Friday, October 4, 2013

C'MON OVER TO MY BLOG ON MY NEW SITE!

Just a reminder for those of you who haven't heard, my blog has moved over to my new shiny site and I'd love it for you to sign-up to receive it in your inbox.

Here's the link:
http://marciliroff.com/new/blog

Go get it!

Marci

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

NEWLY DESIGNED SITE! NEW BLOG!

Hey gang! I'm so very excited to announce my newly designed website http://marciliroff.com

If you want to continue receiving my blog posts, head on over to 
http://marciliroff.com/new/blog and you can sign-up to my blog in two ways.

Click on the title of the blog post and at the end of the each blog you can sign-up there to get them emailed to you.
OR on the main BLOG page top right, click on "subscribe in a reader" to get the RSS feed.
Easy peasy!

While you're at it, if you want to get on my mailing list for actor updates and news, private coaching and upcoming classes....head down to the bottom of each page to sign up for that list. Don't worry, I don't send out tons of emails so you won't be getting spammy stuff from me!!

Looking forward to seeing you on the new site!

Monday, August 5, 2013

THIS ADVICE WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE



I want you to re-frame the way you’ve been thinking about meetings and auditions.

I’ve been reading a lot of comments to my articles and blogs using the phrase “the other side of the table” when referring to the Casting Director or the other people you’re auditioning for. 

Stop it! Here’s the new thinking: What if you thought of the whole auditioning process as a collaboration between filmmakers? What if you included yourself in that group? After all, you are one of the filmmakers too. We desperately need you in this process.

When I’m casting my projects, teaching my classes, and coaching actors I wake up and have that Christmas-morning feeling in my stomach—the happy feeling filled with anticipation. I get so excited to work with wonderful actors and filmmakers. 

Websters dictionary defines EXCITEMENT as:
Noun
  1. A feeling of great enthusiasm and eagerness.
  2. Something that arouses such a feeling; an exciting incident.
It occurred to me—that is exactly the feeling you should have when you come in to audition. Think about it. As an actor, how often do you actually get to act? Probably not as often as you would like. What if you thought of your audition as an opportunity to show us your stuff? What if you woke up on the day you had an audition and thought, “Yay! I get to act today and show them what I’ve been studying, prepping, and researching. I get to come in and play with the other filmmakers. I get to help them solve their problem. I get to be of service to the project and bring in my own special and very specific piece of the puzzle that they’re tirelessly putting together.”

You’ve got to stop this deadly “me against them” loop that’s going on in your head. Delete the word “gatekeepers” from your brain and anything else that you think is standing in your way. Replace it with this mantra: “I am a filmmaker! I am a collaborator!” We are all working together to bring the project to fruition.

When you’re truly prepared for your audition—you know the character and you’ve prepped and researched properly—you should feel like you can’t wait to get into the audition room. You should be excited to engage as a participant, as one of the filmmakers. After casting for the last century or so, I’ve come to realize that SO much of it is in your head. Once the preparation has been done, it’s all about perspective—and this is the good news. YOU are in control of how you view the audition process. It’s all up to you. 

Now go out there and remember that we’re all in this together.

I'd love to hear how this article made you feel.  It's always good to share with the community. Leave a comment, share this blog with a friend.

Glad you're here!  

Marci


Monday, July 8, 2013

I GET NERVOUS TOO!



I’ve been casting movies and television for over 30 years. I’ve cast some of the most iconic and successful movies around and worked with some of the best directors, producers and screenwriters. Yet, every time I start a project I still get nervous and anxious. Every. Single. Time.

There is a very short window of time to do the “happy dance” once I get chosen to cast a movie. “Yay! I got the job!” Then comes the part where the producer or business affairs person calls my agent to make the deal, which is usually excruciating for me. Like I said, you have those nanoseconds to be happy you were picked, and then they pound you with the deal. Each year it gets harder. Seems that even after working all these years and creating a respectable “quote” (the salary I’m paid for each job), no one seems to pay attention to this anymore. They all want to get a “deal” for my services.

During the time in which they negotiate my deal I go into my usual loop of anxiousness. The damn voices in my head start chanting in chorus, “I have no idea how to cast this. They’re all going to find out I don’t know what I’m doing! How will I find all these actors?!”

