Saturday, June 13, 2009

John Robert Powers. Those Dirty Bastards.

Let me tell you about my lil' friend, John Robert Powers.

When I first came to LA to act, I didn't know where to start. I didn't know about,, or even NOWcasting. So I looked in the newspaper for acting jobs. I came across an ad looking for new and fresh ("No experience necessary!") models, singers and actors. It said something like, "OPEN CALL for undiscovered talent for TV shows on Disney and Nickelodeon!" I went down all the way to sunset blvd to audition for something I had no idea what it was really about. Upon entering, I noticed similar surroundings from trying to get an agent as a child (and also being scammed): A big lobby full of movie and tv posters with no connection to each other. There were several children toys and magazines for the moms. (A typical casting office is usually bare and small, with a few chairs and a desk with a clipboard.) After I filled out several forms with all my contact info on it (I never noticed that there was no place to put my agent's info, because they were banking on me not having one.) I was escorted into a huge classroom.
 There were rows and rows of chairs for all the overly excited parents and children to sit and listen to how successful John Robert Powers is and how every one of the posters in the room had been cast  by them or one of the actors from their classes had gone on to make those shows.

One by one, after having us watch a VHS (Yes, a VHS) tape of how awesome John Robert Powers is, they had us file into a line to meet with their executive "Casting Directors". I noticed sad faces and crushed dreams walk out of that room before me. I thought, wow, they must be really picky! (See: the parents didn't have enough money to pay for the several thousand dollar classes they had to join to become "famous".)

I entered the room, the only thin, young teenager there with previous modeling experience and they told me they loved my look, and they wanted to hear "My story". I gave them a brief bio of myself and how I wanted to start acting in film. All three smiled encouragingly and told me there were acting classes available for me! 
Wait. What? How is this an audition? 
"I thought this was an audition for a tv show... " I said. 
"Oh we are having auditions for several TV shows! But you aren't ready yet, honey. But the good news is we just LOVE your look, I think you would book TONS of commercials and movies!" (Movies? What self respecting industry professional calls films "movies"?)
So I say,"OK, cool, I like acting class, I guess.... How much is it?"
Enthusiastic "casting director" said "The acting classes start at $800 for a 4 week class or if you really want to act, we might be able to fit you in to our 2 year program for $6,500." (I am not positive on how many thousands of dollars they were charging, it was a couple years ago, but I know it was almost the cost of a legit college.)
I teared up and said, "But there is no way I can afford that!"
"What about your parents?"
"No, they can't afford anything."
"Well, we might be able to work out a financing plan for you."

I was so upset I nodded and left. Going home, I thought, why wouldn't they say on the dang Ad that they were charging money, not a real audition for a real tv show? I was so indignant and confused. I knew one thing, I didn't need John Robert Powers. I needed a real audition. 
Granted, this was WAY before I knew I even needed a resume or headshot, etc... but I still knew something was wrong with that place.

There are plenty of people out there who have unfortunately gone through the John Robert Powers scam. And if you are curious, or don't believe me, please research for yourselves!

*Fast forward 3 years.*

I have recently moved to Las Vegas to save money for my wedding. I miss LA, but there is no money to be made there right now (So if you are thinking about moving to LA to act, now is not the best time. I would suggest saving up a couple thousand bucks to live off of for at LEAST 6 months, because there is no work out there, acting or regular. Unless, of course, you have very rich parents who have no problem supporting your for 4 years while you break into acting, then go for it!!)

I have been surfing the las vegas craigslist for work recently. No luck yet on finding any acting auditions. well, unless you count a "sexy busty blonde babe" type for a short film for NO pay. There are plenty of those "castings" in Vegas. (PLEASE FLAG THAT CRAP!)
I came across this ad:
Casting This Saturday
LA Casting Director is coming to Las Vegas to seek new talent for two upcoming films. 
All ages are welcome.(if under 18, you must be accompanied by an adult) 
For more information, please contact Mary Zaragoza either by email or phone. 

