How NYC Theatre Actor, Angela Lewis became a TV & Film star of John Singleton's new FX show, "SnowFall"
Moving to LA with a Plan for Stardom, Not a Plan for Waiting Tables
I am so damn proud of Angela Lewis right now that I could scream. I've known her for so long that it becomes difficult to remember when we first met.
But I do remember when we first worked together. She starred in my play Good Bread Alley in the workshop at New York Stage & Film and again at New York Theatre Workshop. It was during that time, that I learned about her work ethic and grace as an actor.
She had accrued a hefty list of theatre credits and the time was ripe to move to LA and begin a TV & Film career. It's all about timing and business strategy when it comes to making that sort of decision.
**Let me repeat, moving to LA and actually having career is not random. It does not happen because its not working out here or you need a change. It happens when actors are strategic about when to move, have built a reputation in NYC and credits to match it and have team in LA in place ready to work their asses off to build on that NYC reputation to get you in the right offices, doors, meetings and lunches.**
That strategy is an effective way to end up waiting tables, not becoming a super star.
I pull no punches with peoples delusions. I believe in actors winning, not just wandering around talking about it.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch.
Right around this time, Angela contacted me about coaching. And in our conversations and classes, it became clear that the conversation abut emotional type, LA representation and how to position herself were the top priorities.
So, over the course of a year of classes, private coaching and late night epic emails, we figured out a process to jumpstart Angela's TV & Film career.
Building Your Own Stardom Empire
And needless to say, as she hits the red carpet for the premiere of her new TV show Snowfall starting on July 5th on FX, the results are stunning.
She's a bonafide TV & Film Star now....with a team of agents, managers, PR folks in line with her vision and business plan for her career.
But does that kind of thing just happen?
Angela knew she needed a strategy to make that happen or she would have been just another NY theatre actor who trudged to LA without a plan only to end up substitute teaching in 3 years time and a no real forward motion in her career.
So, she had a plan that she put in place. That plan had everything to do with the necessary business nuts and bolts preparation she had to have in place in order to even get seen for meetings and auditions in LA: we worked on targeting a team, selling them her emotional type to broaden what she went out for so as to not get typecasted (which the theatre world had completely pegged her as the lost teen in all her plays), but we knew Angela was a whole lot more.
What I learned from my time working with Angela is that nothing happens by accident. That luck is cool, but business strategy is a whole lot more reliable and is key to your work as an artist. Just being an artist is not enough if you have big dreams for yourself. You've got to find a stategic think tank for yourself. A group of people to bounce business ideas off of who also understand what it means to be an artist, a woman of color and an entrepreneur.
Become the MasterMind of your own Career
Our weekly 1 or 2 hour working meetings were the beginning of the MasterMind Groups that I've created.
I learned that artists who have a really clear sense of where they want to land, have done the training and accrued respectable credits are in smart enough to know that they need a business plan to keep their career moving forward and that those artists committed to that plan and committed to learning a new skills set so that they become the creators and CEO's of their career are my most exciting clients to work with.
Coaching auditions is fine....but hoping your career will take off by relying on someone giving you a job feels like a totally disempowered way of managing your career.
Social media following is the key. That and creating a business structure that supports your career meaning you pull together a full team: agent, manager, PR folks, entertainment attorney, business manager who are all on the same page about what you want to do and where you want to land.
Always having a production company on your to do list and projects that feature you on your roster of projects.
Putting all of that in place ensures that you will always work, always make money and always do the kind of work you can be proud of and feel fulfilled as an artist.
I've decided that really, those are the only kinds of artists that interests me....Artist entrepreneurs....building an audience, building their own little empires...
How do I Become a MasterMind Of My Own Career?
And that is what the MasterMind Groups are all about.
Each group has a different focus. Angela has done the Actor MasterMind group and is now focused exclusively on Business strategy which is a now trajectory to take.
MasterMind Groups are small boutique, group coaching. Meaning we put together a business plan and a detailed plan of action over the next year to reach a specific, well-defined goal.
These groups are not for newbies, folks with vague ideas about what kind of career they want. These groups are about mastering an already flourishing artistic career and taking it to the next level.
Moving your career forward instead of doing the same roles, collecting the same amount of money for the next 20 years is not progress. It's simply surviving, not thriving .
I believe that in the age of social media, where there are so many different platforms for your self-generated work to get seen: UTube channels, Amazon, webseries being picked up by networks, HBO, Showtime, Netflix...
That this idea of being discovered is obsolete and folks waiting for someone to discover them is a waste of valuable time....
Hence the MasterMind groups.
