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How to Defeat Self-Doubt

Photo courtesy: Tertia Van Rensburg

By Marci Liroff

My Los Angeles Audition Bootcamp starts May 16, 23, 30th, 2017. Only a few spots left – sign up here!

I started casting a new film this week. In the days leading up to it, I got extremely anxious. It happens every time I start a project. The loop in my head goes something like this: “I have no idea how to cast this film. They’re all going to find out I have no idea what I’m doing.”

Can you imagine? I’ve been casting for almost four decades and I still have self-doubt.

Once I start the project, within the first morning, I realize I actually do know what I’m doing and I’m very good at it. As the ball starts rolling I immediately recognize the familiar day-to-day back and forth of the casting process.

Since I’m an independent casting director, I don’t keep an office. Like a gypsy, I move to a new space each time I start a project. Perhaps that’s part of the issue; I can’t picture where I’m going to work or who I’m going to work with. Once I get relaxed into my new surroundings, I can marinate on my casting ideas and they start flowing. Like riding a bike, it all comes back very quickly.

Then why the anxiety and self-doubt? I’ve taken great pains to analyze this to try and nip it in the bud. As a perfectionist, I find that that quality can actually work against me sometimes. There are such huge expectations on me when I’m in charge of a project. I’m so swept up in doing everything right that I forget the big picture.

Renowned acting teacher Howard Fine wrote this about self-doubt and insecurity in terms of the acting community. I think it’s a great lesson for us all: “Let me explain the positive benefits of self-doubt. Those who question their talent work harder. The doubt translates to a work ethic. The insecure actor will not take anything for granted. To those of you who feel insecure about your talents, it is your very sensitivity toward life and toward your fellow human beings that is a core part of your talent. You must seek to find balance. It is OK and natural to question your talent. Do not think that this disqualifies you from having a wonderful life and career. In fact, you share the trait with many whose work you admire.”

I agree with Fine on many of his points. What I’ve learned to embrace is that this feeling keeps me humble and keeps me on my toes. I don’t rest on my laurels. I’m constantly pushing myself to be better at my job.

As an actor, you’ve got to exude confidence in your work. Even if you don’t feel it inside, you can act “as if” and it will telegraph. I’ve often cited social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on this topic. Take a look at her video. It’s life-changing.

There’s nothing better than an actor who comes in to audition, who is comfortable in her own skin, and who’s there to “play”; it allows us to relax and feel like we’re in good hands. Confidence is sexy and it’s infectious.

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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Can I Get a Do-Over?

By Marci Liroff

Spring Audition Bootcamp classes are starting in May in Los Angeles. Click here to sign-up.

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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