I recently had the pleasure to sit down with Jen Rudolph; the founder and CEO of Actor’s Green Room. AGR is an acting company designed to help actors find and play to their strengths in this very competitive industry. Through close mentorship, to the foundation of networking in New York City, Jen went on to explain how Actor’s Green Room stands out in the big apple, and how building her brand has become the leading outlet through which actors invest their time and energy.
Christian Roberts: What lead you to start AGR?
Jen Rudolph: I was a CD for ten years and I got into casting when I was working at Mandalay Television. I was working for the Executive Vice President for Series Television, Scott Sanders, and what ended up happening is they hired a CD named Jeff Mitchell and I became his assistant in terms of casting while I was working at Mandalay. So when I was working with Jeff in casting we started working on a series called “Young Americans” which was on the CW, it was a spinoff of Dawson’s Creek. While we were doing that we discovered Michelle Monaghan and gave her her first job; we worked with people like Ian Somerholder, Kate Moenning, Kate Bosworth, I mean this was all their first gig. So I realized that “Hey I really want to do casting and what not” so I left my job at Mandalay, became Jeff’s associate, and then his partner. We worked on over forty film and television projects and also discovered Mike Vogel, Vincent Piazza (Boardwalk Empire) who came through us in a sense. From there I started to teach classes. I realized that when I was in the room with these actors that I really knew what it took for them to book the job. Having Skype conversations with directors like Michael Bay, who worked on Armageddon at the time, and pretty much just working with a lot of great well known Casting Directors, Directors, Executive Producers, etc. I began teaching classes which were selling out and when I was teaching I discovered that I really liked to mentor actors. With that in mind I inched away from casting and created Actors Green Room pulling in other CDs as it began to grow. That’s when I knew that it was going to be a big company.
Roberts: How long has AGR been around?
Rudolph: AGR has been around for 8 years. We opened in 2008 and have become the number one company in NYC of its kind. I’ve mentored such actors as Matt McGorry who’s on “How To Get Away With Murder” as well as “Orange Is The New Black”. He came to AGR for five years. Over the years we have had a lot of people who have started with nothing and then we nurture them, introduce them to casting directors and agents, and now they are working actors. What’s different about AGR is as the owner I’m very hands on. I really get into it with my clients. I offer a service where I can meet with them, mentor them, as our classes max out at eight students where other places max out at 15 people. The whole notion of AGR is built on support and not so much competition. The more you support others the more you succeed. I’m a fan of the law of attraction and gratitude and building a sense of community at AGR. In order to build something, you need a solid foundation to build upon which is what we at AGR abide by.
Roberts: What makes AGR stand out from the other acting services in NYC?
Rudolph: I’m involved. Other companies will send out an email blast, you never know who the owners are, it’s just like “Hey, here is what we are offering.” There’s no personal involvement or sense of community in the other ones. I have relationships with all of the top industry members in New York. Casting directors really love AGR and the quality of actors coming out of here because most of them work with my staff and the other places there’s not much guidance. They give you scenes to do that are based on your headshot and we allow you to do your own scenes based on who you are as an artist. Simply put, AGR employs a strategy and they don’t. Actors feel like a number at the other places, where here they can grow and be guided. That’s what makes us different.
Roberts: What are some challenges you’ve had to face to get AGR to where it is now?
Rudolph: I walked into a field with a lot of competition. What I learned about branding myself, is that my angle was going to be both from a personal and spiritual place. I didn’t want to fit the mold of the other companies, I’m going to be different, and I’m going to be me. As a result of that I’ve attracted a lot of business. Acting companies who have been around a lot longer than me are losing their students to AGR. But that was the toughest part for me in the beginning was making my mark in this industry. Now industry people know me, and my brand and casting directors are giving AGR a little bit more time and consideration. Our success stories are through the roof. For me it’s not about the numbers as it is about the people. If your heart is in the business and you’re approaching it from a pure place, you will do well. If you approach it from a place of looking at students as numbers you are going to see them leave.
Roberts: What are some words of advice you can give to prospective CDs and actors?
Rudolph: My career has been like “take the next right step” mentality. First working in production, then at a talent agency, then for Scott, then in casting and then opening Actors Green Room. In terms of getting into casting you can be an intern. If you are an actor looking to get into casting you can meet the casting directors and tell them that you are interested in becoming an intern. A lot of people who have started as interns are now pretty high up there. You rise in the ranks. As an actor the best advice I have to give is building relationships. They are the most important thing in this business. It’s about who you know but more importantly who knows you. Actors need to understand that this is a business and that you, the individual, is a business owner. You have to treat yourself like a CEO and not feel that you deserve it just because you went to NYU. Get in the workshops, get a new headshot, sell yourself properly and put yourself out there. It’s not just about the art. It’s half art and the other half is pure business. A lot of actors are missing that essential piece and then don’t understand why they aren’t booking work or getting called in. For me there’s a lot that the actors can’t control, but there is a lot that they are in control of. They are in control of what they are putting out there. They have to do it optimally.