Then the first day of work comes and I’m getting set up in my new offices (I move in to the production office for all the projects I do). I’m in my element. The calls start going out and rolling in. The email starts to explode. My staff and I are brainstorming. Ideas are flowing. It’s all coming together and I realize, “I got this.” It’s as simple as that. Once I start the process, all the anxiety and doubt quiets down and I realize I do indeed know what I’m doing and I’m actually quite good at it!

The wonderful actor and acting teacher Jack Plotnick describes it so eloquently to his class: “The physical sensation of what some people call ‘nervous’—i.e., your heart racing and butterflies in your stomach—is the exact same physical sensation as ‘excitement’.”



I’ve been coaching and teaching actors for the last several years. I recently let them in on this secret of mine. I realized that we all go through this when we’re waiting for our event to begin. For actors, it’s the audition or stepping on stage or in front of the camera.

I think that silly dance I do makes me humble, sharper and better at my job. Maybe next time I can teach the chanting chorus to do three-part harmony!

I'd love to hear your stories about your experiences with nervousness/anxiousness and how this article made you feel.  It's always good to share with the community.
Glad you're here!



Marci






Monday, July 1, 2013

EMBRACE YOUR BEAUTIFUL YOU




A follower of mine on Twitter sent this email to me.

“As a casting director, how much of the decision on casting a role is based on looks? I don’t mean how the character is supposed to look, I mean in terms of beauty. It’s just something that’s always held me back. I don’t feel like I look the same as everyone else, because I have a few unique features that I’m not ashamed to say I’m proud of, i.e., dark red hair that can either look like fire in the sun or deep brown in the shade—and pale freckles. But having grown up being bullied I feel like all those traits are against me. I’m afraid that if I ever get my chance in a casting room, and hopefully my acting skills get me to a callback, it’d be my looks that stop me from getting the role. I was wondering if there was a certain look that’s popular at the moment. Does it help to have no freckles, and tanned skin, [and] brown hair? If so, would that affect things in an audition?”

First of all, I want to thank you for sharing this with me and being so candid. Of course, I had to reply.

No, there isn’t a certain look that’s popular at the moment. Sure, we’re looking for people who are “screen worthy”—but as you can see when you watch film and television, they come in all shapes and sizes. Take a look at Merritt Wever on “Nurse Jackie”—an amazingly funny character actor who’s also great with drama (check her out in “Michael Clayton” with George Clooney). I could continue to name hundres of actors who are not what you’d think are “beautiful” and have huge and thriving careers. Look at Bryan Cranston from “Breaking Bad”—not a traditionally handsome man, but I can’t take my eyes off him because he’s so compelling to watch.

I’m so sorry that you were bullied when you were younger. I think it’s great you’re attempting to turn it around, and I love the way you describe your attributes. But you’ve got to carry that thought through (in the acting world) and “own” it and wear it proud—just like you’ve described yourself to me. It’s those features that make you unique and not like anyone else. 

Unique is what we want. There are a lot of “traditionally” beautiful people out there, and frankly, after a while, that becomes boring to watch. As viewers we crave people we can relate to, whom we can live through vicariously.

It’s interesting to me that the words you use to describe yourself are filled with such pride and so beautiful—yet you think that these things are holding you back in the acting world and seem somewhat ashamed of these attributes. If you truly embrace them, you’ll go far.
  
I'd love to hear your stories about your experiences with your look and how this article made you feel.  It's always good to share with the community.
Glad you're here!

  Marci

P.S. You can also read this article on Back Stage Magazine here.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

WHY ACTORS NEED TO UNDERSTAND SOCIAL MEDIA





I’ve been encouraging actors to get involved in social media for the last several years. Seems that they’ve been heeding my call! I’ve noticed droves of actors taking to Twitter lately. Some do it well, some—not so much.


While working on the feature film “Vampire Academy: BloodSisters,” based on the best-selling series of six young-adult paranormal romance novels, I noticed some really bad behavior by a few actors; they were tweeting about coming in for auditions, and how they did on said audition. One actor simply tweeted, “Christian Ozera” (the name of one of the very exciting male characters in the book series) and the Internet went wild with rumor mongering.


