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HOW TO RUIN YOUR AUDITION IN ONE EASY STEP

8821230126_015e2916edPhoto credit: Wonderlane

By Marci Liroff

I was casting a TV pilot a few years ago and one of the roles was described as an “Old-World Hollywood agent. He even wears a pocket square in his suit jacket.” All of the lovely actors who came in were dressed to the nines.

I brought in an actor from Canada who I didn’t know personally, but had seen his demo reel and was impressed. It was enough to convince me to bring him straight to the producers without a pre-read because I was pressed for time. He had a great comedy background and was a fresh face out here so I thought it would be an interesting audition at the very least.

When you work on a television show the writers are often the creators and producers of the show. I had a full house that day with the director for the pilot, the star/creator/writer/producer and his writing/producing partner as well.

Mr. Canada showed up wearing a grungy leather jacket, ripped up jeans (not the designer kind!), and a wrinkled t-shirt. I thought to myself, “Wow, this guy must be really good to be so carefree about how he’s dressed for his audition!” He sat down, didn’t say much, put on his “readers” (half-glasses), and began to read the scene off of the page. Our creator/star read with all the actors. The actor continued to read, face down in his sides. He’d look up briefly to see that we were all still there, but basically just read off the page. I felt the energy in the room shift. I saw steam start to come out of the producer’s ears. My face got all hot. Then it happened. As if things weren’t bad enough, Mr. Canada decided to try his hand at a joke and change the dialogue. He was sitting in the presence of one of the hottest veteran comedians for the last 30 years who had a long-running hit TV show and he thought he’d show them how funny he was by changing their dialogue. The line read, “Boy! Somebody’s got a bee in his bonnet today!” referring to how our star was being cranky. He changed the line to, “Boy! Somebody’s got a bee in his yalmulke today!” – he was referring to what a Jewish man wears on his head in Temple. He tried to make a Jewish joke to the Jews in the room. At that point, one of the producer’s head exploded. The other producer was so furious he literally turned his entire body around on the couch to face the back of the room, away from Mr. Funny. I felt myself sinking into a pool of hot molasses.

He finished his scene. We all just sat there staring at him. You could hear a pin drop. I said “thank you” and he slunk out of the room. Then everybody turned to look at me with a giant “what the f*ck was that?!” look on their collective faces. I had no answer. I threw myself on the sword. I took responsibility for this guy being not prepared, not caring about how he dressed, and the ultimate sin – changing dialogue.

You have to remember that by the time you finally get the script it has been through months of revisions and rewrites, and notes from the studio and network. The writers want to hear their words. They get very attached to them.

I’ve worked with some directors who openly say, “I’m not attached to the material – it’s ok if you riff with it a bit”. That’s the time to improvise. Otherwise, stick to the material you’ve been given, put your own unique spin on it from your well-thought out character choices, then let it fly….as written.

Please share your experiences when you improvised and it didn’t work…or it worked beautifully! There are exceptions to every rule. I want to hear your stories!

Glad you’re here!

Marci

 

 

USE PROTECTION

277236988_d9a4dca962Photo credit: Kanonn

By Marci Liroff

You’ve got an extremely emotional scene to do. You arrive early to your audition so you can get settled and get in your “zone”.

In the waiting room you overhear the casting assistant talking to CAA about sending a script to Mr. Famous Actor for your role. You can actually hear the actors auditioning in the other room and they’re getting a great reaction. You’re starting to question all your choices. “Eek! I wasn’t gonna do that!”

You shove your earbuds even further into your ears hoping you can drown out all these distractions that will be undoubtedly be your undoing. “I’m good. I’m in my zone. I can do this!” you repeat over and over. You’re calling up your character’s emotional past to grab onto the emotions you’ll need for the upcoming scene.

You’re ushered into the casting office and are greeted by a peppy and excited assistant OR a group of people that barely register that you’re in the room to audition. Then they want to chat. “How’s it going?/What did you think of the script?/Do you have any questions?” In the background you can hear the distinct sound of your heart beating so loudly that you can barely hear them asking you these inane questions. Then you realize, no, it’s not your heartbeat it’s the distinct sound of a drill because they’re putting on a new roof on the office while you’re auditioning.

Are we having fun yet? No, we’re not. How can an actor give a great audition against all these odds that seem to be set up as an obstacle course to make them fail? Protect yourself. Yes, YOU have to protect yourself against all these outside elements. Concentration is key but asking, or rather telling them what you need is also crucial. This is what I call “controlling the room”.  If you have a traumatic scene to do and you’re all geared up to connect to the character’s pain emotionally, then you come into an office and have to chat first – protect yourself. You can say, “I’d love to jump into the scene first then we can chat after.” It’s all about the way you ask/tell. If you’re polite and gracious you can get away with murder in this setting – as long as you’re not a diva about it.  Remember, we want you to do well. We want to help you. It’s ok to ask a specific question about the scene, character, screenplay beforehand but make sure that you can use the answer in a very specific way to inform the way you’ll play the upcoming scene.

