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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.

How to Practice Self-Care While Visiting Your Hometown This Holiday

Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon

By Marci Liroff

Wow, it’s been quite awhile since I’ve blogged. Life has surely gotten away from me – but still not a good excuse. I’m grateful that you all have been here, reading my articles for years.

For those of you who aren’t aware, I’ve been coaching actors on their upcoming auditions and jobs. One-on-one private coaching is a critical part of auditioning and it’s always good to get another set of eyes on your performance before you take it into the room. Just reach out through email, (liroffcasting@sbcglobal.com) and we can set up a date and time to work together in person or through Skype or Facetime. I assist working actors only.

Here come the holidays. For some actors, family time triggers dread. You may be barraged by the litany of questions actors love, like, “What are you working on?” Trying to justify what you do to those who don’t quite “get it” is not only tiring, it can be psychologically traumatizing. For me, it wasn’t until my parents saw my name on the big screen that they finally had a modicum of understanding of what I do for a living.

I want to help you combat the psychological fatigue in these situations. Go into these gatherings from a secure emotional place. Of course, that’s easy to do when you’re working. But what about when you’re not working? How do you explain to someone who’s not in the business what your day-to-day life is and that you don’t get as many jobs as you have auditions?

You’ll have to quiet that vulture that sometimes crawls up on your shoulder to squawk at you. You know the one. The vulture that tells you you’re not talented and you’ll never get a job. The one that says you’re wasting your time. You’ve got to come to terms with your inner vulture before you can begin to deal with those around you. Self-doubt can be a killer—especially over the holidays. Remember that what you’ve chosen to do is be an artist, a storyteller. If earning a living was a quantifier for how talented you are, most famous artists would have never even picked up a paintbrush or a pen to write history’s greatest works.

Go back to the reason why you got into this in the first place. Spend a little time in that mental space and remember everything you get out of your chosen path, and own it. Yes, own it. These small changes in your mindset will help you deal with others, because if you feel comfortable about yourself and your choices, their opinions won’t matter as much.

Another issue over the holidays is feeling guilty about leaving Tinseltown (or your given acting market). Some say that a sure-fire way to get a job is to buy a plane ticket. Yet, we constantly feel the need to stay in town just in case we get an audition. With self-tapes becoming the norm, all you need is your cellphone and a willing scene partner. (Please don’t use your grandmother, unless she’s an actor!) There’s a great resource called WeRehearse, where you can find a reading partner and also record your audition on the site. All you need is a fast internet connection on both ends.

But let’s dig deeper: You have to get out and give yourself some downtime. If you’re not refilling your well of life experiences, you’re not living fully. Actors need to experience the good, the bad, and the ugly so that they can draw on them firsthand. You need to get out there and see your family and friends; unplug as much as possible. Identify what the important things are for you and plug into them. That could be as simple as volunteering your time, spending more time with your kids or pets, or helping your elderly parents.

From the bottom of my heart, I’m wishing you all a blessed holiday season!

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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How To Handle A Physical Audition

Illustration by: Nick Bertozi

By Marci Liroff

In case you didn’t get an email announcing my next Audition Bootcamp classes in Los Angeles, here’s the link. I’d love to work with you.

AUDITION BOOTCAMP IN LOS ANGELES

This week I called upon my Twitter followers to ask for questions for my column.

I like to know what the community needs from me in terms of advice. Here are a couple of questions:

“So many times, I get an audition scene that has so much action in it, or it’s intimate and a kiss is called for. I never know how to play it. What should I do?”

Great question. My coaching clients always ask me the same thing. Sometimes it seems like we pick the most impossible scenes for your audition. Believe me, we’re not doing it to trip you up. We need to see what your character will do in all emotional (and physical) situations. We need to see your range.

Obviously, you can’t get in a brawl on the floor with the casting director (although I know some of you would probably like to!). But there are definitely ways to show that you’re slapping or getting slapped—you can react by pulling your head back and grabbing your cheek in shock. Imagine and create the hot sting of blood rushing toward your cheek. If done well, it’s very believable.

My best advice in this situation is not to ask what we want you to do, but rather ask, “How have you been blocking this scene?”

Remember, we’ve been auditioning this scene for the last several days, if not weeks. We know exactly how it should work in the audition setting. When I was casting “Vampire Academy,” we chose a scene where our lead character was having a fight training session. We needed to see her throw some punches, and when the romantic lead threw her to the floor and they were inches from each other’s faces, we cheated it by having her throw herself against the wall and imagine he was on top of her.

Another question I often get is this: “What’s the worst that can happen when we have a ‘bad’ audition? Never called back? Career over?” First of all, no, your career is certainly not over. But you must ask yourself why you had a bad audition. Trace the steps back to understand what sent you off the tracks. Nerves account for a lot of people blowing an audition. Many get nervous because they’re not thoroughly prepared. If you’re not completely off-book, you won’t be able to execute any of the direction you may receive. If you slugged back a double macchiato before your audition, your body might be careening with caffeine.

We can usually tell when you’re just having a bad day or you weren’t sufficiently prepared. If you come in and stink up the room because you weren’t prepared, it will be a while before I call you back for another audition.

The best thing you can do in this situation is learn from it, make the changes you need to, and then move on. If you hold on to that memory when you come into your next audition, it will overwhelm you with the fear that you’re going to make the same mistake. Learn and move on.

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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