Camille is an agent’s dream actor. She is almost always available to audition, and she’s perfected the art of booking. In this Q & A, Camille discusses how she captivates directors and lands roles.
AT: Camille, you get a callback every time you audition. Please tell us what makes you so successful during a casting session?
CL: I attribute successful auditions to a variety of strategies. The basics always hold true. Arriving early so I can get grounded is important, as well as being positive and flexible. Knowing I’m well prepared helps my confidence. It pays off to invest in myself. Everything I bring to an audition, from headshots to my camera-ready appearance, is the best it could possibly be. I feel successful when I leave an audition say, “That was fun! I feel good about it.” Then, I let it go. A successful audition means that I showed the best of who I am and what I can do, and even if I don’t book, hopefully I’ll be remembered for the next opportunity.
AT: You signed with Agence many years ago and prove my point that actors who stick with one agent are often the best bookers. Do you have any thoughts on the agent/talent relationship?
CL: It is true – giving the agent/talent relationship time to develop is the way to go. If an actor commits to doing her best to be professional and available, and continually improves her skills, she’s doing her part. If she feels that her agent is doing her part, too – taking initiative and sending her out as much as possible, then a mutual respect develops. I feel good about my place at Agence Talent because I feel like my agent knows and understands me: I feel valued. Also, I keep in mind how much work my agent puts into getting me opportunities and I have lots of gratitude.
AT: Availability is so crucial in this industry and you always make time for auditions even though you work full-time. What advice can you give other actors on creating a schedule that works for you, your agent, and your employer?
CL: This was a challenge for me for many years. I wanted to be available for all auditions, and when I wasn’t, I felt like I was missing out and it was stressful. Ultimately, I had to get clear on what my priorities were for the long term, and get creative about implementing a new daily routine that could accommodate them. Last year, I stepped away from a full-time position and created my own children’s performing arts group. I recommend giving yourself permission to “think outside the box” when considering how to create the most joyous life experience possible.
AT: How do you keep your acting skills honed between gigs?
CL: Three things: I act in plays and musicals. I get coaching and attend workshops. I coach children and teens in acting.
AT: We’ve all seen changes to the local industry in the past few years. Does anything stand out to you as different from the past and how have you adjusted?
CL: I feel like I’m getting more work. It seems like there are many more opportunities here in Austin. Also, I see more people driving here from San Antonio and Dallas. There are busy times and there are slow times just like it has always been. One thing that helps the slower times pass quickly is to stay inspired. Whatever juices you, I’d say keep it going! Martial arts, dance, theater are great for me. Keeping up the joy factor in life serves me well. Then, when auditions pick back up, I am happy, healthy, and ready to rock!
AT: Your demographic has a lot of local competition. What do you think sets you apart from the rest?
CL: I have been steadily working on my acting and auditioning skills for more than ten years. I am finally at a place where I feel confident and more relaxed when I audition. I still work at it all the time, but I feel focused and natural. Also, here’s a trick I learned that helps keep my bright and bubbly energy up while my performance is smaller and sincere for the camera: I picture my mom on the other side of the camera and it makes me smile naturally. I deliver most of my lines to her, so I love the person I’m talking to.
AT: Describe one of your favorite bookings since you started acting and why?
CL: I really enjoyed the Drive Clean Across Texas “Baby Shower” spot.
I had a blast laughing and shrieking as I opened gifts during the audition, and everyone in the room was laughing with me. Later, when we shot the commercial, I found that the cast and crew were awesome. I felt like the director valued my work and my time. It was all really fulfilling.
AT: What path would you like your acting career to take into the future?
CL: I’d like to enjoy more and more success with commercial acting, as well as landing some supporting roles in television and feature films. Ideally, I would stay in Austin, as I love my hometown.
AT: If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
CL: Instant peace of mind – anytime, all the time! I tend to worry about things beyond my control, but when I stay relaxed, I know I can access my best self with more ease.
Our latest blog installment features insights about training, natural talent, and positive thoughts from acting coach and actor, Mona Lee.
AT: I’ve known you as a prominent coach in the local acting community but you are also an actor yourself. What came first, the coach or the actor?
