Friday, June 29, 2012

What Everybody Should Know About Twitter's Dirty Little Secret




Oh, you're gonna thank me for this one! If you're a Twitter freak (read = addict!) like me and you don't already know this, you're gonna love this one. 

When you use twitter usernames at the beginning of a tweet it will ONLY appear in the twitterfeed (of your followers) to that person you’re tweeting to AND all those that are following BOTH you. OK, read it again because this took me awhile to actually grock.
Example – if you tweet:

@marciliroff you are such a great social media teacher thnx SO much 4 2day!

The ONLY people (of your followers) that will see this tweet in their twitterfeed are ME and all the folks that are following BOTH you and me.

BUT – if you want ALL the people who are following you to see it (so that it helps ME – because social media is all about connectivity and helping promote thru tweets and this is a form of promotion; it also shows what a smart person you are by thanking someone publicly and letting your followers know that you are a good twitter citizen)….you’d tweet:

Thanks SO much @marciliroff 4 being such a great social media teacher! Loved our session 2day!

You can also say:

.@marciliroff you are such a great social media teacher thnx SO much 4 2day!

If you put a "." BEFORE the @username, everyone who is following you can see it.

Now, here's the important part, if you and I were just goofing around back and forth and bantering – I’d reply to your initial tweet and put your name FIRST so that it wouldn’t end up clogging all my followers’ twitter feed with mundane crap. It drives me absolutely crazy to see people using Twitter like their email or IM and having a chat back and forth. If I'm following BOTH of them, I have to see their ENTIRE conversation which should be reserved for their personal space. 

I see a lot of people lately, responding to people and RTing the original tweet with their comment first - thus we get to see every friggin' thing that they're responding to while they're doing their "replying housekeeping". Oh joy!
Example:

It was great! RT @JoeBlow so @MrRockStar how was your show?

Get it? Got it?! Good!

I'd love to hear your comments!

Glad you're here!

Marci




Friday, June 22, 2012

Get on the Technology Train....or get left in the dust!



In my never ending need to connect with actors and film makers across the globe, I recently joined a group on Facebook called Seattle Film Makers and Actors. An interesting discussion thread cropped up last night.

The online company, Cast It Talent, had posted an open call notice for 18-20 yr olds for a new feature film from a "major studio". Cast It Talent posted this notice in the Seattle group on Facebook. It's free to join and submit yourself for this open call.

In addition to casting, I've been private coaching actors in person and thru Skype for the last few years. Since some of my clients are auditioning for this movie, I know it's Paramount Studios and their Exec. VP of Casting - Joseph Middleton - is casting it.

Almost immediately, the members of the group cried foul. They thought they smelled a scam. Comments like: "With all due respect, if this is actually a casting call, why has it not come through one of the four major Casting Directors in Seattle?" and "Just checking as we've had some faux casting notices in the past." 

Because I use Cast It for my casting needs, as do most of the major casting directors across the globe, I tried to appease their fears by letting them know this notice was legit.
I wrote, "Ain't nothing faux about it - I do searches like this all the time. Since they are looking to "discover" people - this is a great, inexpensive, and fast way to do a LARGE initial search and cover the entire country. We then go through each and every audition, narrow things down, and usually have a smaller group do another audition - it's like a "virtual callback". Then we fly-in the finalists to work with in person." 

But the comments kept up. "Why aren't they going through the proper channels?"
I replied: "What you view as "proper channels" have changed in the last few years. Sometimes we hire local CDs to do these searches, and sometimes - especially in this case of an open call - this is how it's done."

And...they still kept coming! "I'm an old fart and could be behind the times but, in my humble opinion, a major studio doesn't cast this way. Sometimes they do publicity stunts and put out a notice like this but I have never seen major motion pictures cast this way. There are more than enough 18 - 20 year olds in Hollywood. They really don't need to search for them."

Since I'm very involved with actors worldwide, I've seen a shift lately in terms of an abundance of "too-good-to-be-true" casting notices, sites that claim that if you pay their membership fee they will introduce you to casting directors and guarantee that you will book jobs, and online "classes" that guarantee you fame and fortune. There's definitely a lot of opportunities to separate actors from their hard-earned money.

