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Trust Your Instincts

Note_CD_Nick_Bertozzi_0302.jpeg.644x650_q100Illustration by: Nick Bertozzi

By Marci Liroff

If you’re in L.A. and haven’t RSVPd to my July Audition Bootcamp, take a moment and check it out. Only a few seats left!

Does the casting couch still exist? You bet. I was disheartened to read this post on Facebook from my agent friend Mimi Mayer of Angel City Talent.

“Anyone here have any of their ladies going in to see [redacted]? Cuz there’s some serious creepy going on right now. Warn your clients that they will be invited to meet the director at the Ritz-Carlton, and should they decline, will be shamed and insulted. Yes, I am naming names.”

I advised her to have her client write everything down while it’s fresh in her mind. Report it to SAG-AFTRA. She can do it anonymously if need be. Protect others.

Her client reported that the director called her cellphone directly (she never gave her number out) and wanted to meet her for a “private” meeting at the Ritz-Carlton later that evening, “just have a drink, relax and ‘talk about the role.’ ”

When she said that she wanted her manager to be involved, he said, “How long have you been in the business? Sometimes managers can lose a job for talent. You need to know that. And you need to lose 15 pounds and I wasn’t going to offer you the role anyway. I just wanted to give you some industry advice.”

I asked if she’d informed the casting director. “Yes, and he was a dick. Sketchy. I told him it was unacceptable, unprofessional, and harassment, and that I was contacting SAG-AFTRA, to which he replied, ‘Go right ahead,’ and hung up on me.”

She also posted about it on social media, on her personal accounts, and on the Agency/Management Facebook page to alert other reps about this situation and to protect their talent.

That’s when the calls and emails started coming in. “My agent colleague from another agency just called me and said he had a client with a similarly creepy experience with these guys,” Mayer says. “And yet another one of her clients went in earlier this week, said it was a little weird but nothing touchy-feely, yet they posted her picture on their Facebook page as being part of the project—no call, no offer. They’re idiots.”

I asked Mimi how she advises her clients. She says, “Always trust your instincts. They are your guardian angels. Do your homework on a project. This goes for the talent and the rep. Keep your team looped in. Our client did this and I feel that she dodged a bullet. Not all young talent will be so lucky, unfortunately.”

I wondered if this only happens to women. Mayer responded, “As unprepared for an inappropriate advance as a young woman might be, young men are more often even less prepared and can sometimes be more easily conned/shamed into doing something that they aren’t comfortable with. If parents aren’t able to teach their children about this, then it’s up to the reps to watch out for our talent. It’s not always easy. Speaking for myself, I know that Angel City does our best to send our clients into professional and safe environments. Our rate on this is very high—but clearly blemished by this experience.”

If something feels wrong, don’t get pressured into doing something if you don’t feel comfortable. I can guarantee you that that job won’t bring you fame and fortune.

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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BE PREPARED

 

keep-calm-and-be-prepared-21

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

 

 

 

 

SELLING AUDITIONS: IS NOTHING SACRED?!

By Marci Liroff
UPDATE 2:30 pm PST April 2:

As of 2:30pm PST we have word that the Casting Directors have taken the audition tapes off the auction block and instead are donating them to The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. You can read the story first reported on Back Stage Magazine here. This addresses the “for profit” issues on these tapes, but donating them to the Academy still doesn’t address the privacy issues of these auditions. 

The Daily Variety articlequotes SAGAFTRA as saying “Auditions are not public performances, and under SAG-AFTRA collective bargaining agreements performers are entitled to expect them to remain private,” said SAG-AFTRA General Counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland. “Our collective bargaining agreements include protections for performers against exploitation of audition and interview tapes, which must be erased upon performers’ request. Failure to comply with such a request will result in formal legal action pursuant to the agreements.Unauthorized use of audition and interview footage may also result in claims against producers and casting directors under right of publicity and/or privacy laws.”   

I’ll say again: these audition tapes were not meant for public consumption or scrutiny by people outside of the production. Period.

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The casting community has been swirling with outrage the last few days over the news that two of our own are auctioning off several lots of audition tapes they’ve made through the years in Los Angeles on April 4th. Here’s the story.

Personally, I think the audition space is a sacred place and should be treated as such. When an actor comes in to audition, there’s an implicit agreement that the work they do in an audition is a work-in-progress and is only meant to be seen by those directly involved on the production in a contextual manner. It is not, and has never been, meant for mass consumption, sale, or distribution for profit. I have been asked countless times for audition footage – I’d never do it – and believe me I’ve got some doozies! I can only hope, and depend, that actors who come in to audition for me trust my discretion to not sell these work sessions.

 
I’ve spent the last few days alternately nauseated and enraged by this. Talks on Facebook within our casting community largely echoed sentiments of disgust and most were appalled. There were a few, however, who felt that by exposing these audition tapes to the public it had educational value and shows the public what we, as Casting Directors, really do. I agree with the “teaching moments” – just wish it had been approved by all concerned and if there’s profit to be made…then everyone deserves a piece of that pie.
 
Casting Director Matthew Lessall suggested that tapes like these should be archived and exhibited in a museum environment. I love this idea! Again, let’s get everyone involved to sign-off first and if there’s profit to be made everyone should share in it.
  
My contracts say that all work (including lists, videos, everything emanating from my office) belongs to the production and/or studio. Since this is all older footage they seem to be selling, perhaps the contracts didn’t have that clause in it yet? One can only hope.
Back Stage Magazine wrote a piece last night about this. The President of the Casting Society of America, Richard Hicks gave this statement:
“Richard Hicks, president of the Casting Society of America, condemned the auction in a written statement to Backstage, saying the organization “does not condone in any way” the sale or distribution of audition videos. “Actors who audition for the projects on which we work should have the reasonable expectation that their creative efforts during the audition process are treated with respect and used only for their intended purpose,” Hicks wrote. “Legal and rights issues aside, there is an ethical understanding among casting professionals that actors’ auditions are private.” He added that CSA “has always promoted and expected the highest of ethical standards of our members and will continue to do so.” Jenkins and Hirshenson are both CSA members.”
 
Many of the actors I spoke to were furious and worried about the future in terms of what rights they have over their audition footage. Will this be the new normal? I certainly hope not and judging by the CSA’s swift and harsh statement condemning those involved, people will think twice before doing this ever again.
I keep reminding myself that this is (hopefully) a “one-off”. This can’t happen again. I don’t know what the circumstances were that brought this casting team to think this was appropriate. I know there are two sides to every story. As of this time, Jane Jenkins and Janet Hirshenson have not weighed-in yet. I have always held them in such high esteem for the countless movies they’ve cast so beautifully. I’m trying not to be judgemental but I’m losing the battle. I still can’t wrap my mind around this one.
Do you have any questions for me? Feel free to ask them here!


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Glad you’re here!
Marci

 

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