If you get lost in the first few moments of the scene, stop and say, “I’m going to start over” and do just that – start over. Don’t ask for permission. You need not make a big deal about it. Don’t apologize and don’t have a meltdown. Remember, you didn’t do anything horrible – but if you flip out and say, “I’m so sorry, can I please start over? Damn I always do that!”, then you give me pause and I’m now worried how you’ll be on set if this happens. It’s how you handle these little speed bumps that shows us what a pro you are.

Remember, this is your time. This is your audition. Tell us what you need.

I’d love to hear about how you protect yourself in auditions and I’m sure it would help our community as well. Leave a comment and share this blog with your friends.

Glad you’re here!

Marci

 

 

BE PREPARED

 

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By Marci Liroff

This is a cautionary tale about preparation and research. If you’re honest with yourself you’ll save lots of heartache.

An actor sent me a message on Facebook last week – I’ve cleaned up all the typos and grammatical errors so that you can read it. Believe me when I tell you that it was chock-full of them!

“Dear Marci, I am 20 years old. Italian descent and 6ft even. I have a video reel I’ll have by Monday of next week. I would like to move forward with you and your team and be represented by you because I think we would make great work. I am seeking work. I live in Los Angeles now. So I’m available for pursuing my acting career. You’re one of the best and I follow your work. Please see about hiring me for some upcoming roles all I need is one shot!”

I replied: “Hey Danny, I think you need to do more research. I’m a casting director and producer. I’m not an agent and therefore do not represent talent. Best of luck to you!”

Two days later, at 11:30pm I got this email from the same actor:

“I’m living in my car. I trusted the wrong friend coming to LA. I can’t get an apartment or student loan from my school until Monday or Tuesday. I know this is a weird question but is there any way I can stay with you or a friend you may have for a couple days? Please let me know. I don’t know anyone in Los Angeles.”

I posted this interaction on my personal Facebook wall because I was stunned on so many levels. Who is this guy? How can he be so unprepared? How come he doesn’t know that Casting Directors don’t represent talent? Then my compassion kicked in and I started to worry for him. Poor kid coming to Los Angeles with no plan in place and no network of people to catch him when he falls. And it seems he “fell” upon entrance to our fair city.

My friends’ reactions varied. I got a bunch of comments along these lines: “So sad”, “Scary”, “Poor guy”, “Heartbreaking”. I was surprised to hear these comments from my friends though, “Does he clean?” “I have a Nigerian prince he should call!”, “Don’t feel too sorry for him, it’s probably a scam”.

This stirred up a lot of emotion in me whether it was true or not. I can’t imagine moving to a new city and not having a safety net in place. Charles Darwin first wrote about “natural selection” and British philosopher Herbert Spencer later coined the phrase, “survival of the fittest”. When you think about “making it” in Hollywood those concepts surely come to mind but it doesn’t have to be so. Doing the proper research and preparation ahead of time helps to prevent such catastrophes.

I like the concept of being a big fish in a small pond so that when you do come out to Hollywood you already have a fair amount of experience under your belt. You’ve trained, you’ve studied, and you’ve been on-set and in local theater productions. It’s easier to get your SAG-AFTRA card in a local region than in Hollywood. Hopefully, you’re also coming here with a demo reel already in progress. You’ll be adding more footage to this along the way. These days, we need to see your demo reel.

Have you made a budget? Do you truly understand what it’ll take before you make this giant leap of faith? Because Los Angeles is so spread out you’ll need a car to get you to and from your auditions. That means gas and insurance as well. You’ll need a job that will allow you flexible hours so that you can audition and take classes. Your thrival job will also need to let you go when you actually get an acting job. A safe place to live is mandatory. At minimum, you’ll need money for classes, headshots, food, gym, going to the movies/theater for research and to grow as an actor.

If you are successful enough to land an agent and/or mgr, 10% goes to the agent and anywhere from 5-15% will go to your manager depending on how you negotiate that contract. Let’s not forget Uncle Sam.

One would think planning and research would be mandatory for such a move, but I see actors come out here every day in search of “the dream” only to have those dreams dashed. Come out here a couple of times in advance of your big move and check it out beforehand. Make sure you thoroughly understand the lay of the land. Think of it as a reconnaissance mission for your future.

I’d love to hear your stories about making the “big move”. Please share with our community so that everyone can benefit from your experiences.

Leave a comment, share with a friend.

Glad you’re here!

Marci

 

 

 

 

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