Meeting More of the Readers!

Three weeks ago, I opened up the Your Turn section for the month of July to actor introductions. I asked you to share:

  • How you’d pitch yourself if someone invited you into the room and said, “So, tell me about yourself,” in one of those great actor meetings.
  • How and when you first came across The Actors Voice.
  • What would bring more value to the column for you, as a reader.

So, with those goals in mind, let’s meet Erika Heidewald.

Bonnie —

Cool idea for the actor intros! I’ve been enjoying getting to know my fellow readers.

I was born in Germany, spent most of my life in Indiana, and recently moved to LA. I speak eight languages and studied political science and international studies in college. My first starring role was Thumbelina in Hans’ Christen Andersen’s Fairytales when I was four and I’ve been acting ever since. I tend to play intelligent, outspoken girls in their teens and early twenties, with a bitchy side because I just can’t censor my snarky comments. (Or I refuse to!)

I think I started reading The Actors Voice about a year and a half ago, and I read every single article before I moved. I’ve found it an invaluable resource and it really helped me prepare myself for pursuing my career in the Olympics of acting.

The hardest part of this exercise is definitely thinking of how The Actors Voice could improve, because it’s already awesome! I am looking forward to hearing your critiques of everyone’s introductions once the month is over.

Thank you for the information and positivity you enrich our lives with, Bonnie.

— Erika Heidewald

Isn’t it fun, Erika? I’m really enjoying not only getting to know some of the fine folks who read The Actors Voice but also learning about what brought each of you to the column (and what keeps you coming back). Thanks for writing in! Now, let’s meet Kathy Wagner.

Hi Bonnie!

I first heard about your column when I saw you speak at a SAG Foundation event a couple of years ago. Shortly after that I took an acting break to have a baby. Now that I’m back and trying to get in the grove of the ever-changing business, I have been checking in regularly with your column. It has really helped me navigate this stage of my career. I look back at past columns often for advice. 🙂 Like when I was getting new headshots and creating my website. Thank you for your commitment and support to actors. I have been inspired and uplifted by your words.

I’m going to take a stab at this, trying to combine a few different things that I’ve heard acting teachers and casting directors say about me. 🙂

“I’m the vulnerable girl down the street who you want to get to know better because you’d never suspect I was the one who actually did it.”

Thanks!
Kathy Wagner

Great pitch, Kathy. Short and sweet and with a great twist. Very nice! Congrats on your return to acting and of course, congrats on your growing family. So glad the info here has been helpful, as you ease back into things. Good luck to you! Next, let’s meet Steve Powers.

Bonnie,

My name is Steve Powers and I’m and actor living and working in Austin, Texas.

My Pitch:

I’m a native Texan and our family goes back here at least five generations. Family history gets a little fuzzy because many of my ancestors tried to obscure their identities and past for whatever reasons. It was the Wild West. That said I inherited the “good guy” gene and made my home in the peace-loving hippie capitol that is Austin. I spend my daytime at Disney writing interactive adventures for Mickey Mouse, which is a pretty cool gig in itself.

My wife is a massage therapist (which is awesome) and she’s my biggest fan. She’s got my back when I’m shooting, training, and auditioning. We are each trying to help the other flourish in our respective careers. We don’t have any kids. This might seem selfish of us but we are just having too much fun being kids ourselves.

(Truth is I rarely have a planned pitch. I just fly by the seat of my pants and stay genuine. But these are a couple of the points I have in my back pocket just in case.)

I first came across The Actors Voice about two years ago when I was Googling advice on actor resumés. It turned out to be a GOLDMINE of information on resumés, web pages, auditioning…. Well, I don’t need to tell you what it’s about. Over the following weeks I read all of the archives and now checking the column is part of my Monday routine. I share it with everyone I mentor and every fellow actor that cares about learning and growing.

Understandably your column is LA-centric and most of your advice is solid for all actors regardless of market. That said I often find myself wondering how some advice applies to me and my Central Texas market. Branding, for example. I do very well with the “creepy redneck hick” type. A few years ago I did well in the “college professor” type. My agent, coaches, and some CDs I know say branding isn’t as important here as it is in LA because there just isn’t as much work. Getting in a niche and owning it means I might not do very much for a long time. That said, something I’d like to see is your take on markets outside LA. Mid and small.

