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Can I Get a Do-Over?

By Marci Liroff

Spring Audition Bootcamp classes are starting in May in Los Angeles. Click here to sign-up.

While watching the 2017 Grammy Awards, I witnessed the most remarkable thing: The uber-talented singer-songwriter Adele took the stage for a sung tribute to her friend George Michael.

It soon became apparent that she was slightly off-key and her in-ear mics weren’t working. So she shut the orchestra down and on live television said,

“Can we please stop? I just can’t do it again like last year. I just can’t fuck this up, it means too much to me. I’m sorry for swearing and I’m sorry for starting over, but can we please just start it again? I’m sorry, but I just can’t mess this up for him.”

And with that, the audience rose to their feet cheering, the orchestra started again, and she gracefully began the song for a second time. In that moment, Adele won us over.

Last year, singer-songwriter and poet Patti Smith sang Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fallat the Nobel Prize ceremony.

A few moments into her rendition, she faltered. She had forgotten the lyrics. She was devastated. Again, like a pro, she stopped the band, apologized profusely, saying she was very nervous, and started again. She exhibited such grace and was so honest, vulnerable, and respectful of the material. I couldn’t have loved her more in that moment.

The do-over. It’s that awkward moment when you’re most human.

How often do we get this opportunity? In life, not often, but if you handle it correctly, you can steer the crowd in your favor. This made me think of actors and auditions.

In my classes and coaching, actors always ask, “Can I start over?”

Here’s my take on it—and you know I’m always going to tell you the truth, or at least my truth, having gone through several decades of the filmmaking process: If you’re at the beginning of a scene and get off to a bad start, say, “I’m going to start over.” Don’t apologize, don’t give a thousand “I’m sorry”s. Don’t ask for permission, just start again. This is you taking control of the audition room and letting us know you’ve got it under control. There’s no point in going through a three- to five-page scene if you know you’re not in the zone. But don’t abuse the privilege. I have had actors go over and over scenes, asking if they can do it again. It’s a glimpse into how you might be on set, and it doesn’t bode well.

I suggest that you not stop in the middle of a long scene when you’re almost at the end. Remember, we want you to know the material, be off-book, and give us the dialogue as written. But if you miss a word or a phrase, there’s no need for you to start over as long as you stay in the scene and stay in character. We’ll be impressed by this.

Here’s a good trick if you go up on your lines or get lost deep into your scene: Stop, raise your hand to the person you’re reading with, take a moment (which means a nanosecond), then continue where you left off. It’ll give you a beat to pull it together and not have to start over.

In my article “How Not to Fall Off the Tightrope in an Audition” I wrote  how to reframe and pivot within the audition if you get off-track. If you miss a word, it’s not the end of the world. That said, it’s how you handle it that will make you rise above and get your audience cheering for you.

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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Why You Didn’t Get the Role

Photo by Jared Erondu

By Marci Liroff

You had a great audition. You killed it. The casting office “pinned” you (casting called your agent to let them know you’re one of our finalists and to let us know if you get another job offer that conflicts). Your hopes are up. You don’t hear anything for a while. Then you get “unpinned” and you didn’t get the role. You ask yourself, “Why? What did I do wrong? What does the other guy have that I don’t?”

I’m here to tell you not to do that to yourself. Don’t go down the rabbit hole on this issue. I had this very thing happen last week on the film I’m casting. We had a final two and then chose one of the actors. The actor who didn’t get the role had his agent email to ask why? My response was this: “Sometimes there’s no rhyme or reason. When putting together a family we have to think of all the moving pieces (the wife, the kids) and the overall vibe for the family. Your guy was great. He did everything right. The actor we chose fit better with our existing family.”

In this business, and in life actually, there are so many elements out of your control.

You don’t look right with our lead, you look too much like the writer’s ex-wife, you’re too tall, too short – you get the picture. The one thing you are in control of is your perspective. You get to choose how you are going to feel about not getting the role. No one can take that from you.

Are you going to kick yourself time and time again after each audition because you didn’t do what you wanted to do? Or are you going to learn from it – specifically learn from what went wrong or what sent you off the rails. Are you going to continue to let that voice inside your head that says “I’m not right for this – I always screw up in comedy – I’m no good” or are you going to master that voice and banish it not only from the room, but your head forever. You have this choice.

If you stop thinking, “I’ve got to get this role,” and make it your mission to walk into every room being über prepared and do what you came there to do, you will succeed.

If you make a subtle shift of your mindset so that your goal isn’t to get the job, but to consistently come into every room, knock it out of the park, and build relationships for the future. You want casting directors to bring you back multiple times on all their projects because we know we can trust you.

Remember that we’ve considered thousands for the role, (check out my article Auditions Can Be a Numbers Game) narrowed it down to auditioning about 30 actors (sometime hundreds depending on the role), and if you were chosen as the final two you’ve already won. I know it may not feel that way, but that’s where your perspective comes in.

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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Perfection is a Creativity Killer

Photo by Ricardo Viana

By Marci Liroff

These days we have casting sessions without the director or the producer in the room. You’ll be “going on tape for producer(s)/director” because often times they are on location or simply not available. What I’m noticing is that many actors are hung up on perfection. That nasty “P” word vexes their audition time and time again. They want to do it over and over again until they’ve reached what they think is perfection.

When I’m coaching actors I have some clients who just want the work session to be over and done with. “Is that good enough? Please, can we move on to the next scene?” They truly don’t like the process and just want it to stop. In stark contrast, I have a few clients who simply will not turn anything in unless it is perfect.

What is “perfect” anyway? Who is the judge of that?

You? Me? The casting director who receives it? The creative team who looks at your work and decides whether you’re going to get the role?

As an artist, you’ve got to be your own editor and judge. You’ve got to know in your gut whether your performance is truthful, organic, and spontaneous. It’s a delicate balance. In life, we don’t get to go over and over and replay each experience until we get it right (although some of us definitely keep choosing the same toxic people in our lives and keep playing the same scene out but with different characters.) But I’m talking about the actor who is concerned about how each line comes out, the accent on each word, how his hair looks, or what his hands were doing in the scene.

There are many pros and cons to self-taping. I’ve had many actors tell me that they feel like they’re in a vacuum and don’t know which choices are the right ones. The thing is, there is no “right” here. The right choice is the honest and true choice. Ask yourself, – Are you coming off as a real human being? Or are you making choices that are clichés of what you think this man would do. Are you getting deep down into his soul or are you just skimming the surface with your choices.

Human beings are flawed. Life is messy and complicated.

The performances that show us these traits are the ones that are more compelling to watch because the actor is letting us in to his psyche, not just revealing what he wants to show us – but what he doesn’t want to share. That’s what’s infinitely more interesting to watch than perfection. There is no such thing as perfection and those that are striving for it are not only kidding themselves, they’re shortchanging us and them.

In life, we don’t always know the answers to the questions – we’re searching, we’re discovering. The performances that show us this journey are the most fascinating ones to watch.

I’m not suggesting you turn in a self-tape that’s sloppy, where you don’t know your lines or your performance is half-assed. But please lean toward thinking of yourself as a fallible human being and your performance will automatically be more honest and captivating. The more you start embracing the dark and messy side of your soul, the more we’ll want to watch. It’s only human.

What are you doing to “keep it real?” I want to hear from you.

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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