I recently had the amazing pleasure of interviewing Jen Rudolph, the founder and owner of Actor’s Green Room, and talked to her about the value of working with a mentor or coach.
AGR is a company whose mission is to nourish artists spiritually and artistically. It is designed to help actors find and play to their strengths in this very competitive industry. You can learn about Jen and the Actor’s Green Room at www.theactorsgreenroom.com.
Follow Jen on Twitter: @AGRNYLA
Douglas Taurel: Where are you originally from Jen?
Jen Rudolph: Manhattan. Born and raised. I don’t have an accent though; it was kicked out of me in college.
Douglas Taurel: For some reason, I thought you were from the Midwest.
Jen Rudolph: That’s because I’m kind.
Douglas Taurel: That’s probably it! I know you really enjoy mentoring actors, and so the first question I want to ask you is what is it about mentoring you enjoy and why?
Jen Rudolph: Good question. My mom was an actress growing up, she went to a high school of performing arts, Liza Minnelli was one of her classmates, so I had the acting bug when I was younger. I went to London and then I went to college for acting where I went into the director role and casting role. I have always been a very nurturing person, I learned by osmosis my mother’s mentoring skills, I became meshed with actors and just really love watching other people achieve their dreams.
Something hit me, I don’t know where it came from but I really enjoyed directing people and casting and kind of having a puzzle to put together. In my 20s I had a lot of friends who were actors and since I’ve always been an encouraging person, I love mentoring and helping them because I always knew what it would take for somebody to book a role. So I started mentoring in college, and then in the big leagues it just kind of happened. I do come from a show biz family, my cousin is Jon Landau, my first cousin, so he’s my father’s sister’s son, Avatar, Titanic – Tina Landau is my other cousin.
Douglas Taurel: That’s really amazing.
Jen Rudolph: So when I grew up, I was pretty close to Jon and Tina in New York and I watched Tina just kind of create all this work,
Douglas Taurel: So the bug was in you.
Jen Rudolph: The bug was in me, Edie and Eli Landau, my aunt and uncle, they had a production company in the 80’s. They did a lot of big projects and Lev Landau, directed a lot
of stuff for them. Tina Landau, I would say was definitely the most nurturing force for me, just watching her create did something to me.
Douglas Taurel: Through your uncle, is that how you knew all these people?
Jen Rudolph: Yep, aunt and uncle, so I was immersed in it and I think it just kind of took hold of me and after college I was hawing about what I wanted to do. I went to work at a talent agency; I worked at HWA and eventually became like a junior agent over there and would work with some of the clients, I loved listening about their careers. I would kind of give them advice and then from then they would get jobs, so I was like maybe I should be in casting and production.
Prior to that I was friends with a manager named Jocelyn Herman and I asked Jocelyn if there was anything I could do to get into casting a little bit. There was a script that came my way called Roger Dodger and they wanted me to look for the lead roles and other supporting roles, and I got a headshot from someone whose name was Jesse Eisenberg. We brought him in and read him and I said, “I think this kid is going to be a star,” he got the part that launched his career. Then from there I was like okay, I need to be in casting.
Douglas Taurel: I think a lot of people forget that some of the most important people we know today had mentors, like Albert Einstein, Jay Z, Oprah, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet.
Jen Rudolph: Everybody does, I have a mentor. I have four actually. Natalie, Clyde, Jeff and Jordan. I go to them all for different things.
Douglas Taurel: Why do you think it’s important for an actor to have a mentor or a coach?
Jen Rudolph: Because they don’t know any better, because they’re inexperienced, because everybody needs someone who will take them under their wing and advise them on everything. Early on in my career I would say my ultimate mentor was Diana Doussant, she helped shaped how I was going about things, she helped me with my self-esteem in certain ways.
Douglas Taurel: Can I ask who’s Dianna?