So I sent in my headshot and resume. I thought something was weird about this posting, but I wanted SO badly for it to be legit work in Vegas, so I emailed to find out more about it:
I am a 22 yr old actress from LA, recently moved to Vegas and would love to know more about this casting and what it is for! I have attached my headshot and a link to my imdb page. Thanks!-Amber Pxxxxxx
She emailed me back a very air head response, asking me for my info all over again:The Director is searching for new talent for her upcoming movies. She will be here this Saturday at 1pm. She is looking for all ages and types. You may audition if you would like. I just need a little bit more information from you such as:
Client name:

two phone numbers:
You don't need to prepare anything for the audition. You just need to come in dressed nice. ( no jeans or t-shirts) You will be given a script, but you don't have to memorize it. 
I need your information so I can put you on the list. The audition will be held at the following address: 1:00 p.m. For 2 movies.
8879 W. Flamingo Rd. Suite 101

(Between Durango and El Capitan)
If you get lost or need more directions please call either (702)466-6482 or (702)364-9900.
There will be a sign in sheet which will ask who invited you, you will put my name (Mary Zaragoza).
I hope to hear from you soon with more information about you and if you will be attending. Thank you! Sincerely, Mary Zaragoza

Confused and annoyed, I responded with the same information I already gave her and asked a few questions to try to understand what she was casting, and what the production company was:

Hi Mary,

Does the director have any experience? Is there a production website or imdb credits I could look at? 
Again, my name is Amber Pxxxxxxx, I'm 22, I only have one phone number (my cell) xxx xxx-xxxx.
She never responded. 
Well I got a call this morning from a 702 area code (THAT'S VEGAS, NOT LA! LIKE THEY SAID THEY WERE VISITING FROM). It went something like this: 
"Hi Amber! This is Mary from John Robert Powers! How ARE you!!"
"I'm good."
"We just wanted to make sure you could still come to our movie casting today! You see, we have a top LA casting director visiting today casting for new movies! Yup, so you REALLY don't wanna miss that! Oh I really hope you can make it, this is gonna be HUGE! Here, let me give you some contact numbers in case you get lost, ok?"
(I pretended to take the several numbers down and said yeah I was pretty sure I'd be there at 1pm.)
I hung up and was so glad I caught that before I wasted my time going to that stupid audition!! 
The point I'm trying to make (and I'm sorry for this being so long!) is:
-Know your enemy: Beware of John Robert Power "castings" that are really ads. As well as anything else that makes you pay for anything. (unless acting classes are recommended by a working actor or legit agent who gets you work)
-Always try to find out as much as possible about the casting before committing to it! Some things to always know are who is the casting director, or the director/writer? What kind of work can they show you they have done? A youtube teaser trailer, or production website, or imdb credits, or personal references from actors they have worked with in the past are better than nothing! 
-If they are professional, they will understand the request for information, and respect you for being interested.
Also check out one of my good director's blog about what he looks for in an actor and let us know if it is helpful!
Whew! had to get that off my chest!

Act From Experience

"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet.
Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened,
vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved." - Helen Keller

I want to share some advice that took me a while to sink in.
I am the type of person where: when people tell me what to do and give me great advice, I don't FULLY understand it until I experience it for myself. I learn more through trial and error then I do from me just following people's advice. So if you're like me, then I'll tell you this advice and it may not register for a while. But if you are the type of person who learns from other people's experiences, then here's what I've learned:

I was star-struck when I first got to work with actor, Rider Strong (who played Shawn Hunter in "Boy Meets World", a show I grew up religiously watching). We worked in "Cosmic Radio" together, and we got to get drinks one night and talk for a bit.

At the time, I was still a newbie, and trying to soak up as much information as I could about the industry. So I asked Rider, "if you have any advice for a young aspiring actress like me, trying to break the glass ceiling, what would it be?"

I was expecting him to say "make sure you find a good agent" or "get into acting classes" or even "it's all about networking, who you know"..... at least with that kind of advice I feel like I can work towards and ask people for help with.

But, in fact, his expert advice was... dun nun nuuuuuuuuun......

"Go out, experience life, meet many people, travel, live, love, learn. An actor's job is to know the most about life as possible, because we are translating these real life experiences onto film, and sharing it with people who don't have the opportunity to see all of the world and do everything there is to do."

When he told me this, I'll admit I was kind of bummed. I was thinking to myself "I don't want to travel, go get my heart broken, go experience risky time-consuming things... I want to be in LA, auditioning, filming, networking... and that 'experiencing life' stuff seems like a lot of work".

Yes, that's actually what I thought.

Fast forward to 3 years later (right now), I see what he was talking about.

