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What Every Child Actor’s Parent Should Know

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By Marci Liroff

I recently saw the documentary “An Open Secret,” which exposes the yearslong grooming and sexual molestation of several children in the modeling, film, and television industries. I was stunned to see that so many of the convicted felons were not only back on the street, but had secured jobs in the entertainment business working with minors again.

I spoke with Anne Henry and Paula Dorn of BizParentz Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded in 2004 to support professional young performers and their families, and provide information and advocacy to parents about the new laws to protect their children. Both Henry and Dorn were involved in the making of “An Open Secret.” I asked what parents should do if they have suspicions that their child is being molested.

“Anyone who suspects molestation should stop and talk to their child in a very sincere, loving way. Let your child know that you will believe them and support them, no matter what. Then be quiet and listen.”

They also urged parents to contact BizParentz to see if the foundation has any available information about the suspected abuser, adding, “It is extremely important to report abuse, if it truly is abuse. One thing that the film makes clear is that there were many people in the ‘camp’ that didn’t say anything, but looked the other way. If any adult had stepped forward, it would have saved many other children from abuse. We don’t want that to happen again. We encourage parents to report any suspected abuse to law enforcement, and we can assist in preparing a parent for that.”

Recently, Deadline Hollywood reported that the California state labor commissioner is investigating three studio teacher frauds. Each of these men had posed as a credentialed studio teacher and welfare worker on the set of several productions; none of the productions checked their court-ordered paperwork. According to BizParentz, all parents should do the following before and upon arriving on set with their child:

• Express to your agent that school is a priority and negotiate for studio teacher approval in your contract. Parents should have a list of studio teachers that they have prescreened and with whom their child works well.

• By the time they’re hiring your child, they know who the teacher will be. Run their name through the online studio teacher database and do a Google Image search to obtain a photo of the person you should expect to see on set.

• When you arrive, immediately ask for a call sheet and Google the studio teacher. When you meet him or her, ask to see his or her Green Card (an ID card that every studio teacher is issued from the Department of Labor). We hope that these will have photos soon (something we are lobbying for, in light of recent allegations of impostors) but until then, parents will need to be vigilant to verify that their studio teacher is real.

• On set, always be within sight and sound of your child. Always.

Check back for my next article, where I’ll discuss keeping your child safe online and acting scams that target minors, along with newly instituted laws in California to protect child actors. Check out the BizParentz site on FB for resources on these topics.

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.

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Let It Go

By Marci Liroff

I had a very unique experience a few weeks ago that I just have to share!

I am the Executive Producer and Casting Director of a pilot presentation entitled “Myrna”. “Myrna” follows the life of an actor who sacrifices everything as she makes the transition from male to female. So far, we have raised over $34,000 (with a record breaking achievement of matching our goal of $25k in the first 10 days!)

I had been involved with this project as we tried (and failed) to get it off the ground over the last couple of years. After many re-writes we had a great script, the timing was right, one of our producers positioned us just perfectly with the crowdfunding site “FanBacked” and finally we were in pre-production.

When I was first offered the project I told them that I would do it on one condition. I had to play the role of the casting director. The creator, Marlo Bernier said, “Are you kidding honey? I wrote it for you! You better play it!”

I clearly remember waking up on my shooting day with the “Christmas morning” feeling in my belly. I was so excited. I had learned all my lines with the help of a friend and The Rehearsal app (which by the way is brilliant for learning your lines!).

I came to set with no make-up on as requested along with a collection of a few outfits that the wardrobe designer asked for. This was the start of my giant leap of faith to trust and let go. You see, I usually never leave the house without at least some make-up on. At my age I see this as a benevolent gesture on my part toward mankind. I sat down in the make-up chair and the set photographer immediately started taking shots of me. Um, no. Not without make-up I pleaded. He respected my wishes and walked away.

I then proceeded to have a giant case of flop sweat. Think of the scene in Broadcast News when Albert Brooks was sweating right through his suit and drops of sweat were raining down on his news copy.

