I definitely have a LOVE/HATE with living in Atlanta as a working actor.
Part of what I love about the southeast market is that it’s not so saturated.
Part of what I hate about it is that there is not a lot of work.
That’s right. I hate it and love it. I hate it because when I was in Los Angeles, I felt like I went on an audition anywhere from 3 to 10 times a week. There was always something to do to make me feel like an actor in between jobs. There were always actor friends who were creating content and wanted me to be a part of their shows. There was always a show to go to so I could stay inspired. There was a mountain to hike with other actors on it. Los Angeles is very actor friendly because the city was literally filled with us.
In Atlanta, I have to hunt to find the artist scene, where to print my headshots, who has the best classes, and landing an audition is a rare occurrence that happens (if I’m lucky) once a week. However, when it does happen in Atlanta, it’s a goooooooooood audition. It’s for a network show or a major feature film. And that’s why I came! I came to capitalize on a smaller market!
Most recently, that fruit turned gold when I was blessed enough to land a full-time stand-in position on a new show, Survivor’s Remorse. Lebron James executive produces for Starz and I’m so excited I can barely sleep about this project. If you ever get the chance to work as a stand-in, take it! You get to work side by side with the director, executive producers, writers and more. These are the people you want to know. This is also extremely important: YOU GET PAID FOR STAND-IN WORK!
However, let me caution you. Opportunity is only opportunity. You have the opportunity to succeed and the same one can cause you to fail. When you’re working as a stand-in, it’s extremely important to be punctual. Arrive an hour early to base camp and don’t complain about not getting paid for it. Be present and prepared when the director is working with the “first team,” also known as the cast. Stand-ins are the “second team.” The second team needs to watch the first team to know the blocking during lighting and rehearsals. It’s crucial to be punctual, aware, and attentive or this position can do more harm to your career than good.
I have worked as a stand-in before and I really love it because it’s just one step away from being on the first team. You get to see everything. And unlike background actors, they learn your name and treat you like family on set. Casting directors usually recommend stand-ins to production staffs, but they only recommend people they can trust.
Keep working out there dreamers! Hit me up if there is anything I can help with and don’t be afraid to send me an email!
I’ve had this conversation with many actors and the opinion is always different: Some people feel like once you know how to act, you just know and you don’t need to be in class. Some people feel like you should always be in class to stay sharp. I fall somewhere in the middle: I will be in class as often as I can afford it.
For me, class has always been a way to stay hot in between gigs. I can’t just be immobile. Life and this craft is a continuum. We never stay still. We are either progressing or falling behind. Progression will always be at the top of my list. If you want to get creative about ways to stay sharp when you’re not in class, here are a few things I do:
1. Take an Intensive. We’re actors and we have bills. Committing to an on-going scene study class can seem daunting once you’ve been gone so long. Ease back into the game with an intensive. These generally last 3-6 days. Get your feet wet. Get inspired. Jump all in when you can spare the time.
2. Read books on acting. Someone wise said that if you read three books on the same subject, it makes you an expert. Well become an expert in your technique of choice. How many books can we find on Meisner? Reading is cheap and mobile.
3. Watch Virtual Channel Network on ActorsAccess.com. Industry professionals give priceless advice. For free. Get educated.
4. Create a project. Booking can be tough but writing a scene and putting it up on its feet can be done in a day. Grab some actors and make the most of the time. You never know what it could lead to. Ever heard of King Bach or Issa Rae?
5. Memorize monologues and record yourself on your phone. Play them back and critique your own work. You probably know by now what works and doesn’t work, but you may not know what you’re giving when you audition. Do a little self-study. It’s harmless.
I should take my own advice with some of these. My default is creating my own material. I guess that’s just the writer in me. I hope this helps you along the way! Stay inspired.
Finding jobs for acting in Atlanta is not as easily done like it is in Los Angeles and New York. In LA and NYC, you can throw a rock and hit an actor. In Atlanta, you can throw a rock and hit a beautician or real estate agent. Since moving here to pursue acting six months ago, I still struggle to find actors that want to network and filmmakers creating their own work. And while I’m grateful to be signed to a reputable talent agency, I know that I still have to find my own acting auditions and acting jobs in Atlanta, just like I did in Los Angeles.
The general consensus is, folks in Atlanta just aren’t cranking out as much work as those in LA. This could be a variation of lack of resources and access to talent. Despite these trials, there are some people acting in Atlanta. You just have to get creative!
This weekend I was blessed to be invited to the Atlanta Pitch Summit. Lucky for me I’m a writer and an actor in Atlanta, so I have the advantage of knowing how to think like a hustler. To me it made perfect sense to bring my actor business cards to a writer’s event.
