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Can I Get a Do-Over?

By Marci Liroff

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While watching the 2017 Grammy Awards, I witnessed the most remarkable thing: The uber-talented singer-songwriter Adele took the stage for a sung tribute to her friend George Michael.

It soon became apparent that she was slightly off-key and her in-ear mics weren’t working. So she shut the orchestra down and on live television said,

“Can we please stop? I just can’t do it again like last year. I just can’t fuck this up, it means too much to me. I’m sorry for swearing and I’m sorry for starting over, but can we please just start it again? I’m sorry, but I just can’t mess this up for him.”

And with that, the audience rose to their feet cheering, the orchestra started again, and she gracefully began the song for a second time. In that moment, Adele won us over.

Last year, singer-songwriter and poet Patti Smith sang Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fallat the Nobel Prize ceremony.

A few moments into her rendition, she faltered. She had forgotten the lyrics. She was devastated. Again, like a pro, she stopped the band, apologized profusely, saying she was very nervous, and started again. She exhibited such grace and was so honest, vulnerable, and respectful of the material. I couldn’t have loved her more in that moment.

The do-over. It’s that awkward moment when you’re most human.

How often do we get this opportunity? In life, not often, but if you handle it correctly, you can steer the crowd in your favor. This made me think of actors and auditions.

In my classes and coaching, actors always ask, “Can I start over?”

Here’s my take on it—and you know I’m always going to tell you the truth, or at least my truth, having gone through several decades of the filmmaking process: If you’re at the beginning of a scene and get off to a bad start, say, “I’m going to start over.” Don’t apologize, don’t give a thousand “I’m sorry”s. Don’t ask for permission, just start again. This is you taking control of the audition room and letting us know you’ve got it under control. There’s no point in going through a three- to five-page scene if you know you’re not in the zone. But don’t abuse the privilege. I have had actors go over and over scenes, asking if they can do it again. It’s a glimpse into how you might be on set, and it doesn’t bode well.

I suggest that you not stop in the middle of a long scene when you’re almost at the end. Remember, we want you to know the material, be off-book, and give us the dialogue as written. But if you miss a word or a phrase, there’s no need for you to start over as long as you stay in the scene and stay in character. We’ll be impressed by this.

Here’s a good trick if you go up on your lines or get lost deep into your scene: Stop, raise your hand to the person you’re reading with, take a moment (which means a nanosecond), then continue where you left off. It’ll give you a beat to pull it together and not have to start over.

In my article “How Not to Fall Off the Tightrope in an Audition” I wrote  how to reframe and pivot within the audition if you get off-track. If you miss a word, it’s not the end of the world. That said, it’s how you handle it that will make you rise above and get your audience cheering for you.

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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Perfection is a Creativity Killer

Photo by Ricardo Viana

By Marci Liroff

These days we have casting sessions without the director or the producer in the room. You’ll be “going on tape for producer(s)/director” because often times they are on location or simply not available. What I’m noticing is that many actors are hung up on perfection. That nasty “P” word vexes their audition time and time again. They want to do it over and over again until they’ve reached what they think is perfection.

When I’m coaching actors I have some clients who just want the work session to be over and done with. “Is that good enough? Please, can we move on to the next scene?” They truly don’t like the process and just want it to stop. In stark contrast, I have a few clients who simply will not turn anything in unless it is perfect.

What is “perfect” anyway? Who is the judge of that?

You? Me? The casting director who receives it? The creative team who looks at your work and decides whether you’re going to get the role?

As an artist, you’ve got to be your own editor and judge. You’ve got to know in your gut whether your performance is truthful, organic, and spontaneous. It’s a delicate balance. In life, we don’t get to go over and over and replay each experience until we get it right (although some of us definitely keep choosing the same toxic people in our lives and keep playing the same scene out but with different characters.) But I’m talking about the actor who is concerned about how each line comes out, the accent on each word, how his hair looks, or what his hands were doing in the scene.

There are many pros and cons to self-taping. I’ve had many actors tell me that they feel like they’re in a vacuum and don’t know which choices are the right ones. The thing is, there is no “right” here. The right choice is the honest and true choice. Ask yourself, – Are you coming off as a real human being? Or are you making choices that are clichés of what you think this man would do. Are you getting deep down into his soul or are you just skimming the surface with your choices.

Human beings are flawed. Life is messy and complicated.

