What You Can Learn From This CD’s Personal Self-Tape Snafu

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Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon

The need for self-taped auditions has never been greater than now, during the global pandemic. Of course, they were around long before the coronavirus hit; casting directors were requesting them more and more as a way of quickly screening actors while simultaneously having in-person auditions for callbacks and beyond. Now, in-person auditions are at a standstill due to health concerns, and the need for actors to be able to create professional-grade audition tapes is even more crucial.

I had one experience with all this that I want to share with you. I had a brief glimpse of what it’s like to be in your shoes when you make a self-taped audition. A journalist for a New York publication wanted to interview me about a new job that I’ve started. Last year, I trained to become a certified intimacy coordinator for film and television. This job is somewhat new and became well-known when it was employed to manage the various intimate scenes on HBO’s “The Deuce.” The show is set in the world of sex work, and its actors regularly had to perform with nudity and simulated sex. Many of them felt vulnerable in these hypersexualized scenes and, inspired especially by the efforts of actor Emily Meade, they requested HBO provide some protection and guidance from an outside professional. But—more on that later.

Back to my interview: Because of COVID-19, the journalist couldn’t interview me in person, so I had to do a self-interview on-camera! She gave me a few questions and I answered them as a means of telling my story. I didn’t have anyone to run the camera, so I had to do it all myself. I can’t tell you how many times I had to do it over because of the mechanical handicap of doing it solo. Also, I got stuck in that rabbit hole of trying for perfection. Do I sound smart? Am I giving her what she wants? Am I describing this new position clearly? Do I need a plain background or is it OK to have my artwork up on the wall? Then I became obsessed with how I looked. Should I wear the neck scarf? Is it a bad hair day? Nothing I did seemed to be right.

I’ve spent years giving advice on how to do this, yet here I was, completely flummoxed. So, I went outside and took a deep breath and calmed down. I realized I wasn’t curing cancer and, although this was important, it wasn’t the be all and end all of my life’s work. Perspective is everything. Oh, yeah, that’s exactly what I’ve been preaching to actors for years! It’s the one thing you actually have control of. Once I got my head on straight, I came back inside and did another take. Simple, straightforward, and to the point. Just the facts, Jack! I knew exactly what to say. I’ve been explaining this job a lot for the last year; in fact, when I work on a production, dozens of people want to talk to me about my function.

At the end of the day, the lesson here is to stop striving for perfection. There is no “perfect.” Learn the material inside and out, sort out the backstory of your character, find your objective, make some strong choices, then get out of your own way. Trust your instincts and training. Find what makes you special and show it to us. And remember: You are enough!

This story originally appeared in the June 25 issue of Backstage Magazine. Subscribe here.

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Marci Liroff
Known for her work in film and television, producer and casting director Marci Liroff has worked with some of the most successful directors in the world. Liroff is also an acting coach, and her three-night Audition Bootcamp has empowered actors to view the audition process in a new light.
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