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HOW KEEPING A DIARY CAN HELP YOU BOOK THE JOB

By Marci Liroff

276429939_51da76025bPhoto credit: Kiwanja

Remember when you were a kid and you kept a diary next to your bed and wrote down everything you did and thought about that day? Those childhood habits were actually great training for what you should be doing as an actor. Tracking every meeting and audition is a great practice to get into.

I’ve been preaching this to my classes and my coaching clients for years now. They always come back to thank me and point out that this one thing has changed their perspective on their career. Sometimes what you do as an actor – the prep, the auditions, the sheer tenacity you put into your career to get an acting job – can be an intangible thing when you don’t actually get the job and you effectively have nothing to show. But, like I always say, “this is not a sprint it’s a marathon”. So much effort goes into getting the job and keeping a diary or a journal of all your auditions will help you see your progress in black and white.

I suggest you keep a notebook and write down every meeting and audition you have. List the people you’ve met and their position, the project, the role, what you wore, and what choices you made for your audition. Take short notes on what you discussed if you got into a chat with the director. When it starts getting busy during pilot season and you’re going on several auditions each week, and hopefully getting callbacks, it’ll be great to know exactly what you did on each audition that got you back in the room a second time because you’re chronicling it in your book.

You’re going to have a long and busy career and you will probably have a few different people represent you along the way. When you start a new relationship with an agent or manager, wouldn’t it be great if you could give them some actual tools to help you? You can sit down with them in your initial meeting and give them a list of people who are your fans, casting directors who consistently bring you back, and a list of those that you need an introduction. This way you can plan a strategy on which rooms you need to get into.

Actor friend William Mapother goes a step further using an Excel Spreadsheet.

“I keep an ‘Auditions’ spreadsheet in Excel. It has 6 columns: CD, Date, Project, Role (character name), Type (feature, pilot, recurring, guest), and Studio/Co./Network.  I use Excel because it allows me to easily sort the data to see how many times I’ve seen a CD, or to see how many appointments I’ve had over any period of time.”

Here’s the part I love. “When I book a job I change the font in that row to red.  Also, once I book via a CD, I make that CD’s name red throughout document.

Mapother continues, “I also keep another Excel spreadsheet in which I note lessons I’ve learned in various areas and make notes to avoid re-committing horrendous blunders. I’ve noted when circumstances before an audition have helped or hurt me – being hungry, working out, interacting with other actors who are waiting.  The purpose is to experiment and identify what helps me. “Another lesson came not from my experiences, but from reading.  One of Pixar’s rules:  Errors are inevitable, so make them ASAP.  Experiment early.  I noted this in my lessons as “Be wrong as quickly as you can.”

Is this something that you do already? Please share how you’ve been tracking your auditions and meetings in the comments section.

Glad you’re here!

Marci

HOW TO RUIN YOUR AUDITION IN ONE EASY STEP

8821230126_015e2916edPhoto credit: Wonderlane

By Marci Liroff

I was casting a TV pilot a few years ago and one of the roles was described as an “Old-World Hollywood agent. He even wears a pocket square in his suit jacket.” All of the lovely actors who came in were dressed to the nines.

I brought in an actor from Canada who I didn’t know personally, but had seen his demo reel and was impressed. It was enough to convince me to bring him straight to the producers without a pre-read because I was pressed for time. He had a great comedy background and was a fresh face out here so I thought it would be an interesting audition at the very least.

When you work on a television show the writers are often the creators and producers of the show. I had a full house that day with the director for the pilot, the star/creator/writer/producer and his writing/producing partner as well.

Mr. Canada showed up wearing a grungy leather jacket, ripped up jeans (not the designer kind!), and a wrinkled t-shirt. I thought to myself, “Wow, this guy must be really good to be so carefree about how he’s dressed for his audition!” He sat down, didn’t say much, put on his “readers” (half-glasses), and began to read the scene off of the page. Our creator/star read with all the actors. The actor continued to read, face down in his sides. He’d look up briefly to see that we were all still there, but basically just read off the page. I felt the energy in the room shift. I saw steam start to come out of the producer’s ears. My face got all hot. Then it happened. As if things weren’t bad enough, Mr. Canada decided to try his hand at a joke and change the dialogue. He was sitting in the presence of one of the hottest veteran comedians for the last 30 years who had a long-running hit TV show and he thought he’d show them how funny he was by changing their dialogue. The line read, “Boy! Somebody’s got a bee in his bonnet today!” referring to how our star was being cranky. He changed the line to, “Boy! Somebody’s got a bee in his yalmulke today!” – he was referring to what a Jewish man wears on his head in Temple. He tried to make a Jewish joke to the Jews in the room. At that point, one of the producer’s head exploded. The other producer was so furious he literally turned his entire body around on the couch to face the back of the room, away from Mr. Funny. I felt myself sinking into a pool of hot molasses.

