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Building Your Brand


Exclusive Interviews with Backstage's 2015 Reader's Choice Award Winners

We did it!   

Keep It Real Acting is officially the 2015 BACKSTAGE READERS' CHOICE Winner for FAVORITE AUDITION TEACHER, FAVORITE IMPROV TRAINING CENTER, and FAVORITE KIDS ACTING CLASS!  Below are our exclusive interviews with our Award Winning Teachers this year, Judy Kain, Paul Hungerford, Donna Rusch, Doug Traer & Nancy Linari!  We hope these brief clips can give you a little insight as to what make these teachers so special.

Judy Kain is the owner of Keep it Real Acting and teaches the Commercial A to Z Class and the Advanced Callback Class.  Judy has been a professional actress now for 37 years, showcasing her skills and talents in over 350 commercials and in over 80 roles for film and television.  

Paul Hungerford teaches the Commercial A to Z Class and Improv-a-thon at KIRA. For over 25 years, Paul has been performing on stage and in film and television productions, as well as working with The Groundlings, Acme Comedy Theater, Impro Theater, and Comedy Sportz LA.  He is currently the Director of TheatreSports at the Impro Theatre in LA, and has been seen on your TV set in over 40 commercials and a number of shows.

Doug Traer teaches the Kids Class & Commercial Wednesday Workouts at KIRA.  Doug has been working in film, television, theatre, and commercials for the past 26 years.  When he is not acting, he works as a commercial casting director and session director for many Casting Directors around town. 

Donna Rusch teaches the Next Step class at KIRA. Donna has more than 20 years experience as a professional actress and broadcaster.  She is a former TV News Anchor and Television Show Host and has been seen in more than 100 commercials and films, including last year's hit, Gone Girl.

Nancy Linari teaches the Teens Class at KIRA. Nancy has been a professional actress for over 30 years. Her work can be seen and heard in both commercials and animation, on television and radio; from Bones to Modern Family, from ABC’s animated The Addams Family (the sexy Morticia Addams) to the Academy Award nominated The Social Network (the cranky secretary to the president of Harvard.)

Again, We are overflowing with gratitude, humility, and love.  Thank you so much for making KIRA a 2015, 3 Category Winner and a leading, competitive, loved acting studio in LA!

Your KIRA Family



What makes some Actors so Hireable

Once, while attending a holiday party , I was cornered by an actor who had auditioned for me earlier that year. He was relatively new to the business and wanted to know the secret to booking commercials.

At first, I told him that if he figured it out, please let me know. No one knows of one thing or combination of things that will always get you booked.

But, he said, there are actors who consistently book commercials and work more than others. What do they do that makes them so hireable?

I had to think about that one.

It’s true, I know a handful of actors of different descriptions who book a lot of commercials and they have some traits in common.

1. They are a “type.” Americans relate to people they can recognize and categorize in their minds. We call them “types.” By their looks and what we see on TV, we expect a certain behavior from them. For instance, blue collar types are usually lovable, not that smart, hardworking and honest. You’ll see them in family restaurant and truck commercials. Slacker types are unshaven, often college students or stoners, have messy hair and clothes, and are generally irresponsible. They populate nearly every beer commercial and some computer as well as fast food spots. Because commercials are only 30 seconds long, types must be instantly recognizable. These actors have that quality.

2. They are good actors. Yes, commercials generally aren’t as demanding of acting skills as theatrical productions. But good acting is good acting, and just as if I were going to have minor surgery somewhere, I would want an overqualified surgeon to perform it, directors want an actor who is capable of much more than just the role you’ve hired them for.


3. They are professional and prepared. They’ve done their homework. They know all about the spot, the copy, look and wardrobe and they’re ready to work as soon as they arrive for the audition.

4. They are not thrown by change. They can roll with whatever changes are made, and shift gears without batting an eye. Often in callbacks, I see directors ask for a different interpretation of a script. Not because they think it will be shot that way, but just to see if the actor can do it. Usually these actors have a background in improv.

5. They are confident. They know they can do they job and they project that confidence to the agency and production company. They are not intimidated by the process. Think about it. If I were going to have the above mentioned surgery, do I want a surgeon who behaves as if they’re not really sure this is a good idea or can be done? Or do I want someone who is on board with the diagnosis and makes me believe that it’s a piece of cake?

6. They get it. Oftentimes I see actors come in and give an audition without understanding the spot. If it’s comedy, they don’t know why it’s funny. Actors who book get it. They watch commercials and know the tone of the advertiser and commercials in general. And if they don’t understand, they ask to have it explained.