The performances that show us these traits are the ones that are more compelling to watch because the actor is letting us in to his psyche, not just revealing what he wants to show us – but what he doesn’t want to share. That’s what’s infinitely more interesting to watch than perfection. There is no such thing as perfection and those that are striving for it are not only kidding themselves, they’re shortchanging us and them.

In life, we don’t always know the answers to the questions – we’re searching, we’re discovering. The performances that show us this journey are the most fascinating ones to watch.

I’m not suggesting you turn in a self-tape that’s sloppy, where you don’t know your lines or your performance is half-assed. But please lean toward thinking of yourself as a fallible human being and your performance will automatically be more honest and captivating. The more you start embracing the dark and messy side of your soul, the more we’ll want to watch. It’s only human.

What are you doing to “keep it real?” I want to hear from you.

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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Will Tattoos Stop You From Getting The Gig?

Illustration by Nick Bertozzi

By Marci Liroff

I love tattoos but I’ve always been too scared to get them. What if a piece of artwork I like today suddenly turns me off in a few years? I’m fickle that way.

It always surprises me when an actor gets permanent ink in visible places. Don’t they worry about getting hired for certain roles? Doesn’t it peg them as a certain “type”? Are you painting yourself into a corner by getting visible tattoos? I decided to talk to my tattooed friends to get their take on it. I was very surprised at their answers. So much has changed in the industry.

Verona Blue is an actor friend of mine and my coaching client. She’s got full sleeves and facial piercings. “I think there are two types of a tattooed actor: those who have a “look” that suits and highlights their tattoos (like me) and actors who happen to have tattoos that are rarely seen on screen, and not part of their type to any significant degree. In my case my tattoos generally help because I am very specific, and typically go out for characters whom, more often than not have the word “tattoo” in their breakdown. My niche is pretty small. There are a many actors who successfully book period and “period fantasy” (such as Game of Thrones) work despite their tattoos because they are easily covered with costumes – however I am not one of those actors (this probably has more to do with my hair than my artwork). (Verona has an amazing blue Mohawk of dreads).

On occasion a makeup artist will make some minor changes to my tattoos to highlight certain colors, but I’ve never had them covered up with makeup.

“I think it’s important for any artist to be true first to themselves, and then to their business second.”- Verona Blue

If you get a tattoo that is an easily exposed place (arms, hands, neck) you should make a note of your artist and get their direct contact information because the production’s legal department will ask you to get a signed release from them to make sure they aren’t sued (after the artist who did Mike Tyson’s face tattoo successfully filed suit against WB for “The Hangover” we are all suffering a new pile of paperwork for each booking).”

“Most of us will spend most of our days as US, not as characters on set, and it’s valuable to have a strong sense of self and be confident with who you are when you’re not acting, or auditioning.” – Verona Blue

Seth Yanklewitz, former vice president of network casting for Fox Broadcasting Company, has many tattoos—full sleeves and legs. As a casting executive, I was curious about his take on tattoos.

“As both a former independent CD and now an executive at the network, I have no issue with an actor having tattoos,” he says. “I would say so many creative types in this day and age have tattoos, so it’s fairly common. However, I’m sure there’s a producer or director who would have an issue, but makeup departments have airbrush techniques that literally make tattoos disappear in seconds. It’s not like the old days where you needed Spackle to hide a tattoo.”

When asked about the prevalence of prejudice against tattoos in the industry, Yanklewitz said, “I don’t think there’s prejudice, per se, about tattoos. If an actor were to have a past with certain affiliations or negative religious affiliations tied to those tattoos and the actor is now reformed, they should want to cover them up and make sure the public doesn’t associate them with that particular ideology.”

On differences for tattooed men versus women, he said, “Sadly, I would say there still is sexism and classism associated with [tattoos] for certain people. But if you can act, that’s what I and all CDs need to see—bottom line. The rest can be fixed in the hair, makeup, or wardrobe trailer.”

Sometimes actors are allowed to keep their tattoos because it fits their character, often times non tattooed actors are hired because they can act and the makeup dept puts tattoos on them, and I would imagine there are actors who hide their tattoos with white ink or in places you can’t see and if they have them visible want them covered because they don’t work for their personal work or the character.

POSTSCRIPT:

After hiring Verona Blue for a film I cast for a film studio with a certain mouse as the brand, they balked at showing her arm tattoos. This is after she had already been approved by the filmmaking team, and the studio casting department. I almost had to replace her on the day until the costumer gave her a long-sleeved shirt to wear.

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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