Duh!!! A slew of writers will be there pitching their shows to television executives??? They’re going to need a cast when the show gets picked up. I exchanged cards with everyone I saw. They all left with a shiny picture of my face and website. And they all received a cute email from me and links to my work. They don’t call us actors for nothing! We have to be creative when it comes to networking and finding work. Opportunities won’t just come falling in our laps.
All in all, the event was fantastic. I learned a lot from the workshops, met some amazing people, and I ended up pitching one of my show ideas to a couple of TV executives. Some passed but one said, yes! All we really need is one YES!
I’m happy to announce I have enrolled in the Automobile University!!!
I actually enrolled while I was still on the bus and I believe that’s part of the reason I was able to get off with no car payments. For those who are not familiar, the Automobile University is actively listening to educational content during your commute. I love Drake’s new album just as much as the next person, but I’m not learning anything by repeating his lyrics and taking on his emotional baggage.
What I do during my commutes now is listen to different podcasts with hosts who offer advice and guidance on topics such as growing wealth, finding work you love, self-promotion, and garnering side hustles. All of these things are excellent skills for the modern day actor. In fact, it was these podcasts that helped me determine today’s topic: WHAT CAN WE DO WHILE WE WAIT???
Well, the first thing we can do is NOT WAIT.
I have an amazing team of agents at Atlanta Models & Talent, Inc., but I know that I won’t be auditioning or filming every day at this stage in my career. Here are a list of things I do between filming and auditioning.
1. I blog. Not only does it help document my journey, but it allows me to help other people along the way.
2. I create content. I have written plays, short films, and webseries. Everything I write does not end up on the screen but it keeps me fresh and hot for those opportunities that are around the corner. When I do produce projects, it gives me the chance to get some visibility online and at film festivals. These are both steps in the right direction.
3. I seek work. I’m grateful for my agents but they are not responsible for my career. If I am not successful, it’s not their fault. I seek work and submit myself to projects outside of what they send me to and nothing is too small. I have done background work, audience work, Craigslist work, and student films.
4. I volunteer. If you know folks who are in production and you like their work, ask if you can help out! They may not cast you immediately but if something comes up, they won’t have to go looking for you if you’re already on their set.
5. I read books on acting. Someone smart said reading three books on a particular topic makes you an expert. How many books have you read regarding your career?
Let me set the tone for this one.
It’s Labor Day 2013. Partly cloudy in Atlanta, GA around 12:44 Pacific Time. I left my computer clock set to Los Angeles so I can keep my head space in the busy city. Weirdly, it helps.
After an excess of eight times, It’s safe to say I’m listening to Drake’s’ Hold On, we’re going home’ on repeat. I’m a good girl and I know it.
Sometimes it’s just nice to have my anxiety relieved though. I am constantly reassured that I have chosen the correct professions for my life. Now I’m just waiting for the success to catch up to my work ethic and sacrifices. It made me think back to my chat with one of my favorite actresses, Jenifer Lewis, on behalf of www.PlentyPennies.com (a subsidiary company of Tiffany Classics, LLC). I asked her what advice she’d give to her 25 year old self. Her response:
I would walk over to her and I would hold her so tight and I wouldn’t let her go. I’d whisper in her ear, hold her still and tell her, ”I’m going to take care of you. Everything is gonna be alright.”
This is around the time she was promoting her new webseries, Jenifer and Shangela. It’s a hoot if you haven’t seen it. Click here to catch up on episodes.
She even had some advice for new comers:
Find your passion. When all else fails, the dream will sustain you. The elevator to success is broken. You must take the stairs: step by step. I took the steps. even if the fans’ comments weren’t what they are, I still know who I am.
I realize that I have been afforded some great opportunities over the years to actually meet and talk with some amazing actresses who have given me nuggets to help me along with my journey. And now, I’ll share some of them with you.
Think of your age in Hollywood as the number of years you’ve been pursuing your career. Tiffany you’ve only been here for 2 years. As a two year old, you can walk but you’re still stumbling and falling from time to time,” – Joy Bryant, Circa 2009.
“One of my favorite verses is Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” If you give up, you get off your mark and you make it easier for the next person to come and get your spot. Don’t quit. Don’t get off your mark,” Tasha Smith, Circa 2008.
“If it doesn't feel right in your gut, don’t do it. You’ll regret it every time,” – Nia Long, Circa 2007.
“What’s going to make me more interesting than the next chick that’s coming in the room? Average is never ok. Make it difficult for them to say no. Use everything. Give everything. EVERY TIME,” –Tisha Campbell-Martin, Circa 2009.
To read my entire interview with Jenifer Lewis, click here.