7. They are consistent. If you call them in, they will consistently give a good, believable performance. And they tend to be level headed, neither blinded by success nor defeated by failure. They know the game and they know how to play it.

Most of the things I’ve described come from training and experience. Okay, that’s not true of your looks, sex or ethnicity, but training and experience should dictate the audition choices you make. You can learn a lot taking classes and just watching commercials. Watch the performances. Note the economy of words and images. Watch how they’re edited. See how different companies have their own style or message regardless of the spot. Then remember that when you audition for their ads.

Doug Traer Commercial Wednesday Workout, Kids Commercial Class
Doug has been working in film, television, theatre, and commercials for the past 26 years.  His film credits include Robert Miller’s Brenda Starr, the critically acclaimed Speak of the Devil and the black comedy Dead Giveaway.  He has had multiple roles on General Hospital, appeared in America’s Most Wanted and Saved by the Bell, among others.

He has made a number of national TV commercials for products such as Mercedes-Benz, Sony Playstation, Sprint, Blue Cross Insurance, Baskin Robbins Ice Cream and Hardee’s Restaurants.

In addition to his acting gigs, he works as a commercial casting director and session director as well as teaching and providing career guidance to young actors or those just getting into the business.  He also directs theatrical and industrial video productions through his own independent production company.

Doug studied acting with master teacher Cliff Osmond for 15 years and improv with the LA Connection. He began teaching commercial classes 12 years ago and theatrical classes in 2003.  He has also taught in San Francisco, Chicago, Oakland, Phoenix and Santa Barbara and recently returned from Tokyo where he taught American acting to Japanese students.



Social Media for The Actor

Most people are familiar with the popular social media sites: Facebook and Twitter. As a professional actor, I use these as my main marketing tools.  They are important pages, but finding the time to manage them can seem daunting. And then, every day, someone is telling me about another social media platform that I must join – the newest, latest or greatest.  Often when I feel overwhelmed by something, I stay away. So I’ve decided to take you on this journey with me to take a look at some social media sites that I would like to better understand.

Social media marketing fascinates me, so much so that I have created a segment called “Natalie’s Social Media Moment” on Hollywood Close-Up. This all started because although I’ve never taken an official “marketing” class, I’ve taken several workshops about taking your acting career to the next level.  Recently, I wrote about the importance of self-promotion

 and how these essentially free social networking sites can help.  Vine (  I mentioned Vine a couple of times in my social media moment.  Most recently, on EP78 ( when talking about a panel with casting directors at SXSW ( who said they are finding new talent on Vine.  Basically, Vine is a place to share six-second videos. When you get the app, you can film an all-in-one take or separate shorter moments and Vine will put them together as a six-second video. Then the video plays on a loop.

Why it’s good for actors — As actors, we want to be on camera and we want people to see our talents. What better way than on Vine? Whether you want to just show your acting chops or just your personality, I think Vine should definitely be an option to consider.  We are being told to make videos shorter and you can’t get much shorter than six seconds! 

Instagram (

“A picture is worth a thousand words.”  I enjoy sharing pictures on social media, but for the longest time, did not feel it was necessary to be on Instagram. After countless people telling me to join, I decided to check it out.  Instagram is an app that can be downloaded on most smart phones that allows you to share pictures and videos, instantly.  Before posting, you have the option to change up the tone of the picture or video by adding a filter.  Instagram also gives you the opportunity to share to Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms.

Why it’s good for actors - Instagram gives you a place to tell your story through photos and videos and share it with others.  In this business, we are constantly running around and may not catch up with friends and family as much as we would like.  This is a quick and easy way to stay in touch, until you can make that next phone call or trip back home.  You can keep your loved ones up to date with what is going on in your world and they can do the same.  Also, Instagram allows videos up to fifteen seconds.  That’s nine more seconds than Vine.  Just think of what story you can tell with the additional time!  Actors are creating short web series and uploading them to Instagram.  A perfect example of this are Hollywood Close-Up’s past guests, Heather Lee Moss and Anna Borchert (, who are the creators and stars of the faux Instagram reality show, Daughters of POP (

Pinterest (

My best girlfriend from college talked me into joining Pinterst and since I was the one who talked her into getting on Facebook, I knew that I had to build a profile. But that’s all I did. Sorry, BFF, the truth comes out! Of course, she knows I’ve done nothing on there because she can see my profile. Well the good news is, once I logged in and went to my profile, a little box popped up on the bottom right saying “learn about your profile and how to use it.” Sweet! So, what is Pinterest? A pin is a visual bookmark. You create online bulletin boards, name them and then pin your interests to them. It’s completely visual. It says goodbye to the days of bookmarking on your computer and definitely to printing things out and thumb-tacking them to a corkboard.  

