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WHEN IS THE RIGHT TIME FOR YOUR CHILD TO BECOME AN ACTOR?

By Marci Liroff

410929439_f2b867589c_oPhoto credit: skalas2

So your child wants to be an actor? Really? Please think about this long and hard. Let me share my perspective as someone who has worked with children for the last 35 years as a casting director and acting coach.

Whenever I meet a child actor I always ask them how they got into acting—what makes them want to be an actor? “Well, my mom and I were at the mall and this lady came up to us and said, ‘You should be a model! Let’s get some headshots of you! Then we got my pictures taken and now I’m an actor!” This response always breaks my heart: “There was this convention in town and I went with my parents and they picked me! My parents paid a few thousand dollars and I met a bunch of agents and now I’m an actor.” Or this classic one: “I really don’t remember how I got started or why. It’s ok I guess.” Or my least favorite, “I want to be famous!”

Here’s what I actually want to hear: “I asked my mom if she could get me involved in acting because I just love it. She said no, but I kept asking her every year and she finally said yes. I’ve been in plays at school and just can’t wait to start my new acting class.” Or, “Because I have to. I need to tell stories.” A wise little girl told me, “I just love to zip out of me and zip into another character.” These are the kids that make it. These are the kids who are there for the right reason.

Anne Henry, co-founder of BizParentz Foundation and the mother of a young actress herself, says, “When kids are asked why they want to act, I like to hear things like ‘I love to create characters and tell stories. I love to make people laugh.’ Or ‘If I couldn’t be a professional actor, I’d still be performing somewhere—at my school, in a class, or in community theatre.’ I’m looking for some sort of answer that tells me that the child likes the day-to-day job of acting.

Rather than ask kids why they want to act, I like to ask them about their favorite acting experience and why it was great. Their answer will tell you a lot, and tends to negate any canned answers they learned from their parents.

On the flip side, I cringe when a child says, ‘I want to make money’ or ‘I want to be on the Disney Channel.’ When I get that kind of answer, I know that they don’t love the art. That answer tells me that they bought into the fame myth or they haven’t actually done any acting. If this is their perspective, they are unlikely to have the stamina for the real job—they just want the result (fame), not career itself (acting). They probably don’t understand that fame for a child is usually not very fun, and not very likely.

When I talk to the parents of committed successful professional actors, they say things like ‘My child has been reading, making up stories, and performing their whole life. They begged me to let them audition for the play, get them into an acting class.’ Wise parents will talk about doing everything they could in their local community, and watching their child have success and accolades from lots of different sources before they enter the professional arena.”

Talk to your child before and during their journey into acting to make sure they’re here for the right reasons.

If you started as a child actor, how and why did you get into it? Parents – please share as well!

Glad you’re here!

Marci

 

 

 

DON’T TYPECAST YOURSELF TO DEATH

By Marci Liroff

8551519887_af60cb9ae8_cPhoto credit: Alma 7:12

Have you ever gone on an audition, walked into the waiting room and found 10 actors there who were nothing like you? All different types? “Soup to nuts” as it were? I’ve heard actors tell it this way—“Clearly they had no idea what they’re looking for. They had men, women, and six different ethnicities up for the same role!”

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. We’re being creative. When I get a project to cast, first I go through my database and come up with lists for each role. These lists are part wish-lists, part reality lists (as in who we can actually get realistically), and part thinking outside the box and being creative.

I was casting the original “Footloose” movie and the role of the father called for a very charismatic, handsome, salt and pepper haired, Paul Newmanesque preacher. I thought, yes, that’s good, but what about John Lithgow? I know, nothing like the character as written – but I had just seen him in “The World According to Garp” as a transsexual, and Brian DePalma’s “Blow Out” playing a serial killer, and I thought, “This guy is brilliant! Wouldn’t it be cool to see him play something completely different?” The director, Herbert Ross, looked at me as if I was crazy. I begged him to let him audition. Lithgow read one scene with me and Ross gave him the role in the room. I also did the same thing with the Chris Penn role. It was written as a handsome jock football player. I had just cast Penn in “All The Right Moves” and I was in love with his “bull in a china shop” quality. He auditioned and they liked him so much for the role they re-wrote it to fit his unique qualities.

