Thursday, February 17, 2011

Print auditions are weird...

Okay, so I’ve only been on 3 print auditions in my life – The Post Office, Frito-Lay, and most recently this week, the Illinois Lottery. Now, I’ve been trained in how to audition for all kinds of different things – character roles in a film scene, voice-overs, improvisation for a TV commercial, etc., but I’ve never been “trained” on how to do a print audition. This has got to be, by far, the hardest audition to perform. Well, for me at least.

In order for a model to be considered for a print ad (for example, magazines or outdoor billboards), the client would need to see what that model currently looks like in photographs. So they arrange for a photography studio to do a “mini photo shoot” of all the candidates, or models, who fit their criteria for the job. Agencies call it a “go-see”. The rest of us experienced auditioners call it what it really is – a cattle call. Because really, it’s a plethora of people (a.k.a. “cattle”) coming to one place to put in their application for one job.

So here’s how my audition for the Illinois Lottery went. I drove over 2 hours to Chicago and arrived at the studio just after they cut the line off so the photographers could go to lunch. As slightly inconvenienced as I was having to wait an hour before getting in line again, I was happy to be near the front of the line when the photographers had returned -- full and happy -- and ready to run through the next batch of hopefuls.

When it was my turn, I greeted the photographer and took my mark. He took one close-up shot and one body shot, then asked me to pretend I was driving in a car. Silently I was laughing to myself because I had just spent the better part of the last two hours doing just that. So, I put my hands up like they were on the steering wheel and was ready to go.

Then he described to me that I needed to look like I was having a good day – but not too good. He then took a couple of pictures (snap, snap). Then he said to look in the rear view mirror (snap), and then around to some shops (snap) and then pretend I was driving in reverse (snap). Then, for the final shot, he said to look straight into the camera and give just the smallest hint of a smile (snap). Then he thanked me, shook my hand and I was done.

And that was it. I traveled 2 hours (a little more than 4 hours round trip) for about 2 minutes of the photographer’s time, and I have no idea how I did or how I fared. I will never see the photos from the shoot, so I have no way of seeing how I could improve for the next one.

This was the same scenario with my other two print auditions. For Frito-Lay, they did a close-up, a side shot, one from the back (which seemed weird at the time), and then I had to pretend I was throwing a Frisbee. For the Post Office, they took a close-up, a body shot, I had to pretend I was receiving a package already in my hands, and then pretend I was putting one in a mailbox.

Seriously, how does one prepare for such auditions? As an actor, if they told me what facial expression they were looking for, I might have a better shot. Like, we’re looking for the instant you realized you were in love, or you’ve got a secret you just have to share with your best friend -- something like that.

Not that I mind pretending, of course. That’s totally my nature. But asking me to pretend like I’m doing nothing more than driving in a car just isn’t very riveting. Guess that’s what I should be working on, eh -- finding the “riveting” in mundane tasks and reading between the lines, so to speak. Sounds like I’ve got some homework to do. Hmmm……

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Ah...What Price Beauty?

ABS. The American Beauty Show. It's held for four days (Friday through Monday) in March at McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago every year. If you've ever been there you can understand the enormity of the event. If you haven't been there – simply put, it's huge. We're talking the size of two football fields – indoors – kind of huge. Hair designers from all the major labels (John Paul Mitchell, Matrix, Redken/Pureology, Aquage, etc.) are flown in from all over the country and even Europe to show off the latest in hair cuts, colors and designs to salon owners and fellow hair stylists. And what do all these major designers need in order to show off how talented they are? Why, models, of course.

So every year for the past few years, I have traveled up to Chicago to audition for these designers in hopes that I get picked to be a model (I've done it twice so far). Not only does the model get a fantastic new haircut and color from a nationally known designer, the model gets paid to do it and usually gets products to tote home as well. Not a bad deal considering what it usually costs to get your hair done from your local stylist.

This year, my audition process went a little differently than normal...