I was actually pretty impressed with this Seattle group who's red flags were raised by this notice. They were done getting taken advantage of by these scams and were circling the wagons.

But what occurred to me from this dialogue is that there may be a true disconnect in cities outside of the major film production cities like L.A./NY/Chicago. That these actors were questioning this whole concept was very telling. As much as I was trying to educate them as to the industry standard, they still pushed back - "We like the old way!"


Years ago, and I mean many years ago(!), when I was casting a movie and I needed to do a search, the studio would literally send me out on the road. I remember a film I did called Return to Oz which was the next book in the series of books written by L. Frank Baum which followed Dorothy's journey. I had to find the next "Dorothy". Yikes - big task for a little lady. During the week I would work on the other films I was casting and on Friday night I'd take a red-eye to another city across the U.S. and do a HUGE open call. This went on for about 6-7 weeks. Beyond how friggin' exhausted I was after working 7 days a week for 7 weeks, the financial hit was huge on our budget. First-class round trip airline tickets, transportation to and from airports, $100 per diem, first class hotel, publicity in each city, rental of a hall big enough to accommodate 100s of people, staff....times seven. You do the math.


As much as I liked going out on the road and meeting new people, the studios and producers quickly realized they'd save a lot of money and time by hiring local casting directors in each city to do this preliminary search and open call. They'd hold the open call, go out onto the streets, scour the schools - and present their finalists on tape and I'd go through all of these submissions and cull them down to the finalists. We'd then fly-in those that made the final cut.


Since the advent of the Internet - everything is faster, more streamlined, and less expensive to do a search like this. Because everyone has a video camera these days, we have come to depend on actors to be proactive and be able to self-tape their initial audition. Yes, this is the industry standard these days. When I'm casting a project, I get links sent to me of auditions from all over the world. And like the title of this blog - if you aren't comfortable with this technology yet, you'd better get on board or you'll be run over by the train.


When I cast Mr. Popper's Penguins, I had an actress in mind for the role of Jim Carrey's funny assistant, Pippy. I had seen Ophelia Lovibond in Nowhere Boy and knew she'd be perfect for this woman who alliterated her "P's" and tried to keep Carrey's character on track. It was a tough role and we read hundreds of women across the country. I asked Ms. Lovibond to put herself on tape so that I could show my team. What I didn't know is that she was somewhat famous for her self-taped auditions. A total perfectionist, she got her actor friend to read with her off-camera and taped a flawless audition. My director, Mark Waters, immediately fell in love and I hooked them up on Skype so that they could "meet". Because Waters is not at all gun-shy in the new technology department (hell, he had all of his pre-production meetings with his Director of Photography Matthew Libatique on Skype as Libatique lives in London), he Skyped with her and they set a date for him to direct her through Skype while she re-taped her audition. Waters was "virtually" in the room with her and directed her while she had her "call back". I sent her new audition to the studio and she was hired. All of this occurred without her ever being in the room with the creatives. 


At this point I should warn the reader that I am not advocating hiring an actor whom you've not met face-to-face. This casting situation above was unique (in that she lives in London) and the fact that Lovibond had already established herself by doing several films assured us that she was a consummate professional. As much as I love technology, I'm still an old-school gal and along with seeing your work, I need to get a personal "hit" off of you by meeting you in person.


Yes, there are thousands of actors in Los Angeles that would meet this casting description for the open call - but when we're on the search to discover someone, we want to actually look under every rock, shake the trees as it were, and truly find someone new. The technology we're using to have the actor self-tape is merely a tool to reach a much wider audience. 


Actors nowadays are so much more in control of their destiny by all of these tools. When I started out in casting, actors were literally waiting for their phone to ring....waiting for their agents to call them with an audition. Now, an actor in the middle of the country can learn how to self-tape their audition and be more in control of the final product that they're sending out.


I wrote last week with some great tips to help yourself self-tape. It's had all kinds of hits as actors are passing it around like candy. I hope you'll take advantage of it. And hey, if you're all thumbs about this, I'm sure you know at least 5 people who can help you set things up and all you have to do is study your lines, make some great character choices, and do your audition like you'd normally do - except this time you can do it over and over (and over again) until you get it right and then send it to me!


