Are You Ready To Accept The Challenge?

© Norman Chan |

© Norman Chan |

Today’s post is a challenge to all of you, if, you are willing to accept it! There are so many times that we draw upon the knowledge and expertise of others and go on our merry way. Maybe years later we think about how they helped us, but do we ever let them know? I think today is the day to do just that!

I challenge you to think back to someone who helped you along your way. Perhaps it was a drama teacher, or a church choir director, a friend or relative. It really doesn’t matter. Someone who in some way made an impression upon the artist that you are today. I’d like for you to stop today and thank them somehow.  Write a short note and mail it, send an email, text them or send a Facebook message. Just do it!  Let that person know how they have helped you. And if it feels good, thank two people!

What do you think? Here’s what I think; after I post this, I am going to send my own thanks to those who have inspired and supported me along the way.

If you take my challenge, let me know a little about it in the comment section below!

Brittany Beery: Guest Starring on “Happily Divorced”

Brittany Beery on the set of "Happily Divorced" with Fran Drescher!

Brittany Beery on the set of “Happily Divorced” with Fran Drescher!

Meet Brittany Beery. She’s a bubbly 17 year old year old actor who lives in Los Angeles. Brittany is originally from Ohio, and moved to Los Angeles in 2011 after spending two years of going back and forth to pursue her acting career. Brittany recently booked a guest starring role on Fran Drescher’s Happily Divorced and I got the chance to sit down with her and ask her what that experience was like. Here’s what she had to say:

TTN: What was it like, guest starring on Happily Divorced?

BRITTANY: It was so much fun! Being on set is a completely new experience every time because every set is very different and you get to meet new people with new stories. Everyone on the show has been in the business for a long time. I got the chance to meet Rita Moreno, which was great! Fran Drescher was incredibly nice and I was really impressed by how involved she was in all stages of production as she stars in and produces the show.

TTN:  What is the best thing about being on set?

BRITTANY: Filming is the best part of being on set, then the second best thing is learning from everyone else and their experiences, it was great.

TTN:  How did you find out about the audition for Happily Divorced?

BRITTANY: I got a call from my manager. I was actually out of town at the time of the audition because it was during the holidays, but they were accepting auditions on tape. I went into our basement with my mom and we put it on tape and she sent it to casting.

TTN:  How long did it take to hear back after the audition?

BRITTANY:  Usually it doesn’t take that long to hear back, but this time it took a couple of weeks because it was during the holidays. I found out about January 4th or so, and I did the audition right before Christmas.

TTN:  How long did it take to film the show?

BRITTANY:  I was on set for four days. We had only two days of filming so most of that time was spent on run throughs and staging. I filmed several hours on Thursday night and then we filmed Friday in front of a live audience. The whole process took a lot of time, but the actual filming was really only a couple of hours.

TTN:  What was it like filming in front of the live audience?

BRITTANY:  Oh, SO much fun! Usually when you are on set you don’t have the audience so you have to pull your own energy from within yourself. The  live audience feeds you so much energy and you get authentic laughs from the jokes so it’s a lot more fun and exciting because you don’t know exactly how the audience is going to react. You always have to be on your game.

TTN:  What sort of role did you play on the show?

BRITTANY:  The role was fun because it started out differently from the way the character ended up. At the first table read they wanted my character to be a girl who was a bit promiscuous and even a bit of a bad girl, but as time went on they kept making her nicer and nicer. She gets involved with another character on the show and it’s a big crazy deal because everyone is against them being together. The fact that they changed her over time provided more of a character arc for me.

TTN:  What are your long term goals as an actor?

BRITTANY:  Wow, that’s hard. There are so many different ways your career can go in this industry. I am open to a lot of different things, but I would love to be on a good long running dramatic series. I’m also interested in film and even the production side of things.

TTN: Since you are 17, what are you doing about school at this point?

BRITTANY:  I’m currently in my senior year and taking all online classes. I am planning to go to college next year and do my best to manage both school and auditions. I think I can do it! (smiles)

TTN:  What advice do you have for people who are thinking about a career in acting?