Why it’s good for actors — This all sounds simple enough and fun, but how might this help me with my social media marketing for my acting career? We are constantly being told to have a life outside of acting and I think this is a pretty quick and easy way to share that part of your life with others.  It’s another way to connect and share your interests and be a resource for others. 

Google+ (

Seems to be an exclusive online club for people with a google account. Google+ works with circles. I like this because it seems like a clear way to manage your friends list. You can add people to your circles or follow them as you would on Twitter and now on Facebook. The main draw for me in this one is Google hangouts. These video chats can be private or public and you can chat via text or by video with up to ten people.

Why it’s good for actors — Imagine what you can do with these hangouts when you are trying to do a crowd-funding project!  I can see how Google+ can work for larger businesses, but would be great for actor groups who work together that cannot get together that often in person. Late night discussions about the biz on Google+ can help with accountability. Also, I noticed that if you post a video to your YouTube account, it goes onto your Google+ profile. Just another way for industry professionals and friends to easily see your work.

As an actor, what social media sites do you find most helpful?


Natalie Lipka (“Criminal Minds,” “Kroll Show”) is an actor, writer, and producer.  She currently hosts Hollywood Close-Up with Wayne Frazier (“Transparent,” “Kroll Show”), an audio podcast that focuses on creating your own career in the entertainment industry.  On the show, Natalie and Wayne discuss the latest in the entertainment world and trending topics in social media, and provide insight to those pursuing a career in “the biz.”  Each episode includes a close-up interview with one of Hollywood’s finest working actors, directors, producers, writers and other industry professionals.



4 Things Every Actor NEEDS to Figure Out If They Really Want to Work

Seriously…no matter where you are in your career, just starting out or entering a new category…before you have your headshots taken, or retaken…before you meet with an agent, or go into your current agent to discuss why you’re not going out more…before you go to any castings or more importantly, any casting workshops…if you want to work as an actor, you need to know your true image and marketability. In other words, understand who you are and exactly how you “fit” in the industry. BECAUSE…if you don’t “get” you, no one else is going to “get” you either.

You want an agent, a casting director, a director, etc., to look at your headshot or see you work and know exactly who you are and what they can do with you. A generic headshot, a generic performance, an audition in which you’re just trying to be what you think they want, will reap absolutely nothing. And if you think your headshot is going to land on someone’s desk and that they are going to snap you up and start developing you into a star…think again. No one has time for that anymore (unless you’re a breakout Disney tween).

So how exactly does one figure this all out? It’s not an easy process. Most of us have a difficult time exposing our true selves…and yet, it’s our true selves that set us apart from everyone else. In order to discover your true image and marketability, you need to be HONEST, REALISTIC, and SPECIFIC. This is why I strongly suggest actors seek help…and not from your mother, girlfriend, or roommate (they tend to tell us what we want to hear). You need someone who will keep you HONEST, REALISTIC, and SPECIFIC. Casting directors or consultants tend to keep it real…acting teachers are also a great resource since they not only know your work, but also know the business.

There are four steps to figuring out your image and marketability:

1.  Know your Type. It’s very simple: sex, age, physical description, and a couple main personality traits. Write a breakdown for yourself so that if a friend read it, he or she would immediately think of you…remember Honest, Realistic, and Specific.

2.  Know your Brand “Brand” just means what is unique and special about you. Think about it this way…when you’re at an audition and there are 25 actors all looking like you (same type) in the room, what do you bring to the party that they don’t? Be specific. I have dimples. I’m tall. I’m thin. I’m crazy. I have a rubber face. I am shy. I’m sensitive. I’m an excellent cook. I write poetry, etc.  Every aspect about you, both physical and personality-wise, sets you apart from all the others in the room making you unique and special within your type.

3.  Know the roles you can play TODAYNot what are the roles you want to play, or that you played five years ago, but what are the roles you can be cast in today? Watch television, movies, commercials, web series, etc. Look for actors your type, your age, and most importantly, your level of career. (If you are just starting out, you’re not about to be cast as the lead of a film.) Write these roles down, and make note of what those characters are wearing as well as their hair and makeup. If these are indeed the parts you will be auditioning for, you will want to incorporate those looks into your auditioning wardrobe (more on that another time.)

