This week on Casting Frontier’s sixth episode of The Curve, Burgandi and Govind chat with Camille Thornton-Alson, the founder of Speak LA. Speak LA is a free online resource for actors featuring industry-insider podcasts, videos, a Facebook group, and access to private coaching sessions. The website is determined to help make the transition of moving to Los Angeles easier on the aspiring actor—as well as to be a support to actors regardless of where they live.

A thespian herself, Thornton-Alson’s love of acting brought her to London and Paris; from there, she spent three years at Conservatory Grad School in Washington state where she earned her MFA in Theater. Her next move was to Los Angeles, but little did she know what an uphill battle she would face while struggling to learn the business and the lingo of Tinseltown.

Valuable advice she received early on and now passes along to others is: “Make sure to go to the community of where you want your connections to be.” This didn’t make sense to her until she experienced the hardships associated with such an expansive city—and filled to the brim with aspiring talents.

As she gradually increased her knowledge of the terrain in regards to both the industry and her personal needs, she recalls thinking, “If I could have had this information three years before—if I could have already been prepping where I was going to go, what acting classes, understanding the right teachers, because there really are right teachers you need to go to … the right teachers that will help you connect.”

She invites overwhelmed actors to visit Speak LA, to empower them if they’re feeling intimidated by the idea of networking. Instead of making new contacts, Thornton-Alson prefers to call it “building a community.” With some guidance, she’s certain actors will be able to feel a sense of community soon enough.

For starters, she suggests performers enroll in classes with like-minded individuals. “You gotta come to LA, and you gotta be open to saying yes to opportunity, to the class; if it’s not working, there’s another class you might find … Put your ego at the door. It doesn’t matter how much training you have, just say yes,” Thornton-Alson asserts.

She encourages actors to gradually find members of their growing, creative community where everyone can offer their ideas, resources, talents, and start creating—perhaps set up a weekend shoot. Indeed, Thornton-Alson has built up her credits to include producing, writing, teaching, and even being an agent’s assistant. She’s a big believer in the idea work begets work. She says:

“Come to LA thinking, ‘I’m building a life.’ Don’t even think of ‘I’m building a career’ because, I promise you, the career is going to happen. It will! You gotta know that really all the preparation you’re doing—all the training, all the connections, the building of the community—at the end of the day, it’s so that when the opportunity happens, you’re ready. That’s it.”

She encourages aspiring actors to go out and pursue the activities they enjoy, spend time outdoors, and find places they love to eat. Especially in the beginning, don’t place such a big emphasis on finding an agent. And very importantly, she says to take each seemingly small personal success story and stash it in their “confidence bank account.” Confidence will gradually increase with each positive experience and empowered decision.

Three of Thornton-Alson’s favorite podcasts on the Speak LA podcast are the inspiring interviews with Friday Night Lights actress Connie Britton, Madmen’s Rosemarie DeWitt, and celebrity photographer Russell Baer.

Speak LA’s website can be found at ispeakla.com. Visit the site for lessons like “Get free where-to-live-in-LA video course,” podcasts such as “How do I financially plan for my move to LA?” as well as explore the countless other tools available to talent.

Casting Frontier’s YouTube series The Curve is hosted by Burgandi Phoenix and Govind Kumar. Tune in next week for episode seven and expect to learn more tips and insights from agents, managers, casting directors, writers, and producers in our industry-insider series.

 

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