To put things into perspective, this book series has a HUGE fanbase. The Facebook fanpage for the movie—which hasn’t even been made yet!—has more than 250,000 fans.


I got an email from one of my producers who asked that all casting news come from the production and that what goes on behind the scenes (i.e. who’s auditioning) should be controlled by us. The producer added that any further “leaks” would compromise an actor’s potential for being hired.


The Facebook fanpage and Twitter blew up with speculation and thousands of fans were hysterically talking about whether the actor who tweeted about auditioning for Christian was going to get the part. I had to call his representatives and suggest that this was perhaps not the most professional approach to getting the role. I knew in my heart that he had tweeted this in an innocent way, not realizing what trouble would ensue from his simple tweet.


Another actor on Twitter and Facebook who wanted one of the lead roles so badly would fan the flames of speculation and neither deny or confirm that he was being offered the part. He even created a Facebook Fanpage for his mission.


Because IMDb is actually a fan site much like Wikipedia, anyone can enter information. We hope and depend that the site actually vets the information, but an actor who was “rumored” to be in the mix, who actually wasn’t, was listed as “rumored” to be playing the role. This added to even more confusion.


I’ve seen actors fired from commercials for tweeting things like, “Hey, I just booked a (fill-in-the-blank) commercial!” Same goes for television shows. The producers, networks, studios see this sort of thing as a leak of information.  This news should ONLY come from the production if and when they see fit and in the venue that they want it to come from. If after reading this you still feel compelled to share this kind of information, you should clear it with the producers first.

Kevin Brockman, Executive Vice President, Global Communications, Disney/ABC Television Group spoke to me about this topic. He said, "We are very actively involved in guiding our actors and productions in the social media space.  At ABC and ABC Family, after series are green-lit and before production begins, our social media and PR teams walk the actors and producers through a social media 101 that points out the potential positives and negatives in these arenas. Series spoilers are a large part of the discussion and our rule of thumb is, ask your executive producer or Publicity team before posting anything that may be a problem. Our actors, especially on our shows with mystery elements, like 'Scandal', 'Pretty Little Liars' and 'Twisted,' are very cognizant of this, as they don't want to hurt the viewing experience for their fans." 

Brockman added, "At Disney Channels Worldwide, we host Talent Orientation programs that provide new actors information on what to expect from their colleagues on the Production team and from their colleagues at Disney Channel, and what's expected of them.  During the Orientation, we cover the subject of social media and reiterate to our actors and their parents that what they say and do on social media, or when communicating directly to their fans, should done with care.  We remind them to "think before they tweet or post" anything, and ask them to appreciate that millions of young fans may look up to them."

I also spoke to Dan Berendsen, writer/producer/creator of ABC Family's hit tv show "Baby Daddy". He said, "All five of my cast members have a significant internet presence (twitter, instagram) and are an integral part of the show's marketing. They are the source of the show's real social media. We acknowledge that and promote it - they are partners in the successful marketing of the show. Consequently, we talk about what information is best for them to give out and what's not. To make it work, the actors have to be completely onboard with what you're trying to accomplish.

Historically, "leaks" and "spoilers" are more likely to come from the studio audience and the extras. There is almost no way to shut that down on a show that's filmed in front of a live audience - other than to ask people not to ruin the surprise for everyone else."


  
Of course, I understand the feeling we all have these days to share news within our community of followers on Facebook and Twitter along with your website. I suggest you share it after the project is completed and only when it’s about to air. Another thing to do so that you feel connected is to say something benign like “Auditions went GREAT today! I was so prepared!” That way, nobody gets hurt! 

I'd love to hear your stories about your experiences with Social Media and your interactions. It's always good to share with the community.
Glad you're here!
 
Marci




Thursday, May 16, 2013

CAN THE CASTING OFFICE TEST YOUR CONCENTRATION?!

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Whenever I’m casting a movie and working with actors I marvel at their sheer concentration. To be able to create a believable character and a “world” around you in a small audition room is always a miracle to me.