So let me set the stage. I had four auditions lined up for Thursday evening, right before the show weekend. My first was with Redken/Pureology at 5 p.m., the second with KMS/Goldwell at 5:30 p.m., followed by Chi at 6:00 p.m., and then Matrix at 7 p.m. The auditions were held relatively close together (all within about 2 miles of each other), so I printed out my directions and headed to my first audition at the W Hotel. I've driven through downtown Chicago several times, so I knew generally where I was going.

I was making good time and planned to arrive at the W about ½ an hour early. Unfortunately, my directions through downtown had a typo and sent me the wrong way down Lake Shore Drive. After realizing I was going the wrong way, I popped out my GPS and worked through a set of new directions that would get me close to my destination. After navigating my way to Navy Pier, I spotted the hotel, but because of my backtracking (and normal rush hour traffic), it was now 5 minutes before my first audition was to begin.

Now, normally when I drive to someplace in a city where I haven't been exactly, I drive around the block to check out the parking. I'm notorious for finding THE MOST EXPENSIVE parking garage because it's close to where I need to go. So I drive up to the W Hotel, see a sign next to their valet that says “public parking/valet” in the drive, so I pull up and the valet shoo's me off saying I can't park there. It's now 5:00 and I'm worried I'm going to be late. So I pull up a little further up the block and I see three “pay and go” parking meters. I pull up to the one that is available and park, thinking I had scored because it's not going to cost me $20 for a garage (the meters average about $2.50). I get out, put my credit card in the meter, and it won't take it. It just says, “No Parking 6 p.m.”. I look at my watch, and it says 6:10 p.m. That was my first mistake. It was actually 5:10. I forgot to do the time change in my head (Chicago is on CST, whereas I am normally on EST). I thought the meter meant no parking charge after 6 p.m., which happens in quite a few cities where I have traveled, so figured there was no charge (hence my card not working). I looked around and didn't see any signs that said anything differently, so I left my car, thinking at the very least, I'd be back in 15-20 minutes.

So I make it up to the ballroom where the audition was being held and was relieved to see that they hadn't started selecting models yet. Now, hair auditions are usually very fast. The designers have 5 or 6 cuts they want to showcase, so they know exactly what types of hair they want to use. They look at you, the length, texture, and the color of your hair, and if you fit one of their 6 specific molds, they ask you if you are willing to do what they want and then you choose to do it or not. Most hair auditions are done within 15-20 minutes. Pretty simple.

Redken/Pureology had a number of designers from both product lines looking for specific looks. I was considered by one designer during the audition, but after an hour and 20 minutes of them looking through the models, I was ultimately not chosen.

So I raced back downstairs, very nervous that they had kept us so late. I had totally missed the second audition at 5:30, and was already 20 minutes late for the third audition for Chi which had started at 6:00. As I went to retrieve my car, the shock had set in that my car was not where I had parked it. It was missing. Possibly towed, but also likely – stolen. I called the number on the meter which gave me 4 more numbers to call in case my car had been towed. After three phone calls and none of them having registered my car, I re-called the first number and asking if there were a different number to see where my car might be. She gave me the number for the downtown garage for impounded vehicles and they (thankfully) had my car. In the meantime, I still had to try and make it to 2 more auditions, so I hailed a taxi and made it to the audition for Chi. By the time I got there, I was an hour late.

The good news is, that a wonderful Chi designer from Houston chose to use me as a demonstration model, which meant I no longer had to make it to the 4th audition. As a demonstration model, I would be getting paid $100 for the day, getting my hair cut and colored, and would receive a bag of Biosilk products to care for my hair after the show. Now, I just had to take a taxi to the impound lot to retrieve my car.

That was a very long story to get to the point of my title. So, after paying for two taxi rides ($10 to get to the audition, and $15 to get back to my car), I arrived at the impound lot. I filled out the paperwork and paid my impound fine -- $160. Ouch. The worker there told me that there was no meter parking during the 4p-6p rush hour. I hadn't seen any signs to that effect, but it seemed to be pretty well known (to the locals anyway). So when I had parked thinking it was 6:10, it was actually 5:10 and therefore, rush hour (hence, the towing of my car).