4.  Know what you will bring that is unique and special to each role.  Don’t make this more difficult than it is: take that list of roles that you can be cast in today and next to the role write down what is unique and special about you that you would bring to the role.  A very simple example would be for a role of “Mom.” Don’t try to think what kind of Mom are they looking for? What kind of mom are you in real life? (Even if you don’t have kids…how do you relate to children in your life?) Are you the mom that gets dirty with the kids? Or the mom that organizes everything right down to the last detail?  Playing your reality within the confines of the role will only deepen the character, so bring that “mom” to the audition, and definitely show that true image in your headshot session.

You are unique and special and awesome and amazing and no one can do you better than you. One gem of wisdom I try to impose on every actor I coach is this: You Are Enough. You don’t need to try to be what you think they want you to be, because in reality…they don’t know what they want. All agents, managers, casting directors, and directors want from the moment you walk in the room is an actor who knows who they are (image), knows what they have to offer (talent and marketability),  and who brings something unique and special to each role they play. They are looking for YOU…just make sure that you show up…to your headshot sessions, to workshops, to your meetings, to your auditions.

Now YOU get out there and start booking some jobs!


Tom Burke, working model and actor, teaches seminars and gives lectures on the importance of headshots and discovering an actor’s image. He is currently consulting and coaching at Keep It Real Acting Studios in North Hollywood, CA where he also teaches the exclusive classes: All-In-One Headshots Package and Not Just a Pretty Face



Build your Online Audience: Part 1


There are a tremendous amount of resources available for actors today. We are all aware of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc…and we know how to use them in our personal lives. However, it’s important to realize that these mere social media outlets are brilliant, golden tools for promoting your career as an actor for exposure. The word to emphasize here is: exposure.

Whether you are Tom Hanks or John Doe, every performer can be a “celebrity” in their own capacity. No matter how big or small the project you are doing, it is of utmost importance that you share it online. If you show the world you are constantly working, then the world will be excited for you and support you. While there are a number of ways to build a fan base & promote yourself online, today I’ll focus on one: the Facebook Fan Page .

Facebook Actor Page

It is very easy to make a “Page” on Facebook in addition to your personal page. You can call it an Actor Page, a Fan Page or just your name with specifics that you are an actor. What matters is the consistency of how often you use this page:

-Invite all of the friends from your Personal Page to “Like” your Actor Page. Some people may not at first, which is fine, try inviting them again later on. You’re not annoying them, just being persistent. Stop at nothing.

-Post everything you are doing as an actor. New headshots, set photos, clips, reels, YouTube videos, selfies in your costume, set photos, behind the scenes pictures…there are endless possibilities! You can also tag your projects by using “@” in front of the title to help the project itself get exposure, if they have a page as well. They will appreciate it!

-Display your actor links (IMDB, Website, etc.) in the “About” section! This is a useful section to promote your online presence as an actor. You can put two links in total, and when you do they will be displayed under your profile picture at the top of your Actor Page. To do this, click “About”, then click the “Page Info” tab, and put your links in the “Short Description” box. This may take some trial and error because sometimes links don’t always fit and have to be shortened. Once everything is up and running, your page will look professional For links to display, I would suggest your Actor Website and IMDB page but you can also put your casting profiles (Actors Access, Lacasting, Nowcasting, Casting Frontier).

-Sponsor your Actor Page to get more Likes and/or promote your posts. This is what Facebook calls Sponsorship. It does cost money, which isn’t for everyone, but you can choose the amount you want to spend from $2 upwards. I’ve found it to be totally worth it. If you are getting people who don’t know you, but like your work, that is a good sign for the lack of bias. If you want a maximum amount of Likes and exposure, you will probably need to promote your posts. The reason is: people have TONS of posts popping up on their Facebook newsfeed. So, by promoting you are simply making your posts more visible to them among the other thousands they see.

-Be careful when sponsoring your Facebook. You may get messages/posts from people you don’t know. If this occurs, it is up to you whether or not you want to allow strangers to have contact with you. If not, you can change the settings of your page by going to “Edit Page”, and then “Edit Settings”.

Overall, the Facebook Actor/Performer Page will give you your OWN audience. As you book bigger projects, your initial fans will take pride in discovering you first…and people love that. Go for it!

Justin Sorvillo moved to Los Angeles to study at the two-year conservatory, The American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Following his graduation, he became involved in several regional theater productions on stages including South Coast Repertory and The Geffen. He has performed in many independent films, web series and other ambitious projects. His latest credits include a supporting role in the sci-fi feature film, Space Command: Redemption featuring Mira Furlan & Bill Mumy.

*Check out his Actor Facebook Page here: Justin Sorvillo Facebook