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How to Network

Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon

By Marci Liroff

In light of the pandemic, I am offering special pricing for my private coaching (remotely of course!) You can buy a steeply reduced package now and use it later (must be used before the end of 2020) Check out the info here.

This week, I’m talking about a dreaded topic: networking. I say “dreaded” because even I used to hate networking! Forcing myself to go out into the world with the sole purpose of meeting people in my business in order to garner connections (and possibly work) has always seemed inauthentic to me. If people like my work, why can’t they just reach out to me and hire me? Why do I have to mix and mingle with people? It’s exhausting!

That was the old me, but I’ve since read up on this topic to find out how to take the bad taste out of my mouth. I’ve learned that networking isn’t a one-way street; it should be beneficial for both parties. It’s not just “What can this person do for me?” but “How can I help and enrich this person with my expertise?” If you give value without strings, it will come back to you in spades. I’m not suggesting you work for free, but reframing the way you think about networking will change your energy around it and will attract like-minded people.

A popular way to network these days is through social media. I’ve written a lot on the topic in my column on Backstage. The first and most important rule is to use proper etiquette. In the world of social media, you should behave as you would at a dinner or cocktail party with guests you’re just meeting.

I hope you wouldn’t barge into a room of strangers and tell them to watch your demo reel.

Same thing with social media. In addition to social media, here are my four favorite networking tips to get you going:

1. Google Alerts. Set Google Alerts for the people you’d like to meet. Go and see them when they’re speaking on a panel. Ask questions and engage with them. No stalking!

2. Tweetups. Tweetups are essentially in-person social gatherings and networking events organized through Twitter—a great opportunity for turning social media interactions into in-person meetings.

3. Social gatherings. This is the time to shine and be yourself and not just talk about work. Natural, everyday social gatherings with friends are a great way to make real connections with people with whom you can circle back down the line to make work connections.

4. Turn to your friends and family. I’ll bet your friends, family, and work colleagues know several people that you’d like to meet. The best way to meet someone is through a personal referral! Ask around. Do your homework.

To further shed light on how actors should go about networking, I turned to actor and entrepreneur Ben Whitehair, who has taught me much about how actors can and should interact with casting directors and film professionals.

There are so many ways to network with casting directors. What has worked for you?
I’m now actual friends with dozens of casting directors, and in each case, I followed three guidelines: Always add value; remember that casting directors are people, too; [and] practice patience.

In my online business academy and coaching community for actors, working.actor, we are constantly talking about how important it is to remember the mantra “Offer instead of ask.” Casting directors are bombarded by actors, and most actors are asking for something—follow me, watch my demo reel, give me an audition. A wildly more effective approach is to add value for the casting director. Maybe that’s simply expressing your gratitude, offering tips or resources related to what the casting director is posting about, or promoting a film they cast to your followers.

It’s also so helpful to remember that casting directors are fellow human beings in this crazy industry. They want to get a break from their busy lives on social media, be treated with kindness, and interact with genuine people. Find ways to interact on a human level instead of only talking shop.

I also find that when I focus on building relationships over time rather than trying to get something in the short term, it always works for me.

What are the no-nos?
The biggest one is what we discussed before—asking for something instead of adding value. If someone feels like you’re just trying to get something from them, they won’t be inclined to help you. Beyond that, I’m shocked how many actors have not taken the steps to make sure their own social media profiles are optimized and professional, [which requires a] quality profile photo, well-written bio, link to your IMDb page or website, quality content, what city you live in, etc.

How should an actor approach a CD or other industry professional on social media?
The first step is to listen. Before even reaching out, pay attention to what that specific person is interested in. What do they post about on social media? What sorts of things are they interested in? What do you have in common? It can feel intimidating, so start with simple interactions and look for any opportunity to add value.

What are some other ways an actor can network?
Outside of social media, there are so many ways to network and build relationships with industry professionals. Film festivals, for example, are a wonderful place to meet directors, producers, and writers. I’m also a huge fan of attending industry events such as Q&As, panels, screenings, and educational workshops.

Charity events and organizations are also a wonderful avenue to meet people. There are plenty that are related to the entertainment industry, but that’s not a necessity. Again, do the listening—there’s a very good chance the person you want to connect with has a favorite charity they are involved with.

OK, I’ve met some amazing people. Now what?
To maximize these opportunities, remember to follow up! “What’s the best way to connect with you?” is a great way to ask permission to follow up and learn how that person wants to be reached. Giving your contact information to others is fine, but you’re then relying on the other person to do the work. Rather than focus on handing out your business cards, put your energy toward being the person who reaches out after meeting. Almost no one does that, so sending an email or note about how great it was to meet them will set you apart. Bonus points if you can find a way to add value in your follow-up by sharing an article or resource related to the conversation you had when you met them.