ML: The amateur entertainer came first. My dad was a magician and I got my first taste of showbiz as his magic helper. He gave me so much joy in the creation of his illusions. I loved being tucked under his table, handing up the bunny and the dove through the secret hole in the center. Feeling the audience and hearing their amusement and applause was so delightful. That experience sparked my interest in theater as an adult.
I remember when I first got into acting I was lonely for connection — connection to my core and with others. Acting gives me a family. It is sometimes a family on wheels, because movie-making trucks in to locations and trucks out, so with a new project the family changes. It’s like being a migrant worker, but when you get to the next location your people are there. I’m always looking for my people. I’m most likely to find them in the dramatic arts.
I use the dramatic arts (film, theatre, psycho-drama, ritual, and myths) to champion the self-expression of people looking to deepen, experience catharsis, and have fun with their neighbors.
AT: What process do you use with your students?
ML: I use the “anything-that-works-method.” I lean towards the system developed by Constantin Stanislavsky and evolved by Stella Adler and Uta Hagan. Eric Morris, one of my teachers, did an excellent job of mapping all the choice approaches that have ever been utilized by teachers of the craft. Think of a wagon wheel and the spokes of the wheel. Each spoke leads to unlocking the truth of the character. It’s like that statement “All roads lead to God.” An example of some of those spokes would be sense memory, emotional memory recall, creating a comprehensive backstory, etc. There are at least 27 ways to unlock a character.
To have a dependable craft means understanding the methods that exist and which method works best for the individual actor. When working with an actor, I get a good sense of which approaches might best bring out a truthful performance. I am not a proponent of any one over the others. People are so different. I don’t want to lock students into one paradigm. They might not like a choice approach and think, “If this is what acting is, I don’t like it.” I like them to have a big tool box with lots of options. To me, that is what the craft is.
Because actors need to be able to handle scripts well, I maintain a large library of scenes. To have a decent acting satchel, an actor needs to have sampled the roles casting directors type them in. I have the scripts that have the roles. I also do a lot of directing in my classes because the ability to take direction is the mark of an accomplished actor, and direction is used to get to the realization of an honest moment.
AT: We hear the phrase “natural talent” in our business. Do you think such a talent exists? If so, what makes someone a natural?
ML: I used to think I knew. One of the worst actors in my class at Julliard works all the time, way more than me. I like this formula (Talent + Skills + Marketing + Contacts = Success). You can be a C talent, have C skills, A+ marketing savvy, A+ contacts, and have a successful career. You can be an “I know in my heart I am an A talent, God gave it all to me talent,” have B skills, D marketing, and F contacts, and never get anywhere. See what I mean?
AT: For how long and how often do you think an actor should train?
ML: As long as he/she wants to work for money, an actor needs to get on-the-job training or be in class.
AT: What are some common challenges you see for actors, and do you most often see them overcome with training?
ML: The most common challenges I see among actors are lack of self-esteem, feelings of guilt, and thinking they do not deserve to enjoy their working lives or fulfill their destinies in the world. They are overly obedient to their parents, society, religion, propaganda, and the opinions of their peers.
Those actors will self-sabotage, be very nervous, and not follow through with the formula. It is hard for them to hear their own voice, to reconnect with their painlessness, and to answer the calling of their heart. Training supports healthy self-esteem, supportive friendships, goal setting, being true to oneself, learning to honor and love oneself no matter what, taking risks, and unlocking one’s passion.
AT: What advice do you most often find yourself repeating to actors?
ML: The same advice I give my inner actor. Our job here in Earth School is to love ourselves, not to become rich and famous. Hopefully, rich and famous will come out of the purposeful dedication to loving ourselves. Actors hear “no, no, no, no, no, no, yes, no, no, no, no, yes, yes.” What will keep us in our careers is loving ourselves through the “Nos.” What I say to myself over and over is, “Mona, you don’t need this casting director, producer, whomever to love you. I love you. I love you no matter whether they choose you or not. Nothing is going to come between my love for you, certainly not a bunch of strangers.”
An audition is an opportunity to put on a little show for these people. They will either book you or not, but love does not come from the bosses. It comes from Spirit within.
AT: How do you describe a skilled, qualified actor?