Then to add insult to injury, when I got to my car, there was a $60 parking ticket (for parking during rush hour) on my windshield. I asked the guard if that had been included in my $160 fee. He said it was not. I would have to pay that separately. So this one audition for a gig where I would be making $100 cost me $220 (not including gas to get there, the two taxi rides, and parking the day of the event). What a costly lesson to learn. That will teach me to take an extra 5 minutes to look for appropriate parking. Now a $20 parking garage seems almost reasonable.

So that leaves me with the question – what price beauty? When it was all said and done, I lost around $165 on the deal. If I had wanted to, I could have easily paid that to get the same thing done to my hair locally (and probably had some change left over...). The whole point to doing the hair show was to come out ahead – getting the cut and color for free and making money for doing it. That totally didn't happen this year.

So was it worth it? Potentially. On paper? Certainly not. But I do have to say, though, that after taking part in the fantastic hair show for Chi, I would say it actually was worth it. The show was amazing, I got a totally stylish haircut and great color out of the deal, and I made invaluable contacts at Chi who know me now and would totally use me again in next year's show.

Perhaps next year, I can just show up to one audition (Chi), get chosen as a presentation model (they make more money per day and work all four days), and make up the difference then. In the meantime, I'm just chalking this up to an experience I will never forget. And remember when I said I was notorious for finding the most expensive parking no matter where I go? I think I have officially just set the record – and I hope I never break it.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The strangest audition ever...

So I had been out in my garage having ye old garage sale this morning (after all, the whole neighborhood was doing it…okay, well, maybe six families…). Anyway, I came inside for a potty break and my husband hands me the phone. "Hello?" I say. "Hello, Cassandra. My name is Mike Walsh and I’m a casting agent in New York. I got your info off your website and your profile. And I gotta say, I’m really impressed with your stuff."

Flabbergasted, I said an excited "Thank you" and he continued on to ask me if this were a good time to talk with him (yeah, who wouldn’t make time if a casting agent from New York called). I said yes, and then he went on to explain about how he was looking for someone with an "expressive sneeze". Yes, I laughed too.

After a little bit of explaining about how they were looking for talent to be in a new allergy medication advertisement in the next 3-6 months, he wanted to know if I would sneeze for him – for real – no pretending. I said I would try, and he told me to go grab some pepper and go to a room where I could concentrate. So I grabbed a palm full of fresh ground pepper and headed up to the bathroom.

He proceeded to tell me to take a pinch of pepper and breath it in and then give him a play-by-play of how it tickled and how close I was to sneezing (presumably so he knew when to record it on his end). So I inhaled the pepper and waited for the inevitable. Well, I didn’t sneeze right away as I had expected. So I took another pinch and breathed it in the other side. Still no sneeze, but boy was my nose burning now.

So here I am, trying to make a good impression on a casting agent from NY and I can’t even sneeze when presented with quite a bit of pepper. Just a bit embarrassing…. Meanwhile, my eyes are watering, I’m trying desperately to breathe and my nose starts running like crazy.

Here’s where it gets a bit gross. So he’s trying to coach me on getting myself to sneeze and he says to grab a Q-tip or bobby pin and stick it up there where it tickles to try and move the process along. So I grab a Q-tip and proceed to tickle the inside on my nose which is running even more now, but still no sneeze. Then he tells me to start telling myself I have to sneeze and to try breathing in short bursts like when you go, "Ah…ahh…ahhhchoo!" So I give it a go, and according to my husband, it sounded like I was having a, well, shall we say, a re-enactment of that restaurant scene in "When Harry Met Sally."

Still trying to get me to sneeze (and being very patient with me the whole time), this casting agent says to try a toothpick and gently touch upon that tickle spot. I was very skeptical about inserting a toothpick up my nose, but I was willing to try anything at this point (says a lot about me, eh?). This got me a lot closer to sneezing, but still not close enough. After another minute of trying (and him being on the phone with me for at least 5 minutes now), he politely gave up waiting, saying that he has run into this with other talent being unable to sneeze. He said that he might try me back in a couple of days, but I’m not holding my breath, so to speak.

