Q: What does the HERO’S System stand for and how does it help actors?
A: HERO’S stands for Health, Education, Relationships, Opportunity, and Spirituality. My goal is to help individuals achieve balance in all those areas. Life is complex and tough to navigate without the right tools. We can choose to figure it out on our own and learn from our mistakes or we can find someone to teach us how to learn from the successes and failures of others. As a professional coach, I’ve helped people attain their goals, and these people include actors and models. Most importantly, you have to be happy about the journey you’re taking while achieving your goals.
Q: What do you have to say about attaining goals?
A: Attaining a goal is about perseverance and going about it in a smart way. Are you making decisions based on reliable information? Have you done your research to make sure your goal is realistic for you? Are you working towards your goal every day? Are you connecting with the right people? Getting the right coaching? Finding people with integrity who will work with you until you achieve your dream is really important.
Q: What opportunities are available in this area for an actor to earn a living?
A: Many actors work also as models to support themselves. But it’s important to be realistic when seeking work in the field of modeling. Physical attributes determine the kind of modeling someone can do. An eighty-year-old can be a print model, but not a fashion model. Companies also hire models to promote their products. There are tradeshows, car shows, technology fairs, and home shows every weekend in this area and these companies hire models to promote their products. It pays for companies to hire someone with a vivacious and friendly personality to stand on showroom floors and at tradeshows because that attracts people to their booth or product. And, as we know, happy people are attractive. But people can’t just walk in and expect to be hired because of a pretty face. They have to be smart. They have to learn scripts, be go-getters, and talk to people intelligently about the products. The age range for promotional models is generally between 20 and 40, but a good looking fifty-year-old can make it. Promotional models don’t get paid as much as fashion models do, but they may get more work because more work is available. The pay can be as low as $25 an hour and as high as $100 an hour.
Q: How do you recommend actors and models get noticed by an agency or casting director?
A: People who prepare themselves as the best package get representation. The field is too competitive to leave things to chance. If you’re not doing everything you can to be the best you can be, you’re wasting your time. Get the proper coaching. Go to acting classes and modeling courses. Learn to do your own makeup. Don’t discount these skills by thinking — “oh, if I’m pretty enough they’ll really want me and pay for all my pictures.” That’s not the way it works. On the other hand, you can be the best actor in the world, but if you’re not presented in a way that shows it, you won’t get hired. Something as simple as dressing up a little, fixing your hair, and putting on a little makeup can make the difference between getting the job and not. Success doesn’t come about by chance or luck. Success is a learnable skill.
Q: What do agencies look for in talent?
A: A model or actor has to exhibit an appealing personality. This is all about commercialism. A film actor has to sell the movie, just as a commercial actor, or print or promotional model has to sell the product. Someone who is untrained or unprepared won’t be cast because that doesn’t make the product look good. You have to prepare and present yourself to fit the bill to get hired.
Q: Do actors have the same physical restrictions as models?
A: Theatre actors have fewer physical parameters than camera actors. There is always room for another good character actor. The kinds of roles you get offered depend on your look, voice, and acting ability. People who look trim, fit, healthy, and happy will have more opportunities for camera work than those who don’t. You also need the right connections. I’m not saying to go in covertly and become involved with the casting director or president of the company. You need to go through the proper channels to meet and get the word out to the right people that you’re available for work. Then, persevere. You might go to ten auditions and not make one of them, but at the 11th audition they want you — they love you, you’re perfect for the role. Your success is based on the number of times you go out there and fail because, in this industry, as in any area of life, you’re not going to win every time. The more often you try and fail, the closer you are to succeeding.
Q: In addition to coaching people for auditions, you also prepare them for their photographs. What is the process?
A: When I prepare someone for taking headshots, the first thing I ask is: “What kind of actor are you? Are you the prim and proper newscaster type seeking industrial and commercial work? Are you a character actor doing creative theatre work?” If you want to work as a model, you need a composite card. What the person wants to accomplish determines how they are coached. I also do their makeup and hair and help select outfits. Looking one’s best is important to succeeding in any field, and especially so in the highly visible fields of acting and modeling where so much depends on appearance.
Q: Is hiring a makeup artist and stylist always necessary, and is it expensive?
A: Going cheap isn’t always economical. When you’re being photographed, you can’t see what the camera sees. You can’t step back and look at yourself through the lens. It’s impossible. I look at my subject through the lens of the camera to see if she has enough blush on and that her hair and clothes are right. I’m not saying everybody always needs a good makeup artist, but it’s an insurance policy that you’ll get the best photographs the first time.
Q: Do men and women both need makeup artists?
A: I think it’s a good idea. Men are usually charged less than women are charged because it’s more basic with guys. It’s more about applying highlighters and concealers in the right places and making sure the hair is right. We don’t get into the eyeliners, shadows and lashes with men.
Q: Do you work with agencies?
A: In the actor and modeling arena, I do make-up artistry for potential talent referred from many different agencies. Sometimes they ask us — “Was this person good? Was she easy to work with?” They want to know if the person they’re going to hire has what it takes to do the job. Maybe they’re choosing between two people. When someone is difficult for us to work with, I would be hesitant to recommend them. When the person is engaging, charismatic, pleasant, and enthusiastic, that’s something I think an agency would want to know as well. This is especially true for promotional models hired to work with the public. Sometimes I’ve gotten together people’s photographs and have gone with them to agencies to help them interview. These are agencies with whom we have established a mutual respect, and frankly, people we refer end up getting work because they’ve got that extra validation of being someone of character and good to work with.
Q: What advice do you have for actors to persevere through disappointment?
A: If you’ve got a dream, don’t let anybody steal it from you. Maybe you go into an audition and the producer or director annihilates you — “you’re the worst, I can’t imagine you want to be an actor.” Well, you know what? That’s only one opinion. You go to a different audition and it’s going to be a different story. You’ve got to learn to become bulletproof and how to pick yourself up and go on. If you need to work on the strength of your dream, then work on it. You are responsible for developing your own self-esteem and confidence. Seek out the company of friends and family members who support you. If you are having difficulties getting the jobs you want, find people to help you realistically assess and maybe redefine your goals, and help you improve yourself as a total package. Get lots of referrals. Ask people in the industry who they think are the good teachers. Ask the photographer for recommendations on acting coaches. Ask agencies who they think can help you put together the best composite card. Ask lots of questions and don’t assume one person has all the answers. Nobody is that knowledgeable.
Q: What’s one of our biggest hurdles in attaining our goals?
A: Oftentimes it’s fear. We all have fear of something. When I’m afraid of attempting something new, I think, how will I feel five years from now thinking back — “I should have done that, I really missed an opportunity.” We only have so much time and that’s finite. We need to be clear about what we want and go for it. If you aren’t succeeding as well as you’d hoped, find a knowledgeable coach or mentor, someone who cares about your success. It’s easier to reach your dream with someone cheering you on.
Laurett Ellsworth has worked in television and model-actor development, and has worked and traveled throughout the world. She has won the titles of Mrs. Virginia and Mrs. America and does private and corporate coaching through her company, HERO’S Strategies. Within two years of setting her goal to win a national pageant, she was crowned Mrs. United States in 1997 and went on to win a second national Title, that of Mrs. America 2002.