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The Voices Within

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By Marci Liroff

Do you think these thoughts and utter these phrases to describe yourself and others?

“I’m a hungry actor,” “He’s a starving artist”.  Do you describe those that hire you as “The gatekeepers” or “Those on the other side of the desk”?

Watch your mouth. Watch your thoughts. Watch the loop that goes on in your head tearing you down.

Words matter! Change your dialogue. Banish these terms from your lips and your brain. These thoughts are all pervasive. When you speak them aloud you give them life and energy. I have actor friends who refer to themselves in public and to their family as a “starving artist” while trying to maintain a supposedly tongue-in-cheek attitude. Even if they’re slightly joking, it plants a seed in people’s minds that artists have to starve and struggle for their work. The words and phrases tend to romanticize the life of an artist; that there has to be pain and lack of comfort to attain true art.

In my article “This Will Change Your Life” I asked you to reframe the way you’ve been thinking about meetings and auditions. I wrote about thinking of the whole auditioning process as a collaboration between filmmakers.

I also suggested that you’ve got to stop this deadly “me against them” loop that’s going on in your head. Delete the word “gate­keepers” and anything else that you think is standing in your way. Replace it with this mantra: “I am a filmmaker! I am a collaborator!”

Another self-sabotage move is the idea of luck. What is luck? Some have it and some don’t. Really? If luck exists, why do I even need to get up in the morning? My luck will take care of everything. No need to even insert myself into the equation because it’s out of my hands. I call bullshit on this with a big cherry on top.

I don’t believe in luck. Some say luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. This quote, attributed to Roman philosopher Seneca, reminds us that we make our own luck.

As I always preach, perception is about 90% of the game. As an artist and performer, with so many things out of your control, the one thing you do have control of is your perception and how you will let things plant firmly in your brain, or whether you’re going to let go of them. Are you going to stick with the voice in your head that says, “I never get comedy jobs”? Or are you going to change your “luck” and start viewing your opportunity in a different light? Take ownership of this opportunity and get yourself into some sitcom and improv classes. Turn your bad “luck” on its ear.

Psychologist Richard Wiseman did a ten-year study on the topic of luck. In interviews with the study’s volunteers, he realized that unlucky people are typically more anxious and tend to be more hyper focused on the specifics of a situation. Lucky people, on the other hand, are more laid-back and open to whatever opportunities present themselves.

His research revealed that lucky people generate good fortune via four basic principles. They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make smart (lucky) decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.

When you take control of what you say and think I guarantee a change.
The Universe is listening.

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.
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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.

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.)

The Moment Before and The Moment After

The Moment before and the moment after

By Marci Liroff

Any good actor knows he needs to prepare the “moment before” any scene. Often forgotten is the “moment after.”

When I’m holding auditions for my projects, I see so many actors who have done their research on the project, made character choices, and are off-book. Yet when the scene starts, I see them turn on their “acting switch” and start acting, rather than just leaning back into the character and the scene at hand.

You have to know what happened leading into the scene you’re reading (whether it’s an audition or on set). Many times, you’ve only received a set of sides, no script, and a minimal character description with no way of knowing what just happened. Guess what? You have to make it up and flesh it out. Find clues within the material and come up with your own “moment before” so that you have an organic place from which to come.

The action and emotional moments don’t just come with your first line. They come from the second the scene starts, even before the camera is rolling. There are golden moments before the first line is delivered.

I always ask my cameraperson to shoot plenty of “heads and tails” to catch this magic. “Heads” (what we get on tape) refers to the specific choices that a smart actor does to set the scene before the first line. “Tails” is the amazing emotion we see at the end of the scene when most people are so into the role that they unconsciously show us something about the character we didn’t even know. Remember not to stop the scene and turn off when the scene ends. Stay in the moment and continue your emotions until you hear “cut” or the creative team comments on your performance.