He finished his scene. We all just sat there staring at him. You could hear a pin drop. I said “thank you” and he slunk out of the room. Then everybody turned to look at me with a giant “what the f*ck was that?!” look on their collective faces. I had no answer. I threw myself on the sword. I took responsibility for this guy being not prepared, not caring about how he dressed, and the ultimate sin – changing dialogue.

You have to remember that by the time you finally get the script it has been through months of revisions and rewrites, and notes from the studio and network. The writers want to hear their words. They get very attached to them.

I’ve worked with some directors who openly say, “I’m not attached to the material – it’s ok if you riff with it a bit”. That’s the time to improvise. Otherwise, stick to the material you’ve been given, put your own unique spin on it from your well-thought out character choices, then let it fly….as written.

Please share your experiences when you improvised and it didn’t work…or it worked beautifully! There are exceptions to every rule. I want to hear your stories!

Glad you’re here!

Marci

 

 

BE PREPARED

 

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By Marci Liroff

This is a cautionary tale about preparation and research. If you’re honest with yourself you’ll save lots of heartache.

An actor sent me a message on Facebook last week – I’ve cleaned up all the typos and grammatical errors so that you can read it. Believe me when I tell you that it was chock-full of them!

“Dear Marci, I am 20 years old. Italian descent and 6ft even. I have a video reel I’ll have by Monday of next week. I would like to move forward with you and your team and be represented by you because I think we would make great work. I am seeking work. I live in Los Angeles now. So I’m available for pursuing my acting career. You’re one of the best and I follow your work. Please see about hiring me for some upcoming roles all I need is one shot!”

I replied: “Hey Danny, I think you need to do more research. I’m a casting director and producer. I’m not an agent and therefore do not represent talent. Best of luck to you!”

Two days later, at 11:30pm I got this email from the same actor:

“I’m living in my car. I trusted the wrong friend coming to LA. I can’t get an apartment or student loan from my school until Monday or Tuesday. I know this is a weird question but is there any way I can stay with you or a friend you may have for a couple days? Please let me know. I don’t know anyone in Los Angeles.”

I posted this interaction on my personal Facebook wall because I was stunned on so many levels. Who is this guy? How can he be so unprepared? How come he doesn’t know that Casting Directors don’t represent talent? Then my compassion kicked in and I started to worry for him. Poor kid coming to Los Angeles with no plan in place and no network of people to catch him when he falls. And it seems he “fell” upon entrance to our fair city.

My friends’ reactions varied. I got a bunch of comments along these lines: “So sad”, “Scary”, “Poor guy”, “Heartbreaking”. I was surprised to hear these comments from my friends though, “Does he clean?” “I have a Nigerian prince he should call!”, “Don’t feel too sorry for him, it’s probably a scam”.

This stirred up a lot of emotion in me whether it was true or not. I can’t imagine moving to a new city and not having a safety net in place. Charles Darwin first wrote about “natural selection” and British philosopher Herbert Spencer later coined the phrase, “survival of the fittest”. When you think about “making it” in Hollywood those concepts surely come to mind but it doesn’t have to be so. Doing the proper research and preparation ahead of time helps to prevent such catastrophes.

I like the concept of being a big fish in a small pond so that when you do come out to Hollywood you already have a fair amount of experience under your belt. You’ve trained, you’ve studied, and you’ve been on-set and in local theater productions. It’s easier to get your SAG-AFTRA card in a local region than in Hollywood. Hopefully, you’re also coming here with a demo reel already in progress. You’ll be adding more footage to this along the way. These days, we need to see your demo reel.

Have you made a budget? Do you truly understand what it’ll take before you make this giant leap of faith? Because Los Angeles is so spread out you’ll need a car to get you to and from your auditions. That means gas and insurance as well. You’ll need a job that will allow you flexible hours so that you can audition and take classes. Your thrival job will also need to let you go when you actually get an acting job. A safe place to live is mandatory. At minimum, you’ll need money for classes, headshots, food, gym, going to the movies/theater for research and to grow as an actor.

If you are successful enough to land an agent and/or mgr, 10% goes to the agent and anywhere from 5-15% will go to your manager depending on how you negotiate that contract. Let’s not forget Uncle Sam.

One would think planning and research would be mandatory for such a move, but I see actors come out here every day in search of “the dream” only to have those dreams dashed. Come out here a couple of times in advance of your big move and check it out beforehand. Make sure you thoroughly understand the lay of the land. Think of it as a reconnaissance mission for your future.

I’d love to hear your stories about making the “big move”. Please share with our community so that everyone can benefit from your experiences.

Leave a comment, share with a friend.

Glad you’re here!

Marci

 

 

 

 

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