ML: Takes direction quickly. Is in the Now. Stays heart-centered. Good connection to the Muse. Let’s the Muse flow through.
AT: How have you seen the industry change in the past five years and how have you adapted?
ML: I had a great year a couple of years ago. There were lots of money-making jobs. But it’s definitely slowed down. I chalk it up to our poor incentives and less jobs for women, and even less in my age range. But we are powerful creators and I don’t want to block any flow with suppositions that might not be true. I keep throwing positive thought forms into the quantum field like “anything wondrous can happen for me still,” and “anything is possible.”
AT: Is there a super power you’d like to possess?
ML: I’d like the super power of absolute trust in God. This power would enable me to make a switch from living through a physical body to living directly thorough my heart. To know unflinchingly in my heart that God will always have my back and care for me would be an awesome Super Power to have.
AT: What is your wish for the local acting community, and the industry at large?
ML: More jobs, money, creativity, friendships, support, and love. More producers and bankers funding home-grown projects. Before I get too old, I want a leading role on a TV series and just drive to work to an Austin film studio every day.
Rachel Flanagan is Austin’s outspoken and spunky casting director, and when she gets a gig, we know it’s going to be a good one.
Agence Talent recently asked Rachel for the answers to our most burning questions. Actors, take notes!
AT: What led you to a career as a casting director?
RF: I started in the music business for the punk label Slash Records in Los Angeles. I continued in the music business for another ten years, mostly for record companies. I also worked directly for The Thompson Twins and Terrence Trent D’Arby. It was in the music business that I discovered I could recognize talent. Once I entered the film industry, I realized the two businesses are very similar, but only after working with casting directors Billy Hopkins and Don Philips did I find my calling. I realized casting was my passion.
AT: You’ve worked in bigger markets like LA; what made you move to Austin and are you glad you did?
RF: I’ve been in LA and I wasn’t impressed with what I saw in the music business or the film industry. There are some terrific people in Los Angeles but it can be toxic. I wanted to continue working without the super-sized egos and politics. People in LA are there for themselves, giving it a narcissistic essence. I had wonderful experiences, met amazing people, and have great stories. In the end, however, I wanted to simplify my life. When I moved to Austin, I didn’t know a single person but I saw it as a great adventure and a challenge. Although initially I did consider New Orleans and New Mexico, Austin won out. I love Austin and feel very blessed and grateful to be living and working here.
AT: Speaking of LA, can you compare that market to the one in Austin in terms of actors, ethics, and overall industry?
RF: Actors in Los Angeles will take any job until they “make it,” which rarely happens. So, there is a huge group of people who are frustrated waiting tables instead of polishing Oscars. Actors in Texas don’t have the luxury of what I call “lightning in a bottle.” There aren’t the same opportunities in Texas so the actors here are more realistic. They pursue other careers and succeed at them, making Texas actors much more rounded and interesting individuals. As far as ethics, living in a right to work state without the protection of the union is a lot more challenging. I feel productions come to Texas to take advantage of the cheaper labor.
AT: As an agent, I’ve seen many changes to our local industry in the past several years. What differences do you see, and how do you account for them?
RF: I see clients with smaller budgets and lower rates asking for more and longer usage. It appears to be a concerted effort to tighten the belt on film, TV, and commercial production initiated by corporations. It’s hard to have sympathy for a huge food conglomerate, bank, or insurance company that whines about not having enough money to pay a decent rate to actors when they are profiting billions. Having said that, low money is better than no money. If you’re waiting for the industry to return to the “good old days,” it’s not. You have to acclimate and adjust or you will be left behind.
AT: What is local talent really good at and where do they fall behind their competition?
RF: Texas actors are not going to 3-4 auditions every day nor booking as many jobs as actors in bigger markets, thereby not getting the ‘on-camera’ experience. A lot of them are green but eager to learn. I’ve seen huge improvements from the actors who attend acting classes. I think actors should be in a class that challenges them. I love working with the actors in Texas and am very proud of them. They get better with every take.
AT: What three things should every Austin actor do when he/she walks into a casting session with you.
RF: Have his/her sizes, a resume, and a headshot on Casting Networks.