In hindsight, I see a couple of flaws in my methodology. One was that I used freshly ground pepper -- not the pre-processed packaged pepper that has all kinds of "allowable" non-pepper mass (like dust and other things I won’t mention) that is very likely to make a person sneeze. Another flaw may have been that I tried too hard and inhaled too much – instead of just enough to tickle my nose hairs. Perhaps next time, I should just go downstairs in our finished basement and start dusting… ;p

So 6 hours after his call, I still have not sneezed. And I was kind of wondering -- does anyone have any remedies for getting pepper out of my sinuses? Holy cats do I have a headache… ;p

Friday, August 7, 2009

To be, or not to be...a real "Soccer mom"

Today, I had my first audition for a national print ad -- Frito-Lay. Truly, I was "too excited to sleep" last night. :) I only had a day to prepare, so my biggest stress (besides picking out the right shirt to wear) was making sure my kids were taken care of while I made the trek up to Chicago. Many, many thanks to my wonderful neighbors who pitched in and let my kids hang out an their houses this afternoon. :) :)

Okay, so it took me 3-1/2 hours to get to Chicago (the longest it has EVER taken in my life). It's usually a 2 hour, 10 minute drive, but there was construction just south of Merrilville that added an extra 20 minutes, and then for some reason, traffic into Chicago from the Lake Shore Drive exit on I-90/94 was going (and I use this term loosely) at a crisp 2-3 miles per hour. It took me 45 minutes to get from there to the downtown exit I needed (typically about a 15 minute drive).

So after a couple of calls to my agent updating her to my progress and asking her to tell the studio I was going to be late, I finally arrived 15 minutes before the casting call was to end (at 4:00 their time). Luckily, there were still quite a few people left to go, so I was in good shape.

That being said, it was a very educational experience for me. I was told by my agent to look like a "soccer mom". I asked her if I were to be more upscale or more real, and she said definitely leaning more toward real soccer mom.

So I show up in a casual blue cotton shirt and regular jeans and sneakers - very "real" mom (except that I did have my hair down and curled and make-up on...;p). Well, the other mom-types who were there tonight were much more "polished" -- cute tops, tight jeans, strappy sandals... So I don't know if I were misinformed, or if the others just overdressed slightly.

This was the first national print job I've ever auditioned for, so I really didn't know what to expect. After entering the photographer's studio, I filled out my paperwork with my name, agent, phone number, sizes, etc. and then I got to watch the several other people who were in front of me (which was very helpful).

Each person got five pictures taken: 1) smiling "mugshot" which is a headshot with me holding up the paper with all my info under my face to easily identify me, 2) full-length casual pose, 3) side pose, 4) picture of me walking away from the camera (to get my backside), and 5) throwing a pretend frisbee (to show action and excitement).

Well, it became clear to me that I need to practice my "modeling" poses. I think I did pretty well with all of them except the frisbee one. I only say this because the photographer said the typical "great" or "nice" after each shot until after the frisbee one. He said, "okay", in that drawn out "I'm not really sure what you just did right there" kind of way. It almost made me laugh.

I had watched the other couple of moms before me and they threw the frisbee like they were throwing it to a really tall guy on a ladder (lots of extension and long, lean lines with their body poses). In true "me" form, I decided to throw a frisbee like a real mom who was throwing it to her child (who is, in actuality, shorter than I am). So no long, lean lines for me. I was a "real" mom in all my "normal-sized" glory. ;) ;)

So we'll see. It will all depend on what they are really looking for. They'll have my pics from today, and my comp card with my "pretty" pics to peruse. If anything, I will be better prepared for the next audition. :) With any luck (okay, an inordinate amount of luck), you may just see me on a billboard somewhere... hehehehe...

Monday, August 3, 2009

The 48 Hour Film Project

This weekend, Indianapolis hosted its third annual 48 Hour Film Project. For those of you not "in the know", it's basically a festival that is held literally around the world in which teams of film crews and their actors compete to make a 4-7 minute film in 48 hours. The word "exhausting" doesn't even begin to cover it.

