When I asked Sharon Lieblein, Vice President of Casting & Talent Development for Cartoon Network, to speak at our free monthly Inside the Industry Seminar, Ms. Lieblein suggested that she do a separate seminar for young performers & also adult performers as they “are two entirely different seminars.” What a great bonus it was to have her speak back to back to our members!
Here is Ms. Lieblein’s biography-
Sharon Lieblein, CSA, serves as vice president, casting and talent development, for Cartoon Network Studios. In this newly created role, Lieblein oversees live-action casting for the Studio and serves as the executive liaison between talent and the different divisions within the studio and network. She is responsible for identifying, casting and managing talent appearing on Cartoon Network Studios scripted and alternative live-action projects. She reports directly to Rob Sorcher, chief content officer for Cartoon Network, and is based at Cartoon Network Studios in Burbank, California. Lieblein came to Cartoon Network in May 2011 following a 12-year tenure with Nickelodeon, where she served as vice president of talent and casting since 2005. In this capacity, she oversaw all live-action casting for Nickelodeon Networks, including pilots, TV movies, specials and promos. Among her projects were such signature Nickelodeon shows as iCarly, Big Time Rush, Victorious, Zoey 101 and Drake and Josh and she helped discover such talent as Emma Roberts, Lily Collins, Miranda Cosgrove, Victoria Justice and Drake Bell. She also oversaw animation casting at the network for two years. Prior to joining Nickelodeon, Lieblein worked as a freelance and in-house casting director on various feature and television projects including the Witt-Thomas Productions of The John Larroquette Show (NBC) and Pearl (CBS). Lieblein has been a working member of the Casting Society of America (CSA) since 1995 and an active Television Academy member since 1999. Additional affiliations include serving as vice chair of the Advisory Committee for “Looking Ahead,” a division of the Actor’s Fund of America, and treasurer and vice president for the CSA.
Our guest speakers have many insights and so much terrific information to impart to our members! Here are some pertinent details from our adult performers seminar on November 17th along with some helpful excerpts from Ms. Lieblein’s October seminar as well.
Several points Ms. Lieblein made in the young performers seminar pertained to adult actors too.
Being Prepared– “Right off the bat, I’m looking for someone who is prepared. 50% of the actors I see are unprepared. [audience sighed] Shocking, right?”
“As far as being prepared goes, there are many different levels of being prepared. The basic level of being prepared is you have a 3:30 appointment; you should be there by 3:15. That’s on time for an audition especially in LA where there’s traffic and it’s crazy. By the time you get out of the car, up to the audition, sign in and find out where you’re supposed to be, you need 15 minutes to chill. So if you have a 3:30 audition, 3:15 is when you should be walking in the door. 3:30 is late. That just should be your mantra. And then, always, pictures and resumes in the car. If I ever hear, ‘Oh… I left it at home…’ ‘Oh, I thought they emailed it to you…’ ‘Oh, can’t you get it off the online service?’ …No! I’m asking you for it when you walk in.’ “
Special Skills– “ I do not want to see on Special Skills: anything you can’t do. Don’t waste my time. Don’t tell me that you play tennis if you picked up a racket once. That just isn’t true. There is a story that an agent told me once where she sent a client out for an audition for a commercial and they said they rollerbladed. They had it on their resume and that’s what they told the agent. They got the job. They went and were on these rollerblades for this commercial where they had to rollerblade down a hill and broke their leg. They did not know how to get up on rollerblades. What was the point? They lost the job because they needed to be replaced, the producers lost money and the agent was very upset.
I remember when I was a kid actor, I did the same thing. I put everything down. No…I don’t care about that. What can you do because the reality is, if I really like you as an actor…well, there’s two different things. If it’s a commercial and they want people who have that skill, that’s really what they want. They want people that have that skill. Not somebody that says, ‘I can learn how to do that.’ They don’t have time for that in the commercial world. In the theatrical world, if you’re coming in and auditioning for me and you’re really awesome and you don’t have that skill, I’m going to probably cast you anyway and teach you. I did a TV Movie once where all the kids had to skateboard. Two of the kids I cast had no idea how to skateboard. We got a coach and taught them how to skateboard. You know, it was about the acting. That was what was important but lying about it, it’s a waste of time.’