BRITTANY:  You have to come in with realistic expectations. You can’t expect to jump out here and start working. It’s going to be a lot of work and rejection but if it’s what you really want to do you have to hold on to the good moments. Keep growing and learning and eventually if it’s meant to happen you’ll get there!

Brittany Beery

Brittany Beery


Book Review: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

warofart“The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear; then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome. He knows there is no such thing as a fearless warrior or a dread-free artist.” – Steven Pressfield.

Wow, this quote says so much, and it is only one amongst many in this wonderful read! If it speaks to you, then I believe you will be completely intrigued by Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art.  Pressfield is a best-selling author whose debut novel, The Legend Of Bagger Vance, was made into a movie starring Matt Damon and Will Smith.

Pressfield believes that most of us do not accomplish the things we set out to do because of some sort of  “resistance,” the forms of which he details in his book. Pressfield has been there, he has struggled and fought the battles that creative people fight on a daily basis and he has won, or, as he might say, he is simply still fighting!  Although Pressfield is a writer by trade, his instructions on overcoming “resistance” cross the boundaries of creative ventures that lie far outside his own. His message is more than relative to artists, performers, musicians and the like.  I identified with so many elements of this book that it often felt as if I were staring in the mirror.

How does the dreamer become the doer? What takes place on a daily basis to get someone to cross that boundary between being a person who dreams of what they’d like to do, and actually doing it? What is the difference between the amateur and the professional? Pressfield takes these questions even further. What if you are already doing what you love, but you’ve reached a creative block? What then??

Is it evident that I love this book?  I hope so. I enjoyed the insights that Pressfield shares and how he shares his approach to creativity.  I found the book inspiring and well written, an approach that artists can identify with, and can apply to their own lives. Do not miss this one folks!

When, (not if) you read The War of Art, please be sure to post your thoughts in the comment section below!



What Does A Talent Manager Really Do?


© Yuri Arcurs |

© Yuri Arcurs |

A talent manager can very well be the most important part of a professional’s team. This person guides the talent through the day-to-day decision-making processes of his/her career and works very closely with the talent to help them achieve and even formulate, their goals.  The exact duties of a talent manager can vary widely; depending upon what type of talent is involved. For Instance, the duties of the manager for an actor and the manager for a musician will not be exactly the same, but may have some crossover.

Talent managers are usually compensated on a commission basis, and that commission also varies widely. Some managers will expect a written contract with their talent; others will just have a word of mouth agreement.

The duties of a talent manager are many and varied.  If you still have questions about what a manager does, try doing some research on the specific type of talent manager that interests you. This may help you to get a better idea of what you can expect from this critical member of your professional team.

Still confused? Leave me a question in the comment box, I’ll get back to you!

Practice Makes Perfect

© Yeyendesign |

© Yeyendesign |

We’ve all heard it said that practice makes perfect, but does it? Does it really? When I was teaching I began to realize what a faulty theory that was, and I made certain it was something I never said to my students. What I did say is “practice makes better,” and I said it often.

Maybe I’m nit-picking here, but what we tell ourselves (our children, or our students) is important and molding, and honestly, is perfection something any of us really should be aiming for?  Rather, I suggest a regular evaluation and betterment of our talent and skills, something that is actually attainable. It seems to me that concept would be much more accurate, and doable.

Is a perfect performance possible? I suppose it is, but how often in one’s lifetime is that going to occur? My guess is the perfect performance (however that is determined) is incredibly rare.  So the next time you work on your talent and skills, look for what you can improve upon, rather than perfection…keep the bar inches away, not miles, and feel good about what you are doing in the process.

Hannah Zazzaro: The Bobby McFerrin HBO Masterclass

Photo: Andrea Kremper

Photo: Andrea Kremper

If you’ve watched HBO lately, it’s likely you’ve come upon a documentary special titled “Bobby McFerrin: A YoungArts Masterclass.” Bobby McFerrin, a jazz vocalist and a ten time Grammy award winner, conducts a vocal masterclass with four very talented young vocal students. One of these students is Hannah Zazzaro, and I had the pleasure of interviewing her about this once in a lifetime opportunity.

