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How to Practice Self-Care While Visiting Your Hometown This Holiday

Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon

By Marci Liroff

Wow, it’s been quite awhile since I’ve blogged. Life has surely gotten away from me – but still not a good excuse. I’m grateful that you all have been here, reading my articles for years.

For those of you who aren’t aware, I’ve been coaching actors on their upcoming auditions and jobs. One-on-one private coaching is a critical part of auditioning and it’s always good to get another set of eyes on your performance before you take it into the room. Just reach out through email, (liroffcasting@sbcglobal.com) and we can set up a date and time to work together in person or through Skype or Facetime. I assist working actors only.

Here come the holidays. For some actors, family time triggers dread. You may be barraged by the litany of questions actors love, like, “What are you working on?” Trying to justify what you do to those who don’t quite “get it” is not only tiring, it can be psychologically traumatizing. For me, it wasn’t until my parents saw my name on the big screen that they finally had a modicum of understanding of what I do for a living.

I want to help you combat the psychological fatigue in these situations. Go into these gatherings from a secure emotional place. Of course, that’s easy to do when you’re working. But what about when you’re not working? How do you explain to someone who’s not in the business what your day-to-day life is and that you don’t get as many jobs as you have auditions?

You’ll have to quiet that vulture that sometimes crawls up on your shoulder to squawk at you. You know the one. The vulture that tells you you’re not talented and you’ll never get a job. The one that says you’re wasting your time. You’ve got to come to terms with your inner vulture before you can begin to deal with those around you. Self-doubt can be a killer—especially over the holidays. Remember that what you’ve chosen to do is be an artist, a storyteller. If earning a living was a quantifier for how talented you are, most famous artists would have never even picked up a paintbrush or a pen to write history’s greatest works.

Go back to the reason why you got into this in the first place. Spend a little time in that mental space and remember everything you get out of your chosen path, and own it. Yes, own it. These small changes in your mindset will help you deal with others, because if you feel comfortable about yourself and your choices, their opinions won’t matter as much.

Another issue over the holidays is feeling guilty about leaving Tinseltown (or your given acting market). Some say that a sure-fire way to get a job is to buy a plane ticket. Yet, we constantly feel the need to stay in town just in case we get an audition. With self-tapes becoming the norm, all you need is your cellphone and a willing scene partner. (Please don’t use your grandmother, unless she’s an actor!) There’s a great resource called WeRehearse, where you can find a reading partner and also record your audition on the site. All you need is a fast internet connection on both ends.

But let’s dig deeper: You have to get out and give yourself some downtime. If you’re not refilling your well of life experiences, you’re not living fully. Actors need to experience the good, the bad, and the ugly so that they can draw on them firsthand. You need to get out there and see your family and friends; unplug as much as possible. Identify what the important things are for you and plug into them. That could be as simple as volunteering your time, spending more time with your kids or pets, or helping your elderly parents.

From the bottom of my heart, I’m wishing you all a blessed holiday season!

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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What You Need to Know Before Considering an Acting Coach

Illustration courtesy of Nick Bertozzi

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. If you apply and are confirmed before March 26, get 10% off!
I look forward to working with you.

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I get this email about 20 times a week: “Hi, Ms. Liroff. My wish is to be an actor. I’ve always wanted to do it but I don’t know how to get started. I have no experience at all, but my dream is so big, I can’t let that stand in my way. I’ve read all your articles and I think you’re the perfect coach for me. When can we get started?”

While I would never squash anyone’s dream, this is a perfect example of putting the cart before the horse.

You’ve got to learn the fundamentals of acting before you start working with an acting coach.

For instance, a gymnast trains extensively and then gets a coach. You need to be in weekly classes. When you’re in classes, you’ll be able to get up and work every week in front of a room full of people. Not only will you learn from your teacher, you’ll get to witness some great (and not-so-great!) actors and learn from their victories and defeats.

When I’m working with an actor, I can immediately see if they’ve had no training because they do not even know how to stand. They don’t know what to do with their hands, they’re not in touch with their body. Movement classes will help you connect with your instrument.

I’m seeing too many actors who do not know how to use their voice effectively. They’re not breathing correctly, which leaves them without power. They aren’t enunciating properly, which makes gorgeous dialogue turn to mush. Voice classes will give you insight on how to use your instrument properly.

Once you’ve got your foundation set with acting classes, it’s important to understand how to work with the camera. There’s a very specific skill set that you need to master before you’re going out for auditions.

