Nearly 300 actors, models, and others interested in making it in the entertainment “biz” showed up at Hotel Ivy on October 24 for the Twin Cities Actor Expo, a one-day networking event for the Twin Cities entertainment industry. Attendees had a chance to mingle with casting directors and agents, attend seminars on the business of acting, and browse vendor booths exhibiting everything from nutritional supplements to legal help for actors.
Robyn Johnson, an actress and model in the Twin Cities, was one of the organizers of the event. She said while there have been similar events here in past years, this was the first year that the current organizers took on the project. “I cannot remember the last time we had this many big names in one place,” Johnson said. She was born in Minnesota, and said she wouldn’t go anywhere else to pursue her acting and modeling career. “There’s a great market for commercial work and industrials,” she said.
Beth Chaplin, another organizer who also acts in commercials and industrials around town, said one of the reasons that they decided to host the expo was to “elevate the talent pool.”
“I operate on the theory of abundance,” said Chaplain. She and her fellow organizers want the Twin Cities to be seen as an attractive location for films, commercials, and television to shoot so that there will be more work for everyone.
Topics explored at the seminars included “Navigating your way into the child acting biz in the Twin Cities” and “Auditioning for the camera like a pro, even if you’re a novice,” where actors were told to never be late for an audition, but not to get there too early either. In fact, the panelists suggested that actors take a “test run” to the audition the day before so they know how long it will take them to get there. Panelists at the expo included major casting directors and agents in the Twin Cities such as Lynn Blumnthal, Geanette Poole, Susan Wehmann, and Barbara Shelton (from Bab’s Casting).
There was also networking time and two “meet and greets,” which were like mini-auditions where actors said their name to the casting directors and agents and shared something about themselves.
Jennifer Johnsen, who graduated from Mankato State University several years ago, said that since moving to the Twin Cities, she’s done a lot of community theatre and student films but not a lot of paid work. She said she was hoping that the Actor Expo would be the jump start her career needed. She said she learned in the “Marketing your acting talent over the Internet” seminar that she needed to get a Facebook fan page, and that she needs to do a better job representing herself. “The competition is cutthroat,” she said.
Amy Salloway, a Twin Cities actress who has been doing a lot of solo performance work for the last several years, said that she’s trying to get back into other kinds of acting work besides solo work because working by herself can be “kinda lonely.” She said she fixed up her headshots and brought them to hand out to casting directors and agents. “My goal was to physically see all the agents and casting directors,” she said after handing her headshot and resume to an agent.
There were also other kinds of entertainment professionals at the expo. Karla Carter, for example, is a make-up artist, who came to the event with her mom, Leanne Carter, who’s an actor. Karla Carter said that to make it as a makeup artist “you have to work hard to get your name out there.”
When taking a break from the seminars, attendees of the expo could browse the vendors in attendance, including booths hosted by Minnesota Women in Film and Television, the Minnesota Film and TV Board, and Play by Play, a theater bookstore that is opening soon in St. Paul.