First, a bit about Hannah. She currently is a Musical Theater student at the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. She has won more awards for her performances than most people do in a lifetime, including the National YoungArts Foundation scholarship award. It is this award that led to her involvement in the HBO special. I really enjoyed interviewing Hannah, such a positive personality, with lots of talent and energy to match! Here’s what she had to say:

TTN: Hannah, you have an incredible voice, how long have you been singing?

HANNAH:  I’ve been singing as long a I can remember, since I opened my mouth and I started walking and talking. First I sang with my mom and sister, then I did karaoke, then competitions and community theater and I’m still singing!

TTN: How did you hear about the Bobby McFerrin masterclass, and how were you selected?

HANNAH:  I first did the YoungArts program competition. There were nine different categories and I was a winner in my category. There are several different levels to the program. Anyone can submit to the program, they choose a certain number of people and brought us together for two weeks. I got to participate in Miami and then in New York. After that I got a phone call from my mom saying that the YoungArts program was considering me for the new HBO show and they wanted to do a phone interview. I thought that would be nice! Then I was chosen to do the show!

TTN: How long did it take to film the masterclass?

HANNAH: It took one full week to film.

TTN: What was it like and what other activities occurred that we don’t get to see on the show?

HANNAH: Oh my gosh it was amazing! This was my first time out of the country ever and they put us up in a spectacular hotel, which we were able to enjoy in the evening! We would also walk around the streets of Baden-Baden, it’s a smaller town in Germany, sort of closed in and there was so much to look at and lots to do and great things to eat. It was incredible.

TTN: The workshop was very improvisational, as a vocalist how much experience had you had with improvisation prior to this masterclass?

HANNAH: I hadn’t had any at all and it was nerve-wracking. I never did master classes like that before. It was intimidating, especially with Bobby McFerrin right there! But I decided I just had to let go to do it, so I might as well!

TTN: What was it like working with Bobby McFerrin?

HANNAH: I learned so much from him, from who he is, he is very open and free, kind and giving. He didn’t act like a star, he was very humble and extremely wise. He is like a spark of brilliance. Not only is he incredibly talented, he is a good, genuine person and has so much respect for other musicians.

TTN: Were there any surprises during the workshop?

HANNAH: It was my first time filming so I didn’t really know if it was going to be scripted or just free. Mostly I was pretty surprised about how much freedom they gave us just to be ourselves.

TTN: What is the most important thing you feel you gained from this experience?

HANNAH: I think the biggest thing I got from it was I learned to find joy and beauty in my art. I think it is really important when things get difficult and scary, but there is always going to be beauty in what you do.

TTN: So what is next for you?

HANNAH: Right now I’m at CCM and we are opening Three Penny Opera and I am playing a whore (laughter.)  I am also the understudy for one of the leads, so it has been an opportunity to learn that role.

TTN: What are your long-range goals as an artist?

HANNAH: I would like to leave here and perhaps do the Broadway thing in New York, but there is also a big part of me that would love to go to LA and do film, television or even contemporary music. As long as I am performing, I will be happy.

TTN: Do you have any advice for young aspiring artists, things that might help them on their journey?

HANNAH: I would definitely say find the joy in everything you do….find joy. That is so important and has been a huge, essential part of my learning/performing experience.

Hannah Zazzaro Headshot

 (A special thank you to the Simon and Goodman Picture Company)


The One Thing You MUST Know About The Entertainment Industry


© Zimmytws |

© Zimmytws |

Perhaps you have been thinking about taking your talent to the next level and entering the professional world of the entertainment industry. If this is true, the sooner you understand something about the industry the better off you will be. Here’s the big secret: it’s a business, it’s about turning a profit! This should be obvious, so I am surprised when many people seem like it hasn’t even occurred to them.