Here's how it works. All registered teams (and all 30 spots were filled this year) meet on Friday night at 7 p.m. to draw which genre they will be filming (e.g. drama, romance, sci-fi, western or musical, comedy, detective/cop, etc.). Then, all teams are given a character they must use in the film, a prop that must be seen, and a line of dialogue that must be included VERBATIM in order for the submission to be accepted. Failure to include all of the required elements results in a disqualified submission (this is to ensure that no work was created or filmed prior to the festival).

Once teams have all the required information, they set out to write the script, shoot all the necessary scenes, edit the footage and add any musical score into a 5-7 minute film, and submit that film by 7:30 p.m. that Sunday (48 hours after the start). Oh yeah, and if the film is delivered late (including one minute after the official deadline, it's disqualified too).

And now that you know the background to how the festival works, I just wanted to say that we had a fabulous time shooting our scenes on Saturday. I worked with a new crew this year and they were all amazing. The story was really funny, the director, Rick Uskert, and his crew were awesome, and I was working alongside some really great actors to boot.

Our team's genre was detective/cop. I had to laugh because that was the same genre I worked on last year with a completely different crew. (You can see last year's film "Cassandra" on my YouTube page.) The prop we had to use this year was a ball, the character we had to use was Dr. Shirley Kane, a psychiatrist, and the line we had to use was, "I'm not talking to you."

I'm so eager to see the finished product because the story was such a riot. It was centering on two detectives who have to find out what happened to the Sarge's best friend, Officer McGuffin (his dog). I didn't have a major role in this one, but it was still fun, nonetheless. I played the Sarge's secretary for a scene and answered phone calls from the two detectives. I won't give away the ending, but I will post a link to the film as soon as I have a copy of it.

All of the finished films will be screened this Thursday, August 6th in Indianapolis at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Our film is in the first grouping of 15 being shown at 7 p.m., and the the second set of 15 films will be shown at 9:30 p.m. It is $10 per person to attend one session (15 films), or $15 to attend both sessions (all 30 films). I will be there for our film, and if I can swing it with my babysitter, I'd like to stay for both sessions because some really good friends of mine have films in the second session. It's so much fun to see what other crews have done with their genres and how they used the required elements in their films.

If you have time on Thursday, I strongly urge you to come to the screenings. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll groan, but most of all, you'll have a great time.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Define "Sheer"

Every actor has a funny/horrific story (probably several) to tell about a role he's played, or an audition she's attended, or various antics at cast parties... Well, this would be my own "interesting" story.

Ever since college, I’ve wanted to play a vampire. They’re dark, they’re sexy, and they have amazing physics-defying action scenes. Come on – what could be better?

So about 5 years ago, I auditioned for the lead vampiress in an independent film. I studied this part, boned up on my vampire lore, and I even wore a role-appropriate dark red and black, deep V-cut top which I paired with my tightest black pants and heels (of course) to the audition. I got the role. I was so excited and blown away.

Right after that, the director sent me the first couple of scenes from the script (which was still in development). It was very well written and had me totally captivated and wanting to read what happened next. This was going to be a very cool movie.

So at my first cast meeting, I got to talking with the director (who was equally excited about me playing the role) and he wanted to discuss wardrobe for the part. Excellent. So he starts by telling me that for one of the scenes he’s picturing my character in a sheer top and leather pants. "Sheer is okay, right?" he said to me. Immediately, my mind flashed to my then 3 year-old daughter who may or may not follow in my acting footsteps (or at the very least will be dating someday). So I said to him, "Define ‘sheer’."

Well he went into this explanation of how there would be little rosettes or pieces of lace covering the "appropriate" spots, but that it’s pretty sheer. Modesty is now taking over my brain and I said, "Could we modify it slightly or have me wearing a sexy black bra underneath or something?" He said no, he’s pretty set on the look for the main character. Unfortunately, that pretty much took me out of the lead role.

I got an e-mail the next week from the director saying he wanted me to be the second in command to the lead vampiress. Okay – still good without the wardrobe drama, right? Well, he started telling me that the wardrobe for this role centered around me riding a motorcycle wearing a tight leather jacket and again, the tight leather pants. There was only one catch to the leather jacket – nothing was underneath it. And it was to be worn open (again covering the necessary parts). It could be "taped" of course so the jacket wouldn’t fly open. After a bit of consideration, I decided that I could probably do that (it would, after all, be covering more than the "sheer" top, technically).