My webpage is simple and direct with easy-to-find information but I feel it’s currently lacking personality (ties into the branding issue I mentioned above, I think).

If you find yourself in Austin, ping me and I would be delighted to treat you to a local beer and get acquainted.

Thanks!
-Steve

Wonderful, Steve. I suppose I could attempt to write about minor markets, but I’d be writing about one specific minor market (Atlanta) and from one specific time (the ’80s and a few years into the ’90s). So, what we have tried to do instead is share some perspectives from other markets via The Actors Voice: POV. I know those columns don’t get the high readership of The Actors Voice, but they’re still pretty dang awesome sometimes. Please do poke around, and — better yet — if you have any casting directors or talent agents in your market you’d like to see do a POV, get ’em to shoot an email my way and we’ll set that up!

Now, as for whether branding makes an actor far too specific for a minor market, sure. I can see where that concern may exist. But it’s all about how you calibrate your sight. In Los Angeles, where actors must narrow the scope to have very specific branding, lest they talk buyers out of understanding how to cast them, the focus is on a very small target (but still a ton of roles in a ton of projects, just based on volume of work, here). In your market, you just widen the scope a bit to cover more types of roles that still all fit within your brand, to make up for the lower volume of work, there. The danger of actors doing a larger brand overlay in a market the size of LA is that they don’t quickly become known for the thing they do best (which is how they get cast sooner). Same concept, different calibration. Next up, let’s meet Valerie Meachum.

Hi, Bonnie!

I was kind of kicking myself for not taking you up on your open invite a few months back, to submit resumés, websites, etc., for feedback. I didn’t because there were (and still are) tweaks I want to make, and I learned more from what you said about the folks who did step up. (Quicktime reel and PDF resumé still high on the priority list! Maybe sending off this email will motivate me to get that done in the next couple days. I love being enough of a geek to handle all my own web design and such, but it leaves me with nobody to yell at when the electronic housekeeping gets behind! *g*)

Anyway, I don’t feel like a rerun of the self-kicking, so this time I take you up on it.

Tell you about myself, huh? The short and flippant version is my mini-bio on various social networking platforms: “Actress, singer, dancer, geek. Plays with swords, sobs on cue, and leaps high Cs in a single bound.” All true, and usually leads to a question or three that I can follow up on.

If I don’t get questions, no worries. I do my best to know who I’m talking to, and even if I don’t know much about them, I know they want to know that I can tell a story. There’s the one about the production of Cymbeline I directed with a scrappy little Shakespeare company in Columbus, Ohio, where I had five people show up for the actual audition date, and lost six during the rehearsal process, but somehow the show happened, and actually wasn’t half-bad. In between came pulling out the contact lists for every show from the previous six or seven years (“Wow, he joined the Army? And he’s in Korea? Guess that won’t work, then…”), the costume designer who came down with mono, and my husband putting his foot through a wooden rock. (Which I am so very, very never going to live down.)

Or there was the day in the ballet admin office when the NEA grant application was due at 4pm, and when we got the fax with the choreographer’s bio at 10am, it was in Portuguese. Yep, Portuguese. The artistic director insisted that it was some weird dialect of Spanish, and was going around the building asking if anyone read Spanish. That might or might not have helped, but it landed on my desk, and between six years of French, a year of Italian, and a couple semesters of Latin roots for my linguistics minor, with a little help from context (“Ah! Of course, that would be Sleeping Beauty…”), I came up with something coherent (and more or less accurate) after a couple hours, and the grant went in on time. Two days later, the program with the bio in it finally arrived in the mail, with ads for businesses in Lisbon and Belem. Portuguese!

But that’s two stories, which is probably more than people would want for one pitch. Point is, I can tell my stories, I can tell yours. And yours is new to me, so I’m jazzed about the chance to tell it. Also, I’ll be there on time, be prepared to stay late, and listen to what you need. I’ve learned to mention that because it’s apparently not as much of a given as I used to assume. The director who thanked me at the wrap party for making his job easier? I hope he knows that’s the best possible compliment he could have given me.

