By: David Wooddell, Barbizon USA
What do you think of when you hear Hollywood? Do you think ‘lights, cameras, the rich and famous walking down Rodeo Drive’ or do you think ‘New Orleans and other southern towns’? Did you know that one of the hottest filming locations right now is New Orleans! Who knew when you think Hollywood it would be time to think of a new LA? Louisiana is one of the hottest locations to film right now. Movies like 12 Years A Slave, Dallas Buyers Club, Jurassic World, 21 Jump Street, and television shows like American Horror Story: Coven, Scream Queens, and Banshee were all filmed primarily in New Orleans.
In early 2006, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button began the start of a great filming relationship. This was one of the first films to be shot in New Orleans… just a year after Hurricane Katrina. I took a minute to ask Louisiana-based agent, Dawn Landrum of Landrum Arts LA a few questions and she shared some wonderful advice for actors starting out in Hollywood South.
Barbizon Insider: How would you say production & castings in the south have changed over the years?
Dawn Landrum: “It seems there has been an increase in productions within the south. We have been busier than ever! Even Landrum agency has expanded and now has a physical office in Georgia as well as Louisiana. The southeast is closely knit.”
Barbizon Insider: What opportunities for new actors have opened up since the “Hollywood South” movement?
Dawn Landrum: “The south is definitely a great place for a new actor to begin their career. Naturally, the actor should be well-educated and trained prior to seeking employment, but those who are ready to be professional actors can certainly obtain their first “big break” in the south. Productions will often select from local talent pools before going for the distant actors. Being a “local hire” benefits the production and so it often gives actors their first “in” with a professional production.”
Barbizon Insider: Does a new actor need representation to work in the south?
Dawn Landrum: “All actors need to have an agent prior to seeking professional employment as an actor. There is a protocol in place and if the actor wishes to operate, he/she should follow it. Again, this goes hand in hand with being educated on what is necessary to make it as an actor in this business. It’s not just about a great “look” or “acting”… it’s also about knowing the business and how to operate like a pro.”
Barbizon Insider: What is an easy way to find casting opportunities in the south?
Dawn Landrum: “The easiest way is to gain agency representation. Productions hire casting directors and casting directors contact agents to help them cast movies, television series, voice overs and many other industry-related jobs. Taking part in educational classes and events like those presented by Barbizon is a great start! Not only does Barbizon help to train talent, but they bring in top agents, managers, casting directors, publicists, producers and other industry professionals to see them shine! It’s a wonderful service that they provide in helping undiscovered talent to be discovered. If the talent were to fly to New York or California to hopefully find an agent or to be seen by a casting director, it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack, but being part of these events put talent directory in front of important people within the industry who can notice you, sign you and book you.”
Barbizon Insider: Do you have any advice for new actors aspiring to make it big, but are currently living in a small, southern town?
Dawn Landrum: “Breanna Brooks lives down a dirt road way back in a little town in northeast Louisiana. She found our agency at age 5 and came in and interviewed with me. She interviewed me! When I asked reception where her parent was, I heard a resounding “She does her own interviews,” from her mother in the waiting area. The 5-year old shook my hand, sat down, looked up and me and said “Whatcha got for me?” This child wanted to be an actor more than she wanted to do anything else. It didn’t matter that she was a tiny freckle faced tom boy country girl from a small Louisiana town. SHE wanted it! The first biggest attribute to success is DESIRE! For parents of child actors, they must make certain that this is what their child truly wants to do. This child and her mother sought us out because they knew our reputation for success. Breanna was very talented and we had her booked in an independent film within a few weeks of her signing with Landrum Arts LA. Shortly after that, Disney had a coast-to-coast search for “Young Charlotte” in The Princess and the Frog – she booked the role! The actual Disney animator came to sketch Breanna so the cartoon Charlotte looks just as she did at age 5. This child booked a role that everyone said would only book out of CA or NYC. If you live in a small town, you can make your dreams a reality if you are talented, ambitious, smart, educated and you seek a qualified agent to help you get where you need to go. With Technology as advanced as it is now, you can live almost anywhere and still be successful if you have what it takes. Landrum Arts LA LOVE to help good people reach their potential and make their dreams a reality. It’s even more rewarding when they come from a remote location that no one would ever guess the next big star would be from.”
In conclusion, keep these five tips in mind when you think that “I’m too far away to ever make my dream a reality.”
- Be sure to get some on-set experience by becoming an extra! This won’t make you a star, but it will help you learn about how movies are made, and give you an opportunity to see how professionals actors work.
- Establish relationships with other people in film, not just other aspiring actors. Your connections may prove to be essential in your quest to work.
- Work on short or “no-budget” films with aspiring filmmakers. This is a great way to build a resume.
- Secure an agent! You’ll find that to even audition for “speaking roles” for SAG-AFTRA projects, you will need an agent to book the audition, so this is a MAJOR step towards moving from extra work to SAG-AFTRA work.
- Have determination and drive to become successful.
Want to learn how Barbizon can help you start learning about the acting industry and how you can get started? Set up an audition with your local school.