We were shooting in a TV production office on a Sunday and I probably reminded our producer Jennifer Fontaine about six times to make sure the air-conditioning was working properly that day. Control freak. She was so kind, she even came in at 6am to get it cooled down by the time I arrived. Nonetheless, my body decided to take over which resulted in the make-up lady fanning me with a giant manila file folder. A giant electric fan appeared from an angel production assistant and things started to get back on track.

That is, of course, until I was sent to get my hair done. I walked down a dimly lit hallway to a small storage room where our Emmy award-winning hair designer was working. I sat down in the chair and again found myself concentrating on letting go. No mirror. What?! I had no idea what he was going to do to my hair. I already had my hair done for the shoot so I can’t imagine why he was ratting, backcombing, and spraying copious amounts of hairspray. “You like big hair, don’t you?” I was terrified. I came out looking somewhat like my mother; which is not entirely a bad thing – just not my look. Everyone said I looked beautiful so I went with it.

I then went to set for camera blocking and to run my lines with the lead actor, Marlo Bernier. My scene illustrated how hard it is for Myrna who was widely known in the business as Michael, to get a job in her new incarnation. I was surprisingly not nervous. I was the opposite of nervous. As soon as I looked in Marlo’s eyes across the desk I felt oddly serene. I knew my lines, the scene worked well, and I was comforted by the personal touch the production designer, Warren Young, had left for me on my “desk” – his personal day planner. We shot the master, her close-up, my close-up and we were done before I knew what happened.

For a few hours I gave up being a control freak, leaned in, trusted, and let go.

I think I might try that again in real life!

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.

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HOW TO LEARN TO LOVE SELF-TAPING

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By Marci Liroff

Self-taping your auditions—it’s all the rage. We ask you to self-tape your auditions for several reasons. Sometimes we can’t audition you live due to simple logistics: I’m in Los Angeles and you’re in Sydney, Australia. Or it’s an open call situation and we want to discover someone new and audition the masses (like the new “Star Wars” movie). I’ve also noticed several casting directors using the self-tape as their pre-read. Instead of having the actor come into their office to pre-read for them, they’re asking for self-tapes only. For me, if I’m in the same town as you are, I’d rather have you come into my office so that I can work with you.

Apparently the whole notion of not only having to act in a scene, but direct, be the grip, gaffer, and editor is a daunting task for some. I want to urge you to get comfortable with this because it has become a necessary part of the audition process these days. We’ve all heard how Eddie Redmayne self-taped his audition for “Les Misérables” on his iPhone. There are literally hundreds of these stories out there.

Several of my coaching clients and actors I’m auditioning have expressed a paralyzing fear of making these self-tapes. This surprises me because I thought being in control of the situation would be freeing—unlike in the audition room, where so many elements are out of your control. You can do as many takes as you like until it’s something you’re happy with submitting. Here are a few ways to keep self-taping from being overly stressful.

Identify what’s scaring you.
Is it the technical aspects of actually making a good-quality audition? OK, that’s easy to fix. You can spend some time learning how to do it by practicing with your camera, lighting, and a scene partner during downtime, when there isn’t the urgency of a deadline for an audition. I blogged about the technical aspects of self-taping a while ago, and it’s still one of my most-read blog posts.

Know thyself.
If you simply aren’t good at technical issues and have no interest in learning, how about taking that aspect out of the equation? It’s easy to find a friend or a service that can tape you professionally so that all you have to think about is being the actor.

You’re lost/a perfectionist/too many choices.
Next to getting thrown by the tech issues, the actors I’ve talked to say they tend to shut down when faced by the void that exists when you don’t have a casting director or director in the room to guide you through the scene. Yes, this can be daunting, but remember that it’s a level playing field because everyone is dealing with the same issue and we understand that. On the other hand, this frees you up to make your own choices and put your personal and singular stamp on the role. We want to see what you bring to the role, and nothing better shows us your instincts than the choices you make from these tapes.

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.

Please share your comments on self-taping and how you overcome any problems you’ve experienced!

Glad you’re here – Marci

 

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