Jen Rudolph: She was an agent at HWA who became like a coach to me and then became a really close friend. I mean it’s important to have someone to talk to, someone to open up to about all your insecurities, all of your fears, all of your beliefs that might be holding you back. I believe that we all have in us the potential to shine in whatever way we want but what’s holding us back is our own stuff.
Douglas Taurel: Very true.
Jen Rudolph:It’s so true.
Douglas Taurel: You create these stories inside your head.
Jen Rudolph: You want to work with a mentor or coach who is wiser and a little more seasoned in a sense, so when you work with them, you can address those issues and that is when miracles happen. I think that is one of the big reasons why we have so much success here at AGR, and why I love doing what I do is because I literally watch people who are completely in their shell who are holding themselves back or sabotaging themselves and I tell them, “you are enough, you can do this but you have to get out of your own way.”
Douglas Taurel: Who’s your mentor or coach right now?
Jen Rudolph: I have a few. I would say Clyde Baldo is my mentor, he’s like our acting coach, he’s been my best friend for 15 years. He’s a director, psychotherapist, actor, I mean he’s everything. He was there for me in my darkest days; he’s helped me get out of my way. Sometimes even me, like I’m prone to insecurity, I’m prone to anxiety and he helps me. Jeff Mitchell, who I’ve been in business with is definitely my business mentor and Jordan Ancel has taught me everything I know about social media. I was terrified of social media. I go to people who are physically older than me and who have had a little more experience in certain ways and I ask them to please help me. There is nothing more powerful than saying Help.
Douglas Taurel: My wife gives me that advice all the time, she says there’s something so powerful when you ask for help, when you say hey I need some help. People want to help naturally, it’s in our DNA to help.
Jen Rudolph: I have a tattoo that says, “I surrender” and what that means to me, is that I don’t know anything. If I’m struggling to find the answer, not to struggle more and to ask and say I need help.
Douglas Taurel: What is the biggest mistake you see actors make when they come here to AGR?
Jen Rudolph: They don’t listen and unfortunately think that they know it all. They don’t want to look in the mirror and possibly think that they’re the reason they have the reality that is in front of them right now. They blame everyone else, so I ask them, “Are you doing what you need to do? Are you prepared? Are you open? Are you doing your work?” I turn the tables on them and I tell them that I’m not here to say you’re a victim, but I’m here to empower you.
Douglas Taurel: I read your blog recently about an actor who you spoke some tough love to and because he listens to you, he got called in for an audition by a big time casting director, yes?
Jen Rudolph: I kicked his ass.
Douglas Taurel: From what I recall, you said, “you don’t have a website, are you kidding me? You have let yourself down and I’m disappointed in your lack of preparation for the business.”
Jen Rudolph: I could have let that go very easily but I wanted to prove an example. I mean an actor needs a website.
Douglas Taurel: I agree. You can build one for free.
Jen Rudolph: I told him get on there and build it in 30 minutes. It doesn’t need to cost you anything, this is unacceptable. You have to fight and stand up if you think you’re worth it. I wanted to show him that he’s worth it, and if he invests in himself, someone will go to bat for him. I went to bat for him. How can anybody go to bat for you if you’re not going to bat for yourself?
Douglas Taurel: That’s a great mantra; If you invest in yourself, someone will bat for you.
So what exactly is C.R.E.A.T.E?
Jen Rudolph: C.R.E.A.T.E is a series of workshops that offer spiritual tools to empower actors in a sense. Each workshop is 20 bucks and there’s a topic every week, this week is a topic on intimacy. The other week was a topic on shame, we address topics with a lecture and we talk about the spiritual principles on the subjects. It’s kind of like a wonderful group therapy in a sense. You share with a partner, who’s an actor in the class, and then you sit in like a small group and talk about your stuff. It really gives people an opportunity to open up and be heard, seen and to be vulnerable, and then we all support each other.
It’s the Law of Attraction, clearing out all the stuff that kind of blocking you from shining. Then when they go into their acting work, they go in there unobstructed. Their shedding all of their negative baggage.