I coach my clients to create a short sentence of a main objective to trigger their emotions going into a scene. Keep the stakes high for your objectives and the scene will have a deeper emotional life; “I have to get this information from her or I’ll lose her/I’ll die/she will leave me.” Along with this, you can create a visual “flash memory” of photos of what led up to this event. You have to be able to smell it and feel it as well.

The moment before isn’t what just happened. It’s what your character did that morning. Did you have a rough night sleeping? Did your car crap out on you on the way to meeting your boss in the scene? All of these things can play into your moment before and give you a richer performance.

If you’re auditioning for a very emotionally raw or intense role, protect your audition. You’ve probably spent the last 20 minutes or so in the waiting room amping up and zoning into your character. Then you come into the room and the director wants to chitchat with you or the introductions might distract you. A good casting director will instruct her team to start the scene and save the conversation for later. You can be proactive and politely say, “Let’s jump into the scene and I’d love to talk after.”

That said, if you have one or two lines such as “Here’s your coffee, sir,” you don’t want to do anything other than walk up and deliver the coffee. Adding too much “business” at the top (or end of a scene) is distracting and calls attention to what should be a simple action of moving the plot forward.

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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.

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.)

Take That Crap Off Of Your Demo Reel

TAKE THAT CRAP OFF OF YOUR DEMO REEL!

By Marci Liroff

Did that headline get your attention? I hope so. As a casting director, producer, and acting coach, I spend a good portion of my day viewing demo reels. Despite the recent changes in how a demo reel is produced, we still need to see a quality piece of film that shows you off at your best.

In the past, your demo reel would be anywhere from five to 10 minutes, depending on how much great footage you could gather together. The length of a demo reel—along with what is suitable for it—has changed over the years, and our brains have been rewired in terms of the speed at which we get an impression of who you are. When I’m sitting with film and television executives, I’m always amazed when they take a nanosecond to look at your audition (or demo reel) and say, “That’s our guy!”

A few years ago, it was inappropriate to put anything on your reel that wasn’t professionally produced. By that I mean the footage was always from a network television show, a studio film, or an indie. With the advent of inexpensive video cameras, the Internet, and Web series, all that has changed. So much of what I’m seeing now is either footage that you and your friends shot and cobbled together for an “indie project” or literally self-taped auditions edited together. There are also plenty of production houses staging “scenes” in their studios that you can use for your demo reel. Unfortunately, the quality of these productions is not very good. The writing, lighting, acting, and directing are subpar. I’d rather see nothing than see a bad demo reel. That bad impression will take a while to rectify.

There are many different opinions on this topic, but I like to see broadcast quality in picture and sound. Homemade videos look like homemade videos. They look like a scene out of all those Mickey Rooney–Judy Garland “let’s put on a show” movies. I know I’m generalizing here, and of course there are exceptions, but what this footage doesn’t show me (and what is crucial for me to see) is that a studio, a network, or a group of filmmakers has hired you. Along with your great acting, I can see that you have a record of being cast in legitimate projects by other professionals in this business—not just a scene or two that you’ve paid someone to put together for you.

Make sure to front-load your reel with your absolute best work. (And don’t start it with a photo montage set to music; that style went out in the ’90s.) As I mentioned before, most of the people viewing your demo reel have the attention span of a gnat and if you don’t grab them immediately they will click away.

Make sure your scenes feature you, not the other people in the scene. Just being in a scene doesn’t mean it’s worthwhile to show.

I shouldn’t have trouble identifying which character you are in a group of actors. You and your editor have to be merciless in editing your reel.

Monologues tell me nothing except that you can memorize a large piece of material and are probably better for theater auditions. We need to see you interacting with your partner. We need to see you listening. For me, this is the most important part.

In lieu of including everything, you can also post short individual clips of your scenes on various shows. Categorize them under “drama” and “comedy” so that we can view exactly what we need. They are, hopefully, short and concise and feature the best of you.

Like this article? Help spread the word.
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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.

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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