If you’re an actor, especially if you’re an actor who uses the internet (AKA everyone), you’ve heard of Marci Liroff. As one of the most followed casting directors on social media, Marci is known for her articles on Backstage.com, her advocacy for actors, one-of-a-kind classes, and an extensive list of credits that spans more than 50 films. (Footloose, Mean Girls and Freaky Friday anyone?) Her generosity and talent does not go unnoticed, and she continues to leave her mark on the film industry… with no signs of slowing down!
It’s safe to say you’re pretty well-known in the actor community, as well as social media, but for those out there who aren’t acquainted with you and your work, how did you get into casting, and was that originally what you set out to do?
M: I certainly didn’t grow up wanting to be a casting director, I had no idea that existed growing up! I was an assistant to a talent agent at ICM. In about a week I realized I had no interest in being an agent, but it afforded me a close-up view of what goes on behind the scenes in Hollywood. I found it fascinating and used my time there as “college” – so much to learn at a talent agency. Working there I spoke with several casting directors daily trying to pitch our clients for television shows. I realized I wanted to be doing what they were doing and started working for Mike Fenton of Fenton-Feinberg Casting. They had a very busy office and I grew up through the ranks there for five years and then started my own company.
What is one thing you wish the industry understood more about the casting process?
M: It continues to amaze me how people in our business who should know better still don’t have any idea what it is we do as casting directors and how we contribute to the project. We work alongside of the filmmaker to help him or her realize their vision. We are their collaborators to help them find the best actor for the role. We are very much a part of the filmmaking process. Take a look at the film “Casting By” to fully explain what we do.
You have given a wealth of advice and resources for actors through your booming social media presence, blogs for Backstage, as well as your coaching and classes. Have you always had a passion for teaching and going beyond “your job description”, or was this something you developed over time?
M: Around 2009 I realized that the business was changing radically with the advent of social media. Rather than keep the old “exclusive and elusive” business model we had as casting directors, I realized I had a lot to give in terms of experience. Why not share that? I went into it kicking and screaming and now I love it. I thought I’d never be able to write a blog or an article and now you can’t shut me up! I love sharing my insight, along with sharing great content through social media.
In an article for Backstage back in 2015 you wrote about the current trend of actors trying to skip or rush through their fundamental acting training in favor of business and auditioning classes. Why do you think is becoming more common?
M: There are so many “classes” available for actors. Many of them are meant to be in addition to a weekly acting class. Actors need to have a solid foundation to build upon before they start looking into camera technique, typing classes, cold reading, and audition technique. It’s like putting the cart before the horse. I’m so sick of hearing the term “branding” for actors. I’d so much rather see you spending your time wisely by learning your craft.
As women in the entertainment industry, do you feel you experience any advantages or disadvantages? Have you ever felt like you’ve needed to work harder in order to be taken seriously because of your gender?
M: No one works harder than most of the casting directors I know. When we’re on a project it’s literally 24/7. Our side of the business is largely women. That said, I closed a deal on two film projects the other day and sent the producer a deal memo. I didn’t hear anything for a few days and finally got word that they “went another way” – with a male casting director. The director/producer said he ultimately felt like he “needed a dude” to cast his projects. He also said I didn’t “blow him enough” in our initial meeting. Yeah. He said that, in 2016. Shocked but not surprised. I think I dodged a bullet on that one!
Many actors are panicking with the rise of industry professionals insisting that social media followings are becoming more and more important in the casting decision. Some claim it’s the most important thing in today’s times, others say talent will always rule in the end. What are your thoughts on this subject?
M: I continue to believe that talent will always trump social media numbers. It all depends on the project. I don’t know many major films or television projects that are casting by the social media numbers…yet. I do, however, see that happening on smaller projects and web series. At the end of the day, if the person you’re casting has a huge following but can’t hold the screen, or be a convincing actor, then the show will not last and neither will the “actor” in this medium.
Want more? Marci Liroff is hosting a 3-day Audition Bootcamp intensive specifically designed to help you take your audition practice to the next level… complete with special guests! Sign up here and keep your eye out for her future class specials. (As someone who has taken her class, I can assure you it’s a must for actors of all levels!)
www.marciliroff.com | @marciliroff