AT: What are your biggest professional pet peeves?
RF: Actors showing up at callbacks without a resume and headshot, using a headshot that looks nothing like the person, or using the same headshot for years. Also, women who wear too much make-up. Ladies, please stop wearing dark or red lipstick. Let your natural beauty shine thru!
AT: Is there a secret to making it in this business as an actor, in your opinion?
RF: As Robert Redford’s agent once told me, “There’s no such thing as luck; it’s when opportunity meets ability.” The only thing anyone can give an actor in this business is an opportunity. It’s up to the actor to have the ability. How does an actor get ability? Acting classes, character study, acting with your whole body, and learning to be subtle. Also, keep your body in good shape.
AT: Where do you see our industry in five years in the wake of current economic challenges, technological changes, etc?
RF: That’s the million-dollar question. I wish I knew!
AT: If you could have any superpower bestowed upon you, what would it be?
RF: Time travel.
AT: Thanks, Rachel! We are happy to have you in the here and now!
Jeremy S is one of Agence’s most consistent bookers. Even when the “biz” is slow, Jeremy manages to beat out the competition and stay busy.
In this interview, we ask him how he does it.
AT: When we first met, you had moved from NYC. What were you doing there?
JS: I was doing some modeling, commercial acting, and working in the fitness industry. Over the past 5 years, all of those merged as I began doing a lot of fitness media. I was Rachel’s trainer on The Rachael Ray show and did morning show fitness segments for Men’s Health Magazine. I also created and hosted a TV Show called Real Strength that aired on the Halogen Network, inspiring men and women to get fit and involved with helping others.
AT: I saw you and thought “This guy has such a great look! Why would he want to work in a smaller market like Austin?” Tell me why you choose to live and work here instead of NYC or LA?
JS: I spent a good amount of time in both LA and NYC, but was always drawn to the creative culture of Austin. With the birth of our first son, NY was beginning to close in on us, and we were looking for a change. We wanted to find a city that had a creative culture and was making an impact on the industry outside of LA and NY. Austin continually came up as that place.
AT: Of course, I’m glad you made Austin you’re home. You are one of Agence’s top bookers. Just how do you do it?
JS: I wish there was one simple answer but it’s really a combination of many things. Being in the right place at the right time helps. I’m at an age, and have a look that allows me the opportunity to audition for many commercial roles. I’ve been in the industry in one way or another for 15 years now and like anything you stick with and commit to, one day it seems to start clicking. I do think there are some things an actor can do such as working on the other side of the camera. There are so many parts to the creative machine that must all come together. From the casting director, to the PA, to craft services, everyone is part of a larger unit and you must learn to respect and see yourself as a part of the whole. Be on time to auditions, and to set. Do your best to be prepared. I look at the storyboard and script and try to make acting decision based on what I think the client needs. Have a good wardrobe bag. Do your best to look the part you’re auditioning for, but don’t over do it. You don’t need to invest a lot of money, just some vision. On many occasions, I’ve found myself running to Old Navy for a shirt that looks “outdoorsey.”
AT: Do you have any pre-audition rituals?
JS: I’m not a naturally outgoing person, but more introverted. In many ways, acting goes against my nature so I lean on prayer and deep breathing. I remind myself that it’s not about me. That may be tough to do for many actors.
AT: What do you do during a casting that makes you so marketable to clients, and causes you to get a callback on nearly every job?
JS: I’m selective in the roles I audition for. You must know yourself, your look, your abilities, but have courage and confidence to be stretched beyond your comfort zone. There have been a few occasions I booked jobs that I thought I was not right for. Sometimes the clients change direction in the middle of the auditioning process. I am always open to the opportunity, especially when my agent and casting director think there is a chance.
AT: Any idea why other actors cannot seem to kick their careers into higher gears?
JS: There seems to be two kinds of actors, those who are too desperate and those who are not hungry enough. Actors more concerned about “making it” than trying to have a meaningful career seem to be the most unhappy and unsuccessful. While actors that think the jobs will just come without hard work and perseverance also very rarely “make it.” However, many times I really think an actor is trying to be all things to all people instead of allowing their uniqueness to shine through. You can play a role and still be you in many ways, and often that seems to be what a director is looking for.