When a decision is made in the entertainment industry it is not about making people feel better, providing positive feedback, or helping you to be a better person, it is about business, period. Careers are made or broken, contracts are negotiated, people are hired and fired, and in the end it all boils down to cold, hard cash.

You can hear people talk about thow they are going to make it in the industry because they are so talented. Well, yes, talent is a piece of the puzzle, however it is not nearly as big a piece as it is in the amateur world. In the professional world many other things are just as important, and sometimes, even more important. I will explore these factors in another blog post because I do think they need to be examined but I’d like to give them the attention they deserve.

So what does all this mean for you?  For now, just realize that you cannot approach the professional entertainment industry and expect it to function like a giant amateur talent contest, it simply doesn’t work that way. If you are expect things to be the same as your amateur experience, you will be very disappointed. However, if you realize the differences up front, you will be way ahead of the game and better able to prepare yourself for a fiercely competitive industry that often doesn’t seem to make sense. The goals of the amateur and professional talent world are very different, so be prepared, know why this is true and it will save you a lot of headaches in the long run.

Interview With A Showbiz Mom: Lisa Shires

Lisa Shires with her three showbiz boys!

Lisa Shires with her three showbiz boys!

Today’s blog post is a glimpse into the life of a showbiz mom. Lisa Shires currently resides in Los Angeles and has three boys, all three of which have been in show business. Her children have been involved in projects like CSI:NY, Desperate Housewives, Ted, Criminal Minds and many others. As you can imagine, her time is very busy, so I am glad that she took the time to talk with me and answer a few questions about what her life is like. Enjoy!

TTN: How many children do you have Lisa, and how many have been involved in show business?

LISA: I am a mother of three boys who have all been involved in show business throughout their childhood.

TTN: So you must have some experience!  What are some of the projects they have been involved in?

LISA: The boys have all done their share of all aspects of the industry.  The older two had the most luck with commercials and print work, while the youngest has had the most success on television.  The first commercial that the oldest and youngest booked was one together for Mississippi Power and Light. They played siblings and were flown to New Orleans to shoot. The middle child worked for a month on The Santa Clause 3 as an elf, only to end up mostly on the cutting room floor!

TTN: You live in LA now, but where are you from originally and what prompted you to move to LA?

LISA: We are originally from the Dallas/Fort Worth area in Texas. We were prompted by a manager that had given an acting workshop to come try the LA market.  We had just gotten started in the industry and the kids were loving it, so we took a family vacation to LA and participated in an acting boot camp.  Needless to say, an agent was secured and jobs were booked and we never left.

TTN:  How do you handle school for your children?

LISA: We come from an area of Texas that has implemented a zero tolerance policy in their public schools so upon our arrival in LA I allowed the boys to do a day of what they call shadowing. They were allowed in to attend the local school for the day. They found the schools here a bit overwhelming so they opted for a home study program. We have found that this is the best fit for them and the most flexible for their scheduling. Being able to work at their own pace has allowed two of the three to graduate early and all of them to do concurrent enrollment in the local community college so that they were receiving college credits along with their high school education.

TTN: What has been the most challenging aspect of having kids in the business?

LISA:  I tell anyone who is looking into this business that flexibility is the key.  You must have a flexible schedule and understand that any schedule can change on a moment’s notice. You have to adapt to that concept or this business can drive you crazy.  You can think you have your day planned and scheduled but at a moment’s notice you will find yourself scrambling to shift things around to accommodate.

TTN:  It must have been difficult having three kids in the business, what was that like for you?

LISA:  During the busy season there were times when we were hitting six to eight auditions a day, and having meals and school, all in the car!

TTN: What advice would you have for parents who are interested in getting their child into the business?