When I get hired on a television show or a movie, the production usually has me move in to their offices so that I’m close to the creative team for auditions. It’s often a game of Russian roulette to see if I get the “cool” office space or the crap one. I’ve had some very, shall we say “interesting”, experiences along the way and it’s brought me to share this story as I witnessed actors trying to stay in character through some difficult circumstances at our casting offices.



The last film I cast had a very cool-looking office space. It had been completely redone to look very architectural and quasi industrial. My office was very long and narrow, very hip looking. BUT, one entire wall was floor to ceiling windows, which looked onto, you guessed it, the waiting room. It was like working in a fishbowl. All the actors waiting to audition could look into my office and watch the auditions. Not cool. Immediately we fashioned a “screen” with a sheet that also served as a backdrop for our filming. One problem solved.



Turns out the walls were paper-thin so that when you’re in my office auditioning, you could hear another actor in the next room auditioning with my casting associate Michelle. Again, not cool. There were actually times when they would sync up and would be reading the lines at the same time in two separate rooms. If you’re not prepared and “in your character” and able to shut out all the elements you could be very tripped up by this.



Because this office didn’t have much in the way of natural light, we had to use our professional lights – which are seriously HOT! They didn’t have central air-conditioning - which is usually whisper quiet. There was a built-in wall unit that was very effective, which we had to turn off during the auditions so that we’d get great sound. This resulted in making my office feel a lot like Suzy’s Easy-Bake Oven. Remember those? It’d be freezing cold in the waiting room and we’d have sweat streaming down our faces and would be peeling off our clothes as the day went by.



Just when you think we’ve solved enough problems, in the week that we were doing the final casting where we had our director piped in thru my laptop to direct on Skype from London, they decided to put in a new roof and a new air-conditioning unit on said roof. Banging, drilling, pounding, hot mopping with tar, toxic fumes….you get the picture. And yet, it’s your “time to shine”! It’s your audition. Again, I was amazed at how most of the actors who came in just went with the flow, planted their feet and gave some truly incredible performances in spite of all these problems.



The more I thought about it, the more I realized this was great preparation for when you actually get on set. If you think that once you’re on set, everything will be easier and you can relax, then you haven’t really experienced the full spectrum of what can go wrong while you’re shooting.



Several years ago I cast and associate produced a film staring Cary Elwes and Alicia Silverstone called “The Crush”. We were night-shooting a particular scene where Elwes’ character drove Silverstone’s character up to a lookout point. We had chosen a truly gorgeous lookout point by the bay in Vancouver. Both of them were dressed to the nines because they were coming from a dressy party in the scene. That night, of course, it starts pouring and it’s about 40 degrees outside. Then the fog roles in. Because we had to get our shot, we forged ahead. Then the foghorn starts blowing every five minutes. We call the Sherriff, and the Sea Patrol to get them to turn it off…”We’re shooting a movie here!” we protested. They just looked at us like we were crazy people. “The fog horn is so that anyone out at sea will avoid hitting the light house!!”



So, we did what any smart film company would do. We held umbrellas over their heads and had them do as many lines as they could in between the 5-minute timing of the blaring foghorn. They were shivering, eating ice so that we wouldn’t see their breath, and trying to stay in their character. If that wasn’t a test of their concentration, I don’t know what was!



You’ve got to be able to “bring it” in any given situation and not get caught up in all the external things that you can’t control.

I'd love to hear your stories about concentration (and distraction) in the audition space and on-set. It's always good to share with the community.

Glad you're here!

Marci

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

SELF-TAPING YOUR AUDITION USING YOUR iPHONE


Having just worked on a feature film where we were asking for actors to send in their self-taped auditions from around the world, I realized that actors are becoming more empowered and self-sufficient by learning how to tape their auditions. But do yourself a favor and make sure you do it well - taping your audition on your laptop should be a last resort. Make sure to show yourself at your best. Lighting, sound, good quality video and a talented reader will help make your audition as great as it should be.


Some are still stymied by the process and our guest bloggers Tara Tomicevic and Leslie-Ann Huff are here to explain an easy and very inexpensive "work around" using your iPhone. Yes, your iPhone!

