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In Conversation

An Actor’s Perspective with Zach Avery

Our entire industry of film, media, and commercials is dependent on the work of actors. What does their work look like now, and what might the future hold?

July 16, 2020

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The following interview is an excerpt from our video series, SHIFT - In Conversation. To watch the full interview and see more video content, click here. Or you can listen to the SHIFT - In Conversation podcast here

Zach Avery - Actor
Grace Amodeo - Program Manager - SHIFT 
Grace:
Introduce yourself a little bit, tell us who you are and what you do.

Zach:
I'm Zach Avery. I'm an actor living in LA, I've been here about six years now. I’ve mainly worked in feature films since I've been here, with a little entrepreneurial stuff on the side.

Grace:
Before all of this change started happening, what did normal work look like for you?

Zach:
You have your "team", so you have a manager and an agent and those people help you by sending you auditions. They're pitching you for things, but you are also working day to day too. You're going to networking events, you're meeting producers, you're meeting directors and writers. So it’s really a collaborative effort to try to find the projects that fit, figure out the next step, and to get you towards the career that you want.

Grace:
Once you or your team finds a project that you're interested in, what happens next?

Zach:
Usually they'll give you just a very small piece of the script or of your character. And they'll say either they want to see you this date for an audition, or they want you to put yourself on tape. And once you go through that process, if they want to see you again, it's what's called a “callback”. If you go past that, then there's another one where you potentially would meet the director. You would talk about the story, talk about character and kind of let him or her know if you both want to work together for the production. So it really is about developing a relationship and trying to find out if this is someone that they can see themselves trusting with the role.

So it really is about developing a relationship and trying to find out if this is someone that they can see themselves trusting with the role.

Grace:
Is there a standard timeline for this process?

Zach:
Usually weeks or months. There are times where I've talked to directors and producers who have had an actor fall through and they need to find someone in five days because they're about to shoot. But normally, it's a weeks-long process. And that's part of the anxiety, you go in and you do this audition, you feel really good about it, you might get a callback or even meet with the director. And then you're waiting. Because on the other side of it, the director and the producers have a million jobs to do to get this project off the ground, whereas you're waiting for this one role. 

Grace:
Once you actually get cast in a role, what does the pre-production process look like?

Zach:
In pre-production there are sometimes rehearsals. Usually the rehearsals take place right at the beginning of production, once they have all the actors there. Pre-production usually includes going through wardrobe, figuring out what the character looks like. And then you as the actor have to really do the prep and dive into the character. It's about building that character and really making sure that once you do get to set, you're prepared.

Grace:
What does a typical day of production look like once you start shooting?

Zach:
Once it actually starts rolling, you're looking at 12-13 hour days. You'll get a call sheet the day before, they pick you up, and you go straight hair and makeup and get your wardrobe on. And then you're waiting for them to call you to set. One of the biggest misconceptions on a film is how long it takes to actually set up a shot. People just assume you show up to set and you're just shooting all day long, when really it's that you get to set and then you're waiting. When you finally get to that scene, you shoot maybe a page or so and then go back to your trailer while they’re setting up the next shot. And that's why the pre-production prep is so important, because you can't get on set, cameras start rolling, and then try to work out whatever you're doing. You need to know what you're doing and come in with choices already made. 

You can't get on set, cameras start rolling, and then try to work out whatever you're doing. You need to know what you're doing and come in with choices already made. 

Grace:
With most productions being shut down, is there anything you can be doing right now to prepare for future work?

Zach:
The actual work of sending yourself in for things and trying to get roles is not really happening, because no one is shooting. But on the other side, there's other creatives out there who are trying to get those creative juices out as well. So I'm able to reach out to other actors and see if anyone is writing anything, or if there are projects online or shorts that we can do that we wouldn’t have had the time for before. I've been able to really collaborate with friends and try to do as much as possible. People are trying to develop stories that are “corona proof”. I was just talking to a director the other day that has a project that can be set in a remote area, so he can get everyone to one location, get everyone tested, and that’s where they stay. That's the cool part about our industry, with people thinking creatively it's forcing us to stretch and figure out a new model. It’s kind of a clean slate. These are the parameters that we think we're going to be able to shoot in, what can we do that still is captivating and interesting?

That's the cool part about our industry, with people thinking creatively it's forcing us to stretch and figure out a new model. It’s kind of a clean slate.

Grace:
When we do get back onto set full-swing, what do you imagine that might look like?

Zach:
First and foremost, medical check protocols. From my perspective, I’m meeting with hair and makeup people, then wardrobe people, then the mic and audio team. All of these interactions are very close and personal interactions. Everyone is wearing gloves and everyone is wearing face masks, besides me. If I have makeup on, I can't be wearing a face mask or a shield. There’s going to be a lot of training our minds and muscle memory to act in a different way. The director is going to have to direct in a different way. You're going to have to take a step back and consciously think, I normally would have done this but now I simply can’t. And we also want to hide this current era, not letting the audience recognize that we’re physically farther apart. Maybe actors are not kissing. Maybe certain scenes are removed entirely. You can't let them know what’s happening, because they're watching something that they need to believe is somewhere else in a different world. 

Grace:
As an actor, you are kind of a “brand” in and of yourself. How are you keeping yourself in front of your own audiences during this time?

Zach:
We're living in a world where social media is king. So that makes it a little bit easier, for you to curate your social media pages to reflect the artist that you want to be. Everyone from directors, to producers, to other actors is constantly looking around and checking what everyone else is doing. As trailers or posters or any sort of creative piece comes out, I try to get that in front of everyone because it just keeps you relevant. It keeps people thinking about you and being curious about what you’re up to. Also just on a human level, checking in with people is important. Unlike a bigger company, as an actor I am just a human being who is an artist. So I’m able to reach out to a director or a producer and just kind of check in, make sure that I’m present. 

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Would you like to participate in a future In Conversation video interview? Email grace@shift.io for more information. 

Grace Amodeo is a program manager at SHIFT, where she oversees the annual SHIFT Creative Fund grant program. She is a graduate of Emerson College, where she studied film with a concentration in directing narrative fiction. Grace lives in Los Angeles.
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