Have a little vision
2007 was a groundbreaking year for me for several reasons: I graduated from college, moved to Los Angeles, and I was introduced to The Secret. All of those things worked together. My sorority sisters and I were all in transition and one of my best friends, Jemier, introduced us to The Secret. We all set aside time to watch it together. It was quite overwhelming at first but the principles have stood with me.
I am a devout Christian and many of the principles line up with what The Secret teaches. One is particular is being visionary. Despite your profession, you have to know where you’re going even before you arrive. I think this is particularly true with artists. The odds are against us as performers. There is always the “WHAT IF” in the back of your mind. You have to have faith in you before anyone else can. Here are a few scriptures that support this idea:
· The entire Chapter of Hebrews 11
· Mark 11: 23 “Truly[a] I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.
· Galations 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
· The entire Chapter of Matthew 6
· 1 Corinthans 2: 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
It is my best advice for you to make a vision board and put it in a place that you will see it every day when you wake up. It serves as a compass for the rest of your day. I also wrote myself a daily affirmation, with the advice of fellow actress friend, Lisa B. It helps keep my goals and dreams in perspective.
Even if your dreams are wild, you have to make yourself believe them. Seeing is believing. Speak it to yourself every day and it has to come to pass.
So you’re a struggling actor. You’re a broke artist. You ditched a week of groceries to buy your headshots and you don’t even think about going to acting class.
There’s still hope.
I’m not sure if you heard about this little thing called, YouTube University, but class is in session 24 hours a day, the classes are not crowded, and the tuition is free. Get into this.
If you’re strapped for cash and in between classes, don’t let yourself get rusty. You never know when that next audition is around the corner. Here are a list of some of the BEST videos an actor can watch, all for the bargain price of FREE ninety-nine.
There is never an excuse to not be getting better. Save this blog and refer to it often. You’re welcome.
The Meisner Technique
Inside the Actors Studio
Tom Hanks: First Visit, Second Visit
Actor’s Access Virtual Channel Network
I’m going to make a bold statement and I think every actor/performer will agree with it..
There is no greater feeling than having someone you love in the audience watching your work.
It’s something about the care you get from people who already know you and love you. Believe it or not, it makes us actors perform better. Now this is an easier feat for film and television actors because they can simply call home to Greensboro, North Carolina and tell their grandmothers to turn the TV at 8pm. However, live performances are just a little different. Family and friends can’t just pick up and fly out whenever I have a performance, especially with my living in Los Angeles and their living on the East Coast.
Moreover, before we actors even get to the point of being on TV, a performance or a show, we have to book the job. Some of the best advice a casting director has ever given me was, “Be the person your friends love when you’re in the room.” In the Room meaning in the audition room. The person my friends and family knows is fun, wild, highly animated and a little crazy. To those who don’t know me well, it may seem as though I am, “always on.” While I resent that because it suggests that I am never just being myself and I’m always performing, I have to admit, I’d rather always be on than struggle to turn it on. J
Somehow, when I first started auditioning, I noticed that all that UMPH used to drain out of me once I got in front of casting directors and producers. Becoming so focused on booking the job, I was in the room nervous, shaking and stuttering and carrying on. Then I noticed why I might be coming off as cold, or stiff, or worse, incapable of conveying my talent in the room... I was leaving all my goods outside in the waiting room!
So I decided, if I was going to Eeeever Ever boooook book aaaaanything anything, I was going to HAVE to get it together. Now, back in Florida, I would straight up ask my friends to come with me. Yes! I have taken friends with me to auditions! Isn’t that messy?! And they would come too! Aaaaaand I’d book the job. But something tells me they won’t be taking a 4 and ½ hour flight several times a week to come strut around Hollywood with me while I audition. When I’m with my people, I’m FEARLESS! I’m invincible. I’m never nervous or shy because I know they want to watch me. So I had to figure out a way to take them with me.
I put them in my back pocket.
My friends and family know I’m capable of entertaining the masses and I think nobody knows my talents like the people I’ve been entertaining for years. When somebody already believes in you, you don’t have to go out of your way to impress them. You have freedom to just do what you came to do. This is now my approach to auditioning. I name everybody in the room my friend. They all know my name. They all know my talent. And they all WANT me to book the job, because when I book it, they get to go home!!! And lately I even go a step further I putting my friends in my back pocket. And I stopped leaving them in the waiting room. I bring them right into the audition room with me. I’m immediately comfortable because I’m surrounded by friends and love, and I don’t have to perform because when I show up, they’re already laughing.
They don’t know it but they go everywhere with me now. On every audition, to every job I book, and they’ve met many amazing people. And every chance I get, I do my best to return the favor. I was able to see two of my good friends perform just last week.
Next time you’re going somewhere and you need that extra support from a special someone who has always held your hand, take them with you (in sprit). Eventually, I bet you’ll realize that they probably never left you anyway. J
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