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WHY ACTORS NEED TO UNDERSTAND SOCIAL MEDIA

By Marci Liroff

I’ve been encouraging actors to get involved in social media for the last several years. Seems that they’ve been heeding my call! I’ve noticed droves of actors taking to Twitter lately. Some do it well, some—not so much.

While working on the feature film “Vampire Academy: BloodSisters,” based on the best-selling series of six young-adult paranormal romance novels, I noticed some really bad behavior by a few actors; they were tweeting about coming in for auditions, and how they did on said audition. One actor simply tweeted, “Christian Ozera” (the name of one of the very exciting male characters in the book series) and the Internet went wild with rumor mongering.
To put things into perspective, this book series has a HUGE fanbase. The Facebook fanpage for the movie—which hasn’t even been made yet!—has more than 250,000 fans.
I got an email from one of my producers who asked that all casting news come from the production and that what goes on behind the scenes (i.e. who’s auditioning) should be controlled by us. The producer added that any further “leaks” would compromise an actor’s potential for being hired.
The Facebook fanpage and Twitter blew up with speculation and thousands of fans were hysterically talking about whether the actor who tweeted about auditioning for Christian was going to get the part. I had to call his representatives and suggest that this was perhaps not the most professional approach to getting the role. I knew in my heart that he had tweeted this in an innocent way, not realizing what trouble would ensue from his simple tweet.
Another actor on Twitter and Facebook who wanted one of the lead roles so badly would fan the flames of speculation and neither deny or confirm that he was being offered the part. He even created a Facebook Fanpage for his mission.
Because IMDb is actually a fan site much like Wikipedia, anyone can enter information. We hope and depend that the site actually vets the information, but an actor who was “rumored” to be in the mix, who actually wasn’t, was listed as “rumored” to be playing the role. This added to even more confusion.
I’ve seen actors fired from commercials for tweeting things like, “Hey, I just booked a (fill-in-the-blank) commercial!” Same goes for television shows. The producers, networks, studios see this sort of thing as a leak of information.  This news should ONLY come from the production if and when they see fit and in the venue that they want it to come from. If after reading this you still feel compelled to share this kind of information, you should clear it with the producers first.

Kevin Brockman, Executive Vice President, Global Communications, Disney/ABC Television Group spoke to me about this topic. He said, “We are very actively involved in guiding our actors and productions in the social media space.  At ABC and ABC Family, after series are greenlit and before production begins, our social media and PR teams walk the actors and producers through a social media 101 that points out the potential positives and negatives in these arenas. Series spoilers are a large part of the discussion and our rule of thumb is, ask your executive producer or Publicity team before posting anything that may be a problem. Our actors, especially on our shows with mystery elements, like ‘Scandal’, ‘Pretty Little Liars’ and ‘Twisted,’ are very cognizant of this, as they don’t want to hurt the viewing experience for their fans.” 

Brockman added, “At Disney Channels Worldwide, we host Talent Orientation programs that provide new actors information on what to expect from their colleagues on the Production team and from their colleagues at Disney Channel, and what’s expected of them.  During the Orientation, we cover the subject of social media and reiterate to our actors and their parents that what they say and do on social media, or when communicating directly to their fans, should done with care.  We remind them to “think before they tweet or post” anything, and ask them to appreciate that millions of young fans may look up to them.”

I also spoke to Dan Berendsen, writer/producer/creator of ABC Family’s hit tv show “Baby Daddy”. He said, All five of my cast members have a significant internet presence (twitter, instagram) and are an integral part of the show’s marketing. They are the source of the show’s real social media. We acknowledge that and promote it – they are partners in the successful marketing of the show. Consequently, we talk about what information is best for them to give out and what’s not. To make it work, the actors have to be completely onboard with what you’re trying to accomplish.

Historically, “leaks” and “spoilers” are more likely to come from the studio audience and the extras. There is almost no way to shut that down on a show that’s filmed in front of a live audience – other than to ask people not to ruin the surprise for everyone else.”
 
