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One Foolproof Way to Ruin an Audition (via Backstage Branding)

One Foolproof Way to Ruin an Audition

By Daniel Holloway | Posted Oct. 30, 2013, 5:21 p.m.

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Marci Liroff

One Foolproof Way to Ruin an Audition
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 whom I didn’t know personally, but I had seen his demo reel and been 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.

Johnny Canuck 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 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, Johnny 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, someone who had a long-running hit TV show, and he thought he’d show how funny he was by changing the dialogue. The line read, “Boy! Somebody’s got a bee in his bonnet today!” He changed it to, “Boy! Somebody’s got a bee in his yarmulke today!” He tried to make a Jewish joke to the Jews in the room. At that point, one of the producers’ head exploded. The other producer was so furious he turned his entire body around on the couch to face the back of the room. I felt myself sink 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 me with a giant “What the heck was that?” look. I had no answer. I threw myself on the sword. I took responsibility for this guy being unprepared, not caring about how he dressed, and the ultimate sin—changing dialogue.

By the time you get a script, it has been through months of revisions and rewrites, not to mention notes from the studio and the 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 a bit.” That’s the time to improvise. Otherwise, stick to the material you’ve been given, put your own spin on it from your well-thought-out character choices, then let it fly…as written.  For more great acting and casting info visit Marci Liroff at


John Krasinski – Off Camera – “Auditioning for The Office”


Use Protection

October 15, 2013 By Marci Liroff 10 Comments

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By Marci Liroff

You’ve got an extremely emotional scene to do. You arrive early to your audition so you can get settled and get in your “zone”.

In the waiting room you overhear the casting assistant talking to CAA about sending a script to Mr. Famous Actor for your role. You can actually hear the actors auditioning in the other room and they’re getting a great reaction. You’re starting to question all your choices. “Eek! I wasn’t gonna do that!”

You shove your earbuds even further into your ears hoping you can drown out all these distractions that will be undoubtedly be your undoing. “I’m good. I’m in my zone. I can do this!” you repeat over and over. You’re calling up your character’s emotional past to grab onto the emotions you’ll need for the upcoming scene.

You’re ushered into the casting office and are greeted by a peppy and excited assistant OR a group of people that barely register that you’re in the room to audition. Then they want to chat. “How’s it going?/What did you think of the script?/Do you have any questions?” In the background you can hear the distinct sound of your heart beating so loudly that you can barely hear them asking you these inane questions. Then you realize, no, it’s not your heartbeat it’s the distinct sound of a drill because they’re putting on a new roof on the office while you’re auditioning.

Are we having fun yet? No, we’re not. How can an actor give a great audition against all these odds that seem to be set up as an obstacle course to make them fail? Protect yourself. Yes, YOU have to protect yourself against all these outside elements. Concentration is key but asking, or rather telling them what you need is also crucial. This is what I call “controlling the room”. If you have a traumatic scene to do and you’re all geared up to connect to the character’s pain emotionally, then you come into an office and have to chat first – protect yourself. You can say, “I’d love to jump into the scene first then we can chat after.” It’s all about the way you ask/tell. If you’re polite and gracious you can get away with murder in this setting – as long as you’re not a diva about it. Remember, we want you to do well. We want to help you. It’s ok to ask a specific question about the scene, character, screenplay beforehand but make sure that you can use the answer in a very specific way to inform the way you’ll play the upcoming scene.

If you get lost in the first few moments of the scene, stop and say, “I’m going to start over” and do just that – start over. Don’t ask for permission. You need not make a big deal about it. Don’t apologize and don’t have a meltdown. Remember, you didn’t do anything horrible – but if you flip out and say, “I’m so sorry, can I please start over? Damn I always do that!”, then you give me pause and I’m now worried how you’ll be on set if this happens. It’s how you handle these little speed bumps that shows us what a pro you are.

Remember, this is your time. This is your audition. Tell us what you need.

