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This Advice Could Either Crush Your Dreams or Set You on the Path to Greatness

By Marci Liroff

Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon

In light of the pandemic, I am offering special pricing for my private coaching (remotely of course!) Check out the info here.

Spoiler alert, actors! This is as likely to crush your dreams as it is to set you on the path to greatness.

I get this question all the time: “How do I audition for film and TV when I don’t really have professional experience? What can I do to get noticed?”

If you shifted this question to any other job sector, it would be apparent that you are approaching your job search all wrong. For instance, “How do I perform heart surgery when I don’t have any professional experience? How can I get picked for surgery?” Or, “How do I fly an airliner with 400 passengers when I don’t have any experience flying planes? How do I get chosen to do that?” Sounds ridiculous, right? Depending on the circumstances, it’s pretty scary to think that someone would think they could do something without the proper training and practice.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s 2008 book “Outliers: The Story of Success,” he posits that for a person to be successful in their chosen endeavor, they need to acquire 10,000 hours of practicing and pursuing the endeavor. When you think of this in terms of being an actor, you realize that you need to have a lot of time and hard work under your belt before you start to book auditions.

If you do get an audition with little or no training or acting experience, you haven’t been properly taught how to make the most of your time in the room.

You could very easily burn bridges with the casting directors and others for whom you’re auditioning by not knowing proper audition room etiquette.

Skill set aside, you’ve effectively shot yourself in the foot! Professional experience should start with acting classes before auditions.

The second part of the question, “What can I do to get noticed?,” is also premature. You shouldn’t try to “get noticed” until you’re ready to be noticed. Not to beat a dead horse here, but if you have no professional experience, you are not ready to get noticed!

Once you have a strong foundation in acting through watching the masters at work, reading the quintessential texts, and training in a college program, acting classes, intensives, improv groups, movement and voice classes, and more, that’s when you can put your toe in the water and start going out on auditions, which becomes a training ground in itself.

When you’re ready, throw yourself into the pool with gusto. Get some good headshots and put together your résumé. Don’t fret that it has a lot of white space. The most important thing I always look for is the training; I look for which acting teachers people have studied with and what theater companies they’ve worked with. I even look for special skills that I can use in my projects. I can immediately tell when I’m looking at an actor new to the field, and I encourage them to keep up with their hard work. (Pro tip: One way to start fleshing out that résumé is to send your materials to local colleges and film schools. Acting in their short films can be a great way to get experience on set.)

So, if your dreams haven’t been crushed by this dose of reality, buckle up, and good luck out there.

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.

What a Casting Director Says in an Audition vs. What They Mean

By Marci Liroff

Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon

Do casting directors speak in code? Have you been kept up at night trying to decipher what they mean when they say something innocuous like “Thanks for coming in”? I’ve been trained to be both honest and inspiring at the same time, and I want to help you in your craft, not rain on your parade. With that in mind, here are a few of the responses you may hear in the audition room, and what I actually mean when I say them.

“Thank you very much.” Means just that: Thank you for coming. I’m not sure if I’m calling you back.

“That was good.” Again, just that. I don’t mince words, so if I say your audition was good, I mean it! For other CDs out there, they may not know what to say and they’ll just resort to this one, too.

“Interesting take.” This can mean one of two things: It was interesting, or I’m being kind. “Interesting” could mean it was actually in the wrong direction from what the role is calling for, and I’m getting the impression you don’t have a good grasp on who the character is.

“Good adjustment.” If I like what you’re doing, I’ll give you direction or some adjustments. I want to see if you can take direction, or if you’re locked into the performance you’ve planned. Sometimes, I’ll give you the wrong direction just to see what you’ll do with it. Directors will also do this to see if you’re listening to them and if they can work with you.

“Thanks for your preparation.” I see a great number of actors each day for meetings and auditions, and it always blows my mind when an actor comes in and isn’t prepared and full of excuses as to why he’s not ready to be in front of me. When an actor comes in off-book with strong choices for the character, I like to thank them for how thoroughly they prepared. I know it seems odd to thank someone for what should be a given, but I like to give praise and encouragement whenever possible.