Of course, I understand the feeling we all have these days to share news within our community of followers on Facebook and Twitter along with your website. I suggest you share it after the project is completed and only when it’s about to air. Another thing to do so that you feel connected is to say something benign like “Auditions went GREAT today! I was so prepared!” That way, nobody gets hurt! 
I’d love to hear your stories about your experiences with Social Media and your interactions. It’s always good to share with the community.
Glad you’re here!
 
Marci
 
 

CAN THE CASTING OFFICE TEST YOUR CONCENTRATION?!

By Marci Liroff
Whenever I’m casting a movie and working with actors I marvel at their sheer concentration. To be able to create a believable character and a “world” around you in a small audition room is always a miracle to me.
When I get hired on a television show or a movie, the production usually has me move in to their offices so that I’m close to the creative team for auditions. It’s often a game of Russian roulette to see if I get the “cool” office space or the crap one. I’ve had some very, shall we say “interesting”, experiences along the way and it’s brought me to share this story as I witnessed actors trying to stay in character through some difficult circumstances at our casting offices.
The last film I cast had a very cool-looking office space. It had been completely redone to look very architectural and quasi industrial. My office was very long and narrow, very hip looking. BUT, one entire wall was floor to ceiling windows, which looked onto, you guessed it, the waiting room. It was like working in a fishbowl. All the actors waiting to audition could look into my office and watch the auditions. Not cool. Immediately we fashioned a “screen” with a sheet that also served as a backdrop for our filming. One problem solved.
Turns out the walls were paper-thin so that when you’re in my office auditioning, you could hear another actor in the next room auditioning with my casting associate Michelle. Again, not cool. There were actually times when they would sync up and would be reading the lines at the same time in two separate rooms. If you’re not prepared and “in your character” and able to shut out all the elements you could be very tripped up by this.
Because this office didn’t have much in the way of natural light, we had to use our professional lights – which are seriously HOT! They didn’t have central air-conditioning – which is usually whisper quiet. There was a built-in wall unit that was very effective, which we had to turn off during the auditions so that we’d get great sound. This resulted in making my office feel a lot like Suzy’s Easy-Bake Oven. Remember those? It’d be freezing cold in the waiting room and we’d have sweat streaming down our faces and would be peeling off our clothes as the day went by.
Just when you think we’ve solved enough problems, in the week that we were doing the final casting where we had our director piped in thru my laptop to direct on Skype from London, they decided to put in a new roof and a new air-conditioning unit on said roof. Banging, drilling, pounding, hot mopping with tar, toxic fumes….you get the picture. And yet, it’s your “time to shine”! It’s your audition. Again, I was amazed at how most of the actors who came in just went with the flow, planted their feet and gave some truly incredible performances in spite of all these problems.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized this was great preparation for when you actually get on set. If you think that once you’re on set, everything will be easier and you can relax, then you haven’t really experienced the full spectrum of what can go wrong while you’re shooting.
Several years ago I cast and associate produced a film staring Cary Elwes and Alicia Silverstone called “The Crush”. We were night-shooting a particular scene where Elwes’ character drove Silverstone’s character up to a lookout point. We had chosen a truly gorgeous lookout point by the bay in Vancouver. Both of them were dressed to the nines because they were coming from a dressy party in the scene. That night, of course, it starts pouring and it’s about 40 degrees outside. Then the fog roles in. Because we had to get our shot, we forged ahead. Then the foghorn starts blowing every five minutes. We call the Sherriff, and the Sea Patrol to get them to turn it off…”We’re shooting a movie here!” we protested. They just looked at us like we were crazy people. “The fog horn is so that anyone out at sea will avoid hitting the light house!!”
So, we did what any smart film company would do. We held umbrellas over their heads and had them do as many lines as they could in between the 5-minute timing of the blaring foghorn. They were shivering, eating ice so that we wouldn’t see their breath, and trying to stay in their character. If that wasn’t a test of their concentration, I don’t know what was!
You’ve got to be able to “bring it” in any given situation and not get caught up in all the external things that you can’t control.
I’d love to hear your stories about concentration (and distraction) in the audition space and on-set. It’s always good to share with the community.

