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How to Avoid the One-Note Performance

Artwork courtesy: Nick Bertozzi

Howdy! I’ve been such a busy bee, I haven’t blogged in months! No excuses! I’m just going to get back on track and send out my blogs more regularly.

If you’re in the Los Angeles area in April, my Spring Audition Bootcamp classes have just been announced.
April 10, 17 & 24, 2018. Please click here to read the description and apply. I look forward to working with you.

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Have you ever worked on a scene and given it your all, only to get the comment “Eh, it felt very one-note”? What does that even mean? It reminds me of the iconic scene in “Amadeus” when, after Mozart plays his new composition, the emperor responds, “Too many notes.” How many notes is too many? How many is too few?

Let’s say you have a scene where you find out your boyfriend is cheating on you. What I often see in auditions is actors playing one emotion; let’s choose anger. Think about it for a moment: If you found out your significant other was being unfaithful, you would probably have a deep well of many emotions—betrayal, loss of trust, embarrassment, resentment, shame, paralysis, disbelief. Why play only anger? Beyond the fact that it’s boring to watch, it’s not how you’d act in real life.

When you play the scene, we want to see all the colors wash over you. Even if it’s a short-lived moment, there’s so much you can play between the lines. Every bit of information that your partner is giving you should result in a different expression of emotion. Yes, they can all be rooted in anger, but there are so many different ways to show it—it shouldn’t be your interpretation’s only driving force.

Finding all the possible emotions will make your performance more nuanced and rich.

As an exercise, write down all the possible responses to the action of your scene in the margin of the script. Try to play them all until you find the most authentic and honest reactions.

That said, if you’re all over the place emotionally (“too many notes”) we’ll find it hard to follow you because your performance will feel unfocused. The audience is most moved when they can latch onto something and relate to you. And there’s a fine line between losing yourself in a scene and a sloppy performance.

This is where rehearsing with a partner before your audition is vital. I can always tell when an actor comes in to audition for me and they haven’t read the scene with another human being yet. Your audition should not be the first time you’re reading these words aloud with a scene partner. Rehearsing with another person will help you in several ways. First, there is a natural conversational rhythm within the scene that you can’t find unless you read it with someone else. You also need to find the moments between the lines and between the words that will elicit genuine emotion. You can’t do that on your own in a vacuum.

I recently found a great website, WeRehearse.com, where you can set up your profile for free, then hire someone to run lines with you before an audition. That person can even be your scene partner when you self-tape. I wish I’d thought of it!

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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7 Things Actors Can Do Every Day to Succeed

Photo by: Carl Heyerdahl

By Marci Liroff

One of my Twitter followers is doing a 30-day acting challenge and asked me if I had any advice. Of course, it got me thinking about what actors can do on a daily basis to help themselves. Acting is like learning a musical instrument: You’ve got to practice every day.

Here’s a short list of what you can do Monday through Sunday to stay plugged in.

1. Check online sites for casting notices. Even if you have representation, you’ve got to remember that you are a team, and if you happen to notice that a project is casting and you know the showrunner or producer well, you should alert your agent or manager so they can follow up.

2. Go to the gym. Yes, you must keep your body in shape. Although it may seem like there’s a lot of waiting around on the set, you’ve got to have stamina and flexibility so you don’t hurt yourself. Exercise helps your mental health as well.

3. Learn a new scene or monologue every day.

Think of your brain as a muscle; you need to work it out and teach it new tricks every day so that it can grow.

Learning how to memorize lines on the fly is a must that everyone should have in their toolkit. I have a nice list of free screenplays on my site.

4. Check in with what’s going on in the business around you. Also on the resources page of my website is a list of sites and blogs you should read daily. If you’re going to work in this business, you have to know what’s going on outside of you, what shows have been picked up, and what the trends are.

5. Watch a few episodes of all the shows on TV. You might have noticed that you generally get an audition the night before you’re meant to be auditioning. You’re then tasked with learning all the dialogue and making specific and colorful character choices. Think of what a timesaver it would be if you’ve already seen the show and don’t have to do that research when you have only a few hours to prepare your scenes.

6. Watch old movies. Check out my list of iconic and important films. Many directors today don’t know how to help you on your scene. They know exactly where to put the camera but don’t speak “actor.” But they’re all film addicts, and they may give you a scene from a movie as a reference for what they’re looking for. You’ll benefit from being a walking, talking film library.

7. Get in an acting class. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I see many actors who aren’t in a weekly class. Think about it: How often do you actually get to get up there and act? If it’s just a few auditions a month, then you’re not keeping your instrument in tune.

What other things do you do daily that help you as an actor?

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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An Ode to Actors

Photo courtesy Ian Schneider

By Marci Liroff

I posted an inspirational tweet the other night on Twitter, Instagram, and my business Facebook page.

It got more reaction (and interaction) than anything I’ve ever posted.

The only other thing that came close was when Robin Williams died and I posted something about depression with a suicide hotline. And I didn’t even write it! I was quoting a former actor:

“Actors are some of the most driven, courageous people on the face of the earth. They deal with more day-to-day rejection in one year than most people do in a lifetime. Every day, actors face the financial challenge of living a freelance lifestyle, the disrespect of people who think they should get real jobs, and their own fear that they’ll never work again. Every day, they have to ignore the possibility that the vision they have dedicated their lives to is a pipe dream. With every role, they stretch themselves, emotionally and physically, risking criticism and judgment. With every passing year, many of them watch as the other people their age achieve the predictable milestones of normal life—the car, the family, the house, the nest egg. Why? Because actors are willing to give their entire lives to a moment—to that line, that laugh, that gesture, or that interpretation that will stir the audience’s soul. Actors are beings who have tasted life’s nectar in that crystal moment when they poured out their creative spirit and touched another’s heart.

In that instant, they were as close to magic, God, and perfection as anyone could ever be

And in their own hearts, they know that to dedicate oneself to that moment is worth a thousand lifetimes.”

What’s the takeaway from this?
One: I have a large actor following. Two: People like to be honored for their hard work. And three: People like to be inspired. But I knew there was more. I went directly to the source, writer David Ackert.

When was this written?
I wrote this in 1998, almost 20 years ago. Since that time, it has taken on a life of its own. It has been quoted all over the internet, in numerous books and publications, and has been translated into several languages and repurposed for singers, dancers, musicians, and painters.

What prompted you to write this?
In 1998, I was madly in love with a woman who was not an actor. She couldn’t understand why I was dedicated to a profession that was so unstable. One day I’d be working on a TV series, the next day unemployed. It was scary for her that I had so little control over my financial security, and clear to her that I wasn’t about to change professions, so eventually she ended the relationship. I was devastated, and wrote the passage to remind myself and anyone else struggling through a similar hardship that an artist’s relationship to their art is a uniquely precious experience, and while it comes with many sacrifices, it is ultimately worth pursuing.

Why do you think this has resonated with so many?
I believe that artists have a wholly unusual experience of life. They are dedicated to a dream and will pursue it at any cost. Most people don’t know what it means to believe in an irrational idea that’s so powerful that it completely defines them. That’s why the artist’s journey is simultaneously blissful, heartbreaking, and deeply lonely. I think the quote resonates for artists because it reminds us that we share that same swirl of juxtaposing feelings. And it is my hope that the quote inspires artists to pursue their self-expression without apology or regret.

What work are you doing now?
I retired from the entertainment industry in 2009 when I discovered that I could create, perform, and produce original content in the business world. Once I learned how to broaden my definition of success, I gained access to opportunities that were much more attainable than Hollywood stardom. Now I channel my creativity on my own terms.

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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