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How To Get on the Emerging Talent List

By Marci Liroff

Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon

We’ve become a society of lists. We’ve had David Letterman’s Top 10 lists, to-do lists, and myriad year-end best-of lists. As an actor, some of the most coveted to appear on are “emerging talent” lists. You might ask: How do I land a spot on one of these much-sought-after rosters?

Of course, you know me: I’m always bucking the system. Should it really be your goal to get on these lists? I don’t think so. If that’s the case, you may be traveling down the wrong path. I’d rather see you expend your energy and talents on creating and maintaining a solid foundation in which to be a versatile performer. Chasing the red carpet life or striving for the A-list is an invitation to a hamster wheel you’ll never get off.

What I’ve seen in the last several years is that these lists are somewhat bogus in the way they characterize “new” and “upcoming” talent. As a longtime casting director, I’ve got to be plugged into who is new and hot on the scene. They may appear new to you, but my colleagues and I have been tracking (and hiring) these actors for years before they even get mentioned on such a list. 

It’s important to ask yourself: Do I want to be famous, or do I want to be working with amazing filmmakers and turning out rich and authentic work?

Both paths take a lot of effort and tenacity. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you will get plucked out of obscurity and be an overnight success. I would wager that most, if not all, of the actors on these lists have been banging the drum for several years before you ever hear about them. 

These performers have been taking classes for years, working on short films for free, appearing in Off-Off-Off-Broadway plays, doing one-line day player gigs, working several jobs to pay the rent, creating their own content, and networking to build relationships within the industry. There have been sleepless nights spent wondering how they’ll pay their bills and take care of their family, and missed holidays and birthdays because they’re on location doing a bit part in what could be their “big break.” Lots of sacrifices happen that go unnoticed by the general public. It all looks so easy and simple when you finally become aware of someone for their amazing work on screen or stage, but the work that went into it is never mentioned. 

These lists are designed to make it look like a discovery story, but if you look closely, you’ll see that path is not paved with 100% success stories. The odds are stacked against you in your pursuit of movie star dreams. 

My hope is that you’ll take this time to reflect on why you’ve chosen this career in the first place. That simple act can help you manage your expectations and goals. 

I like to ask the kids I audition why they want to be an actor. If they say, “Because I have to,” I know they’re on the right path.

Make sure to check out my 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.

What Makes You Stand Out in an Audition

By Marci Liroff

I’ve been teaching several online classes over the last few months, and one question that consistently comes up is: What makes my audition stand out? It’s a tough one to answer because, as a longtime casting director, I know a talented actor when I see one. So much of it is subjective, but my years-honed instinct for noticing talent usually wins out. 

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, actors are strictly auditioning remotely. This means we casting directors are viewing large numbers of self-taped auditions, along with holding auditions over online platforms like Zoom, Skype, WeAudition, and others. If you aren’t fully prepared to self-tape in your home and audition over these platforms, now is the time to learn.

I attended a Casting Society of America webinar the other day that focused on self-taped auditions. One of the takeaways was that, for now, CDs are definitely cutting actors some slack in terms of the technology. No one is expecting a perfect tape.

We do not want you putting yourself in harm’s way by going to a professional taping facility.

We realize that many actors live alone and don’t have the proper equipment, much less a good reader. We’re happy so long as you are well-lit, the sound is good, and you’ve done the proper prep.

But in terms of really standing out, there’s a lot to be said for good old-fashioned charisma and magnetism. That’s something you can’t buy. Obviously, being über-prepared is a given. After that, showing us your authentic self is first on my list. I can always tell when an actor is pushing and straining to become the character. There is no try, just be. You should disappear into the character. Look at a few of Meryl Streep’s characters and you’ll see that she is no longer there, because she’s subsumed by her character.

Additionally, we often suggest that actors make a strong choice when they’re auditioning. My coaching clients constantly tell me they’re worried that their strong choice will be the wrong choice. Especially with self-taped auditions, you can feel as if you’re acting in a vacuum, as there is no immediate feedback in the room. But here’s what I see: If an actor makes a strong choice that’s headed in the wrong direction, and if they seem to be right for the role, I want to work with them to steer them back in the right direction. Because they’ve made a strong choice, I can see they are an intelligent actor and have done the work, which indicates that giving them adjustments, notes, and direction is worthwhile.

The thing that I miss about live auditions is that indescribable feeling I get when I’m in the presence of a talented human being. Their ease and confidence while performing can change the chemistry of a room. I’m sure you’ve felt this when you’re at a dinner party and your seatmate is easy to talk to—or, on the flip side, if they have toxic, inauthentic energy. You can feel it immediately. That energy is infectious, and it can inspire us or it can make us feel like we want to run out of the room! Do what you can to bring the best of the IRL experience to the camera.

Make sure to check out my 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.

How Easily Can You Pivot?

Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon

By Marci Liroff

We are going through unprecedented times. There is no playbook. The global pandemic has killed scores of people, and even more are sick. Our infrastructure is bursting at the seams, and the economy is being tested daily. The unemployment rate is at a historic high in the U.S. and around the world. What has become apparent to me at this moment in history is who can pivot easily and who cannot.

Are you going with the flow and turning a desperate situation into a workable one, or are you digging your heels in because you not only hate change, but won’t change? How you react right now is the litmus test of whether or not you’ll make it through.

I remember sitting with actor Marilu Henner years ago, and she said something so profound, it’s stuck with me to this day. We were having a “big life” discussion when she said,

“Life is about how easily you can slide into Plan B.”

Marilu Henner

This struck me as wise, because, as we know, life doesn’t always go the way you planned. Her whole life concept got me thinking that not only should I have a Plan B, but a Plan C is also crucial.

Then I started thinking about actors. In my opinion, no one is more prepared and equipped to pivot than actors. By virtue of their chosen path, they always have job insecurity. Many of the rest of us work nine-to-five, five days a week. For actors, it’s normal to not know what’s coming next, where you’re going to live, or how you’re going to pay your bills. Their training teaches them to be on their toes in every situation—to respond in real time to whatever is thrown at them. (Hello, improv!) Yet this profession is still sought after. Why? For many, the answer is, “Because I have to.” I would venture to say that actors are hard-wired to pivot.

As an independent casting director, acting coach, and intimacy coordinator, I am also used to my work ebbing and flowing. Sometimes I feel like a walking contradiction because I absolutely hate change. I like to know what’s happening next; I’m not the most spontaneous person you’ll ever meet. I sure don’t like it, but that’s the path I’ve chosen. I’ve become an expert at the pivot because I’ve learned fighting it does not help. 

I’m certainly not suggesting you concentrate on perfecting a professional pivot while you or your loved ones are sick; this article is directed at those who are well and able to do some work on themselves during this complicated time.

Make sure to check out my 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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