After another week, the director sent me a contract to sign. I thought it was a basic talent waiver, but after reading several of the pages, I realized right away that I couldn’t possibly sign it. The language was very vague and convoluted. At one point in the contract, it was worded in such a way that could have been interpreted as the talent paying the director for being in the production. He was trying to say that he would try to pay talent if the film were ever sold and distributed, but the wording was all backwards, and very easily could have held the talent responsible for any fees related to the distribution of the film.

So I called the director to ask him a few questions about the contract and to see if I could have my lawyer (who was a friend of mine) take a look at it and make some slight adjustments so I would not have any problems signing it. He said I could but he would still review any changes we made. No problem.

Then he wanted to talk with me about special contacts to make my eyes look "vampirish". I had never worn contacts before, but he assured me he had a great ophthalmologist to make sure they fit correctly. Okay, so I’m still game.

Then he started to talk with me about nude body casts. Yes, you read that right. He wanted to have several nude complete body casts made of me. Six to be exact. Of course, I asked why he would need such a thing, and so many of them. He said that they would need them for the scene where I am exposed to sunlight and burst into flames (ensuring a vampire’s demise) and that they would have to do several takes.

He started going into the description of how the body casts are made, and as he’s talking, several thoughts flew through my mind all at once. First, would I be able to sit completely still for the 4 hours or so he said it took the plaster to dry for each of the six body casts? Secondly, how could they know what position I would be in when I am set ablaze if we haven’t shot the scene yet? And thirdly, "Seriously???" Could this role get any weirder (or contain any more implied nudity)?

I told him I’d do some research on the body cast process and think it over. Several days later, I received an e-mail from the director saying that the funding had fallen through and all signed contracts were now null and void. Guess I no longer had to make any more wardrobe decisions…

In a way, I was pretty disappointed. It was a role I had always wanted to play, but it just wasn’t worth the personal cost. I’m still curious to know if the writer ever finished his script, because that, at least was really good.

I’d still like to try my hand at playing a vampire, so if you ever have need of a lead vampiress, you know where to find me.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Keep Your Eyes Open

I've been an actress since the sixth grade. I got my start in musical theatre playing "Dorothy" in The Wizard of Oz as my very first character role, followed shortly thereafter by the lead role in Annie. I've wanted to walk the red carpet ever since.

Thanks to a fantastic drama teacher and coach, Mr. Morris Cornell, I learned the theatre ropes at an early age, and still keep his insight into acting and career professionalism instilled in me today. Because of his teachings and his faith in me, I have continued along this path not often taken in my "neck of the woods" (a very far reach from L.A. or N.Y.C.) and would like to share a bit of wisdom I have learned about my chosen "profession" as it were.

Breaking into this industry takes training, determination, talent, and let's face it -- luck. The best way to get "Lady Luck" on your side is to keep your eyes open. You've heard the phrase, "You never know where your next job is coming from." Well, keep your eyes open and you'll see opportunities open up around you.

Local news:
I was watching the local news one night and they had a story at the end of their newscast about a local director who had just completed his first film. I called the TV station to get his information and they gave me his website address. I looked up his website, wrote down his address and sent him my headshot and resume with a letter saying I had seen his story on the news and would love to be considered for any future projects. He called me back a few days later to say that this recent project was his first and that (because I have had actual experience) he was afraid his small little films wouldn't be my cup of tea. I told him that was fine, I liked working on all kinds of projects (even the independent, non-paying kind), and he said he'd keep me in mind. Well, the next summer he did do another short film and used me in a role that had no lines, but I was an integral part of the storyline. I was the comic relief. It was the first time I had ever done comedy and I found that I really enjoyed it.

He liked my professionalism and willingness to adapt on set, so he wrote another short film (comedy again) called "Norma" and gave me the leading role. It was great fun and really gave me a chance to flesh out a comedic character. He entered it in festivals, and it won several awards. Since then, he has gotten more serious about making great films, and we've established a great working relationship. I've now been in a total of five of his films so far and these films have given me great material for my demo reel.