I’d love to hear about how you protect yourself in auditions and I’m sure it would help our community as well. Leave a comment and share this blog with your friends.

Glad you’re here!



SIGNS Short Film [official]


10 DAYS in New York




Many writers want to direct their own work and many actors write projects for themselves. I am a huge supporter of writers having a hand at directing and for actors to create their own projects. I always encourage artists to do whatever they can to stay immersed in a creative process and stop waiting around for whatever they think is supposed to be coming.

I am a big believer in script development. Just because a script has been written doesn’t mean it is ready. There are several stages of development the piece will go through before it becomes a fully realized production. For the first reading of the piece I usually suggest for the writer to separate themselves from the project. What I mean is, if the writer intends to direct I encourage them to have an outsider direct it, if they intend to perform it I encourage them to have another actor read their role. At this point I usually get some resistance, which I both anticipate and understand. The director knows how they want to direct it and someone else might not see it the same way (exactly). The actor wrote the role for themselves and even at the reading stage doesn’t want to consider seeing anyone else in their role.

Of course you can direct or star in your piece, but how is one supposed to get any perspective on the writing, the story, or the dialogue if they don’t take a step back and watch it from the point of view of an audience member?

When I was developing my solo show Year of the Slut someone suggested I do a reading but cast another actor (or several actors considering I was playing 10 different people) and listen to it. This statement felt like a dagger piercing through my heart. It was my show. My ego was standing firmly in the way of the work. Initially I didn’t take that advice, I went forward with my first workshop and I’m sure my show suffered because of it. It was still a good show, but it was by no means great.

Once my show got into a festival in NY I had several months to continue workshopping. This is when I finally had another actor read the script while I simply sat back and listened. It was incredible, the fact that there were several changes I needed to make, that I simply couldn’t see without taking a step back. It was not an easy lesson but it was a valuable one. It wasn’t about me, it was about the writing and pushing through to a level of greatness.

Now, stepping away from the piece is an automatic decision when I’m developing my writing. For my latest production, Dumpwater Divas, it was a no brainer to have another actor read my role for the first couple of readings. I was already the Co-Creator/Writer and Executive Producer for the project – I needed to be in the audience with a critical eye/ear. There wasn’t any room for me to wear the ‘actor hat’ in the development stage. After several readings and re-writes I was able to step out of the Creator/Writer role and step into being the actor.

Many times in the creative process we have to put our own egos and desires of ‘how we want things to be’ aside in order to serve to needs of the work.

More on Art vs Ego next week.
Article Courtesy of


This Advice Will Change Your Life By Marci Liroff

This Advice Will Change Your Life
By Marci Liroff | Posted Aug. 8, 2013, 2 p.m.

Marci Liroff
This Advice Will Change Your Life Photo Source: Nick Bertozzi
I want you to reframe 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, anxious anticipation. I get so excited to work with wonderful actors and filmmakers. 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” 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.

Known for her work in film and television, Casting Director Marci Liroff has worked with some of the most successful directors in the world such as Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Mark Waters, Christopher Nolan, Brad Bird, and Herbert Ross. While working at Fenton-Feinberg Casting, she, along with Mike Fenton, cast such films as “A Christmas Story,” “Poltergeist,” “E.T. – The Extra Terrestrial,” “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” and “Blade Runner.” After establishing her own casting company in 1983, Liroff cast “Footloose,” “St. Elmo’s Fire,” “Pretty in Pink,” “The Iron Giant,” “The Spitfire Grill,” “Untamed Heart,” “Freaky Friday,” “Mean Girls,” “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” and the upcoming “The Sublime and Beautiful,” which she produced as well.

Liroff is also an acting coach, and her three-night Audition Bootcamp has empowered actors to view the audition process in a new light. The class spawned a DVD, which features the highlights of the Audition Bootcamp classes.

Visit Liroff online at, follow her on Twitter @marciliroff and Facebook, and watch her advice videos on YouTube. She also blogs on her Bloggity Blog.

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