Acting is tough to break into – for people of any age – and youth in particular have their own set of challenges. The Seattle Shorts Film Festival’s industry panel this Sunday, Breaking into the Business: Young Actors, aims to help parents and youth navigate their way through the industry. The panel will feature Fatima Ptacek (the voice of Dora the Explorer), actor/songwriter Connor Muhl, special guest Marsai Martin from ABC’s Black-ish, and Seattle-based actress Rachelle Henry. We caught up with Rachelle to get her thoughts on starting out, using social media, and asking parents for help with trying to make in acting.
What’s your best advice for a youth actor trying to get their start in the industry?
Knowing what I do today, my advice would be for them to get training. Depending on whether their interest is with television, film or theater, there are many training opportunities for them to develop their craft and skill level.
[Rachelle recommends a few options in the Seattle area]:
- On Camera
- Mighty Tripod Productions, Contact: Angela DiMarco and David S. Hogan
- Playhouse NW, Contact: Lisa Skvarla
- Seattle Children’s Theater
- Village Theater
- Studio East
- The Hi-Liners
- Broadway Bound
Tell us about your start. Why did you want to pursue acting? How did you get your first roles?
Even as a little girl, I was performing where I could: recitals for dance and gymnastics, preschool and grade school programs. Singing, dancing, performing. I was at a cheerleading camp and I heard that there was an audition for Nickelodeon where they wanted kids for basic cheerleading. I couldn’t wait to audition. They told me that this is a tough industry, and that I would have to work very hard for a long time. I said, “Yes, please!” and that was the beginning of my “professional” journey. That quest began with training.
I started with summer theater programs and from there, I got an agent and started going out on auditions. I trained with JRP (John Robert Powers) before I found our local film industry. I was able to work on the commercial side of the industry, and competed in International Presentation of Performers (IPOP) in 2009. I won “Singer of the Year” for the ‘8 and under’ age category and received my award from CeCe Peniston! I also won other awards, but this one gave me opportunity to work with deadlines and hone flexibility. I was competing in multiple categories with no time between, which confirmed to me that the work is always done a long time before the performance!
How did the film community in Seattle help you develop your career here?
I’m so grateful for the Seattle and Washington film community! I started being more involved in the film industry at a time when the community’s mantra was “mentoring.” This community actually works at helping develop their youth. They offer support and opportunities to grow. I’m thankful to have an indie film background because I’ve been able to grow and explore the entire film industry, such as directing and producing, as well as continuing to develop the craft of acting.
What can youth who are interested in acting tell their parents to help convince them of their choice to try and “make it” in the industry?
“Please help me achieve my dream.” And then never stop thanking them for everything they’ll do to help you achieve.
It takes a lot of commitment, strength, and endurance from the family for youth to have any success in any area of sports or the artistic world. I think it’s not as uncommon for the support for athletes or dancers, but the pursuit of acting may not seem as worth the tremendous investment of time and money that it takes. I would say to parents of young actors, supporting and helping nurture the artist in your child will help them build skills and learn teamwork, and hopefully build self confidence – and inspire them to be a creator.
How do you use social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to develop your career?
To connect to other filmmakers and artists. To follow their successes and share in the film community’s needs and help build community. To share articles and links that inspire, or give insight into different aspects of the industry.
What are you most excited about for the “Breaking Into the Business” panel on Sunday?
Learning from the other panelists and hearing about their journeys, as well as helping youth in our Seattle area with ideas of how to build their career!
Breaking into the Business: Young Actors is Sunday, November 13 at 3pm in the SIFF Film Center. Find tickets here.