Glad you’re here!

Marci

SELLING AUDITIONS: IS NOTHING SACRED?!

By Marci Liroff
UPDATE 2:30 pm PST April 2:

As of 2:30pm PST we have word that the Casting Directors have taken the audition tapes off the auction block and instead are donating them to The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. You can read the story first reported on Back Stage Magazine here. This addresses the “for profit” issues on these tapes, but donating them to the Academy still doesn’t address the privacy issues of these auditions. 

The Daily Variety articlequotes SAGAFTRA as saying “Auditions are not public performances, and under SAG-AFTRA collective bargaining agreements performers are entitled to expect them to remain private,” said SAG-AFTRA General Counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland. “Our collective bargaining agreements include protections for performers against exploitation of audition and interview tapes, which must be erased upon performers’ request. Failure to comply with such a request will result in formal legal action pursuant to the agreements.Unauthorized use of audition and interview footage may also result in claims against producers and casting directors under right of publicity and/or privacy laws.”   

I’ll say again: these audition tapes were not meant for public consumption or scrutiny by people outside of the production. Period.

*************************

The casting community has been swirling with outrage the last few days over the news that two of our own are auctioning off several lots of audition tapes they’ve made through the years in Los Angeles on April 4th. Here’s the story.

Personally, I think the audition space is a sacred place and should be treated as such. When an actor comes in to audition, there’s an implicit agreement that the work they do in an audition is a work-in-progress and is only meant to be seen by those directly involved on the production in a contextual manner. It is not, and has never been, meant for mass consumption, sale, or distribution for profit. I have been asked countless times for audition footage – I’d never do it – and believe me I’ve got some doozies! I can only hope, and depend, that actors who come in to audition for me trust my discretion to not sell these work sessions.

 
I’ve spent the last few days alternately nauseated and enraged by this. Talks on Facebook within our casting community largely echoed sentiments of disgust and most were appalled. There were a few, however, who felt that by exposing these audition tapes to the public it had educational value and shows the public what we, as Casting Directors, really do. I agree with the “teaching moments” – just wish it had been approved by all concerned and if there’s profit to be made…then everyone deserves a piece of that pie.
 
Casting Director Matthew Lessall suggested that tapes like these should be archived and exhibited in a museum environment. I love this idea! Again, let’s get everyone involved to sign-off first and if there’s profit to be made everyone should share in it.
  
My contracts say that all work (including lists, videos, everything emanating from my office) belongs to the production and/or studio. Since this is all older footage they seem to be selling, perhaps the contracts didn’t have that clause in it yet? One can only hope.
Back Stage Magazine wrote a piece last night about this. The President of the Casting Society of America, Richard Hicks gave this statement:
“Richard Hicks, president of the Casting Society of America, condemned the auction in a written statement to Backstage, saying the organization “does not condone in any way” the sale or distribution of audition videos. “Actors who audition for the projects on which we work should have the reasonable expectation that their creative efforts during the audition process are treated with respect and used only for their intended purpose,” Hicks wrote. “Legal and rights issues aside, there is an ethical understanding among casting professionals that actors’ auditions are private.” He added that CSA “has always promoted and expected the highest of ethical standards of our members and will continue to do so.” Jenkins and Hirshenson are both CSA members.”
 
Many of the actors I spoke to were furious and worried about the future in terms of what rights they have over their audition footage. Will this be the new normal? I certainly hope not and judging by the CSA’s swift and harsh statement condemning those involved, people will think twice before doing this ever again.
I keep reminding myself that this is (hopefully) a “one-off”. This can’t happen again. I don’t know what the circumstances were that brought this casting team to think this was appropriate. I know there are two sides to every story. As of this time, Jane Jenkins and Janet Hirshenson have not weighed-in yet. I have always held them in such high esteem for the countless movies they’ve cast so beautifully. I’m trying not to be judgemental but I’m losing the battle. I still can’t wrap my mind around this one.
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Glad you’re here!
Marci

 

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