How are we, as actors, supposed to convey these emotions on screen, if we've never experienced them ourselves? We have the absolute privilege to teach millions of people about these true life experiences, we should know what we're talking about. It'd be like an News Anchorwoman reading the stories off the teleprompter, and yet, not even know anything about the subject. Sure, you can slide under the radar and hope that no one ever finds out you don't know what you're talking about... but believe me, they'll find out. If not now, then later.

Now, I'm not saying you should go do drugs if you're supposed to be a drug addict in a film, or go experience prostitution, or be in a gang... NO. But know about the subject. Research! You can actually google true-life stories of prostitutes on the web. I did it yesterday because I auditioned for a girl who was a prostitute yesterday.

Be well-versed in any subject you come across. If you only read acting books, then you're not doing your job. Expand your mind, expand your experiences. It's our job (as actors) to live life to the fullest so we can translate our experiences onto film for others to learn from.

So, go out: LIVE, LOVE, LEARN!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Prepping For Commercial Auditions

It's very important to do as much research as possible before every audition, but prepping for a commercial is a little different then prepping for a film or tv show.

I have a Ross Commercial audition today, and there are no sides and no explanation of what I'm going to be asked to do. So how do I educate myself before this audition? 

You Tube! Just by searching Ross commercials on I can see that ALL their commercials are just people dancing around, smiling, and having fun. So l will most likely be asked to improv something like this at my audition.

I can also see how they dress, do their hair, makeup, etc... Your image and how you present yourself at commercial auditions is one of the most important deciding factors for casting directors (next to letting your personality shine). 

I encourage you to always watch previous commercials from that company before you audition for them: iPod, Geico, Verizon, Fruit of the Loom, Doritos.... they all have different "styles" of commercials, so educate yourself!

I auditioned for this Listerine commercial before, and I had to practice swooshing mouthwash in front of a mirror... it's actually really hard! But at least I knew to practice!
Break a leg!
- Cassie

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Actress Check List

Helloooo! Cassie here again. I just went to an audi this morning, and when I was in the car I was thinking how I should write a blog about all the "actress supplies" I keep in my car for any last minute audition situation. So here are some tips on things to have in your car at all times and different supplies to invest in for your acting career!

Things to keep in your car:

- Plenty of headshots in a hard folder (to keep them from getting bent)

- Plenty of UPDATED resumes already cut to 8"x10"

- A small stapler to attach your headshots to your resume and a small box of extra staples
 (I don't staple my headshot to my resume until the day of the audition because if you do it in advance, you may attach old resumes to updated headshots or vice versa, and then have to take the staple out later when you update it... so just keep them seperate until the day of your audition)

- Highlighter (for your "sides", aka script)

- Heals (you may be out running errands and all of a sudden you get a call from your agent for an audition in an hour across town. It's a sexy girl role but you're just wearing jeans and a t-shirt... add heals to any outfit and you're automatically "dressed up"... keep a black pair of heals in your car)

- Tape recorder (*optional - I use a tape recorder to memorize lines if I don't have someone else to read the other part for me. I'll tape myself reading the other part and leave a blank space for my character's lines. That way it's like I have someone else reading the lines with me. My tape recorder stays in my glove box at all times)

Actress Supply List:

- Paper / Printer / Ink 
(for your resumes and scripts, you'll be printing ALL THE TIME! Don't rely on Kinkos!)

- Headshots
(Prints usually cost a little less than $1 per photo. I think I got 100 Headshots for $75. I also have 3 different "looks" which I choose depending on the audition. I have a young/natural  smiling look for Disney and commercials; a smokey eye seductress headshot for the sexy girl auditions; and then my straight forward, no smiling, average girl-next-door for leading lady roles. Find your top 2 or 3 characters you'd be auditioning for and have your headshots reflect those)

- Paper cutter
(I invested in this within a month or 2 after moving to LA and I don't know what I'd do without it. I think it was about $20 at Office Depot and it's helped my resumes look so polished and it cuts time in half! Pun intended....)

- Business Cards
(I mentioned this in my last post, but they're very important! Mainly for networking events and while you're on set filming, not really for auditions. It doesn't matter how good, bad, or ugly you have them, as long as you have them with the correct info! Some people put their headshot on their business card, I didn't do that, I just have my name, email, and acting website. Phone number is optional. Just depends on how much info you want floating around out there. Be safe girls!)

Hope this helps! Feel free to email us if you want to add your own actress check list item! Always looking to share good tips!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

I wanted to blog about moving to the fabulous Las Vegas...

But I haven't found anything positive yet...

Stay tuned kids.