When we started noticing how often self-taped auditions are requested (a friend booked a pilot through a self-tape this year!), we figured there had to be a way to get it done that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. We discovered that there is!

Taking matters into our own hands, we started meeting twice a week, practicing and playing around with equipment. Since we weren’t working on an actual audition (yet), this gave us some room to try things, both technically and with our acting. Then, when it came time to send one in, we knew what we were doing.
The following tips are meant to add to Marci’s blog entry How To Self-Tape Your Audition Like A Rockstar, which already covers all the important basics. Hopefully these tips will help to make it even easier.


JUST USE YOUR PHONE

The camera on the iPhone 4 or iPhone 5 records considerably high-quality video. No fancy, expensive cameras necessary.


YOUR TRIPOD CAN WORK:

Just as Marci pointed out, the tripod is very important to a professional audition tape. To hold up your iPhone on a tripod, you can purchase an inexpensive iPhone mount, like the one we used: Studio Neat Glif Tripod Mount. If you don’t have one, these little guys are a great option to explore.


SOUND IS CRUCIAL

A directional mic can be hooked into the iPhone via the headphones hole. The one we purchased was about $40. This kind of mic cut out the white noise and clearly picked up the actors voice. The difference was very clear: good sound helps pick up all the nuances of an actors performance and gives the tape a more professional feel. A side note on sound: the reader’s voice should not be louder than the actor’s. This tends to happen as the reader stands next to the camera. A directional mic and a mindful reader can help with that. If you still experience some background noise, it can be eliminated in five seconds on iMovie or similar basic programs (YouTube tutorials rock!)
UPDATE: A few of my readers commented that the mic that was suggested (above) is no longer available. I reached out to Tara and asked for any new recommendations. Here's her response:

The Belkin one we originally suggested is only one we have used repeatedly. I just found some through non-Amazon retailers and eBay (which of course I have no personal experience with and cannot officially recommend):




A friend of mine has a great one called the Tascam iM2 mic for iPhone (http://tascam.com/product/im2/). It is about $80 but if you look around online you can often find them reduced to $30-$40. 

Leslie-Anne also added that she recently bought an iPhone 5 and the quality of the sound is comparable to using the directional mic for the iPhone 4 (what we were doing before). Hope this helps!

LIGHTING:

We are lucky that one of our apartments has a spot lit by two windows, which provides great natural light. Find the spots in your home that face windows. Use blinds and curtains to increase or decrease the amount of direct light. Try using the different lamps in your home. Experiment. Much to our surprise, we noticed that a fluorescent kitchen light actually enhanced the look of the natural light. Be resourceful and use your judgement. If you have a dark place or have to shoot at night, Marci’s lighting suggestions in her original post are spot on.


TRANSFERRING FOOTAGE

To get your video (regardless of its length) from your phone to your computer, connect the two via a USB cable. If you’re on a Mac, open the app Preview. Then click File, Import from iPhone, and all your iPhone files will be listed. Select your video and click Import.


IF YOU NEED TO EDIT

We recommend stopping after each take so that you can select the take you want and send that one only without having to edit at all. But if you need to edit we learned iMovie quickly and on our own (again, YouTube tutorials!)


COST COMPARISON

We paid about $60 (in addition to the price of our phones) to get this system working. We’ve seen companies around town charge $25-$100+ per self-tape. So invest in yourself and a couple self-tapes in you’ll be happy you did (and feel extra savvy too)!

Here's a video sample:



If anyone has any questions, feel free to reach out. We are both on Twitter: @TaraTomicevic and @Leslie_AnneHuff.


Tara Tomicevic is an actress, writer, and producer. She is Croatian born, Italian raised, and Berkeley branded. 

Leslie-Anne Huff is an actress, Los Angeles native, and lover of pugs. Credits and more info can be found on her website: http://leslie-annehuff.com

I'd love to hear about any hot tips you've discovered while self-taping your auditions. It's always good to share with the community.

Glad you're here!

Marci






Tuesday, April 2, 2013

SELLING AUDITIONS: IS NOTHING SACRED?!



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 article quotes SAG-AFTRA 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.

*************************

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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We welcome your comments and suggestions.



Glad you're here!


Marci