Some of the issues you need to know are:

In TV and film, always connect with your reader. If there are other people in the scene, you can place them just to the right of the camera, not off to the far left.

Being off-book is now a given. There is no point coming in and reading your sides; we call people who do that “reciters.” If you don’t know the material inside and out, you will not be able to take direction and connect with your reader.

I get emails from parents saying they want to get their kids into acting, and then ask me to coach them. They don’t know if their child even likes acting. Get your kid into classes first and see how she responds. My friends with kids who think they want to be actors say no year after year until they feel the child really means it and is truly ready.

Your acting coach helps tweak and shape your work and gives you confidence and another set of eyes on your performance. But you must have a performance to begin with! Coaches are not meant to be acting teachers—that’s what acting classes are for.

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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How to Protect Your Actor Psyche

Illustration by Nick Bertozzi

By Marci Liroff

When I’m coaching actors for an emotional scene we often have to dig deep into memories that are extremely painful. Many times, my clients are terrified to open that part of their psyche for fear that they won’t be able to close that can of worms.

When an actor is doing a highly emotional scene and has to dig deep, how do they keep themselves in a safe place psychologically so that they’re not walking around like an open wound?

I’ve asked some of my colleagues to weigh in.

HOWARD FINE (acting teacher and coach)

Actors need an exit strategy. They tend to spend all of their energy on preparation to get in, but getting out is equally important and essential for mental health.

This could include anything that brings happiness and peace to the individual artist. In the same way that an actor learns to focus on triggers to produce unpleasant emotions, they need to have a process that I call returning to the light. I teach my students that emotional recall also includes experiences of love and joy. The actor need a complete tool box of positive and negative experiences to tap into.

CRAIG WALLACE (acting teacher and coach)

My advice to actors is to explore the emotion in the body. Emotions live in the body – this is where you feel. Sit very quietly with the body and feel very specifically where the emotion is affecting you – not any holding, tightening, expanding, notice the breath. The breath is the loudest bodily indicator of how we are feeling. Feel the emotion very specifically in the body and you’ll find the truth in a safe and enlightening way. And once it’s stored in the body it’s there for you when you need it.

Dredging up painful memories in the mind feels very unsafe and the mind is there to keep you safe. This becomes a very long and frustrating process. It is also highly unreliable and the actor will often find that when performance/audition time comes, the emotion isn’t there because the frontal lobe, which has to do with logic and safety, has taken over and shut down the risky emotions. The body has no such agenda.

ANDIE MACDOWELL (actor)

It is an odd gift that actors’ wounds have purpose, they are the colors we have and we get to use them. Our suffering and understanding of human frailty is how we create characters and we all have life experiences to draw on.

That is the great part about being an older actor, I have lived longer and I understand more about life. For me it is a relief that I can use what I understand on a deep soul level and in a way, it gives me a place to release pain.

Being vulnerable is a part of the process and I want to tap into what I know and give it up. It’s ok to feel lost and uncomfortable, what matters is that the person you create touches people.

I would rather feel lonely while I am shooting than to try to protect myself. It is hard to find a role that calls for deep experiences and we all know that given the chance to create a complex character is rare and beautiful.

I never need to stay in character, but if I have to be quiet and alone to stay focused I do. I guess I welcome the opportunity to feel wounded because it means I have a canvas to paint on and that is a dream come true.

JEFFREY MARCUS (acting teacher, coach and media coach)

I find wardrobe to be very helpful in ‘taking on, and taking off’ a character and their emotional baggage.  Even if you don’t change from top to bottom, just changing a shirt or shoes can make a huge difference.

Whenever emotions that can overwhelm you arise after an audition or performance, make sure you wash your hands and have a drink of water before getting in your car. Both of these are grounding and put you back in your body.

By building in ‘emotional memories’ of the character, rather than just culling from your own trauma – it becomes much easier to move effortless between perceived reality and imagined reality. My favorite go-to, if you’ve done the work well – treat yourself to a treat (my go-to is dark chocolate).

If using music to assist you in getting into the emotional space, use it to also get you out of it.

LILY MAE HARRINGTON (actor)

You have to balance out the extremes. If you’re screaming and crying for your job that day you have to balance it out when you get home or in your trailer; Watch a funny movie, have your favorite snack, sing your most happy song, do some yoga. Find that other extreme.

Click here for a recent article about Lily

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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