There are 3 distinct MasterMind groups:
- BadAssActor MasterMind Group
- BadAssBusiness Strategy MasterMind Group
- BadAssWriter MasterMind Group
Stay tuned for a super hot video where April goes into detail about how to MasterMind your career....
Want to learn more?
April will be teaching a FREE MasterMind Workshop on Wednesday, July 5th from 6pm-7:30pm (EST).
Can't make it?
We'll send you the recording, just sign up HERE
""""One of the most mortifying moments I experienced in my theatrical career was when I was asked to bring the entirely African-American cast of a new musical we were workshopping, a new piece by an African-American librettist and composer, across the street to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and up into the plush boardroom so they could perform a song or two for the board of directors. I wanted to say something, but I didn't. For one thing, it would take an invaluable 45 minutes to an hour out of the creative team's limited time together. But... every year we had to do the same old song and dance for the board to remind them that yes, we did do new plays and musicals, so yes, it was sometimes a good idea to expose the board to new voices, to the vibrancy of an exciting work in progress.
You all know where this is going, don't you? I led the team in. The talent in that team! The writer/composer himself and the cast, lauded veterans of the stage and the most promising members of the next generation of acting giants. And there was our board. White, as white as can be, white white white white. And very comfortable. They'd just been served lunch, I believe. My theater spared no expense in pleasing our board and catering to their demands (oh my god, I'm feeling such rage right now! I'm pretty sure we had a staff member who was mostly dedicated to help our richest board members get house seats to shows on Broadway and the West End. But I digress...)
The only black face in the audience seated at the conference table? The only person of color? The head of our education department, of course. My heart went out to her.
The cast sang a song from the show. They did it. And they brought it. Because they were and are professionals. And the very pillars of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion reverberated down to the parking lot. It was breathtaking.
And I had just been complicit in the remaking of a scene for the millionth time: black bodies and voices entertaining white audiences, an institution raising money on the backs and voices of black bodies.
I was too mortified to apologize to our writer and to our cast, none of whom, I should add, expressed even an iota of discomfort. They were professionals, and they shone. And come to think of it, they'd probably all become accustomed to this scene. "It's just how theater works," they might have thought with a shrug of their shoulders. Or maybe they seethed inside, for the millionth time, when all they were trying to do is workshop a new musical.
Well, I apologize sincerely now to our writer and those actors. I wish I had had the courage to put my foot down. It is not how theater should work.
I quit the American theater on Valentine's Day 2016, so I've been out more than four years now. And honestly I don't plan to return, which is why I can write with such candor.
The heart of the problem, my friends, is with the non-profit structure, which is capitalism on steroids. Who are the bosses ultimately in an American institutional theater? The board of directors. Who are the board of directors? For the most part, those members of the community not with the strongest attachment to the art form but those with the deepest pockets. Often they're really not members of the community. They often just drop in. They are sometimes mere tourists.
It's no wonder that that board meeting was held in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The theater, like most American theaters, had built its board of directors on the old opera model: You get the richest folks together, offer them galas and house seats and receptions and private recitals and showings (for which artists often don't get paid extra, mind you), you pamper them and make them feel more special and entitled than they already do, and then they'll write you big checks to support the kind of art they like, the kind of art they can bring their kids and grandkids to. AND they--not the artists, not the community--get to hire the institution's leadership.
It is a rotten model. Rotten to the core. How can any artistic institution claim to be working for and in the community with that model?
It's got to be torn down. It's got to be reinvented. And I have no idea what the next model will be. I really don't. And no, honestly I don't think government is the solution frankly. Some of the most bloated, self-satisfied, decadent theater I've ever seen was in Germany, where it was almost fully government-funded. Lots of bells and whistles and provocations and completely soul-dead.
I see amazing and galvanizing lists of demands recently being made and posted by theater artists of color. These are vital demands. But they don't address the central issue. As long as the ultimate bosses of an artistic institution remain the community's deepest pockets, nothing will change. Nothing. You'll be putting band-aids on a gaping wound. Sorry, but it's true.
So please figure something else out. Maybe for a few years you just avoid the institutions. You've already started. In the pandemic, so many of you are making amazing art without an institution. Find those who truly adore your work and ask them to fund it. Screw non-profit. Form a corporation and value your art art-making as a resource that profits you, your viewers/audience and your community. I have no idea.
But please don't return to a new version of the old. After the virus, after he's out of office, after police reform and nationwide conversations about race, after, after, after, begin something new. I can't wait to see what it is!”
Words: Pier Carlo Talenti
Video: Griffin Matthews
April Yvette Thompson