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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.

What a Casting Director Says in an Audition vs. What They Mean

By Marci Liroff

Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon

Do casting directors speak in code? Have you been kept up at night trying to decipher what they mean when they say something innocuous like “Thanks for coming in”? I’ve been trained to be both honest and inspiring at the same time, and I want to help you in your craft, not rain on your parade. With that in mind, here are a few of the responses you may hear in the audition room, and what I actually mean when I say them.

“Thank you very much.” Means just that: Thank you for coming. I’m not sure if I’m calling you back.

“That was good.” Again, just that. I don’t mince words, so if I say your audition was good, I mean it! For other CDs out there, they may not know what to say and they’ll just resort to this one, too.

“Interesting take.” This can mean one of two things: It was interesting, or I’m being kind. “Interesting” could mean it was actually in the wrong direction from what the role is calling for, and I’m getting the impression you don’t have a good grasp on who the character is.

“Good adjustment.” If I like what you’re doing, I’ll give you direction or some adjustments. I want to see if you can take direction, or if you’re locked into the performance you’ve planned. Sometimes, I’ll give you the wrong direction just to see what you’ll do with it. Directors will also do this to see if you’re listening to them and if they can work with you.

“Thanks for your preparation.” I see a great number of actors each day for meetings and auditions, and it always blows my mind when an actor comes in and isn’t prepared and full of excuses as to why he’s not ready to be in front of me. When an actor comes in off-book with strong choices for the character, I like to thank them for how thoroughly they prepared. I know it seems odd to thank someone for what should be a given, but I like to give praise and encouragement whenever possible.

“Let’s try it again like this.” You’ve probably heard “Make strong choices.” What this means is that you have to bring something to the audition, not just recite the lines.

If you make strong choices for the character but they’re going off in the wrong direction from what we’re looking for, I’ll work with you to get it right because I can see you’re a smart actor and I want to help refine your performance.

“Thanks for your audition, but you’re not right for this.” If I like your work but you’re clearly not right for the role (you don’t look like the family I’ve already put together, or you don’t match with the woman I have cast opposite you), I want to praise you for your work and let you know, from the horse’s mouth, that you’re not going any further in this process. It’s not because you did something wrong, but because you’re just not right for the role. That said, remember that casting directors have amazing memories and take copious notes when casting a project—we will bring you back for the next project if we see a good fit! 

“I’m going to call you back to read for my producers and director.” This means I like what you did in our preread and you’re ready to go on to the next step. You may have brought in the performance we want and I want you to come back and do the same thing, exactly. Or we worked together to bring your performance to what I know the team is looking for. It’s at this point that many actors make a mistake. They get coached between the two auditions and completely change the performance. I’m not saying don’t get coached; I think you should always get coached for your auditions! Just make sure to clue your coach into the notes that the casting director gave you in the audition so that you can replicate it for the callback.

“Don’t quit your day job.” For the record, I would never, ever say this. Anyone who does is a dream killer and shouldn’t be working in casting.

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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