I welcome your comments.


Glad you're here - Marci

    


Friday, June 15, 2012

How To Self-Tape Your Audition Like A Rockstar

As many projects are asking for you to self-tape your audition as a form of pre-screening, many of you have asked how to self-tape your auditions. For some, the mere idea of this can be daunting. I urge you to get comfortable with doing this. It's not as hard as it may seem. If you think about it, you're actually the actor, director, and producer of your own audition! You are finally in control of your audition!

Here are some instructions that you should follow.

Pay attention to ALL of the instructions that the CD or website gives you. If they tell you to do it a specific way, DO IT THAT WAY!

Know the material. Be as off-book as possible so that you can interact with your scene partner (who's off-camera). It's ok to hold your sides, but we don't want to see you literally reading off the page.

TECHNICAL STUFF

TRIPOD:
This is important! Make your audition as professional as possible by attaching your camera to a tripod. Nobody wants to watch an audition on a hand-held camera. If you don't have access to a tripod (or can't borrow one!), prop your camera on a table on top of some books so that it matches your eyeline (never shoot under your chin - that look isn't good on anyone!)

LIGHTING:
The best thing is to use natural light. Make sure you're not shooting TOWARDS a window or the light, but that the natural light is actually lighting YOU! If you don't have natural light, then get some appropriate lighting. You can actually use lamps if you don't have real lights. You can even use those wonderful large globe Chinese Lanterns (w/the white shades) - those throw a lot of nice soft light.
Go onto YouTube and search for "3 point lighting".

You'll get A LOT of videos how to do this. This will make your video look very professionally done and you can even do it on the cheap if you're going to be doing this at home a lot. Go to Home Depot and get some "work lights", and you can fashion a stand for them.
One of my Twitter followers just sent me a link to Cowboy Studio which has inexpensive lighting packages.

Make sure you "white balance" your camera before you start shooting. Many cameras these days have an auto-white balance. If yours doesn't, check the instructions and figure out how to do it. In many cases, you can just hold up a white piece of paper about 5 inches in front of the lens and that'll do the trick.

 THE BASICS:

1. Find a quiet and well lit room.

2. Have the actor stand in front of a blank white, blue or grey painted wall. You can always use a plain sheet.

3. Have someone other than the actor (the "reader) reading the supporting lines off camera. Do not attempt to do a scene by yourself unless it's a monologue. Even then, have a friend operate your camera. Have your “reader” stand RIGHT NEXT TO the camera - almost hugging the tripod. EYE LINE! This is very important. So often the actor is reading to a partner that is SO far away from the camera, all we see is his profile. Make sure the actor looks at the reader during the scene and not directly at the camera.
4. You want to frame CHEST UP - not too much head room. Make sure we can see your face. You should stand about 3-5 ft. from the camera. Some projects ask for a full body shot as well to include before or after you do your scene.

5. Camera should be at eye level or just slightly above, NEVER underneath your chin.

6. Record a test sample first and see how it looks and sounds on the computer first to make final adjustments before taping the scenes.

7. When you are ready to record the scene, make sure the actor adds a verbal “slate” first by saying their name, the city they are from and role they are reading for. Some CDs request a slate on a piece of paper w/the pertinent info. Just make sure we can READ IT!
9. Record the scenes 2 or 3 times(or as many times as you need), pausing between takes so that you can pick the best one once youʼve had a chance to review them. Only include your best take.
10. Make sure your audition is labeled with all your contact info clearly on the clip - you can do this before and after - it never hurts to be sure. This is very important. We need to be able to reach you if we want to call you back or give you re-direction.

You can also self-tape from your webcam on your computer (a video camera is better, but you can still do it this way). If you're going to do it this way, I suggest you raise your laptop up a bit so that it's not shooting "up" at you with an unflattering angle. You can also practice your upcoming auditions with your webcam and play them back so you can see what's working and what's not!

