Why Do You Act?


By Marci Liroff

I’m sure you all saw Will Smith on the first episode of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” a few weeks ago. You probably remember him dancing with Fallon and showing us the evolution of hip-hop dancing. It was hilarious. But the real gem was buried within the interview. They were talking about fame, and Fallon asked Smith if it ever got scary for him. Smith replied that it can, especially now that his kids are coming into the business. “But I tell them…keep loving people. The thing is to make sure with your art that it is a gift to people to help their lives be better and brighter. What happens a lot of times when you see people fail in this business is that they’re in it for their ego, and they start doing it for them. It’s like, no, you’re trying to help people get through a day.” I see a lot of actors wrestling with this lately. I think they’ve lost sight of why they do this in the first place. The daily excitement of getting an audition, prepping for it, and going on the call has been replaced by disappointment (“I didn’t book it!”) and unrealized expectations. I’ve noticed several acting coaches and life coaches encouraging you to “live the red carpet life” and “get A-listed.”

Is that really why you became an actor, to get on a red carpet at a premiere? Should that be your goal? Should that even be your frame of mind? I say no. I say reject that message.

I want you to ask yourself why you became an actor. Why do you act? I asked this on my Facebook page recently and instructed folks to answer from their heart, not their head. I got some truly inspiring answers that might help you reconnect to the core reason you became an actor in the first place. Here are a few: “I’m an actor because I refuse to live inside of the box.” “I act to make a story come to life and hopefully trigger some emotional connection with the audience.” “My 6 1/2-year-old son said, ‘It’s my passion…who I am.’ ” “Because I need to be an actor.” “To move people through storytelling.” “To tell stories that offer comfort in this chaos.” “It is like breathing.” “Because I can’t not act. It’s too painful.” For me, it’s always been about the work. You are artists and born storytellers. When you lose sight of that and start thinking about being famous, you’ve already shifted your alignment with your art. Get back on track and ask yourself, “Why do I act?” I’d love to hear your answers! 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. Marci

The Power Of Inspiration

photo(1)L-R Anne Hubbel, Tiffany Shlain, Rose McGowan, Mamrie Hart, Kamal Sinclair

By Marci Liroff

In my last column, I wrote about how my film, “The Sublime and Beautiful,” made its world premiere at this year’s 20th annual Slamdance Film Festival. Slamdance started as a ragtag festival running simultaneous with the Sundance Film Festival, and features emerging talent in films made for under $1 million. While I was there, I tried (to no avail!) to get into screenings at Sundance, but tickets are at a premium and mostly sold out—or you stand in a long line outside in the cold, only to be turned away. But then I discovered the panels! The panels at both film festivals were eye-opening. Beyond being there for my film, I found my true reason for being there: inspiration!

Inspiration can sometimes be an elusive thing, but when it strikes, it’s so powerful that you just know you’re on the right path.

The Women in Film panel at Sundance was especially inspiring. Anne Hubbell from Tangerine Entertainment moderated, with guest speakers Tiffany Shlain (founder of the Webby Awards), YouTube sensation Mamrie Hart, actor Rose McGowan (at Sundance with the short film she directed, “Dawn”), and Kamal Sinclair, senior manager of the Sundance Institute’s New Frontier Story Lab.

One of the themes repeatedly discussed was “community supporting community,” and the notion that you should not wait to be asked to the party by looking for permission to create. There are so many different ways to “crack the nut” to launch your projects, whether it be in film, television, Web series, or theater. Whatever your art is, surround yourself with advocates, put together your team of like-minded, incredibly talented, and creative people, look for your mentors, and keep your eyes open for your inspiration.

A Slamdance panel discussing short-form content had Chad Hurley (the co-founder of a little thing called YouTube!) and brothers Joe and Anthony Russo, who were at Slamdance in 1997 with “Pieces,” before Steven Soderbergh hired them to direct George Clooney’s “Welcome To Collinwood.” They then directed the pilot of “Arrested Development,” became executive producers–directors on NBC’s “Community,” and most recently co-directed “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”

In this panel, they talked a lot about how short-form content (i.e., Vine videos, short films) can be a “point of access” to decision makers. Joe Russo says his daughter doesn’t watch comedy TV the way we used to. Now she watches Vine videos for an hour and laughs hysterically to get her “hit” of comedy. He mentioned Vine star Rudy Mancuso as a good example of how you can be discovered, “because somebody like me sits in an office, laughs, and says, ‘Find this guy.’ ” They liked him so much, they contacted him about doing a project, all from watching his six-second videos! I wondered if all this short-form content was fostering short attention spans in the viewers. I think our brains, especially in the younger folks, are actually being rewired to only be able to view and retain short-form content.

The Russo brothers suggested that if you’re a filmmaker, you should have scripts ready so that when you get the opportunity, you actually have content to show. Decide what kind of career you want and use the question, “What do you want to be doing in five years?” to reframe your thinking and choose your path.

So I ask you: What do you want to be doing in five years, and how are you going to get 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.


Career Advantages to Film Festivals

IMG_2740Sublime and Beautiful stars Laura Kirk, Anastasia Baranova and me in the middle!

By Marci Liroff

I just got back from the Slamdance Film Festival, where my film, “The Sublime and Beautiful,” made its world premiere. Aside from coming down with a wicked case of bronchitis, it was an amazing week in Park City, Utah. I got to see many new films and meet the filmmakers; as a casting director and producer, I always have my eyes peeled for great filmmakers on the rise and actors I’ve never seen before. It’s such a great marketplace to discover new talent.

I had the pleasure of seeing a little gem of a movie called “Three Night Stand,” starring Sam Huntington, Emmanuelle Chriqui, and Meaghan Rath, and shot in Montreal. I’d known of Sam from his work on the film “Detroit Rock City” and, of course, playing Jimmy Olsen in “Superman Returns.” Emmanuelle you’ll remember from “Entourage.” New to me was Meaghan Rath, who is beautiful, smart, funny, and quirky—such a great combination in an actor.

Being a filmmaker with a film at a festival is one thing, but I was curious what it’s like for an actor. I had a chance to talk to Meaghan after Slamdance, me from my sickbed (!) and Meaghan on the set of her Syfy series “Being Human.” I asked her, “From the actor’s point of view, what can one do to ‘work it’ to your advantage? Did you take any extra steps, like hire a publicist?” She replied, “I think Slamdance is a whole other ball game when it comes to festivals. For the film, we did hire a publicist. We wanted to take full advantage of all the potential press. The best thing you can do for your film at that point is exposure. You want people to see the poster, see the actors, and hear the title.”

She continued, “As an actor, I’d been working with my own publicist for almost four years when I started doing my show, ‘Being Human.’ For the festival, my personal publicist is able to work with the film’s publicist to secure press opportunities where I can promote the film, as well as myself, and the other projects I have going on.”

I asked if she thought Slamdance differed from other festivals in terms of what an actor should be doing to network and interact with filmmakers. Meaghan responded, “In regard to networking, I have to be honest—I’m not a big networker. But I think the energy and general feeling of Slamdance is one of support. So I made an effort to go to the parties and meet the other filmmakers, see their movies, and participate in the festival as much as I could.” And indeed she did, because I saw her everywhere I went!

For me, the parties are not necessarily my scene. However, there are so many other ways you can take advantage of a film festival. I spent my time seeing as many of the films that were competing in our category as I could, along with going to several of the panels. Stay tuned for part two, in which I explore some of the panels at the Slamdance and Sundance film festivals, along with my thoughts on indie filmmaking!

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.

Please share your comments/stories on being at a film festival.

We’d love to hear your experiences

Glad you’re here – Marci


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