Making the leap into Hollywood is not the easiest thing in the world. It takes GUTS and it takes persistence, but most of all it takes preparation and patience. Arriving in Hollywood thinking you can book a job without even knowing what a casting director does is a one-way ticket to loserville, big time. Check out what Marci Liroff (Casting director; Freaky Friday, Mean Girls, The Iron Giant, and Vampire Academy) has to say about it, and her experience with a would-be actor.
Marci Liroff’s online class “How To Audition For Film and Television: Audition Bootcamp” is available here.
This is a cautionary tale about preparation and research. If you’re honest with yourself you’ll save lots of heartache.
An actor sent me a message on Facebook last week – I’ve cleaned up all the typos and grammatical errors so that you can read it. Believe me when I tell you that it was chock-full of them!
“Dear Marci, I am 20 years old. Italian descent and 6ft even. I have a video reel I’ll have by Monday of next week. I would like to move forward with you and your team and be represented by you because I think we would make great work. I am seeking work. I live in Los Angeles now. So I’m available for pursuing my acting career. You’re one of the best and I follow your work. Please see about hiring me for some upcoming roles all I need is one shot!”
I replied: “Hey Danny, I think you need to do more research. I’m a casting director and producer. I’m not an agent and therefore do not represent talent. Best of luck to you!”
Two days later, at 11:30pm I got this email from the same actor:
“I’m living in my car. I trusted the wrong friend coming to LA. I can’t get an apartment or student loan from my school until Monday or Tuesday. I know this is a weird question but is there any way I can stay with you or a friend you may have for a couple days? Please let me know. I don’t know anyone in Los Angeles.”
I posted this interaction on my personal Facebook wall because I was stunned on so many levels. Who is this guy? How can he be so unprepared? How come he doesn’t know that Casting Directors don’t represent talent? Then my compassion kicked in and I started to worry for him. Poor kid coming to Los Angeles with no plan in place and no network of people to catch him when he falls. And it seems he “fell” upon entrance to our fair city.
My friends’ reactions varied. I got a bunch of comments along these lines: “So sad”, “Scary”, “Poor guy”, “Heartbreaking”. I was surprised to hear these comments from my friends though, “Does he clean?” “I have a Nigerian prince he should call!”, “Don’t feel too sorry for him, it’s probably a scam”.
This stirred up a lot of emotion in me whether it was true or not. I can’t imagine moving to a new city and not having a safety net in place. Charles Darwin first wrote about “natural selection” and British philosopher Herbert Spencer later coined the phrase, “survival of the fittest”. When you think about “making it” in Hollywood those concepts surely come to mind but it doesn’t have to be so. Doing the proper research and preparation ahead of time helps to prevent such catastrophes.
I like the concept of being a big fish in a small pond so that when you do come out to Hollywood you already have a fair amount of experience under your belt. You’ve trained, you’ve studied, and you’ve been on-set and in local theater productions. It’s easier to get your SAG-AFTRA card in a local region than in Hollywood. Hopefully, you’re also coming here with a demo reel already in progress. You’ll be adding more footage to this along the way. These days, we need to see your demo reel.
Have you made a budget? Do you truly understand what it’ll take before you make this giant leap of faith? Because Los Angeles is so spread out you’ll need a car to get you to and from your auditions. That means gas and insurance as well. You’ll need a job that will allow you flexible hours so that you can audition and take classes. Your thrival job will also need to let you go when you actually get an acting job. A safe place to live is mandatory. At minimum, you’ll need money for classes, headshots, food, gym, going to the movies/theater for research and to grow as an actor.
If you are successful enough to land an agent and/or mgr, 10% goes to the agent and anywhere from 5-15% will go to your manager depending on how you negotiate that contract. Let’s not forget Uncle Sam.
One would think planning and research would be mandatory for such a move, but I see actors come out here every day in search of “the dream” only to have those dreams dashed. Come out here a couple of times in advance of your big move and check it out beforehand. Make sure you thoroughly understand the lay of the land. Think of it as a reconnaissance mission for your future.
I’d love to hear your stories about making the “big move”. Please share with our community so that everyone can benefit from your experiences.
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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” , “Vampire Academy”, 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 marciliroff.com, follow her on Twitter @marciliroff and Facebook, and watch her advice videos on YouTube. You can also read her blog.