AT: You and your wife have two young children. How to you juggle being a dad and a great talent, too?
JS: My family must always come before my career, which sometimes limits my ability to take a job. But I have an amazing wife who steps up and holds down the fort when I’m away on work.
AT: What is one skill you don’t have but you wish you did?
JS: The ability to walk into a room of strangers and engage them without any self-consciousness.
AT: In your mind, what does your life look like in five years?
JS: With a three year old and an eight month old at home, I honestly can’t see much further than tomorrow. I feel very blessed to be a husband and father who has free time to actually spend with his family.
AT: If you were booted out of the entertainment biz, what would you do instead?
JS: I’ve always had a passion for fitness, and currently teach and coach for various fitness companies. While modeling and acting over the years, I took the opportunity to invest in becoming a trainer and coach in the fitness industry. I think that having more than one passion is key in the business. It also makes you more diverse and attractive to a wider audience.
AT: Finally, describe yourself with three adjectives.
JS: Honest, committed, steadfast!
I recently sent an email to my talent. It’s worth sharing.
Here’s a snippet!
“If only those who dream about Hollywood knew how difficult it all is.” – Greta Garbo
On a recent trip to LA, I had lunch with an agent acquaintance of mine. The subject of Austin actors moving to LA to pursue their passions came up. His comments came quick: “No actor should move to LA until he owns his local market.”
Ironically, when I returned to Austin, two of my actors asked whether they should make the move to La La Land. Of course, I’m a bit biased. If I sign you for my market, I am not likely to attend a party for your departure, unless you still plan to perform here. AND there.
Similar to my LA buddy, I believe that before you head west, you better have a big resume or bank account, or both. But, “Erin,” you say, “If I don’t go now, I may live to regret it!” Gosh, how can I argue with that? I’m not here to destroy your childhood dreams or interfere with fate, however, there are certainly some things to consider before making the move a reality.
There’s a busload of starving artists, actors, and models embarking upon LA every day. What sets you apart from the competition, which will be far greater in LA than you ever imagined? Do you have a resume with real credits? Not extra work, ladies and gentleman, but lead and supporting roles in credible projects. If not, how do you plan to land representation? What is your savings account situation? The rent and overall cost of living in LA is a lot higher than in Texas. Can you handle it?
I see actors living in LA get chewed up and spit out, catching the bus headed back to Austin all the time. But you don’t have to take my word for it. A super polished Agence actor named Jason packed up for LA five years ago. He hasn’t come crawling back to Austin for the complete love of his craft, and he delivers some sage advice.
1. Have a SAG card. SAG eligible isn’t enough.
2. Train intensively upon arrival. This means 3 – 4 days/week.
3. Move because you want opportunities to work with creative talent, not because you want fame and fortune.
4. Save at least 5K prior to moving, and find a paying job ASAP. Everything is expensive.
5. Plan to pay for new headshots in LA, which are, you guessed it, more expensive than in other markets.
6. Focus on working and training hard, and being realistic in your expectations.
Taking the previous points into consideration, if you are compelled to leave for LA, I wish you well. If not, stick around Austin and the surrounding markets to make a name for yourself. While Hollywood provides ample opportunity, you can play a big fish in a small pond locally. That is, until your resume is so awesome you must move to the ocean.
Happy trails, my friend, wherever destiny declares you settle down.
Kim Johnson is a long-time friend working as a stylist in New York’s fierce fashion scene. For anyone wondering what it’s like to have a job in the wardrobe world, read on.
AT: What’s your definition of a stylist?
KJ: A stylist is someone who cultivates the trends and the composition of a person’s style in a way that creates or embellishes his/her best traits.
AT: If you couldn’t shop and style for a living, what would you do?
KJ: Edit a magazine, start an online magazine, or make clothes. I do have a dress line in the works.
AT: Most rewarding aspect of your work?
KJ: At the end of the day, I’m an artist who creates something beautiful and original, and ephemeral enough to take pleasure in it–then let it go. I have the freedom to say yes or no to a job, to create my own schedule, and be accountable for my work.
AT: Least desirable?