“Let’s try it again like this.” You’ve probably heard “Make strong choices.” What this means is that you have to bring something to the audition, not just recite the lines.

If you make strong choices for the character but they’re going off in the wrong direction from what we’re looking for, I’ll work with you to get it right because I can see you’re a smart actor and I want to help refine your performance.

“Thanks for your audition, but you’re not right for this.” If I like your work but you’re clearly not right for the role (you don’t look like the family I’ve already put together, or you don’t match with the woman I have cast opposite you), I want to praise you for your work and let you know, from the horse’s mouth, that you’re not going any further in this process. It’s not because you did something wrong, but because you’re just not right for the role. That said, remember that casting directors have amazing memories and take copious notes when casting a project—we will bring you back for the next project if we see a good fit! 

“I’m going to call you back to read for my producers and director.” This means I like what you did in our preread and you’re ready to go on to the next step. You may have brought in the performance we want and I want you to come back and do the same thing, exactly. Or we worked together to bring your performance to what I know the team is looking for. It’s at this point that many actors make a mistake. They get coached between the two auditions and completely change the performance. I’m not saying don’t get coached; I think you should always get coached for your auditions! Just make sure to clue your coach into the notes that the casting director gave you in the audition so that you can replicate it for the callback.

“Don’t quit your day job.” For the record, I would never, ever say this. Anyone who does is a dream killer and shouldn’t be working in casting.

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.

Find Inspiration During Covid-19

By Marci Liroff

Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon

Boy, time has certainly flown by. It’s been SO long since I’ve written. I hope you’re all staying safe, wearing a mask when you go out, and are social distancing.

In light of the pandemic, I am offering special pricing for my private coaching (remotely of course!) Check out the info here.

A few months ago, we couldn’t have imagined we’d be sequestered in our homes for a prolonged period of time due to a global pandemic. This quiet time has forced us to slow down and be reflective.

Working from home has its own complications. For creatives, it is exponentially harder to find inspiration for your creativity. It’s hard to concentrate when there are so many distractions. Kids need to be homeschooled, the washer and dryer are constantly running—even our pets are more demanding, because they’re not used to us being home 24/7. There’s only so much Netflix you can watch before you have to finally get down to business and do your work, if only for lack of options!

As I’m writing this article, I’ve gotten up no less than four times since I started my first sentence. I see spiderwebs gathered in the corner of the skylight in the kitchen and simply have to climb up on the ladder to clean them away—something I’ve never done in the 19 years I’ve lived here. Apparently, I’ll do anything to not have to sit down and do my work.

With numerous distractions and a lack of stimulation from the outside world, it’s hard to maintain a sense of creativity. So I began searching. I looked to my favorite artists for a clue. Tom Hanks said, “You’re a dope if you don’t steal from everyone you’ve ever worked with.”

Even Pablo Picasso had a take on this, saying, “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.”

This is not to say that you can be authentically creative by stealing others’ work. No one wants to see a carbon copy of someone else; however, there are elements within their work that you can use to spark your imagination and form your inspiration.

I did a deep dive on cable the other night and watched a movie I hadn’t seen since it was released in 1993. “Benny & Joon” is a dark romantic comedy. An unlikely pair, Mary Stuart Masterson plays a young woman with schizophrenia and Johnny Depp plays a magical sprite of a character. Depp “borrows” liberally from Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and Harold Lloyd to create a captivating character that’s part boy, part man, part unearthly being. You can see that he’s not just boldly stealing their moves, but using their singular flair to inspire his performance.

Think about how many actors have been inspired by James Dean and Marilyn Monroe. Are they just copying their moves or are they using their essence to create a fully fleshed-out character? You’ll see some fail miserably at their attempt, but others manage to reach new heights as a performer.

I suggest you use this time to find an actor or two who has informed your work today. Go back and watch their early films, and you can see that they most likely “stole” from other actors themselves. When acting, you have a great opportunity to learn from those around you. So, keep your eyes and heart open.

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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