I’ve been reading The Actors Voice for about two years now, pretty much since I first started seriously investigating the possibility of on-camera work. IIRC, that followed on an article in PerformInk about the indie film community in Chicago, and I think that article is how I found Actors Access. Exploring the site led to reading your column, which led to many hours of diving into the archives. SO much to learn! And there still is, though I’m light-years from where I was then, with several student films and shorts and small character roles in three indie features to show for it. It’s a very exciting time right now, with some of those finally being finished and reaching my hot little hands (Time to overhaul that reel!) and being released. Cool stuff coming across the Google Alerts every day! Which I’m almost too exhausted right at the moment to appreciate, since I can’t help keeping my hand in theatre a couple times a year, which this past weekend meant opening as Titania (A role I’ve wanted for ages, yay!) with another, brand-sparkling-new scrappy little Shakespeare company. Building my team, clarifying my brand, keeping my balance…. It’s all a work in progress, and it’s a handy reality check to read your column and remind myself that it always will be, and that’s how it works. If it’s not in progress, something’s wrong!

I’m trying really hard to answer your third question, but I can’t think of anything that would make the column more valuable to me. I don’t know what I’m missing until you write about it, and then it’s an awesome lightbulb of wow. Not least because as valuable as the information itself is the weekly dose of positive attitude. There’s precious little of that in this industry sometimes, and I hang on tight to the examples I find! (Hmm. It’s about time I addressed that one on my blog again. Which is at divababble.blogspot.com, if you’re curious. There’s a sidebar full of awesome, and I keep meaning to post about what makes them worth reading.) All of which sounds like serious sucking up, but what the hell. You deserve to know you’re accomplishing what you’re aiming for!

Well, this got long, and I have sides and music to go over for an audition tomorrow. (Moms! Scary new territory! Bring it on!) Hope you get fabulous responses, and I’ll look forward to what you craft from them!

Cool, Valerie! Break a leg on that MOM audition. You’ve got a ton of personality coming through in your writing, and I’m glad you finally took advantage of writing in. Seems like loads of female readers are doing so. Hmm… wonder if that means I have fewer male readers or if there are just fewer of them hopping up to send an email. We’ll see how things round out next week. Finally for this week, let’s meet Stephanie Peterson.

Hey Bon!!

I’m a nerd at heart — mathematics major included! I love learning and researching (i.e. Googling! — that’s how I came across your column about three years ago). I think it’s my love of learning that crosses over into my love of acting. It’s the ultimate learning process for me, and I think it teaches others about life, people, themselves, conflict, etc. Although I have a closet sensitive side, I also love laughing at myself and am thrilled when I get an opportunity to play a more quirky role (since that’s not my primary type).

My favorite columns of The Actors Voice are columns analyzing our marketing materials (So helpful!), and when and how to make decisions (like who’s on our team and when to join SAG if eligible). Keep ones like that coming! Do you have any good tactics for getting the elusive COPY from paid gigs where copy isn’t in the contract? I am having a hard time tracking material for my reels down.

Thanks for letting us introduce ourselves. I always think writers are inundated with emails and won’t have time to read mine!

Stephanie Peterson

Ooh, Stephanie, yes. Holdon Log has a wonderful Copy Provided Form that you can download and take with you to any set (or have signed beforehand, when you’re doing your actor deal memo or SAG contract as a performer). Sure, it’s most often used for student films and other “copy, credit, meals” gigs where your copy is your pay, but since any contract is negotiable, all you have to do is work in language about receiving your copy on a certain timeline into your existing contract. I’ve even seen some actors work in financial penalties for failure to comply! Good for you, going after your copy. It’s so very valuable!

Next week is the last Your Turn for meeting the readers, so if you’ve been holding off, let’s hear from you so we can close out July with a bang! (Wow, really? July’s over already? Crazy. Hope you’re all having as marvelous a 2010 as I am.)


Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!


Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001212.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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