Nearly one hundred talented Latino actors and actresses armed with headshots, demo reels and business cards brought their friendly faces and interesting personalities to the Actor Summit on Thursday, April 12, 2012. The National Association of Latino Independent Producers(NALIP) hosted the summit to kick off their annual conference-NALIP: Diverse Voices, Universal Content. It was an opportunity for performers to meet and network with professional filmmakers, producers and casting directors. The Actor Summit took place at the Wizards Theatre on CityWalk at Universal City.
"This year the actors got some incredible information first hand of what tools are necessary to make it in the Industry," said on-camera acting teacher Geoff Fairbanks. Fairbanks moderated several panels as well as hosted a seminar called 'The Actors Checklist: Do you have all the tools?' He discussed what Casting Directors look for in terms of photos, resumes and auditions.
"It's important that all actors take at least six months of improv classes so they can be ready for the lucrative world of Commercials," he shared. "All actors need to be able to memorize two pages of dialog in less than an hour. These two skills (improv and memorization) are the minimum for any working actor, " said Fairbanks.
Marki Costello, who refers to herself as "Queen of Hosting", opened up the program with her discussion on 'Breaking into Hosting'. She said the business has changed due to New media. She currently represents 30 hosts and admits to coaching American Idol's Ryan Seacrest, The Voice's Adam Levine and Kelly Osborne. "In acting, you must be talented to be good. Hosting is asking you to be yourself," said Costello.
Organizers invited top casting directors from NBC Universal, CBS, ABC and LA talent agencies to meet actors during round table power meetings. Orlette Ruiz from Mambo Casting, Fern Orenstein of CBS casting and Dan Velez of Dream Big Casting participated in what NALIP called 'Speed Casting.' Teams of two or three actors were granted seven minutes for face to face interviews to pitch themselves on why they should be cast. Actress Melinna Bobadilla of San Francisco said, "It was a mix of speed-dating and feeling like a Latina Goldie Locks."
One of the popular panels was on how to use New media to keep careers from stalling. "I suggested to NALIP that we bring in actors who have successfully used the new media to get seen by Directors, Entertainment Executives, and Producers," he said. The workshop entitled 'How to create, produce and star in your own webisodes!' featured Ruth Livier, Mark Gantt and Julia Ahumada Grob. All started as actors but took their careers to new levels by creating their own content to showcase their talents. "These actors grew beyond the "normal" actor roles and became producers, writers, and even executive producers of their product. Hollywood is beating down the doors to get to these resourceful actors," Fairbanks added.
Livier, a bilingual actress born in Mexico, created the web series Ylse, which has garnered her several prestigious awards. Ylse is a dramedy about a modern day Americana and the quirky characters that make up her life. Livier, who was the first person to join the Writers Guild Association (WGA) for her work in New media, said "People are looking for this type of program, bilingual and bicultural."
Gantt co-created the award-winning The Bannen Way, an American crime drama airing on Crackle.com. Gantt, who stars as Neal Bannen, the main character, stated, "I couldn't even get co-star roles. I had an acting teacher who said create your own stuff, build your own door and walk through it." Gantt followed that advice and has not looked back since. He shared, "I wrote something that was me. After 19 days of shooting, I have confidence that I'm an actor and I'm a filmmaker."
Grob, a New York based Latina actress, plays the lead role in her original web series East WillyB. "I didn't see content that reflects my realities. Our journey started with making character sketches," said Grob. "We started with two episodes and realized we had something." In the process, Grob discovered her entrepreneurial spirit . She's been a relentless publicist for her own project and it's paid off. "Bring the entrepreneurial spirit and be fearless. People know who Robert Rodriguez is. He did his own thing and he is an inspiration for me."
Grob and her team recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for her series. "We are hoping as the story spreads as do it yourself, it will resonate to other actors, creatives and non-creatives," she stated.
Livier said, "Don't think you need 50k to shoot. Write something, grab a camera and shoot it." You don't even have to be a writer added Gantt. "Everybody that writes for TV has written three features and five pilots. People want to get stuff made. Find people that are writing and collaborate." Fairbanks added, "It was inspiring for the audience to realize that they could do the same for their careers. It is very doable. Don't just think about. Do it."
Follow your passion and do it!
Geoff Fairbanks teaches an on-camera class in Studio City. GeoffFairbanks@aol.com