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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?

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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.

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Comments

  1. Ha. Loved this post. For me, typos are an immediate red flag. It shows that the writers/ filmmakers don’t care enough about how their material is coming across to do a quick edit, or to have someone else proofread. Marci’s advice is sage: there are a LOT of amateurs out there now, due to the advent of software that enables virtually anyone to deem himself or herself a filmmaker. There is simply no substitute for the good old-fashioned adage: put 10,000 hours of study, practice, work and preparation into whatever it is you’re doing, and you’ll see the results. These blog posts are gold. Thanks Marci!!

  2. Genevieve Trainor says:

    First, I HIGHLY recommend taking Marci’s Audition Bootcamp. It’s chock-full of critical coaching that will elevate any serious actor’s audition, and Marci also covers a wealth of critical business information. Second, as an actor who’s also a public relations and communications professional, I write and edit a lot (hey, quitting your day job can be tricky as a Seattle-based actor). I cringe when I see scripts riddled with spelling and grammar errors. Some of my actor friends don’t have the same reaction that I do; however, it’s a huge red flag to me, because a script that’s thrown together and unprofessional is a sign of what’s to come in a production. Thank you for sharing, Marci!

  3. Nicholas says:

    Hi Marci,

    I enjoyed your article, and share your sentiments; on many levels.

    I have recently been reading about a new Arts building here on Vashon Island where I (fortunately) reside. The new Vashon Allied Arts building. It’s scheduled to open on April 23rd 2016, days away from now.

    In their posts, they’ve described all the wondrous new things that will be done with the spaces created. Lots of arts and crafts, plays, music, theater, galleries and classes.

    As I read the classes being offered, I took agood look at the Instructors-Teachers-Trainers that would heading the courses of study. In viewing, I found many that are ‘less than qualified.’ Like linked in; as well in, your article; people seem to have a tendency to promote themsleves as professionals or qualified because they ‘think or believe’ themselves to be great at something, when they actually are not. IE: I can write a sentence; therefore, I’m a writer and I am qualified to teach others to write.

    What do we do about this? Taking anyone (these days) at -their word’ seems ultra-risky-business to me. Any thoughts on this?

    Always my best to your successes in life,
    N.I.S (Nicholas In Seattle)

  4. William Colby says:

    Great synopsis. I am new to the industry, having been doing this for six and a half years. I was very fortunate to know and then become attached to great actors. Each motion picture script takes at least 950 hours of intense work, not including prep, research, marketing, and outside review. What you have pointed out and what I have learned is that I need to qualify the people I work with. I can’t just blindly receive Confi/NDA/Non-Circumvents and trust that these people can/will deliver, financially, professionally, or otherwise.

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