Coffee & Catchup with Sarah Kliban

Coffee and Catchup is now taking flight, and judging from today's turnout, it is becoming the actor's hub for information and networking.  Plus, the enthusiasm of our guests and returning members of the community is reinforcing it's importance.  San Francisco  - and the Bay Area at large - has needed this kind of group.  It's going to fill a very important need for actors who are set on launching their acting career, or are in the midst of it. Sarah Kliban has been a fixture in the Bay Area for as long as I can remember - and that goes back to even before I lived in NYC.  I can remember being on different film sets or audition rooms with her, and how much she brings a vitality and excitement to what she does.  She clearly loves her work.  I was thrilled to learn that she was eager to be a guest for us.  Apparently, she'd already heard of us through the grapevine, when she was contacted by Taylor Lambert:  "Oh, I was told that I might be hearing from you guys."  The word is out.

Even with the rainstorm starting to hit the City, the turnout was large, with upwards of 50 or so people.  All of them at some point in their acting career, have had some sort of interaction with her, whether in the audition or in a class she has taught.  I don't think I've actually seen her in a few years, yet, as soon as she entered the room, of course, it was like seeing an old friend again.  As a casting director, she usually sees plenty of my submissions I do through SF Casting.

So it wasn't a surprise that she practically knew every actor's name in the room.  We began with an exercise she wanted everyone to do.  Introduce yourself.  Simple.  But by just saying your name, and the inflection you give your voice, can tell a person so much.  And so many of us, including myself, will talk in a way that denotes a question, when it really isn't.  I mean, if you think about it, and you listen to yourself talking, you may catch yourself making a statement, yet it really comes out as a question.  Sarah made this point very early, by having everyone stand up, and say, "Hello, my name is....  I am a..."  Declare what you are, and don't make it a question.  Declare it.  It was fantastic to hear everyone stand up and declare who they were without hesitation or doubt.  It will make for a better slate in the audition room, too.

It's not enough to just summarize what was said, because you would have to have been there to understand her point of view.  And she's not the only one dispensing this advice, which she doesn't normally share, she pointed out.  We were very lucky to have her talk to us, hear her opinions, and tell us frankly about what actors are doing right and wrong.  But there were many golden pieces of advice and commentary:

I have never once walked out of an audition without saying thank you. But I am completely guilty of commenting too much afterward.  I've learned to rein it in over the years, but sometimes you get in a room with a CD who you've known and auditioned in front of countless times, and you know, it just feels like chatty-chat-chat time.  Totally on-point with this comment.

The decision on whether an actor should go Fi-Core is a topic many are debating, especially here in San Francisco.  For someone who doesn't know what that means, essentially a union actor (SAG/AFTRA) drops their membership and become a non-dues paying member; thereby giving up the protections, benefits, and privileges of being a union actor.  It enables an actor to work on union and non-union projects, and it is something that I know many people do and are doing it successfully. This is something I know I could do, myself; but for the record, I have benefited enormously from the union and I don't think it's the right decision for me, especially if I move to LA or NYC.  San Francisco has a huge non-union segment of actors, and the majority of work being done here is non-union; but on the other hand, union productions have increased over the last few years, and especially now with the passage of AB1839, it should be getting better.  But ultimately, a decision like that can have a great or negative impact on your career.

We got practical advice on how to approach your headshot, and Sarah gave a great demonstration of how to use your eyes (the secret is to smile!); talked about resumé credits; and how important it is for actors to think about how they represent themselves professionally.  Casting directors want to see us succeed, yes; they are not to be feared.

It's great to have the community turn out in force for events such as these, and I'm particularly excited about how hungry everyone is to network and collaborate.  It's great to have inspiration and encouragement from others.  Big mentions to Tina D'Elia, Lee O'Brian, Steven Spohn, Linsay Rousseau, Brian Patterson, Boston Blake, Laurie Burke, Andy Strong, and everyone I meet every week who is bringing their game on.  It's beyond impressive!

We've got a short wrap-up podcast that Sarah recorded with myself and Cameron Mark Lewis afterward. That will be posted sometime next week on our dedicated podcast page - which, if you haven't checked out, you need to!  It's got an archive of past events with our notable guests.

Feel free to leave thoughts or comments below if you attended.