Star Makers and Ego Pop

In my career as an acting coach and teacher, I've had the same discussion many, so many times. Excited parents fresh from a local casting call for a national agency give me a call. The agent loved their child but suggested some lessons while the star making process gets going. Usually this audition was held in a motel room by "the casting agent for numerous Disney shows".  The agent now wants to represent their obviously talented dynamo. They just need a modest fee to get the fame train a rolling.

So, what do I say? "Cool! Yeah. Hire me to coach them. I charge hourly. No real experience? Oh, I can get them ready in like ten sessions. Thanks!"

I don't. I take acting relatively seriously and I'm still learning 25 years later. Ten sessions isn't going to get the raw talent in consistently working order anytime soon.

I share the following "Red flags" that popped up in our conversation.

Red Flags

1. The audition was held in a hotel or motel room. For a reasonable fee, which includes a night's stay and a continental breakfast, the "casting agent" is likely to make a hefty profit depending on the volume of proud flushed parents and their sparkle eyed superstars that they saw over the weekend. Ask yourself -what's the casting agent for Disney doing in hotel in a Small Town, USA looking for talent? There's no talent in L.A. or New York? No one in "the biz" has heard of the internet?

2. "For just this much money..." Casting, modeling, talent agencies don't, as a rule, charge to represent you. Legitimate agents get you work and then get a percentage of what you get paid. Pretty straightforward. BTW, really established and successful agencies aren't having auditions in motel rooms. Actors withsignificant work have to approach them for representation. From my experience, very few will even see you unless you have a resume with some extensive stageexperience. Go figure. So, yes. Classes, coaching and being a patron of the theatre is a pretty good path to being a working actor. I'll bet there's great theatre groups and school in your area.

2. "Casting Agent for such shows as..." - Casting calls and auditions are listed online and in trade papers like Variety and Backstage - or online. Or through major, legitimate agencies. BTW, I can hold an audition anytime for any of those listed in the papers or online and then claim to be "a casting agent forLatest Teen and Tot Disney Hit Show". Yup.

3. "This famous person was one of ours..." Even the hotel auditioning massive "modeling and acting" groups that are nationwide will eventually have a famous person to claim as a success story. It's just a matter of the odds. Show me the percentages - how many clients compared to how many that got significant work? Again, the agencies handling working actors and models don't usually have to hold nationwide casting calls in hotel rooms and malls. (Even something like American Idol weeded out people early on with nationwide auditions, but those were promotional tours, as well.)

4. "Broadway" or "Hollywood" in the title of the event or opportunity - and nothing to back it up but vague claims and references. I want to see names and bios. I want credibility. I also know that just because someone does something doesn't mean they can teach or mentor that skill. "Those that can't act, teach". Nope. The most respected acting teachers were and are stunning directors, actors and writers. But there are those legends who probably can't or don't want to teach. Daniel Day Lewis is a stunning actor. Viola Davis is so good, she scares me. I have no way of knowing, but they may not be good at or even interested in teaching you how to act. Michael Caine - yes. He wrote a book. Great actor. Great book about film acting. I'll bet Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton would be amazing in a workshop. You may not see that in your lifetime. He's a little busy.

5. "And our actors/teachers are from L.A./New York!" So? I lived in New York. Manhattan, in fact. I worked for a producer ( here it comes - a Tony Award winning Broadway producer. True story. Although very brief. Wasn't my jam. Wonderful woman. I learned a lot.) The point of the "so" is - I saw great work on and off Broadway. I saw mediocre work. I saw really bad work. No less or more quality than I've seen in Colorado or you may see in your area. Talent and good work have nothing to do with where you live or where you are from. 

6. "She/He has got IT" So. They make your child a star or at least get them a gig in L.A. or New York. Bam! "In your face, Turner!" (I deserve that.) Now what? Pack your bags. Sell your house. Say goodbye to your friends and family. You're moving. Maybe you try the long distance family thing. Your child just hit the big time. Your life is now changed. Forever. Congratulations. And please get help and guidance. There are way too many sad stories about child actors and their careers and their then chaotic and tragic adult lives and sadly so few good ones.

And So

In the cornucopia that is "fame and fortune", I'm like one cranberry. A wrinkled one. I have a modest resume, some nice accolades and such and a record of teaching, writing and directing over 20 years without a distraction. I have never claimed I'd make ANYONE a star. Exact opposite. I communicate very healthy, informed, focused work. We skill build. We make you better at what you want to do. We encourage joy and collaboration and moments of brilliance - of your making. I can't force any of it. I can engage and educate and enhance. I can't do the work for you. If you become a star of stage and screen, it's because you worked hard and work hard and you met some cool people who appreciate you and did good work. If you never become a "star" and just do good work with cool people who appreciate you?  We will be no less proud.

Good work with good people for good people. The la-de-da way.