Ms. Lieblein then continued with a funny story about Special Skills. She said, “Now there are things that you could put in Special Skills that could be interesting that are conversation starters, but again, only if they are true. I’ve seen people put, ‘Bazooka Bubble Blowing Contest Winner of 2003’ or whatever, and ‘Like seriously, how big can you blow that bubble?What was that experience like?’ and I’ll ask you about it. But I will call you on your Special Skills any time you come in…. [laughter]…especially if they look wonky. ‘Huh? You really do that?’ There was a kid that we cast in the pilot of iCarly and saw on his Special Skills that he could shoot milk out of his eyes. [the audience gasped!] I mean, how do you do that? ‘Come on. You can’t do that!’ I made him do it for me. He said it on his resume. He went and got a glass of water and did it! It was the freakiest thing I’ve ever seen in my life and I don’t know if I’ve quite recovered from it. [laughter] But he said he could do it and he did it. That is just what it is. Do not put things down (on your resume) that you cannot do. Waste of time, waste of space.”
Other things Ms. Lieblein shared were–
- “Take notes. Take copious notes after each audition.”
- “Remember the moment you walk into the waiting room, your audition has begun.”
- Referring to sides- “I never want to hear, ‘I just got these from my agent’ No you didn’t. I gave that audition two days ago. You’ve had time to get it. We all know how the Web works these days. It’s not like the good old days when you had to physically drive and pick up the sides. It takes two seconds. There’s that. It happens all the time. ALL the time. That’s what people use as a cushion.”
- “I’d love if you’re memorized but don’t put down the page. Maybe in a Network test but other than that, always hold the page. Even if you’re not looking at it, have your finger going down the side or whatever it is but hold the page. If you’re not holding the page, people tend to think that’s your final product.”
- “You never want to re-write the writer’s words. Never, ever change the words. Comedy is the hardest thing to do. It’s about timing and beats.”
- Social media & the Internet? “Anything you put out there is there forever! If you can’t say it to your Grandmother, don’t say it.”
In October’s seminar, Ms. Lieblein shared this great knowledge too:
How prepared are you? When you get an audition scene… now some of them are less than others. Some of them are meatier than others. Some of them are one line, but let me tell you something… you better know that line. [laughter] You’d better do it in your special way and you’d better have a character when you walk in that room because when you go to audition, you’re not you. The character can be exactly you but it’s still a character. You’re not you so you need the tools, and hopefully the acting class you’re going to is giving you the tools to figure out how to build a character.
If you’re really dedicated to what you’re doing, the more you do, the easier it becomes. When I was a kid actor, at all times, I had a comedic monologue, a dramatic monologue and a Shakespearean monologue. I had my pop song and my Broadway musical song in my head… ‘You want me to perform something for you? I’ll do right now.’ You have to have that. These are your tools. Why do you do a monologue? What are the reasons to do a monologue? You do it for the most part to audition to get an agent or you use it as a tool not for auditioning for television or anything because we give you sides… maybe for generals. The real reason as an actor that you should be constantly working on monologues is so that you can build a catalogue of characters to pull from. When you’re done with one character and one monologue and you really get it down and you figure out who that character is, you put that character away. You get another monologue and you work on that. That’s so when you get that audition scene, you say, ‘You know what? That’s like that Betsy character from that monologue I did.’ It’s your foundation to start from.”
Ms. Lieblein added, “When you come in and audition for me, I want to see a character. I don’t want to see you but the beauty is, I don’t want to know it’s a character. Come in and do the job. It has to be real. It has to be truthful. I have to believe you are just really there. It is so much easier for me with kids because you guys come in, I see it or I don’t see it and that’s it.”
Thank you Sharon Lieblein for another terrific and informative seminar!