There you have it! Have I forgotten anything? Please let me know what works for you in the comments section.

Glad you're here - Marci

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Part Deux: A Quiet Night Watching the Tonys....or so I thought!


So, I’m still trying to watch the Tonys. It was now time to move into the bedroom to watch the show from there. All that Social Media twittering for the lost dog was exhausting!

It was 8:52 when the first email came thru on my iPad. Bong!
Subject line: “IMPASSE CASTING EMERGENCY!” It seems that my buddy, Jeanne Veillette Bowerman was having a huge problem.  The lead actress for her short film IMPASSE was having a family emergency and had to bow out. Eeek. We hate those kinds of phone calls. You feel SO bad for the person on the other end of the line – your heart goes out to them – and at the same time your heart starts pumping wildly in your chest because you know you’ve built your whole film concept around casting them. 

I met Jeanne at the #140 Conference in NYC last Summer. It’s a fabulous conference curated by the amazing Jeff Pulver. I say “curated” because that’s his word. He’s the producer of the conference which is a gathering of people from all over the world, all walks of life, who come and give a speech about how they use social media in their work and in their lives.  Pulver hand-picks everyone who speaks. Last year there was Ann Curry, Mayor Cory Booker, Deepak Chopra….and me! It was my first speech ever and I was so excited and so friggin’ nervous! Here it is if you want to see it. My main goal was to try to stay in my body, not hide behind the podium, and walk to the center of the stage and just tell my story. My friends tell me I accomplished all three of these things! (big thanks to my coach, Jeffrey Marcus!)

Anyway, back to Jeanne. We met at the conference and became Twitter buddies. It’s an odd relationship in that we don’t really know each other, but if you’re a avid Twitterer you can follow a person’s life and see how they think by what they’re talking about.  Jeanne is a writer and was working out of her “Panera office” (that’s what she calls it) on a cold and rainy day when she noticed a young couple start to have a fight. They took it outside in the parking lot and she couldn’t hear them and all she could see was their body language. So what does a good little Twitterer do? She tweeted the whole fight. She gave a play-by-play of the whole thing as she imagined what they were saying to each other. By the end of the whole exchange she had a spark of an idea. She immediately started writing what became a short film called IMPASSE – inspired by the scene she had witnessed in the parking lot. Then she set about finding a director and called her friend Michael Bekemeyer. Using Kickstarter, they raised $15,680 (their goal was $12,500!!) and got all their ducks in a row to shoot it in Orlando, Florida. They even cast the film using their social media connections and Twitter buddies.  John T. Woods and Wonder Russell are starring.



Cut back to me in bed trying to watch the Tonys with my iPad blowing up with emails. Jeanne pleaded, “Is it possible at all to get your help casting the role of Alice? I'm happy to pay you for your services.  I’m in a bit of a pickle. We'll lose thousands of dollars if we have to delay the shoot.”

Of course I’ll help! I immediately read her wonderful script and thought of my friend, actress Jennifer Fontaine. We met a couple of years ago on Facebook. As  you can imagine, as a casting director, I get hit on by actors every day. Since I like to keep my private life private, I divert them to my “like” page (which was called a “fan” page when I first set it up! I’m sure they’ll be calling it something else next month!). The conversation went like this after the friend request came in:

Me: ?? Sorry, do I know you?

Jennifer: err...no. I was hoping to introduce you to me . I'm an actor and filmmaker and was just trying to add strong female role models to my network. The work you do inspires me to continue and I hope to do the same for someone else down the road. Have a great night! sincerely, Jennifer Fontaine

Me: You had me at "strong female role models!!”

So I checked out her site and indeed she was a talented filmmaker and actress so I clicked “accept”.  We’ve almost worked together a couple of times – but not quite - until now! Jen was the first person I thought of for this role.  As this is a short film with a very low budget (read= almost non-existent but not quite Monopoly money) I knew I couldn’t go through the normal channels and go through my star list to come up with a viable choice. Not to say that Jen hasn’t done her fair share of great work, believe me she has, but I knew it would take a very special actress to leave her husband and toddler at home to go off and do a short film across the country.