In C.R.E.A.T.E we give people a means of connecting with other artists, there’s nothing like being open with your fellow actors and forming friendships and being ultimately supportive. We achieve more as a group than we do individually.
Douglas Taurel: Where in your teaching or casting career did you say, that’s how I want to mentor actors?
Jen Rudolph: I always had an image of actors coming together and bonding with each other. I think it was my destiny. When I moved into this space I was nervous about being able to afford it and fill it. However, I knew that if I built a space for actors to come together, they would come. It’s something that I preach to actors all the time here at AGR, “If you build it, they will come.” – like in my favorite movie, Field of Dreams.
Douglas Taurel: You had the image first.
Jen Rudolph: I am giving to people what I always wanted. I can look at you and see what you’re capable of, I see beyond your negative stories. I can tell you it’s a competitive business, I can tell you that there are a lot of factors that you’re not in control of, however I can also tell you that there’s a lot that you are in control of and I am here to provide a path for you.
Douglas Taurel: How do you think actors should stay open and how should they keep their focus on the long game?
Jen Rudolph: I think every actor should be in a scene study class, number one. That’s like their gym. We have a scene study class here, Sarah Baskin.
Douglas Taurel: I agree.
Jen Rudolph: She is incredible, like we have a level one, a level two and a level three. She has her own methods. It’s kind of what I call high octane acting. I sat in on her class and she actually threw me into a scene. It was the most exhilarating, amazing, truthful experience.
Douglas Taurel: Not getting too much into it, what’ her theory on scene study?
Jen Rudolph: To surrender to the moment. She will push you until you like admit your truth. She is a sledgehammer to an actor’s defenses basically. I’m obsessed with her and I know the AGR community is obsessed with her.
They should also invest and come to C.R.E.A.T. E. It’s only 20 dollars, there is no long term commitment and it will help them let go of all of their negative beliefs. Put down the latte and come invest in yourself.
Douglas Taurel: To commit.
Jen Rudolph: Commit, sacrifice and invest in yourself. Everybody needs a community. It’s a cutthroat business, it’s tough, but it doesn’t have to be. Every actor is like a snowflake, they’re all individually unique. You are extremely unique and special and your uniqueness will set you apart.
Douglas Taurel: Well said. Okay, so in summary, an actor should commit to themselves, always be in a scene study class, invest in themselves emotionally so that they can let go of their negative believes like in a workshop like C.R.E.A.T.E.
Jen Rudolph: Yes. If you focus on yourself, work will come to you; casting directors will pay attention to you. Granted you have to put yourself out there, like you’re not going to get work if you’re in a room not meeting anybody and waiting for the phone to ring, that’s ludicrous. However, if you put yourself out there, it will happen, it’s like moths to a flame; if you build it they will come is what your mindset needs to be.
Douglas Taurel: You talk a lot about actors getting out of their comfort zone, what does that mean and is there a specific risk an actor should take and a risk actors should never take?
Jen Rudolph: Not to be afraid to really letting yourself fall apart in the audition, be prepared and professional but if it gets messy, let it get messy, messy is real. There is no such thing as a perfect audition, there isn’t. Perfection is an illusion and it’s not human.
Douglas Taurel: I agree. Perfection is not art.
Jen Rudolph: We want real people and we connect with people who are vulnerable and are not afraid to show us their mistakes. We are captivated by people because of their humanity not because of their perfection.
Douglas Taurel: You hear that from so many casting directors who say they love mistakes, as well as from well-known directors who have said that they don’t like it when an actor is too polished.
Jen Rudolph: It’s not real.
Douglas Taurel: They feel like they can’t mold them anymore.
Jen Rudolph: The best moments are when an actor falls down and has to recover, it’s not about falling down its how you recover.
Douglas Taurel: Yeah.
Jen Rudolph: It’s interesting, it’s real, it’s off the beaten path. However, something that an actor should never do is be unprepared. If your meeting the casting director for Blue Bloods, watch the show. It’s insane not to. You have to do your work.
