I’ve been casting movies and television for more than 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 onstage 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.
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.