The Voices Within


By Marci Liroff

Do you think these thoughts and utter these phrases to describe yourself and others?

“I’m a hungry actor,” “He’s a starving artist”.  Do you describe those that hire you as “The gatekeepers” or “Those on the other side of the desk”?

Watch your mouth. Watch your thoughts. Watch the loop that goes on in your head tearing you down.

Words matter! Change your dialogue. Banish these terms from your lips and your brain. These thoughts are all pervasive. When you speak them aloud you give them life and energy. I have actor friends who refer to themselves in public and to their family as a “starving artist” while trying to maintain a supposedly tongue-in-cheek attitude. Even if they’re slightly joking, it plants a seed in people’s minds that artists have to starve and struggle for their work. The words and phrases tend to romanticize the life of an artist; that there has to be pain and lack of comfort to attain true art.

In my article “This Will Change Your Life” I asked you to reframe the way you’ve been thinking about meetings and auditions. I wrote about thinking of the whole auditioning process as a collaboration between filmmakers.

I also suggested that you’ve got to stop this deadly “me against them” loop that’s going on in your head. Delete the word “gate­keepers” and anything else that you think is standing in your way. Replace it with this mantra: “I am a filmmaker! I am a collaborator!”

Another self-sabotage move is the idea of luck. What is luck? Some have it and some don’t. Really? If luck exists, why do I even need to get up in the morning? My luck will take care of everything. No need to even insert myself into the equation because it’s out of my hands. I call bullshit on this with a big cherry on top.

I don’t believe in luck. Some say luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. This quote, attributed to Roman philosopher Seneca, reminds us that we make our own luck.

As I always preach, perception is about 90% of the game. As an artist and performer, with so many things out of your control, the one thing you do have control of is your perception and how you will let things plant firmly in your brain, or whether you’re going to let go of them. Are you going to stick with the voice in your head that says, “I never get comedy jobs”? Or are you going to change your “luck” and start viewing your opportunity in a different light? Take ownership of this opportunity and get yourself into some sitcom and improv classes. Turn your bad “luck” on its ear.

Psychologist Richard Wiseman did a ten-year study on the topic of luck. In interviews with the study’s volunteers, he realized that unlucky people are typically more anxious and tend to be more hyper focused on the specifics of a situation. Lucky people, on the other hand, are more laid-back and open to whatever opportunities present themselves.

His research revealed that lucky people generate good fortune via four basic principles. They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make smart (lucky) decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.

When you take control of what you say and think I guarantee a change.
The Universe is listening.

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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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8821230126_015e2916edPhoto credit: Wonderlane

By Marci Liroff

I was casting a TV pilot a few years ago and one of the roles was described as an “Old-World Hollywood agent. He even wears a pocket square in his suit jacket.” All of the lovely actors who came in were dressed to the nines.

I brought in an actor from Canada who I didn’t know personally, but had seen his demo reel and was impressed. It was enough to convince me to bring him straight to the producers without a pre-read because I was pressed for time. He had a great comedy background and was a fresh face out here so I thought it would be an interesting audition at the very least.

When you work on a television show the writers are often the creators and producers of the show. I had a full house that day with the director for the pilot, the star/creator/writer/producer and his writing/producing partner as well.

Mr. Canada showed up wearing a grungy leather jacket, ripped up jeans (not the designer kind!), and a wrinkled t-shirt. I thought to myself, “Wow, this guy must be really good to be so carefree about how he’s dressed for his audition!” He sat down, didn’t say much, put on his “readers” (half-glasses), and began to read the scene off of the page. Our creator/star read with all the actors. The actor continued to read, face down in his sides. He’d look up briefly to see that we were all still there, but basically just read off the page. I felt the energy in the room shift. I saw steam start to come out of the producer’s ears. My face got all hot. Then it happened. As if things weren’t bad enough, Mr. Canada decided to try his hand at a joke and change the dialogue. He was sitting in the presence of one of the hottest veteran comedians for the last 30 years who had a long-running hit TV show and he thought he’d show them how funny he was by changing their dialogue. The line read, “Boy! Somebody’s got a bee in his bonnet today!” referring to how our star was being cranky. He changed the line to, “Boy! Somebody’s got a bee in his yalmulke today!” – he was referring to what a Jewish man wears on his head in Temple. He tried to make a Jewish joke to the Jews in the room. At that point, one of the producer’s head exploded. The other producer was so furious he literally turned his entire body around on the couch to face the back of the room, away from Mr. Funny. I felt myself sinking into a pool of hot molasses.

He finished his scene. We all just sat there staring at him. You could hear a pin drop. I said “thank you” and he slunk out of the room. Then everybody turned to look at me with a giant “what the f*ck was that?!” look on their collective faces. I had no answer. I threw myself on the sword. I took responsibility for this guy being not prepared, not caring about how he dressed, and the ultimate sin – changing dialogue.

You have to remember that by the time you finally get the script it has been through months of revisions and rewrites, and notes from the studio and network. The writers want to hear their words. They get very attached to them.

I’ve worked with some directors who openly say, “I’m not attached to the material – it’s ok if you riff with it a bit”. That’s the time to improvise. Otherwise, stick to the material you’ve been given, put your own unique spin on it from your well-thought out character choices, then let it fly….as written.

Please share your experiences when you improvised and it didn’t work…or it worked beautifully! There are exceptions to every rule. I want to hear your stories!

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