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HOW PREPARATION HELPS KEEP YOU ON YOUR TOES

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By Marci Liroff

The new year brings new revelations. You’re training, studying, and constantly doing research and reading articles like mine. You’re trying to follow everything to the letter. Then an audition comes along and blows everything you thought you knew out the window.

If you’ve been reading my blogs, and articles in Backstage, you’ll remember that I encourage you to not only be off-book but to treat the script with respect. Use it as your bible and don’t change the dialogue unless you’re asked. That said, I rarely work with a director or producer who says it’s OK to actually change the dialogue.

Last year, I had the singular opportunity to cast and produce a very low-budget feature film with writer-director-producer-star Blake Robbins, entitled “The Sublime and Beautiful,” which was selected as one of 10 films competing in the narrative features category at the 2014 Slamdance Film Festival in Park City. It is an emotional story about a family torn apart by a drunk driver, and all the scenes were very raw.

During our auditions, I was pleasantly surprised to hear Blake tell the actors to “throw out the script. You know your character. You know what she’d say. Just follow the template and let it flow.” How rare to find a writer who’s confident enough to say that! As Blake was the star and was in every scene, he read with all the actors. He was not only their scene partner but their guide. Can you imagine being given such an opportunity? You’d be surprised at how many actors adopted a “deer in headlights” look on their faces. Most of them held onto the text they’d rehearsed like a life raft, and couldn’t fully make the leap into their character.

When I teach and coach actors, I tell them that every room they walk into (and what the people in that room ask of them) will be different—every single time. This is why your research and prep is crucial. When you do a thorough character breakdown (not just what you’ve gleaned from the breakdown), you’ll know everything from what your character had for breakfast to all the hopes and dreams she has for her children. Doing this not only lets you easily slip into the skin of your character, it helps you learn the dialogue so you can “throw it away” (so to speak) and just immerse yourself in the scene when you audition.

The actors who were able to let go and give in to the emotions were so fascinating to watch. The scene came alive because they were truly in it. The director was also interested in the “space between” the lines. He was happy to have a lot of silence and pauses. This made many of the actors who were auditioning extremely uncomfortable because they felt they weren’t doing anything. Yet the simple act of listening and feeling is so compelling.

This exercise taught me so much. It showed me how much you need to be on your toes, but also to do the proper preparation and trust that you will be enough.

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.

Please share your comments/stories on being given new direction in an audition or on set and how you handled it – or not!

We’d love to hear your experiences

Glad you’re here – Marci

WHY TABLE READS ARE JUST AS IMPORTANT AS AUDITIONS

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By Marci Liroff

I’ve seen actors win big at the table read, and I’ve also seen them get fired. It can be an exhilarating and dangerous place.

A table read is when actors sit around tables in a large room (or sometimes your living room!) and read through the script aloud. Each person plays a different role, and sometimes they play several roles. We have table reads for a few different reasons. When we’re trying to get the project off the ground, we invite investors and put together our favorite actors to help sell the material. Sometimes the writers and the creative team need the screenplay read so that they can hear how it plays. They often invite other writers so that they can discuss it after and do a “punch-up” for dialogue or for comedy. When I’m casting a feature film or television project, we invite the newly cast actors to a table read for the creative team, along with the studio and network executives. These readings can be very scary for the actor—even if she’s already been cast.

Years ago we had an all-star table read with the main actors, a superstar producer, the president of the studio, and all the executives, along with our director and writer. The hot young love interest of our lead female actor arrived wearing a baseball cap slung low over his eyes. I knew that he was somewhat new to this experience, so I suggested that he take off his cap when we did the reading so that we could see his face. Our director also told him to take off his cap and spoke to each actor to make sure they acted at “performance” level during the read-through. Our producer had some of the best weekly read-throughs on his series, so we knew his expectations would be huge.

Sure enough, our guy didn’t heed our advice, kept his hat on, and mumbled through the script at half-volume. Not only could you not hear him, he was basically just reading the lines—no intention or character choices. I think fear gripped him. Sadly, I knew he’d be replaced by the end of the day and started going through my mental Rolodex for choices to cast instead. As I suspected, the producer and director came up to me afterward and asked me with whom we’d replace him.

Another actor I asked to help us out at a table read made disparaging comments about the material in front of the writers, studio executives, and producers. She was not asked back and will most likely never be hired there again.

On another film, we weren’t fully cast but we staged a table read to hear if the material was working, using all the actors we had cast thus far. It was voiceover for animation, and one role was particularly difficult to cast. I knew we weren’t going to persuade the actor I wanted to audition for the part; I couldn’t get the studio to just make him a straight offer. I convinced the actor and his agent to take a leap of faith and help us out with our table read—knowing that if everyone liked him he would probably end up getting the part. Sure enough, he was brilliant and they offered him the role.

So many things can be tricky on a film. You always want to serve the material and be your very best. You never know.

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.

Please share your comments/stories on table reads. We’d love to hear your experiences

Glad you’re here – Marci

HOW TO LEARN TO LOVE SELF-TAPING

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By Marci Liroff

Self-taping your auditions—it’s all the rage. We ask you to self-tape your auditions for several reasons. Sometimes we can’t audition you live due to simple logistics: I’m in Los Angeles and you’re in Sydney, Australia. Or it’s an open call situation and we want to discover someone new and audition the masses (like the new “Star Wars” movie). I’ve also noticed several casting directors using the self-tape as their pre-read. Instead of having the actor come into their office to pre-read for them, they’re asking for self-tapes only. For me, if I’m in the same town as you are, I’d rather have you come into my office so that I can work with you.

Apparently the whole notion of not only having to act in a scene, but direct, be the grip, gaffer, and editor is a daunting task for some. I want to urge you to get comfortable with this because it has become a necessary part of the audition process these days. We’ve all heard how Eddie Redmayne self-taped his audition for “Les Misérables” on his iPhone. There are literally hundreds of these stories out there.

Several of my coaching clients and actors I’m auditioning have expressed a paralyzing fear of making these self-tapes. This surprises me because I thought being in control of the situation would be freeing—unlike in the audition room, where so many elements are out of your control. You can do as many takes as you like until it’s something you’re happy with submitting. Here are a few ways to keep self-taping from being overly stressful.

Identify what’s scaring you.
Is it the technical aspects of actually making a good-quality audition? OK, that’s easy to fix. You can spend some time learning how to do it by practicing with your camera, lighting, and a scene partner during downtime, when there isn’t the urgency of a deadline for an audition. I blogged about the technical aspects of self-taping a while ago, and it’s still one of my most-read blog posts.

Know thyself.
If you simply aren’t good at technical issues and have no interest in learning, how about taking that aspect out of the equation? It’s easy to find a friend or a service that can tape you professionally so that all you have to think about is being the actor.

You’re lost/a perfectionist/too many choices.
Next to getting thrown by the tech issues, the actors I’ve talked to say they tend to shut down when faced by the void that exists when you don’t have a casting director or director in the room to guide you through the scene. Yes, this can be daunting, but remember that it’s a level playing field because everyone is dealing with the same issue and we understand that. On the other hand, this frees you up to make your own choices and put your personal and singular stamp on the role. We want to see what you bring to the role, and nothing better shows us your instincts than the choices you make from these tapes.

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.

Please share your comments on self-taping and how you overcome any problems you’ve experienced!

Glad you’re here – Marci

 

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