What to Do With Your Free Time During Quarantine

By Marci Liroff

Photo Source: Shutterstock
In light of the pandemic, I am offering special pricing for my private coaching (remotely of course!) You can buy a steeply reduced package now and use it later (must be used before the end of 2020) Check out the info here.

You’ve done the 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. Your closets are organized and pristine. You’ve decluttered your home and donated the things you haven’t worn in years. Now what? At this point, I think we’ve all realized that we’re in this for the long haul. As actors and filmmakers, what does this mean for us? How can we stay creative and productive while working from home? Here’s a primer I’ve put together that will help you keep your mojo and your sanity.

Take care of yourself. First and foremost, we must be taking care of ourselves and of those we love. Our mental and physical health is the most important thing right now. What we’re dealing with is unprecedented. I’m not the expert here, and don’t pretend to be, but it’s OK if you don’t know what to do and if you feel lost. Please reach out to mental health professionals if you are finding the day-to-day more difficult than usual. Oh, and if you’re not already doing this, wear a mask whenever you go outside, do not gather in groups, social distance at least 6 feet (10 feet is even better), wash your hands often, and don’t touch your face!

Reconnect with yourself. It’s a great time to practice mindfulness and self-reflection. I found a great app called Calm where you can find guided meditations and sleep meditations. I have never meditated before, and it’s really helping. It’s also a good time to examine your life. Is this what you want to be doing coming out of the lock down? Now you have the gift of time on your hands to fully explore this. It’s the perfect time to journal. Get your feelings and thoughts down on paper so you don’t have to wrestle with them when you’re trying to sleep.

Give yourself the permission to hit the pause button. As artists, we are told that we must be pursuing our craft at all times. It is hard to get out of that mindset and just sit with ourselves and do nothing. At this point, we’re rewriting the playbook every day. Be kind to yourself.

Learn a new scene every day. Even without a global pandemic, I suggest this to actors to keep their minds stimulated and growing. There are plenty of free resources online to find good scenes.

Take online classes in your field. Several universities are offering free classes. Simply Google “free university classes” and you will find an abundance of them. Be bold and jump into an area you’ve always wanted to study. The SAG-AFTRA Foundation is also hosting free seminars from industry experts. Backstage Magazine has daily digital on-camera programming with casting directors, talent agents, acting coaches, and more as part of The Slate.

Exercise! I’ve never been a person who gets that amazing endorphin rush from exercising, but I’m now finding it crucial to work out every day. Even long walks (while wearing a mask and maintaining social-distance guidelines from others) are a life-saver. Just before lock down, I started taking Pilates classes and had started getting so much stronger. My good friend turned me on to this amazing Pilates trainer, Frank Zito, who is sharing his mat Pilates classes online – for free! Make sure you go through all of them (there are about 10 as of now)

Make online dates with friends and family. Isolation has brought out the social butterfly in me. I’m making Zoom dates with friends and family. Having virtual “cocktails” with groups of people is keeping me connected in a new way. It certainly doesn’t take the place of the real thing, but I’m so grateful we have such great technology.

Unplug for awhile. This one is key for me. I’m a news junkie, and at the end of the day I find my head about to explode from the horrible global news. I’ve made it a habit to cut down on my news stories and to unplug from everything at 6 p.m.

Read a book. It is great to have so much time to read. Novels, non-fiction, and self-help books are stacking up in my Kindle. Right now, I love being transported to another time and place.

Catch up on your shows. With the immense amount of content from streaming platforms, we’ve never had a better time to consume a variety of TV shows and movies. Study up on what’s out there!

Revisit an old hobby, or pick up a new one! I started playing the piano again. It’s been sitting in my dining room collecting dust for years. It’s amazing how the muscle memory of my brain remembered songs that I played when I was a child. I’ve also taken a deep dive into adult coloring books and I’m drawing mandalas. My friends are doing jigsaw puzzles.

Find time to volunteer. At this point, giving your time and energy to those in need will help you mentally. Some ideas are making masks and reaching out to elders in assisted living through video.

What are some of the things you’ve been doing to keep yourself creative, healthy, and sane?

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.

How to Navigate Zoom

By Marci Liroff

Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon

Since many of us are pivoting to online teaching, coaching, and casting meetings, learning video etiquette is essential these days. I’ve got some tips on how to best prepare for a Zoom call. In order to have a smooth experience, I highly recommend working on these technical details ahead of time. You can use a friend or family member to test them out!

I recommend logging on about five minutes before the beginning of the meeting to ensure all your technical details are in working order. Close out unneeded applications on your computer to keep the video chat running smoothly; clear out the barking dog, screaming kids, and naked husband; set up your laptop at eye level; and adjust your camera so we can see you—but not too close. We don’t need to see your nose hairs or that your roots have grown out!

Concerning your eye line, this is one of the few times as an actor that you should look into the camera. It will be more personable for those that you’re speaking with. Just as with a good self-tape, make sure you’re not backlit. Natural light is fine, as long as you’re facing the light. Otherwise, there are many lighting devices available for purchase online.

If you’re the host, make sure you introduce everyone if you all don’t know each other. Proper business etiquette should still be adhered to. Do a quick summary of housekeeping rules for the chat; you can request that participants mute their mics when they’re not speaking, or do it yourself! The meeting’s host has the power to run the show. To better dictate a speaking order, use the chat box feature to talk to others and physically raise your hand to speak or use the raised hand icon.

However, you should know that your privacy in the chat room isn’t always protected; a host who records the session may be able to see your private chats, depending on their settings.

A pinned video allows you to disable the active speaker view and only view a specific speaker.  It will also only record the pinned video if you are recording locally. Pinning another participant’s video will only affect your local view and local recordings, not the view of other participants, and it will not affect cloud recordings.

When you’re on the call, treat it like a meeting! Dressing professionally will make you feel more professional. But if you decide to be business from the waist up and party from the waist down, be sure you know exactly how low your webcam is pointed if you know what I mean. Many reporters have been caught wearing only their boxers during Zoom interviews!

As far as other distractions: Keep them minimal! Avoid noise pollution from overhead fans, window air conditioners, and more. And take a beat to listen yourself. Talking over each other in this medium just causes confusion. Don’t multitask, either; the temptation is huge, but your focus should be on the call. And mind the clock. Stay on task and don’t waste others’ time. Zoom fatigue is real for those working from home with a schedule full of meetings.

With that last point in mind, only invite those people who are essential to the call. If you can loop someone in with an email with bullet points rather than have them sit in, you probably don’t need them there. Fewer participants make for a smoother meeting.

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.