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Positively ActorFest

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Passion, drive, and ambition were key themes at the seventh annual ActorFest, as an estimated 1,200 actors gathered on Saturday at the Universal Hilton & Towers to collect information and advice from top industry sources, shop for acting-related services, even do a little performing at an entertaining open mike. Above all, though, the day was marked by a positive, upbeat sense of community, despite fears of possible industry-wide strikes in the near future. Responding to one audience question about why he seemed so relaxed up on the dais, "Actor's Actor" panelist Dylan McDermott told the 300-person crowd, "Because I'm among peers. We're all actors here."

In his 90-minute discussion with acting teacher John Ruskin, McDermott stressed that actors must have a deep-seated need to express themselves, coupled with an unshakeable belief in their talent, to get ahead, and that he never had a "backup" plan if acting didn't work out. "You have to walk the tightrope," he said. In their informal "Actor Goes to Market" Q&A with a sold-out crowd, working actors Susan Cash and Michael Horton also stressed drive and persistence: "If you're good, you'll be found," Horton said repeatedly, with Cash stressing the importance of training for actors who want to build lasting, versatile careers. And the morning's panel with agents and managers, "Rep This!," moderated deftly by Bob Dowling (Editor in Chief/P ublisher of The Hollywood Reporter), stressed a similar message: Actors must be as passionate about their career and craft as they expect their reps to be.

Upstairs, in "Up Close and Personal" sessions with top casting directors from every area of the film and TV business, attendees learned about tastes and trends in casting; some attendees got feedback on their headshots, some got to ask a lot of specific questions, others got a good talking-to. And on the bustling exhibit floor, actors sampled the wares of headshot photographers, acting teachers, demo-reel editors, actors' unions, and other performance-related resources. The Friday night rain clouds that broke for Saturday's festivities proved to be a good omen for this most fortuitous and forward-looking summit of craft and career, art and commerce, aspiration and empowerment. Until next year.…

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