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What Auditions Look Like During Lockdown

By Marci Liroff

Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon

In light of the pandemic, I am offering special pricing for my private coaching (remotely of course!) You can buy a steeply reduced package now and use it later (must be used before the end of 2020) Check out the info here.

Every once in a while, I poll my followers on Twitter to see what they’d like me to talk about in this column. Overwhelmingly, the most popular topic this week was what things will look like when we go back to work. As I don’t have a crystal ball, I can only speculate based on my experience in the industry (and the knowledge we have today about COVID-19)—but here goes!

I’ve researched shooting protocols from all over the world to see how they are handling filming in the pandemic. All the protocols suggest that auditions take place virtually. This means that actors will be submitting self-taped auditions upon request. We’ve been using self-taped auditions for years, but using this method 100% of the time is all-new territory.

If you haven’t already sorted out how to self-tape at home, now is definitely the time.

I’ve written a step-by-step guide for reference that you can find on my website entitled “How to Self-Tape Your Audition Like a Rockstar.” We do not expect professional quality self-tapes. You do not have to go to a studio and pay for this service. Make sure to check your sound and lighting ahead of time so that we can see and hear you clearly. Another often overlooked element of the self-tape is to have a good reader reading off camera and positioned right next to your tripod.

Personally, if possible,  I’ll always choose to be in the room with the actor so that I can get a real-life take on their essence. I really like and depend on the interaction we have being face-to-face. In addition, I want to be able to give direction and insight into the role to see if the actor can integrate my direction into their take and make the proper adjustments. That becomes difficult, but not impossible, over Skype, Zoom, or other video platforms.

I’ve been doing auditions on Skype for the last several years. Now I’m using the We Audition site and Zoom to virtually audition actors. I can invite my director into the “room”, and she can give direction in real time, and we can record and save the audition. We can also put two or more actors together while they are in separate locations so they can read together – almost like a virtual chemistry read.

I’ve heard several commercial casting offices are having in-person auditions lately. I am extremely opposed to this. At press time, Florida is clocking record-high virus infections, California is backtracking its timeline for opening, and cases nationwide are on the rise. Having live auditions now preys on actors’ financial vulnerability, as they’ve been out of work for months. Many are willing to risk their health and possibly their lives to come on an audition, and that’s just plain dangerous and wrong. We do not have a handle on the virus yet. Why put yourself, your staff, and actors in danger?

Most if not all of my TV and film casting director colleagues say they will continue hosting virtual auditions until there’s a safe and effective vaccine. SAG-AFTRA is also currently suggesting that all auditions remain virtual for now. In short: I highly recommend that you stay put and create auditions from the safety of your home.

Make sure to check out my 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.

How to Network

Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon

By Marci Liroff

In light of the pandemic, I am offering special pricing for my private coaching (remotely of course!) You can buy a steeply reduced package now and use it later (must be used before the end of 2020) Check out the info here.

This week, I’m talking about a dreaded topic: networking. I say “dreaded” because even I used to hate networking! Forcing myself to go out into the world with the sole purpose of meeting people in my business in order to garner connections (and possibly work) has always seemed inauthentic to me. If people like my work, why can’t they just reach out to me and hire me? Why do I have to mix and mingle with people? It’s exhausting!

That was the old me, but I’ve since read up on this topic to find out how to take the bad taste out of my mouth. I’ve learned that networking isn’t a one-way street; it should be beneficial for both parties. It’s not just “What can this person do for me?” but “How can I help and enrich this person with my expertise?” If you give value without strings, it will come back to you in spades. I’m not suggesting you work for free, but reframing the way you think about networking will change your energy around it and will attract like-minded people.

A popular way to network these days is through social media. I’ve written a lot on the topic in my column on Backstage. The first and most important rule is to use proper etiquette. In the world of social media, you should behave as you would at a dinner or cocktail party with guests you’re just meeting.

I hope you wouldn’t barge into a room of strangers and tell them to watch your demo reel.

Same thing with social media. In addition to social media, here are my four favorite networking tips to get you going:

1. Google Alerts. Set Google Alerts for the people you’d like to meet. Go and see them when they’re speaking on a panel. Ask questions and engage with them. No stalking!

2. Tweetups. Tweetups are essentially in-person social gatherings and networking events organized through Twitter—a great opportunity for turning social media interactions into in-person meetings.

3. Social gatherings. This is the time to shine and be yourself and not just talk about work. Natural, everyday social gatherings with friends are a great way to make real connections with people with whom you can circle back down the line to make work connections.

4. Turn to your friends and family. I’ll bet your friends, family, and work colleagues know several people that you’d like to meet. The best way to meet someone is through a personal referral! Ask around. Do your homework.

To further shed light on how actors should go about networking, I turned to actor and entrepreneur Ben Whitehair, who has taught me much about how actors can and should interact with casting directors and film professionals.

There are so many ways to network with casting directors. What has worked for you?
I’m now actual friends with dozens of casting directors, and in each case, I followed three guidelines: Always add value; remember that casting directors are people, too; [and] practice patience.