I sent off the link to her reel to Jeanne and crossed my fingers. I’ve been in this position hundreds of times when I think I’ve got the perfect person for a role, and the producer and director have me start the great Easter Egg Hunt From Hell and see hundreds of people – and then we come back to the actor I was touting two months earlier….only to find they’ve are unavailable by the time we circle back around! This time I got almost an immediate response that Jeanne loves Jen and will send the link on to her director Bekemeyer. I suggested that if they are both interested they can Skype with her on Monday morning and they can all get a feel as to whether they’re on the same page. In the meantime, I sent an email to Jen to see if she’s even available! No sense getting everyone all hot and bothered if she’s off on a vacation! That was around 10pm. I figured she’d check her email and get back to me. I kept checking throughout the night until I finally went to bed. During the night I start thinking of back-ups for our back-up!

Next morning I hear from Jen that she’s available and interested. They have a Skype meeting and everybody’s happy and they’re off to the races.

Mind you - all this happened while I was in bed with my iPad trying to watch the Tonys. Thanks to my boyfriend, TiVo, it's all recorded and I can go back today and actually watch it for real!

Here's Jeanne's blog about the status of IMPASSE along with Wonder Russell's brave journey. 

We wish them all kinds of love and strength.

I welcome your comments.

Glad you're here - Marci


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Quiet Night Watching the Tonys - or so I thought….!


I was so excited last night to just park myself on the couch with a big bowl of pasta, a martini, and my iPad to watch this year’s Tony Awards. Yeah, I’ve become that person. I can’t just watch a TV show…I have to be connected to the net simultaneously.

Gosh I just love Neil Patrick Harris. I think he should host everything from now on! He’s so funny, loose, perfectly self-deprecating….and he sings! I was looking forward to catching up on all the plays I didn’t get to see in person because of a busy pilot season. A good casting director is always doing her homework!



Just as I start to get into the show I see a status update on Facebook from a friend saying that her dog is missing. My coaching client’s mother’s dog has gone missing in Texas. Yeah, a small French Bulldog in the heat of Texas in the Summer. Not good.  So what do I do? I take to the Twitter. I start tweeting the crap out of this to everyone I know and asking them to RT (re-tweet) my tweet. I know that I have about 7800 followers, but if I could get them to RT this tweet to all of their followers….well, you get the picture. We could get the word out instantly to TONS of people.

I have become a huge fan (read “addict”) of social media in the last few years. I used to think it was just people tweeting about what they ate today or where they are (I still hate Foursquare – why do I need to know where you’ve “checked into” at any given moment of the day?!). I’ve come to realize it’s SO much more. Social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogging) brings us that much closer to each other. It’s not about “me, me, me” in this world anymore. It’s about you and me and how we can help each other. I love how a very large community of strangers becomes a small community of friends, helping each other.

By the end of the evening, I had gotten so many people to re-tweet my original tweet about the lost dog. They included people who had only 12 followers (thank you), to people who have 32,360 followers - thank you Lacey Chabert! I was so touched that a big corporation like Back Stage Magazine with 21,535 followers who was very busy tweeting about the Tonys (remember…I was still parked on the couch trying to watch the Tonys) would break away from their job and tweet about a lost dog. Amazing support.  By the end of the night, my tweet had been seen by over 100,000 people worldwide! By morning, the dog had been found. Seems that my friend’s family in Texas plastered the city with homemade posters and the dog was found….only a few houses away. Phew! Moral of the story? Yay for social media and yay for good old-fashioned craftiness. One more thing?Please microchip your dogs! Even if they’re an “inside” dog and you think they never want to go outside and leave your side – there’s always a chance that your gardener will leave the gate open or they will somehow get out – and it’s usually without their collar on! Hell, I’d microchip kids if I could!!



You might think this was enough for one night, right? I could get back to watching the Tonys and see scenes from the play Once which I really wanted to see in person. But no, that would be too easy.

The emails started coming in around 8:52 PM PST with the heading “IMPASSE EMERGENCY!”

Stay tuned to Part 2 wherein I manage to cast the lead of my friend’s short film….from my bed!

Glad you're here - Marci