The Bay Area acting scene has a great community, and it's fantastic to see so many friends doing wonderful work. I feel like that's really the only thing that keeps me in SF sometimes - the people who I see constantly doing inspiring things. That's why getting involved with a new networking group called Coffee and Catchup was a serious thing to become a part of.
Taylor Lambert and Cameron Mark Lewis started this group with the idea that we (actors, writers, directors - anyone in the Bay Area filmmaking community) should support each other. That there should be a weekly, ongoing group coffee meet & greet, combined with networking, ideas, questions, and support. I found myself at LaBoulange early on Friday mornings, grabbing a mocha, and meeting other people with the same interests and passions as I.
Best part of all is that I've been able to share myself and knowledge with the group. Topics have varied widely, and have been full of diverse discussion. We've talked about best practices for using SFCasting; finding the right CPA who can do an actors' taxes; setting goals and meeting those goals; personal projects we all want to do. For example, someone brought up how they would like to practice doing on-camera recording technique for auditions, and another person volunteered their camera and space for it. Someone wanted to get advice on writing a screenplay, and several people raised their hands to help.
A few weeks ago, we had a great Q&A with voiceover legend Kathy Garver - the voice of Firestar on my favorite Saturday morning cartoon, "Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends." Getting in the room with someone who loves what they do, is passionate about it, and inspirational - that gets me excited. Now I'm exploring ways I can do more voiceover classes.
Today, attendance and interest took a big step forward with Coffee & Catchup moving into a brand new space at Pianofight. We had a special guest who agreed to come speak to us: Nancy Hayes, founder of Nancy Hayes Casting. She has been one of the constants in my acting career here in the Bay Area. When I was getting started in the mid-90s, her office was booking me on background gigs, allowing me to earn my way toward joining SAG in 1997. So it was thrilling for me to stand in front of a large audience, introducing myself as the curator of the Twitter account for the group, and to say how exciting it was to still have her and her fantastic crew behind every actor in the City.
The discussion that followed was lively and full of fantastic tidbits and advice. Taylor and Cameron moderated the discussion, first going into some background in Nancy's career, before opening up the discussion to questions. Random trivia: Nancy's first casting job was 1987's Leonard Part 6. When I worked on The Doors in 1991, it was through her office - my first feature film gig ever. Of course, I was a concert-goer in one of the gigantic crowd scenes, but it opened my eyes to learning what it was like to be on the set.
She's seen so much happen over the course of her career here, and she was very forthcoming and honest about the film industry in SF, as well as giving very good pointers on actor etiquette.
Here are some tidbits:
There were so many actors in the room, there was quite a broad spectrum of questions. We even had actors there who told me they were just getting started, and they'd heard about this event, and wanted to find out everything they could. So, the energy was very positive and I think Nancy really touched on the tone of the room when she said:
"Just the fact that we are all in this room together, says a lot about our community."
Above all, the message was to support each other, do your best work, take care of yourself, and follow your passions. All of the distractions don't matter.
Coffee and Catchup meets every Friday at Pianofight: 144 Taylor St., San Francisco. Coffee from Bedfellows Roasting Co. is served at 8:30a, and the Catchup portion begins at 9a - 10a. Find us on the web at www.coffeeandcatchup.com Follow us: @CoffeeCatchup