In my online business academy and coaching community for actors, working.actor, we are constantly talking about how important it is to remember the mantra “Offer instead of ask.” Casting directors are bombarded by actors, and most actors are asking for something—follow me, watch my demo reel, give me an audition. A wildly more effective approach is to add value for the casting director. Maybe that’s simply expressing your gratitude, offering tips or resources related to what the casting director is posting about, or promoting a film they cast to your followers.

It’s also so helpful to remember that casting directors are fellow human beings in this crazy industry. They want to get a break from their busy lives on social media, be treated with kindness, and interact with genuine people. Find ways to interact on a human level instead of only talking shop.

I also find that when I focus on building relationships over time rather than trying to get something in the short term, it always works for me.

What are the no-nos?
The biggest one is what we discussed before—asking for something instead of adding value. If someone feels like you’re just trying to get something from them, they won’t be inclined to help you. Beyond that, I’m shocked how many actors have not taken the steps to make sure their own social media profiles are optimized and professional, [which requires a] quality profile photo, well-written bio, link to your IMDb page or website, quality content, what city you live in, etc.

How should an actor approach a CD or other industry professional on social media?
The first step is to listen. Before even reaching out, pay attention to what that specific person is interested in. What do they post about on social media? What sorts of things are they interested in? What do you have in common? It can feel intimidating, so start with simple interactions and look for any opportunity to add value.

What are some other ways an actor can network?
Outside of social media, there are so many ways to network and build relationships with industry professionals. Film festivals, for example, are a wonderful place to meet directors, producers, and writers. I’m also a huge fan of attending industry events such as Q&As, panels, screenings, and educational workshops.

Charity events and organizations are also a wonderful avenue to meet people. There are plenty that are related to the entertainment industry, but that’s not a necessity. Again, do the listening—there’s a very good chance the person you want to connect with has a favorite charity they are involved with.

OK, I’ve met some amazing people. Now what?
To maximize these opportunities, remember to follow up! “What’s the best way to connect with you?” is a great way to ask permission to follow up and learn how that person wants to be reached. Giving your contact information to others is fine, but you’re then relying on the other person to do the work. Rather than focus on handing out your business cards, put your energy toward being the person who reaches out after meeting. Almost no one does that, so sending an email or note about how great it was to meet them will set you apart. Bonus points if you can find a way to add value in your follow-up by sharing an article or resource related to the conversation you had when you met them.

Make sure to check out my 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.

Find Inspiration During Covid-19

By Marci Liroff

Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon

Boy, time has certainly flown by. It’s been SO long since I’ve written. I hope you’re all staying safe, wearing a mask when you go out, and are social distancing.

In light of the pandemic, I am offering special pricing for my private coaching (remotely of course!) Check out the info here.

A few months ago, we couldn’t have imagined we’d be sequestered in our homes for a prolonged period of time due to a global pandemic. This quiet time has forced us to slow down and be reflective.

Working from home has its own complications. For creatives, it is exponentially harder to find inspiration for your creativity. It’s hard to concentrate when there are so many distractions. Kids need to be homeschooled, the washer and dryer are constantly running—even our pets are more demanding, because they’re not used to us being home 24/7. There’s only so much Netflix you can watch before you have to finally get down to business and do your work, if only for lack of options!

As I’m writing this article, I’ve gotten up no less than four times since I started my first sentence. I see spiderwebs gathered in the corner of the skylight in the kitchen and simply have to climb up on the ladder to clean them away—something I’ve never done in the 19 years I’ve lived here. Apparently, I’ll do anything to not have to sit down and do my work.

With numerous distractions and a lack of stimulation from the outside world, it’s hard to maintain a sense of creativity. So I began searching. I looked to my favorite artists for a clue. Tom Hanks said, “You’re a dope if you don’t steal from everyone you’ve ever worked with.”

Even Pablo Picasso had a take on this, saying, “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.”

This is not to say that you can be authentically creative by stealing others’ work. No one wants to see a carbon copy of someone else; however, there are elements within their work that you can use to spark your imagination and form your inspiration.

I did a deep dive on cable the other night and watched a movie I hadn’t seen since it was released in 1993. “Benny & Joon” is a dark romantic comedy. An unlikely pair, Mary Stuart Masterson plays a young woman with schizophrenia and Johnny Depp plays a magical sprite of a character. Depp “borrows” liberally from Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and Harold Lloyd to create a captivating character that’s part boy, part man, part unearthly being. You can see that he’s not just boldly stealing their moves, but using their singular flair to inspire his performance.

Think about how many actors have been inspired by James Dean and Marilyn Monroe. Are they just copying their moves or are they using their essence to create a fully fleshed-out character? You’ll see some fail miserably at their attempt, but others manage to reach new heights as a performer.

I suggest you use this time to find an actor or two who has informed your work today. Go back and watch their early films, and you can see that they most likely “stole” from other actors themselves. When acting, you have a great opportunity to learn from those around you. So, keep your eyes and heart open.

Make sure to check out my 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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