when they poured out their creative spirit and touched another’s heart.

In that instant, they were as close to magic, God, and perfection as anyone could ever be

And in their own hearts, they know that to dedicate oneself to that moment is worth a thousand lifetimes.”

What’s the takeaway from this?
One: I have a large actor following. Two: People like to be honored for their hard work. And three: People like to be inspired. But I knew there was more. I went directly to the source, writer David Ackert.

When was this written?
I wrote this in 1998, almost 20 years ago. Since that time, it has taken on a life of its own. It has been quoted all over the internet, in numerous books and publications, and has been translated into several languages and repurposed for singers, dancers, musicians, and painters.

What prompted you to write this?
In 1998, I was madly in love with a woman who was not an actor. She couldn’t understand why I was dedicated to a profession that was so unstable. One day I’d be working on a TV series, the next day unemployed. It was scary for her that I had so little control over my financial security, and clear to her that I wasn’t about to change professions, so eventually she ended the relationship. I was devastated, and wrote the passage to remind myself and anyone else struggling through a similar hardship that an artist’s relationship to their art is a uniquely precious experience, and while it comes with many sacrifices, it is ultimately worth pursuing.

Why do you think this has resonated with so many?
I believe that artists have a wholly unusual experience of life. They are dedicated to a dream and will pursue it at any cost. Most people don’t know what it means to believe in an irrational idea that’s so powerful that it completely defines them. That’s why the artist’s journey is simultaneously blissful, heartbreaking, and deeply lonely. I think the quote resonates for artists because it reminds us that we share that same swirl of juxtaposing feelings. And it is my hope that the quote inspires artists to pursue their self-expression without apology or regret.

What work are you doing now?
I retired from the entertainment industry in 2009 when I discovered that I could create, perform, and produce original content in the business world. Once I learned how to broaden my definition of success, I gained access to opportunities that were much more attainable than Hollywood stardom. Now I channel my creativity on my own terms.

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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True Confessions of a Casting Director

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By Marci Liroff

What did you do for your career this week? Seriously, what have you done? I ask this question at the beginning of every class in my three-night Audition Bootcamp series of classes. What, exactly, have you done this past week to further your career?

The class responses vary from “I got new headshots taken” to “I checked breakdowns and submitted myself on three projects” to “I took a workshop” or “I had an audition.” It also counts if you do this: “I went down to the bus station to observe people.” This exercise each week keeps students accountable within the class, with their peers, so that they will hopefully be motivated to do several things each week to further their careers. Also, in so doing, we share useful information like online tools, websites, and other resources.

The peer pressure alone makes sure that they have something to report each week! During these weekly discussions, I realized that I hadn’t been practicing what I preach. Remember that as an independent casting director, I have to look for work, too. I’m out there like you are—auditioning for the role of the casting director. It struck me that I’ve become more than a little burnt out looking for my next job. As an actor, you must feel this way, too, at times.

This weekend I went out of town on a much-needed getaway with friends. I had just put my 10-and-a-half-year-old dog down and was quite blue. Because my brain was over-exhausted and not very clear, I forgot to bring my computer and iPad. When I arrived, I went into a kind of mini meltdown. For those who know me, they know that I’m pretty addicted to technology and the Internet. I was now going to get a 48-hour, cold-turkey experience.

Funny how life conspires to make you face yourself head-on.

I remembered that balance is everything. You’ve got to have balance in your life, or you’ll become a shell of your former self, and your work will suffer. Keep your life full and stay interested in your craft. If you stop being interested in your craft, know that it’s OK to stop acting until you get your juices flowing again. You need to be living your life. You’ve got to find balance and actually have a life in order to draw experience and emotion for your work.

Finally, I realized that it’s more than OK to unplug when you need to and not feel guilty. We’re all in this together. Let’s come at our art from a healthy and joyful place.

What do you do to find balance in your life? Please share in the comments below!

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!

Marci

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HOW TO LEARN TO LOVE SELF-TAPING

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By Marci Liroff

Self-taping your auditions—it’s all the rage. We ask you to self-tape your auditions for several reasons. Sometimes we can’t audition you live due to simple logistics: I’m in Los Angeles and you’re in Sydney, Australia. Or it’s an open call situation and we want to discover someone new and audition the masses (like the new “Star Wars” movie). I’ve also noticed several casting directors using the self-tape as their pre-read. Instead of having the actor come into their office to pre-read for them, they’re asking for self-tapes only. For me, if I’m in the same town as you are, I’d rather have you come into my office so that I can work with you.

Apparently the whole notion of not only having to act in a scene, but direct, be the grip, gaffer, and editor is a daunting task for some. I want to urge you to get comfortable with this because it has become a necessary part of the audition process these days. We’ve all heard how Eddie Redmayne self-taped his audition for “Les Misérables” on his iPhone. There are literally hundreds of these stories out there.

Several of my coaching clients and actors I’m auditioning have expressed a paralyzing fear of making these self-tapes. This surprises me because I thought being in control of the situation would be freeing—unlike in the audition room, where so many elements are out of your control. You can do as many takes as you like until it’s something you’re happy with submitting. Here are a few ways to keep self-taping from being overly stressful.

Identify what’s scaring you.
Is it the technical aspects of actually making a good-quality audition? OK, that’s easy to fix. You can spend some time learning how to do it by practicing with your camera, lighting, and a scene partner during downtime, when there isn’t the urgency of a deadline for an audition. I blogged about the technical aspects of self-taping a while ago, and it’s still one of my most-read blog posts.

Know thyself.
If you simply aren’t good at technical issues and have no interest in learning, how about taking that aspect out of the equation? It’s easy to find a friend or a service that can tape you professionally so that all you have to think about is being the actor.

You’re lost/a perfectionist/too many choices.
Next to getting thrown by the tech issues, the actors I’ve talked to say they tend to shut down when faced by the void that exists when you don’t have a casting director or director in the room to guide you through the scene. Yes, this can be daunting, but remember that it’s a level playing field because everyone is dealing with the same issue and we understand that. On the other hand, this frees you up to make your own choices and put your personal and singular stamp on the role. We want to see what you bring to the role, and nothing better shows us your instincts than the choices you make from these tapes.

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.

Please share your comments on self-taping and how you overcome any problems you’ve experienced!

Glad you’re here – Marci

 

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