How to Defeat Self-Doubt

Photo courtesy: Tertia Van Rensburg

By Marci Liroff

My Los Angeles Audition Bootcamp starts May 16, 23, 30th, 2017. Only a few spots left – sign up here!

I started casting a new film this week. In the days leading up to it, I got extremely anxious. It happens every time I start a project. The loop in my head goes something like this: “I have no idea how to cast this film. They’re all going to find out I have no idea what I’m doing.”

Can you imagine? I’ve been casting for almost four decades and I still have self-doubt.

Once I start the project, within the first morning, I realize I actually do know what I’m doing and I’m very good at it. As the ball starts rolling I immediately recognize the familiar day-to-day back and forth of the casting process.

Since I’m an independent casting director, I don’t keep an office. Like a gypsy, I move to a new space each time I start a project. Perhaps that’s part of the issue; I can’t picture where I’m going to work or who I’m going to work with. Once I get relaxed into my new surroundings, I can marinate on my casting ideas and they start flowing. Like riding a bike, it all comes back very quickly.

Then why the anxiety and self-doubt? I’ve taken great pains to analyze this to try and nip it in the bud. As a perfectionist, I find that that quality can actually work against me sometimes. There are such huge expectations on me when I’m in charge of a project. I’m so swept up in doing everything right that I forget the big picture.

Renowned acting teacher Howard Fine wrote this about self-doubt and insecurity in terms of the acting community. I think it’s a great lesson for us all: “Let me explain the positive benefits of self-doubt. Those who question their talent work harder. The doubt translates to a work ethic. The insecure actor will not take anything for granted. To those of you who feel insecure about your talents, it is your very sensitivity toward life and toward your fellow human beings that is a core part of your talent. You must seek to find balance. It is OK and natural to question your talent. Do not think that this disqualifies you from having a wonderful life and career. In fact, you share the trait with many whose work you admire.”

I agree with Fine on many of his points. What I’ve learned to embrace is that this feeling keeps me humble and keeps me on my toes. I don’t rest on my laurels. I’m constantly pushing myself to be better at my job.

As an actor, you’ve got to exude confidence in your work. Even if you don’t feel it inside, you can act “as if” and it will telegraph. I’ve often cited social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on this topic. Take a look at her video. It’s life-changing.

There’s nothing better than an actor who comes in to audition, who is comfortable in her own skin, and who’s there to “play”; it allows us to relax and feel like we’re in good hands. Confidence is sexy and it’s infectious.

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 Replenish Your Self-Confidence

14842038610_eacf3cbe20_hphoto credit: IdeaLuz Photography

By Marci Liroff

I received this note from one of my followers on Facebook, who lives in a major hub of film and television production in North Carolina. “I was wondering if you have ever written any articles about children losing interest in acting, or confidence being lost from lack of or no work. My daughter (on her request) has been signed with an agent for almost three years now. I have spent the time and money to take her to countless auditions, acting lessons, singing lessons, and even traveled a few hours away just to have video auditions taped by professionals, but she has not landed a single job in all of this time. I have even tried to submit her for countless ‘extra’ parts and have never been contacted for any of them as well. Now when she gets a request for an audition, she lacks the motivation and confidence to do so, saying, ‘What’s the point? I am never going to get it.’ ”

The pursuit of getting an acting job on camera or onstage is a tough road for most adult actors, and young actors must have thick skin—with their heads and hearts in the right places—to survive. The one thing most actors have (the good ones, anyway!) is that they’re in it for the love of the craft. They simply have to act; they have to perform—it’s their lifeblood.

In my article “When Is The Right Time For Your Child To Become An Actor”, I examined the notion of making sure your child wants to act for the right reasons. Whenever I meet child actors I always ask how and why they got into acting. The ones who repeatedly begged their parents over the years to take acting classes, are in plays at school, and truly enjoy being a storyteller are the ones who make it. Thankfully, they’re not at a point yet where they have to earn a living. Let’s not forget this is supposed to be fun—especially for kids.

I would submit to the concerned mom that perhaps the end is not the means in this situation. What is her child looking for in terms of being an actor? So far she hasn’t landed any roles, even background roles.

All actors need to recognize the fact that being an actor is not just when you’re in front of a camera or onstage—it’s the entire journey.

From immersing yourself in acting-dancing-voice classes to getting your headshots taken, the preparation is actually part of the job. Yes, I recognize that actually landing a job is the cherry on top of the sundae, but it can’t be the main goal. You’ve got to appreciate the rest of the experience in total and can’t feel defeated just because you didn’t get the role.

I suggest this child learn to thoroughly enjoy and appreciate her acting classes and use them as an opportunity to express herself as an artist. On a practical level, what about local stage productions? Is she involved in school plays? How about registering with all the local colleges and universities that have film programs? They are always producing short films and need actors—especially kids.

Most important, it’s perfectly acceptable for this child to take a step back and stop auditioning for a while until she regains her confidence and rediscovers her motivation to pursue acting. There are so many local places that need child volunteers: animal shelters, reading to young children at schools or libraries, collecting clothes around the neighborhood to donate to Goodwill or other suitable organizations—the list is endless. I’ve found that being of service is a great way to take the focus off of you and replenish your creativity.

What do you do when you feel defeated and your journey feels futile?

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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