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 to Navigate Zoom

By Marci Liroff

Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon

Since many of us are pivoting to online teaching, coaching, and casting meetings, learning video etiquette is essential these days. I’ve got some tips on how to best prepare for a Zoom call. In order to have a smooth experience, I highly recommend working on these technical details ahead of time. You can use a friend or family member to test them out!

I recommend logging on about five minutes before the beginning of the meeting to ensure all your technical details are in working order. Close out unneeded applications on your computer to keep the video chat running smoothly; clear out the barking dog, screaming kids, and naked husband; set up your laptop at eye level; and adjust your camera so we can see you—but not too close. We don’t need to see your nose hairs or that your roots have grown out!

Concerning your eye line, this is one of the few times as an actor that you should look into the camera. It will be more personable for those that you’re speaking with. Just as with a good self-tape, make sure you’re not backlit. Natural light is fine, as long as you’re facing the light. Otherwise, there are many lighting devices available for purchase online.

If you’re the host, make sure you introduce everyone if you all don’t know each other. Proper business etiquette should still be adhered to. Do a quick summary of housekeeping rules for the chat; you can request that participants mute their mics when they’re not speaking, or do it yourself! The meeting’s host has the power to run the show. To better dictate a speaking order, use the chat box feature to talk to others and physically raise your hand to speak or use the raised hand icon.

However, you should know that your privacy in the chat room isn’t always protected; a host who records the session may be able to see your private chats, depending on their settings.

A pinned video allows you to disable the active speaker view and only view a specific speaker.  It will also only record the pinned video if you are recording locally. Pinning another participant’s video will only affect your local view and local recordings, not the view of other participants, and it will not affect cloud recordings.

When you’re on the call, treat it like a meeting! Dressing professionally will make you feel more professional. But if you decide to be business from the waist up and party from the waist down, be sure you know exactly how low your webcam is pointed if you know what I mean. Many reporters have been caught wearing only their boxers during Zoom interviews!

As far as other distractions: Keep them minimal! Avoid noise pollution from overhead fans, window air conditioners, and more. And take a beat to listen yourself. Talking over each other in this medium just causes confusion. Don’t multitask, either; the temptation is huge, but your focus should be on the call. And mind the clock. Stay on task and don’t waste others’ time. Zoom fatigue is real for those working from home with a schedule full of meetings.

With that last point in mind, only invite those people who are essential to the call. If you can loop someone in with an email with bullet points rather than have them sit in, you probably don’t need them there. Fewer participants make for a smoother meeting.

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.

This Advice Could Either Crush Your Dreams or Set You on the Path to Greatness

By Marci Liroff

Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon

In light of the pandemic, I am offering special pricing for my private coaching (remotely of course!) Check out the info here.

Spoiler alert, actors! This is as likely to crush your dreams as it is to set you on the path to greatness.

I get this question all the time: “How do I audition for film and TV when I don’t really have professional experience? What can I do to get noticed?”

If you shifted this question to any other job sector, it would be apparent that you are approaching your job search all wrong. For instance, “How do I perform heart surgery when I don’t have any professional experience? How can I get picked for surgery?” Or, “How do I fly an airliner with 400 passengers when I don’t have any experience flying planes? How do I get chosen to do that?” Sounds ridiculous, right? Depending on the circumstances, it’s pretty scary to think that someone would think they could do something without the proper training and practice.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s 2008 book “Outliers: The Story of Success,” he posits that for a person to be successful in their chosen endeavor, they need to acquire 10,000 hours of practicing and pursuing the endeavor. When you think of this in terms of being an actor, you realize that you need to have a lot of time and hard work under your belt before you start to book auditions.

If you do get an audition with little or no training or acting experience, you haven’t been properly taught how to make the most of your time in the room.

You could very easily burn bridges with the casting directors and others for whom you’re auditioning by not knowing proper audition room etiquette.

Skill set aside, you’ve effectively shot yourself in the foot! Professional experience should start with acting classes before auditions.

The second part of the question, “What can I do to get noticed?,” is also premature. You shouldn’t try to “get noticed” until you’re ready to be noticed. Not to beat a dead horse here, but if you have no professional experience, you are not ready to get noticed!

Once you have a strong foundation in acting through watching the masters at work, reading the quintessential texts, and training in a college program, acting classes, intensives, improv groups, movement and voice classes, and more, that’s when you can put your toe in the water and start going out on auditions, which becomes a training ground in itself.

When you’re ready, throw yourself into the pool with gusto. Get some good headshots and put together your résumé. Don’t fret that it has a lot of white space. The most important thing I always look for is the training; I look for which acting teachers people have studied with and what theater companies they’ve worked with. I even look for special skills that I can use in my projects. I can immediately tell when I’m looking at an actor new to the field, and I encourage them to keep up with their hard work. (Pro tip: One way to start fleshing out that résumé is to send your materials to local colleges and film schools. Acting in their short films can be a great way to get experience on set.)

So, if your dreams haven’t been crushed by this dose of reality, buckle up, and good luck out there.

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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