KJ: Th long hours, extreme pressure, hauling heavy bags all over the city and being responsible for every detail of it. Its multi-tasking to the Nth degree, which I simultaneously love and hate.
AT: Who are some of your clients?
KJ: British Airways, Blank jeans, Wings Bank, Adrienne Landau, NBC, Duffy.
AT: What kind of model is most fun to dress?
KJ: One who is smart, confident, and open and comfortable in his/her own skin.
AT: Is David Bowie still your dream model?
KJ: He’s one of them. I would also love to dress the legendary Carmen Dell Orefice once more, too. She’s one of the most inspiring women I’ve ever worked with.
AT: Where do you see the fashion industry headed in the future, say five years out?
KJ: I see it becoming more indie–to be a big fashion house and stay relevant isn’t what it used to be. With the excess of blogs/tweets/celebrity obsession, and the Internet, we are inundated and get over trends much quicker. The real interest is in those voices who do original work that is deeply considered and well made without the intention of pleasing a mass market. That goes for magazines, too. It’s gotten so competitive that what stands up today, is well-followed intuition brought forth with ambition and integrity.
AT: How does a stylist truly succeed; what does it take?
KJ: It takes a LOT of persistence! You have to really fight for what you do. It’s not a business for the shy or faint of heart. A typical day is 12 hours of firing one hundred emails, while running from showroom to showroom, while getting calls from clients saying they’ve changed direction and cut the budget–and they’ve added 6 new models and they need you to get a Santa suit and an Easter bunny costume (Yes, this has all happened in one day)! To succeed, you have to always think on your feet, never say “no,” and learn to give people what they need–all while keeping calm.
AT: Fashion faux pas that make you wanna call the fashion police?
KJ: Sloppiness! I detest Uggs and sweatpants. I think seeing people looking sloppy is a sad reflection on their view of life. Also, older women trying to look too young. This culture is way too youth obsessed!
AT: What are you loving to wear right now?
KJ: Stripes. I really feel like Anna Karina in Band Apart. And hats. I really love a good hat!
AT: You have a magic lamp. What three wishes are you asking for?
KJ: I wish for really great clients I can have a long, lucrative careers with; a loving and supportive mate; and, the ability to endlessly tap into my creative mind and create fresh work.
AT: New York is your love; tell me why.
KJ: New York is the only city I’ve ever felt completely at ease in. It is the whole world in one city. In fact, it is like its own country. The most wonderful, creative, dynamic and lovely people live here. I find inspiration on every street corner, am always being humbled and taught by what I see. On any given day, I am surrounded by people who show me there is no such thing as a right way to do things. Whatever I can imagine or want to do, I can find here. When I’m in a slump, I can wander the streets and be instantly transformed. I love contradictions, dichotomies, and extremes–this is the pinnacle place for that!
Step Inside Kim\’s Closet
There’s a lot of buzz in our business about the so-called “Summer Slump.”
The heat and humidity always hit Austin hard in June, and the jobs tend to dry up, too. However, it hasn’t been all that hot in Austin for mid-July (where’s some wood to knock on?), and compared to the dreaded drought of ’09, our industry hasn’t felt too much heat either. Sure, commercial clients seem to be away on vacation, but central Texas is swimming in series. In Austin alone, casting is currently underway for My Generation and Friday Night Lights. Episode after episode mean more work for actors and crew, and everyone else touched by production.
So, why are you watching soap opera reruns and biking to Barton Springs, instead of nabbing an audition? It’s no secret that to get in front of a casting director, you must bring your “A-Game.” Yeah, it’s cool to be at the pool sipping pina coladas, but while you are, your peers are beefing up their resumes, starring in a short film, taking a class, and frankly, kicking a–.
Actors ask me all the time why they aren’t reading for bigger series’ roles. Sometimes I have to bite my tongue and refrain from rolling my big brown eyes. Since this is my public blog, I will be blunt: If you have more ego than experience, your audition chances for that series are slim.
So, put that bikini back in the closet and work on your craft instead of your tan. Save the pina colada for when you really have something to celebrate.
Of course, savor the rest of your summer, however you choose to do so.
Does it cost money to sign with an agent?
Do I need to submit professional photos?
How do I book someone on the Agence Talent roster?