Nothing but Proper Prep Work Will Ready You for the Audition Room’s Curveballs

I know, I know. It’s been quite awhile since I’ve blogged! But, I’m back!

If you’re in Los Angeles in June, I’m teaching my 3-night Audition Bootcamp classes. Click here for more info. Class is almost full so be sure to take advantage of the 10% offer if you sign up before 5/20/19.

In the meantime – here’s my latest blog.

One question I’m consistently asked as a casting director is “What is your biggest pet peeve with actors and auditions?” My answer is in line with most of my colleagues: lack of preparation.

What exactly is preparation? What do casting directors and the filmmakers consider good, solid preparation? Let me break it down for you by telling you a story about a coaching client of mine.

My client got a big break to go in and audition for a role in a television series that was being recast. He was so excited for the opportunity, only to be cut off at the knees because his manager let it slip that none of the producers wanted to see him for the role. The casting director strongly believed in him and made it her mission to give him the opportunity to at least read. The script was great—the kind where the dialogue just rolls off your tongue.

You’ve just got to get out of your own way, know the material inside and out, and make some solid character choices.

Since my client was not in Los Angeles, we worked on the scene using Skype for a solid week. We’d work for about two hours each day, discussing his character, the story, and how he fit into it. The scene was meaty, so there was a lot of good stuff to dig into. Throughout the week, we’d read through the entire script, even scenes he wasn’t in so that he could become immersed in that world.

Audition day finally came, and he was pumped. He read on tape for the casting director, and she was truly impressed—then she brought out a second scene. My client gulped; his agent had only given him the one. “There are two scenes,” the CD clarified. “And the second one is even better! How about you take a look at it in the hallway and we’ll just try it anyway?” My client didn’t miss a beat. He didn’t even leave the room; he looked over the “new” second scene (which we had gone over at least a dozen times over the course of the week) and was ready. “Let’s do it.” He read the second scene in the room and wowed yet again. He walked out, head held high, and called his agent to chew him out for not adequately preparing him. Turned out it had been a miscommunication between offices.

But then he called me. “Marci,” he said, “when she handed me the new scene, I started to panic, but then I remembered that we had gone over this so many times. I was totally ready for this.”

And here’s why I’m using this story to illustrate what preparation can cover. Next, he said, “Here’s the thing: I’m in the best shape of my life right now; I’m on a daytime talk show; I’m in a Broadway show eight times a week. My brain will never be sharper than it is now. My body is engaged and worked out like an athlete because of all that I’m doing every day. I truly amazed myself at how easily I slipped into this second scene and didn’t freak out.”

Your work and your preparation is not just for a specific audition or job. It’s daily. You wouldn’t run a marathon without training months to get there, and it’s truly the same with acting. You need to be in acting class as your foundation and build from there. You can’t just take camera and audition classes. You’ve got to watch lots of movies and television so that you can study the work. Read, research, go to the gym. Most importantly, you must live a rich life so you can have something to draw from in your acting. My client didn’t get the job, but the producer and director fell in love with him and wrote him a recurring role in the series. They continue to work together to this day. Now that’s what I call preparation!

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.

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Google Is Your Friend


By Marci Liroff

When my casting director colleagues are asked, “What is the one thing you tell actors to do before their audition?” they unanimously reply, “Preparation!” I often write about preparation, as it is key to a good audition or an upcoming job, whether it be in acting or another field. In my article “How To Prepare BEFORE The Job” I talked about what you should bring up with your representation (and yourself) before committing to a gig.

Preparation comes in many forms. You’ve learned your lines and are off-book. You’ve made distinct and unique character choices. In addition, you’ve researched the filmmakers, so you know their credits and expectations based on their previous work.

I continue to be shocked by how many actors come in either for a coaching session or an audition and spout lines about a subject they don’t know anything about. Worse, they are reciting words and they don’t know the meanings.

As an actor, you are asked to interpret the material. If your character is meant to talk about a topic that you know nothing about, I expect you to look it up and do the proper research. I want you to know it inside and out. On the rare occasion that the director might ask you to riff or do some improvisation, wouldn’t it be great if you’ve already done extensive research on this topic and you’ll easily be able to talk about it as your character? Those who don’t are caught with the “deer in headlights” look plastered across their faces.

Likewise, I’ve had several instances when I’m auditioning an actor and they don’t know the meaning of the words they are saying, nor how to pronounce them. When you mispronounce a word or don’t know the meaning or intention of what you’re saying, it lacks conviction. It takes me out of the scene and I stop believing you. As much as casting directors say that we want you to get the job, you lose us when you don’t do the simplest bit of homework. Correct pronunciation is the most basic part of your preparation, and it never ceases to amaze me when an actor doesn’t take this essential step.

Imagine you are a doctor who is performing surgery tomorrow. I will bet that you’d do research and reread the latest literature on the procedure. This is your job, folks; this is what you have chosen to do for a living. If you try to take shortcuts then that is the career you’re going to have. I can guarantee it.

What about you? What steps do you take to prepare? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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 Prepare BEFORE The Job


By Marci Liroff

A couple of months ago, I was coaching a client for a project. I always like to get all the details of the project (who’s involved, which network, studio, etc.) whenever I work with someone so that I can guide them in terms of tone. She had already booked the job and was about to shoot the next day. I asked her to fill me in on these details, but she didn’t really know anything about the project. It was for a producer friend, but she had no idea whether it was for television, Web, or what—she thought it was possibly a Web series with potentially three networks involved. She had no idea if it was union or nonunion. It was all very confusing.

Most important, there was no contract or deal set in place. She knew the work would be unpaid but had no guarantee of any kind. If you’re going to do a friend a favor, at the very least make sure you get screen credit and a copy of your footage. More troubling was that she had an agent and a manager who didn’t question this. It wasn’t as if she was going out for the weekend to shoot a project with her friends—this was a Hollywood producer who has a body of work, and nobody asked any questions. I advised her to have her reps talk to the producer beforehand and get a contract.

For our work session she wasn’t off-book yet, but through repetition she began to have more of a grasp of the material. She confessed that deep down she wasn’t comfortable with the lines and felt they weren’t very well-written—which they weren’t!

I suggested that she’s (hopefully!) going to have a long career working with great material that will just flow out of her mouth, along with times when she’ll have less-than-great material.

If you’re going to be an actor you have to leave your judgment at the door—your judgment of the material and the character.

You have to find a way in, a “hook,” if you will, to your character so that you can empathize with him or her. Look at how fascinating Sir Anthony Hopkins was as Hannibal Lecter. It’s not just because the material was so good; it’s because he had compassion for the character.

I asked my client what her objective was in the scene. It was to warn the Queen that her sister was being treated badly, and that this could possibly result in an uprising. I told her to think of her counsel as being “of service” to the Queen. Her role is noble because it serves a huge purpose. Without her, the whole kingdom could fall due to the missing piece of information that she is giving. She was needed and vital to this story.

Suddenly she had purpose. She had a role in this puzzle.

Be sure to ask questions and get all the info you can before you start your project. Learn your lines to the point where you can be comfortable throwing them away and truly connect with the scene’s objective and understand why you are there.

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.

Glad you’re here.

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