Thank You 10 – Featuring: Heidi Marshall
Thank You, 10 is an interview series brought to you by Audition Cat, an upcoming app with career management tools for the professional auditioning performer. Each article interviews an industry professional with a different experience and opinion about what the future of auditioning looks like. Through these conversations, we hope an image will appear about what’s next for the industry, and what it aspires to be. Have someone you’d like to be considered for an interview? Reach out to us Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
Occupation: Director, Independent Filmmaker, Acting Coach, Teacher
Link to Heidi’s work:
MUSCLE: Short of the Week
Upcoming Feature: American Bubble
Getting to Know You
Who are you? What’s your artistic background / what started your journey into the arts?
*Heidi provided her bio from her website*
After studying at Carnegie Mellon University and Pittsburgh Filmmakers, Heidi initiated and received the first directing internship at Humana Play Festival at Actors Theater of Louisville. Here, she directed Balm in Gilead and assisted John Jory, Anne Bogart, Tina Landau, and Lisa Peterson.
Heidi then completed a fellowship through The Drama League and headed to New York City, where she began working as an assistant for Bernie Telsey’s casting office. It was an “accidental” stopover in her 20s that led to a career launch: her first casting project was RENT. In the midst of RENT’s explosion into mega-hit status, Heidi became the show’s lead Casting Director—for seven years, she found and developed talent for its Broadway casts and national/international tours. Heidi also served as Casting Director for Baz Luhrmann’s La Bohème on Broadway for which the rotating cast all won a TONY Award for Excellence in Theater.
Baz’s artist mentorship led to a shift away from casting; Heidi was then hired as Resident Director on La Bohème, which had a critically acclaimed Broadway run. She later directed La Bohème for Baz at the Ahmanson Theater in LA.
Her work as a director continued when she was selected for the prestigious American Film Institute’s Directing Workshop for Women.
She returned to Broadway as an acting coach for The Color Purple and worked with Fantasia, Chaka Khan, and Bebe Winans. She also served as an Associate Director for The Adamms Family musical from development through opening night.
Today, Heidi’s directing experience spans film, television, documentary, theatrical events, regional theater, off-Broadway, and Broadway.
Her film Muscle has won 7 awards and has played at over 30 festivals worldwide, including Oscar-qualifying fests. She continues to work as a director, independent filmmaker, acting coach, and teacher.
Heidi actively champions inclusivity in front of and behind the camera. Over 4,000 actors have been taught and coached through her private studio in the past 20 years. She purposefully surrounds herself with passionate actors, collaborative filmmakers, theater lovers, and driven artists who care about Community
What is your “mission statement” as an arts professional? What drives you to continue in this industry?
To encourage artists to find their confidence and trust what each unique person brings to their art.
Within your artistic profession, what other industry roles do you work with most closely?
What do you wish was more widely understood about your profession?
Acting coaches and teachers put the actor first.
Auditions and You
In your experience, what is the most common pitfall that actors make with auditions?
Not taking time to prepare the material. Self-sabotaging before the actual audition by taking prep shortcuts (especially in text analysis, running the scene with another person, setting up self tape space).
Let’s talk about self-tapes! Self-tapes have become more and more common for auditioning actors, even more so during the pandemic. What do you like about self-tapes? What do you dislike about them?
Like. Actor gets to work on the material in their own time and space. No commuting for everyone so there’s less inconvenience in everyday life.
Not like. Magic happens in the room. People don’t get to know each other as easily. It’s generally easier to read a personality in person.
As self-tapes become more and more prevalent in the industry, for your profession, what are the main differences between in-person and virtual auditions? What advice do you have for actors who have less experience with virtual auditions?
Hard to simplify my answers because I spend extensive time analyzing this in classes and coaching! I’d say the main differences are above.
Advice. Practice practice practice. Invest in a light and a background and get practicing. Prep. Film. Watch. Repeat.
If there was one piece of advice you’d give to any actor right before an audition or recording a self-tape, what would it be?
Make sure we can hear and see you! And then make eye contact with your scene partner off-camera. Play all of your focus to that other character. It will anchor you!
How do you expand your “network”? When you interact with a performer for the first time, what inspires you, and what are you looking for in this initial interaction/audition to convince you to bring them back?
Word of mouth. I trust that amazing people lead me to amazing people.
When you interact with a performer for the first time, what inspires you, and what are you looking for in this initial interaction/audition to convince you to bring them back?
They’re prepped which shows their commitment. They’re into the work and love to play and change it up and keep discovering nuances. I love actors that are like shifting sands moment to moment. Always in flow.
Looking to the Future
What excites you about the future of the arts and auditioning in particular?
Actors are becoming more and more empowered every moment. They’re creating shows. They’re having a say in what stories and characters are represented.
What are your concerns?
I would like to see funding for the arts taken seriously in our country. Hopefully, the pandemic is bringing light to how the arts bring valuable and necessary culture and income to communities! We need to subsidize American artists in significant ways so that they can have resources to sustain their families and survive reasonably. Rarely, even before the pandemic, can artists make a living as full-time artists. Gone are the days of making a living in NYC from only theater (Broadway and Off-Broadway). The cost of living in a metropolis and solely being an artist/actor is a huge and often impossible challenge. Generally, being an actor requires outside income for any real sustainability. How can our government support the arts? I think the content created from artist commissions would be an incredible burst of expression and development in the arts.
Post-Pandemic, how prevalent do you think virtual auditions will be / what role will they play in the day-to-day casting process?
They will never go away. Here to stay. Already was happening. But now producers are justified in not needing to fly an actor in for a callback. It’s also just easier to see more people now. So probably more auditions will be available to more people.
Are there aspects of virtual auditions you’ve found that you prefer?
It’s finally causing the self-awareness of working the camera frame for the actor. Now they’re getting it!
Self Tape setups are a financial and technical obstacle for many in our industry. For those who either can’t afford or don’t feel confident in the technical knowledge to use self-tape equipment, what advice can you offer to give them the best audition?
I’ve got blogs on this! So I’d tell folks to Google and read tons of tips online.
And. Team up with others! Share resources! Equipment and being readers for each other!
Then. Start with a blank wall. Save for a light or rig the best strongest light sources you can! And use natural light from windows! Then. Save for a good smart phone with great camera and sound and the rest will be solid.
If you could rebuild the audition process however you’d want, what would it look like?
No clue. I’m too entrenched in it to have an outside eye???
The arts industry has inherent barriers to entry including but not exclusively race, socioeconomic status/background, gender, disability, and more. How do you think the industry should evolve to make it a more accessible, equitable, and intersectional space for all?
It all goes back to the stories being told. So I pass this to the writers and the ones making decisions about which projects to fund and distribute.
Especially how can we apply this to the audition process?
Actors, don’t wait for the perfect role to come to you. Generate it.
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