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How to Become an Actor Later in Life

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.

Reaching out to my Twitter followers to find out what they want to know is one of the best ways to connect to my community. This week’s column answers two great questions I received recently:

1. What is the best way to get back into the industry later in life?
Surprisingly, it is very similar to when you were first starting out, except that you already have the basic foundational acting skills and you probably have a lot of old connections. Now is the time for a refresher course. You wouldn’t run a marathon after having hung up your sneakers 20 years ago, would you? Get yourself back to a weekly acting class and warm up those old muscles. While in class, you can network with the students to see if they can refer you to their agent or manager.

If you have good relationships with your old representatives, reach out to them to make them aware you’re in the game again and see if they want to jump back into business with you. Get all of your materials up to date. You’ll need to update your headshot and résumé and upload your reel and clips online in order to subscribe to submission platforms like Actor’s Access and Backstage. As you build new credits, switch them in for your reel’s older footage, which may no longer be relevant.

Then, register with film schools in your area so that when they are casting student projects, they will call you in to audition. Join a theater group.

Reach out to the casting directors who used to hire you to alert them to your re-entry into the biz.

It may feel overwhelming sometimes, but taking it step by step will make it easier.

2. Where do you find new actors, and how do they stay on your radar?
I think about the good old days when I would pore over the Academy Players Directory looking for new faces, and it makes me laugh. Times have changed! I still miss those giant books, but I wouldn’t go back.

Most people I know in the casting field will say they are working all the time. A good CD always has her eyes and ears peeled to discover new talent who can move us with a great performance. When I’m watching television, for instance, I always look up actors I see who are new and interesting and immediately add them to my database. When reading a magazine or newspaper, if an article on a new actor pops up, I rip it out and put it in my “to file” pile. I’m constantly going to theater, screenings, and film festivals; I visit acting classes; I scour YouTube and Instagram. Agents and managers constantly call me to take general meetings with their new clients.

In terms of staying on my radar, if you’re going to send out postcards or email blasts, make sure you have something to say. Don’t just send out a notice with your picture and contact info. It should include your latest work and an action item, such as “Watch me on the latest episode of [fill in the blank] on Tuesday at 9 p.m.” or “Come see me in ‘Man of La Mancha’ at San Diego’s famous Old Globe Theatre.” 

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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