Douglas Taurel: The vision for AGR five years from now?
Jen Rudolph: We are going to be a complete mind body professional program where literally, we’re going to be the most important place that an actor goes and lives. We’re offering the spiritual component; we’re going to offer more and more acting classes and more casting director workshops. We’re going to be the hub and continue to grow AGR online. We’re doing webinars with all the top people, in the industry and they are all free. We are eventually going to become a broadcasting network where we are going to be the actor’s sanctuary.
Douglas Taurel: Do you think it’s the community that you’re trying to create what separates you from everybody else?
Jen Rudolph: 100%, the other workshop owners they’re not involved personally, nobody even knows who the workshop owner is. The emails are not sensitive and interpersonal. I write all of those emails, every single one. I have a relationship with everybody who comes through this door. I am personally invested, the other places are a bit like factories and I’m not afraid to say that. The minute I want to become a factory I’m going to close because that’s never been my vision, you know what I mean?
Douglas Taurel: I do. When you mentor actors, you coach them, what’s the biggest “ah huh” moment you see them take away when they work with you?
Jen Rudolph: That they realize that they’re in control and that they now have a trajectory of what it is they can do. I have given them the steps and now they now have a plan. They can follow. I see them so relieved because a lot of times they are given bad information or perhaps they have their own wrong ideas about something. I show them an outside eye of the industry, and when they get that, they leave with, “Holy crap, I get it now!”
Douglas Taurel: What I’m hearing from you is that you help the actors gain confidence, control over their careers and an understanding how the business really works. They leave with specific action steps they need to do professionally and personally to help themselves move forward.
Jen Rudolph: They leave empowered more than anything, versus I’m lost I don’t know what to do. I feel empowered, I know exactly what to do.
Douglas Taurel: Do you think actors should have a plan and a vision where they’re going?
Jen Rudolph: Of course, here’s the thing, in C.R.E.A.T.E we have a vision board or what Natalie calls a “Bhavana” a statement, it’s everything that you want. You’re acting and speaking about it as if it has already happened. Example, in October when I book my guest star role or when I am in the next issue of Inc. Magazine. You talk as if it’s already happened and you put it out there. It is the Law of Attraction.
Douglas Taurel: It’s a very true statement. When I created my solo show, I was having a real hard time finding a director, a coach gave me that advice. He told me to go to bed every night and say thank you as if it already happened and it did. I ended up finding an amazing director, Padraic Lillis. I definitely believe in “Bhavana”
Jen Rudolph: It means calling the thing you want into an existence and the way you call into existence is by acting like it’s already happened.
Douglas Taurel: That’s great.
Jen Rudolph: Again all of this is Law of Attraction; it’s really all the same theme.
Douglas Taurel: How soon do you think an actor should work with a mentor or coach?
Jen Rudolph: Immediately. Everybody has a mentor. Every success story, they all have a mentor, all of them.
Douglas Taurel: Do you think actors should intern at a casting director’s office?
Jen Rudolph: I think it’s always great to learn how the business works and what really goes on. However, what’s even better is if you’re a reader at a casting director’s office. Then you’re literally in the room with the casting director and you’re listening to the feedback and you’re seeing all the mistakes actors make.
Douglas Taurel: A book you think all actors must read?
Jen Rudolph: It’s going to get spiritual again. The manual, The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer.
Douglas Taurel: The Untethered Soul.
Jen Rudolph: It’s all about mindfulness.
Douglas Taurel: If you could put a billboard anywhere in the city of Manhattan that gave advice to actors, what would it say?
Jen Rudolph: If you build it they will come. You have the power within you to manifest whatever it is you want.
Douglas Taurel: What do you want the industry and actors to know AGR for?
Jen Rudolph: That we nurture the artist from the inside out.
Douglas Taurel: Nicely said!
Follow Douglas on Twitter