Actor Jewel Elizabeth likes to be prepared. Before she enters an audition room, she wants to know more about the casting director she's about to meet. But like so many working actors, Elizabeth gets frustrated that industry insiders tend to maintain an aura of mystery and anonymity online.
So as the creator, host, and executive producer of the web series "Actor's Next Level," Elizabeth has given herself a reason to get to know guests such as casting director Judy Keller, talent manager Thomas Shields (KPA/Shields Division), and more.
Lucky for actors, she's not keeping the conversations to herself. "Actor's Next Level" just launched its second season on YouTube. In each of her series' five-minute episodes, these industry guests provide advice for performers and offer insights into their own careers in show business.
The production team includes director Scott Raven Tarazevits and assistant producer Alex V. Bone. Jason T. Morrow, a former editor at Lucasfilm, handles editing, graphics, and music. The videos are recorded at Ripley-Grier Studios in Manhattan, but Elizabeth says her goal is to eventually expand to other showbiz centers such as Los Angeles, Chicago, and London.
"My dream is we have so many episodes," Elizabeth says, "that any actor can say, 'Hey, I have an audition for X tomorrow,' then Google that person's name, and see my interview with that person they will audition for tomorrow."
The first episode of season two, which premiered May 31, features casting director Brette Goldstein, who talks to Elizabeth about marketing yourself as an actor, building relationships, and defining the "it" factor. Episode two is an interview with longtime voiceover casting director Andy Roth.
Read our Back Stage Q&A with Jewel Elizabeth to learn more about "Actor's Next Level."
Back Stage: How did you come up with the idea for "Actor's Next Level?"
Jewel Elizabeth: It actually originated out of my own need. I had a big audition with a CD I had never met, and was looking for info about him. I couldn't find anything – not even a photo on Google. I thought to myself, "If I have these questions, other actors must have them too."
I hope "Actor's Next Level" is helpful to performers at any stage in their career. Show business isn't like a regular profession. There is no corporate ladder.
Back Stage: How did you gain access to the casting directors, agents, and other industry pros that you've interviewed?
Elizabeth: For the first season, I used connections I had in the industry. Judy Keller, who appears in our pilot episode, had just cast my boyfriend and I in a Time Warner Cable commercial and we had had a good relationship for about a year, so I asked her first.
Right as we were getting ready for season two, I started working at Cast Events, and knew a lot of CDs and agents from taking classes and hosting workshops there. Now it's a mix of people I know from Cast Events, auditions, and cold calling casting offices.
Back Stage: What have you learned about the business by doing these interviews?
Elizabeth: Connection is key. Having a great conversation with someone will always stand out in their minds more than sending dozens of postcards and newsletters. That being said, make sure you send them a postcard or newsletter to remind them you're around!
Be prepared. Show up ready to perform. Look the part. Make sure the material suits you. Everything should make you shine.
Back Stage: What have been your biggest surprises since launching "Actors’ Next Level?"
Elizabeth: The biggest surprise, honestly, is how supportive the community has been! I am thrilled by the people who have chipped in to help, or shared a video on Facebook, or commented that they loved an episode. It makes it all worth it. We love input from our audience.
Watch "Actor's Next Level" on YouTube, and email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @Jewel_Elizabeth on Twitter to suggest future guests you'd like to see and questions you need answered.
Daniel Lehman is a staff writer at Back Stage. Follow him on Twitter: @byDanLehman