LISA:  Like any business you have to watch out for scams, unfortunately, but there is a lot of information out there to help you avoid them. The biggest thing I think though, is that your child truly has to have a passion for it in order to be successful and the team you have working for them has to be passionate about your child in order to keep them from being lost in the shuffle of hundreds of children. Successful actors will vary in looks and even in skill level but the passion will be there. No one is irreplaceable as there is always new talent trying their hand at it and the industry demands are always changing. The type of look or character that is popular today can change tomorrow so the road is always filled with ups and downs and curves but perseverance will usually prevail!

Book Review: Get Off Your “But” – by Sean Stephenson

How many times have you heard someone say, “I’d love to learn an instrument, but I really don’t have the time,” or “I’d love to try acting, but I’m way too shy.” I’ll bet you’ve made some other statement including that big B word yourself!  Heck, do you have any idea about how many buts I had about starting this blog? I couldn’t begin to count them all. Then one day I found this book and decided it was about time to get up off my but and start this talent blog I’d been dreaming about.

Sean Stephenson’s book is not directed specifically toward talent, it is directed toward everyone! So even if you don’t consider yourself talented, I guarantee you will gain something from reading this book.  However, since this is a talent blog, I must say that if you are a person who finds yourself and your talent held back by that small, still voice inside you saying ugly things and creating doubt, then you should definitely take the time to read through this book.

Sean’s writing style is conversational, making this a quick and enjoyable read. The book begins with a detailed story about Sean’s difficult life. If you don’t find inspiration in hearing about the hardship of others and how they overcame them, you might want to skip this part. However, if you do take the time to read through this, you will find yourself wondering why you EVER feel sorry for yourself!

Sean includes simple exercises in this book to help you get motivated, and to help you garner insight into how you develop certain beliefs about yourself and how you might go about changing those beliefs for the better.  It’s worth it to do the exercises, and, as I said, the book reads quickly and easily.

I don’t want to give away Sean’s secrets, or too much about the book, but I do think it is worth a read if you are looking for motivation. So, run to your nearest bookstore or fire up your e-reader and download this little gem–you know you need to get off your but to do that!

This Thing Called Talent

© Artistashmita |

© Artistashmita |

I decided if I’m going to write a talent blog, I probably should take a stab at defining talent.  In my mind, talent is the ability to do something better than most people are able to do that very same thing. But that definition alone does not take into account someone’s training in a specific activity. If a person is trained to do something, of course they are going to do it better than the average person, but is that actually “talent?” Is talent simply ability alone? Can talent be taught or obtained in some way?

A dictionary definition of talent is “a special natural ability or aptitude.” As I see it, and some may disagree, true, raw talent is very innate. It is something that people come pre-packaged with, so to speak. A series of fine or gross motor skills, mental aptitudes, etc. that one is born with.  It all results in an ability to do something right out of the gate, that other struggle to do on that same level.

Bear with me for a moment as I make a crude analogy. Let’s say I organize a 100 yard dash and invite three runners to the race. I am going to have one runner start at the starting line, but I am going to have another runner start ten yards past the starting line, and another runner start twenty-five yards past the starting line. The race begins. Who do you think will win?

Would it be impossible for the runner who begins his race at the starting line to pass the other two runners? Well, undoubtedly he would have to work much harder than the other two. I would say it would be highly improbable, however, not impossible. I think you can see where I am going with this.

Let’s look at our runner who has the twenty-five yard advantage. Suppose he has a huge case of apathy toward the entire race. In fact, he hasn’t even bothered to train for several months. In that case, the picture could change drastically.  Then let’s say our ten yard line starter possesses a huge desire to win this race and has trained rigorously for months. In that case, I’d likely put my money on the our middle starter to win our race.

However, if that runner starting twenty-five yards in, has all the drive and dedication in the world, I don’t think there’s any way the other two would outrun him. In many ways this is how I see talent. Some people just get a head start on the rest of us. Is it fair? Absolutely not. Is life ever fair? That may be a topic for someone else’s blog, not mine.

Talented people are not unstoppable, but they sure do have a wonderful advantage over the rest of us if they learn to use their talent wisely.  So, how do you define talent? Leave a comment and take a stab at it. I did!