Two weeks ago was Backstage’s annual Actor Fest LA . I wrote this post after my experience attending ActorFest last November:
From my experience (and by my experience I mean I’ve only attended Actorfest once so please take this with a grain of salt) this one-day event is awesome… in theory. In reality, it can be one giant waste of time. But, if you have slightly more patience than I did, and lower expectations, you can make the most of this networking extravaganza.
My mistake was setting the bar too high.
I signed up for Actorfest, figuring it couldn’t hurt. I read up on all of the awesome lectures, workshops, panel discussions and casting director meet-ups and thought what a productive way to spend a Saturday—working on my career.
It was a busy morning. I was coming straight from a Team in Training practice run that I really didn’t want to miss, so I brought all my clothes, makeup and headshot/resumes with me. I raced Downtown to the California Market Center where the Fest is held. In the lot, I quickly and inconspicuously traded my runner shorts, tank and sneakers for a button down, black mini skirt and pink heels, did a speedy touchup with hair and makeup and was good to go. I made it just in time for the one panel discussion I had signed up for (every panel discussion cost $; $ I lack), “__” It was great. Towards the end we were allowed to write questions for the casting directors and agents on little white index cards that the panel monitors then collected and read out loud. I didn’t fill one out, as I couldn’t think of anything. I could’ve been more prepared with a slew of questions (something I recommend you do, if you plan on attending Actorfest ever), but the cards that were read out covered anything I would’ve thought of anyway.
After the discussion I was feeling good about this whole Actorfest thing. I hadn’t a chance to eat yet, so I decided this was a good time to grab a muffin and an OJ and sit down with my huge Backstage Actorfest program to create a game plan for the rest of the day. But as soon as I sat down, about to take a bite of my bran muffin, a slight pale-faced woman came stumbling towards me. She didn’t look too great as she barely got out the words, “Can I sit here for a minute?” reaching her arms out as if to catch her fall. “Sure,” I said, worried, pulling out the chair for her. Then she started mumbling something about having taken too much Motrin or Midol (it was hard to understand). She said she was feeling faint and I told her she probably should eat something, offering her my muffin. “No,” she politely declined. Though I know what it’s like to feel faint, panicky or out of it and I knew she wanted it. “Go ahead, take it. You should eat something,” I insisted, sliding it across the table to her. “Thank you,” she whispered, breaking off a piece of muffin and then resting her head in her arms. She continued taking little bites in between resting her head, as I tried to calm her down. Eventually, a security guard or first-aid guy came with a bottle of water and escorted her out.
I couldn’t help but wonder, why was she so overwhelmed? What had her in such a panic? Could it have been the over-stimulation of all the acting-networking-casting stuff all around her? Constant reminders in every direction of everything you still haven’t done or even considered to further your career? Hell, I started feeling woozy.
I continued downstairs to the huge exhibit hall where there were rows and rows of info-booths covering a range of services, from actor’s insurance to Australian acting technique. I attempted to explore the different exhibitors, while I waited for one of the Casting Director meet-and-greets I decided to attend to begin. I was collecting a fair amount of flyers and pamphlets (that wound up as scratch paper on my desk) as I made my way down the aisles when I noticed a long line of anxious actors wrapping around the entire room. I asked one of the many headshot/resume-holding attendees what the line was for and they answered, the casting director meet and greets. I couldn’t believe it, so I thought I better jump in line.
THREE hours later I get to the front of the line when an Actorfest employee puts up the rope. “Sorry,” she says, without an ounce of remorse, “Mark Teschner (Days of Our Lives casting director) wont be seeing anymore people today. He has to cut out early.” The few of us who made it to this coveted spot start shooting out questions. “Please,” the woman says, silencing us. “He’s already left. Oh, and there are no more Casting Directors to meet for the day.” You’ve got to be kidding! I felt like an idiot. I just wasted three hours of my life just to NOT meet the casting director for fuckin’ Days of Our Lives! What was I thinking? And what was going to happen in those 180 seconds anyway? “Oh my god, Nina, you have the look we’ve been searching for! Please audition for us tomorrow!” Yeah right.
I was furious, but there was nothing I could do. I dropped off the remaining headshot/resumes I had brought in the casting director drop off boxes (who knows if they ever look through them) and got in my car for a nice, long, reflective drove home. Lesson learned: a cattle call is always a cattle call, even if supported by a reputable organization like Backstage. Next time, I’ll stick to the panel discussions.