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ARE YOU FRYING YOUR JOB PROSPECTS?

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By Marci Liroff

There’s an epidemic going on and I had no idea it actually had a name. The culprit is “vocal fry.” Not only is it annoying but it’s ruining your chances of getting hired—not just as an actor, but for any job.

Vocal fry is the result of pushing the end of words and sentences into the lowest register, where the vocal folds in the throat vibrate irregularly and allow air to slip through. The result is a low, sizzling rattle underneath. (Kim Kardashian is the queen of vocal fry, but now that I’ve pointed it out you’ll probably hear it everywhere.) For a great example, look up actor and national public radio host Faith Salie’s vocal fry video on YouTube.

Sociologists say women and girls pick up this bizarre vocal pattern because it makes them feel like part of a macroculture.

Recent studies have documented its growing popularity among educated and successful young women in the United States, but this learned behavior might be frying their job prospects. According to researcher Ikuko Yuasa, vocal fry may be the result of young women striving to reach the male register by imbuing their speech with gravitas.

Not only is it irritating to listen to, but you may be permanently ruining your vocal chords. As an actor, your voice is gold and it must be protected at all costs. YouTube star Abby Normal reports in her video: “This sort of vocalization can cause more harm to your throat because your vocal chords aren’t smoothly rubbing together; they’re more clapping…it’s like whispering. Instead of a nice, even flow, you’re creating more friction on your vocal chords.”

And there’s another vocalization that, while not harmful to your voice, is harmful to how people perceive you: “Uptalking,” also picked up from friends, is a way of ending your sentences with a vocal inflection that turns up at the end like a question. I tell my coaching clients and those who are auditioning for me that uptalk results in the listener not taking them or their content seriously. I vocally show them through mimicry the importance of ending their sentences definitively, rather than sounding as if they want to communicate a point without being too decisive or potentially ruffling feathers. Uptalk is very passive-aggressive and it isn’t helping anyone in an audition, a business setting, or a personal setting, for that matter.

This passive-aggressive tone is said to have origins in California “Valley Girl” culture, but D.C.-based vocal coach and speech pathologist Susan Miller says the uncertain, youthful tone has moved across states and genders—despite the assumption that women are the prime culprits. “I would say that the majority of employers come to me because people sound young,” says the coach, who trains employees to sound more professional. “And it’s the uptalk, the uncertainty, more than fry.

“Voice is important to show authority, to show that you’re confident and you know your subject matter,” Miller adds. “It can be the deciding factor between getting a call for a second interview or being passed over for someone else.”

Linguist Robin Lakoff drew attention to the pattern in her book Language and Women’s Place, which argued that women were socialized to talk in ways that lacked power, authority, and confidence. Rising intonation on declarative sentences was one of the features Lakoff included in her description of ‘women’s language,’ a gendered speech style which in her view both reflected and reproduced its users’ subordinate social status.

Take a moment and listen to your vocal patterns by recording yourself having a casual conversation with a friend. Are you guilty? If so, stop it! Ask your friends, coach, or acting teacher to call you on it so you can be stronger in your auditions.

Do you know people who do this? If so, send them this article and help them become more conscious of these vocalization patterns.

Make sure to check out my new online course “How To Audition For Film and Television: Audition Bootcamp”.

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True Confessions of a Casting Director

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By Marci Liroff

What did you do for your career this week? Seriously, what have you done? I ask this question at the beginning of every class in my three-night Audition Bootcamp series of classes. What, exactly, have you done this past week to further your career?

The class responses vary from “I got new headshots taken” to “I checked breakdowns and submitted myself on three projects” to “I took a workshop” or “I had an audition.” It also counts if you do this: “I went down to the bus station to observe people.” This exercise each week keeps students accountable within the class, with their peers, so that they will hopefully be motivated to do several things each week to further their careers. Also, in so doing, we share useful information like online tools, websites, and other resources.

The peer pressure alone makes sure that they have something to report each week! During these weekly discussions, I realized that I hadn’t been practicing what I preach. Remember that as an independent casting director, I have to look for work, too. I’m out there like you are—auditioning for the role of the casting director. It struck me that I’ve become more than a little burnt out looking for my next job. As an actor, you must feel this way, too, at times.

This weekend I went out of town on a much-needed getaway with friends. I had just put my 10-and-a-half-year-old dog down and was quite blue. Because my brain was over-exhausted and not very clear, I forgot to bring my computer and iPad. When I arrived, I went into a kind of mini meltdown. For those who know me, they know that I’m pretty addicted to technology and the Internet. I was now going to get a 48-hour, cold-turkey experience.

Funny how life conspires to make you face yourself head-on.

I remembered that balance is everything. You’ve got to have balance in your life, or you’ll become a shell of your former self, and your work will suffer. Keep your life full and stay interested in your craft. If you stop being interested in your craft, know that it’s OK to stop acting until you get your juices flowing again. You need to be living your life. You’ve got to find balance and actually have a life in order to draw experience and emotion for your work.

Finally, I realized that it’s more than OK to unplug when you need to and not feel guilty. We’re all in this together. Let’s come at our art from a healthy and joyful place.

What do you do to find balance in your life? Please share in the comments below!

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.

Glad you’re here!

Marci

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How To Prepare BEFORE The Job

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By Marci Liroff

A couple of months ago, I was coaching a client for a project. I always like to get all the details of the project (who’s involved, which network, studio, etc.) whenever I work with someone so that I can guide them in terms of tone. She had already booked the job and was about to shoot the next day. I asked her to fill me in on these details, but she didn’t really know anything about the project. It was for a producer friend, but she had no idea whether it was for television, Web, or what—she thought it was possibly a Web series with potentially three networks involved. She had no idea if it was union or nonunion. It was all very confusing.

Most important, there was no contract or deal set in place. She knew the work would be unpaid but had no guarantee of any kind. If you’re going to do a friend a favor, at the very least make sure you get screen credit and a copy of your footage. More troubling was that she had an agent and a manager who didn’t question this. It wasn’t as if she was going out for the weekend to shoot a project with her friends—this was a Hollywood producer who has a body of work, and nobody asked any questions. I advised her to have her reps talk to the producer beforehand and get a contract.

For our work session she wasn’t off-book yet, but through repetition she began to have more of a grasp of the material. She confessed that deep down she wasn’t comfortable with the lines and felt they weren’t very well-written—which they weren’t!

I suggested that she’s (hopefully!) going to have a long career working with great material that will just flow out of her mouth, along with times when she’ll have less-than-great material.

If you’re going to be an actor you have to leave your judgment at the door—your judgment of the material and the character.

You have to find a way in, a “hook,” if you will, to your character so that you can empathize with him or her. Look at how fascinating Sir Anthony Hopkins was as Hannibal Lecter. It’s not just because the material was so good; it’s because he had compassion for the character.

I asked my client what her objective was in the scene. It was to warn the Queen that her sister was being treated badly, and that this could possibly result in an uprising. I told her to think of her counsel as being “of service” to the Queen. Her role is noble because it serves a huge purpose. Without her, the whole kingdom could fall due to the missing piece of information that she is giving. She was needed and vital to this story.

Suddenly she had purpose. She had a role in this puzzle.

Be sure to ask questions and get all the info you can before you start your project. Learn your lines to the point where you can be comfortable throwing them away and truly connect with the scene’s objective and understand why you are there.

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.

Glad you’re here.

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