Don’t turn down an audition because you think you’re not right for it. If we think you’re right and are willing to give you a chance to audition, go for it. Remember, we know what’s going on behind-the-scenes creatively. If you give a good audition but are ultimately not right for the role, two things can happen—we may re-conceive the role for you, or we’ll remember you and bring you in for something else. Generally, go to any audition you get and knock it out of the park. I say generally, because there are exceptions to the rule. Sometimes you get an audition for a part you just can’t seem to crack or you feel it’s something you’d never be able to do due to it’s sexual or violent content. Better to pass on the role. You don’t want to give a bad audition because we will definitely remember it—and we have long memories! Come in and make it your own. A director I know said, “Tell me something about the character that I don’t know.”

I have so many stories about actors coming in for a role, not getting it, and getting another role because they made such a huge impression on us. It’s good to know your “type” but you need to know that there are a lot of casting directors and filmmakers out there who love to take chances and cast against type. As an actor it’s your job to interpret what’s on the page and put your unique stamp on it.

Have you ever been cast against type? Or have you gone in for one role, and gotten another down the line because they loved what you did? Please share your stories.

Glad you’re here!

Marci

 

 

 

HOW KEEPING A DIARY CAN HELP YOU BOOK THE JOB

By Marci Liroff

276429939_51da76025bPhoto credit: Kiwanja

Remember when you were a kid and you kept a diary next to your bed and wrote down everything you did and thought about that day? Those childhood habits were actually great training for what you should be doing as an actor. Tracking every meeting and audition is a great practice to get into.

I’ve been preaching this to my classes and my coaching clients for years now. They always come back to thank me and point out that this one thing has changed their perspective on their career. Sometimes what you do as an actor – the prep, the auditions, the sheer tenacity you put into your career to get an acting job – can be an intangible thing when you don’t actually get the job and you effectively have nothing to show. But, like I always say, “this is not a sprint it’s a marathon”. So much effort goes into getting the job and keeping a diary or a journal of all your auditions will help you see your progress in black and white.

I suggest you keep a notebook and write down every meeting and audition you have. List the people you’ve met and their position, the project, the role, what you wore, and what choices you made for your audition. Take short notes on what you discussed if you got into a chat with the director. When it starts getting busy during pilot season and you’re going on several auditions each week, and hopefully getting callbacks, it’ll be great to know exactly what you did on each audition that got you back in the room a second time because you’re chronicling it in your book.

You’re going to have a long and busy career and you will probably have a few different people represent you along the way. When you start a new relationship with an agent or manager, wouldn’t it be great if you could give them some actual tools to help you? You can sit down with them in your initial meeting and give them a list of people who are your fans, casting directors who consistently bring you back, and a list of those that you need an introduction. This way you can plan a strategy on which rooms you need to get into.

Actor friend William Mapother goes a step further using an Excel Spreadsheet.

“I keep an ‘Auditions’ spreadsheet in Excel. It has 6 columns: CD, Date, Project, Role (character name), Type (feature, pilot, recurring, guest), and Studio/Co./Network.  I use Excel because it allows me to easily sort the data to see how many times I’ve seen a CD, or to see how many appointments I’ve had over any period of time.”

Here’s the part I love. “When I book a job I change the font in that row to red.  Also, once I book via a CD, I make that CD’s name red throughout document.

Mapother continues, “I also keep another Excel spreadsheet in which I note lessons I’ve learned in various areas and make notes to avoid re-committing horrendous blunders. I’ve noted when circumstances before an audition have helped or hurt me – being hungry, working out, interacting with other actors who are waiting.  The purpose is to experiment and identify what helps me. “Another lesson came not from my experiences, but from reading.  One of Pixar’s rules:  Errors are inevitable, so make them ASAP.  Experiment early.  I noted this in my lessons as “Be wrong as quickly as you can.”

Is this something that you do already? Please share how you’ve been tracking your auditions and meetings in the comments section.

Glad you’re here!

Marci

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