On May 16, Meet The Biz had its acting workshop “Industry Night” at Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) in Los Angeles at its Museum Square headquarters office. Before this event, on May 4, 2014 Meet The Biz had open auditions with Casting Director, Phaedra Harris, Director/Radio Talk Show Sheena Metal, John Paizis the founder of Performing Arts Studio West, and Advocate/Actor Steven Wishnoff, selected 15 out of 42 actor individuals and teams beforehand to show their acting work at the May 16 workshop in front of a panel of professionals in the entertainment industry.
The panelists included film director and founder of Deaf Women in Film, Jules Dameron; casting director Pam Dixon, member of the Motion Picture Academy Arts & Sciences and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences; producer Jeanne Elfant Festa, member of White Horse Pictures; talent agent from Omnium Entertainment Group, Albert Giannelli; and talent agent from Caveleri & Associates, Peter Kallinteris.
At the beginning of the workshop, the panelists participated in an hour Q&A session. David Zimmerman, founder of Meet The Biz, presented the Director of Member Education for SAG –AFTRA, Consuelo Flores. Flores moderated the panel with her own questions about how actors could “break” into the show business. Panelists gave out tips about the show business such as good looks are not always key to success in earning employment in film or TV.
Also, Actors always need to come prepared for their auditions, and need to work with the director well and “always be nice” since the show business is a small business. Dameron also added that she likes to work with actors who are willing to go into deep waters for her when they try to bring up characters to life. Actors also need a strong work ethic which means showing up prepared and on time for the job. She also said at the audition, producers can feel the actors’ energy which is important for the role they are seeking. Also, Dixon mentioned that actors should continue working on their craft and become involved in the community in philanthropy because networking is key to their success in the show business. Jody Stevenson, who is deaf herself, known as Emma in Grounded for Life, commented that she had to do mime and improvisation during the two scenes during her audition. “The experience helped me understand what kind of acting fits this particular workshop, and it is obvious how important it is to attend acting workshops (like Meet The Biz) or with a good acting coach to prepare for auditions,” Stevenson said, who is currently working on her own show for Deaf West.
The auditorium was fully packed, and the workshop ran 20 auditions that evening. Five additional individuals were selected to audition at this workshop after running a lottery session. Each audition earned feedback from the panel on how they can make their performance better or clearer. At the end of the workshop, everyone had a chance to meet with the panelists. Meet The Biz is about bringing everyone to work together from all communities. It’s all about learning and growing from each other. It’s about connections. With Instructors from Meet The Biz like RJ Mitte, Danny Woodburn, Lainie Kazan, Geri Jewell, Charlene Tilton, Jamie Brewer, Angela Rockwood, and Bruce Davison who are successfully working in the Industry, Meet the Biz gives everyone a shot in the arm so to say that “Everything is possible”. That is, if we keep going after our dreams, work hard at our craft and put ourselves out there. And our successes in life might come in different ways than we expected. The workshops don’t guarantee work or representation, but they allow the exposure of all actors with and without disabilities who work together and the ability for positive change and greater inclusion to happen in the industry. Also, for example, from the other night at the SAG-AFTRA Meet The Biz event in the James Cagney Room, several actors were able to get picked up and get representation because of their focus and their talent. It is about bringing yourself to the game and being the best you can be. This is in whatever you do. We are all in this game together. Does anyone expect to just be given a job because they just happen to be different? We all are different in one way or the other, Zimmerman said. It is about being given a chance to show what amazing talent there is out in the Industry that is untapped.