Through this connection, I've also gained the experience of being an assistant director on one of his films, the make-up artist for the lead "undead" character in that same film, and I even co-wrote a screenplay with him that was adapted from a novel written by a local writer. All great things to have on my acting resume. All because I saw a story on the news and made a phone call.

Acting classes:
My husband knows I like to act. He was talking about it with a co-worker of his a few years ago and she told him about an improv class she heard of taking place at an ad agency here in town. She said that it was a free class held every Tuesday night for two hours and they provided pizza too. My oldest daughter was two years old at the time, so I looked at it as a couple of hours to myself in a creative environment (and free dinner to boot).

When I got to the agency, I found out that the first hour was spent auditioning for their clients' radio scripts, which changed weekly depending on what their clients needed. The second hour was spent either recording the client's radio scripts, or for those who weren't selected, the time was spent doing improv and improving each of our skills. This turned out to be an amazing learning experience. Not only did I get a chance every week to audition for clients, I got to exercise my creative and improvisational talents (a must for aspiring actors). We weren't paid as talent if we were selected to record the spots, but they fed us pizza, and we got copies of those radio spots for our voice-over reels. It was a win-win for everyone involved. They got free talent, and we got free training and experience we could carry away with us. I have several years' worth of voice-over and improvisation experience thanks to them, and to my husband who likes to mention that I'm an actress to his co-workers.

The agency disbanded the improv classes a couple of years ago, but because I have a previous relationship with them, they now call me when they need female voice talent for their clients. The best part -- I now get paid for recording their radio spots and TV voice-overs.

Online casting calls:
[Let me preface this by saying that you should always be careful before responding to online casting calls. Please use your best judgement. If something sounds fishy, or charges money just to get the information, or doesn't provide enough information and leaves you with too many questions, please beware.]

I am a member of several acting websites that host my headshot and resume and list local casting calls where I can look for acting work. I found a listing on a different acting website (that charges money) posted by a couple of local directors looking for talent for a special contest called the "48-hour Film Festival". It's held all around the country, and there was one being held close to my hometown. Since this listing was on a site that charged money, I did a web search for this festival and found it's official webpage and a way to contact my local coordinator. I sent him my headshot and resume and asked if he knew of any directors who were looking for talent. He sent me an e-mail back saying that he had forwarded my info to all 22 teams participating and wished me good luck. The next day, I had two calls saying they would like to use me, and within the next week, ther were five other teams who sent me e-mails asking me to be a part of their team.

The way the festival works is that each team assembles on Friday night at 7 p.m. and they are all given a character they have to use, a prop that has to be visible, and a line of dialogue that must be used in the final 5-7 minute short film. Then they have 48 hours to make a film -- meaning script written, locations secured, scenes shot, film edited, music laid in, and final product delivered by Sunday evening at 7 p.m. It's an absolutely crazy event, but I have to say that participating in this festival was a blast. Not only did I gain the experience of making a film at lightning-speed, I worked with new contacts in the local film industry, and I went to the screenings of the other 48-hour films and networked there as well.

So I was watching TV one day, shortly after Christmas last year, and I saw a commercial advertising a national contest that would fly weekly winners to LA for their big break. "Just download your video, and you could win a trip to LA to meet with casting directors, recording companies, dance studios…" I have always wanted to go to Hollywood and see if I have what it takes to run with the big fish. So I uploaded my video and strong-armed all my family and friends to keep voting for me week after week, and on week #9, I got my big break. I got to fly to LA and audition for a terrific casting director and got amazing new headshots taken so I could really set my career in motion. provided me with a fantastic opportunity and I am very thankful and grateful to all the people I met there during that surreal and career-changing experience.

All of these aforementioned opportunities happened because I was open to looking for them. Becoming a "star" even in your own local market takes hard work and vigilance. The choice roles won't be handed to you on a silver platter -- you have to network, and research, and put in your time, and slug through some trenches. So keep your eyes open and reach for the stars (not literally, of course -- celebrities get restraining orders for that sort of thing…).

See you in the bright lights!