To be an actor, one must have the skin of a rhino and the heart of a baby. The vulnerability required to achieve authenticity and greatness in one’s craft is directly opposite to the strength and tenacity needed to survive in an industry where, for 90% of actors, unemployment is a way of life.
There is no business like show business. Everyone has a story to tell. Poverty, if one is not resourceful, can be the harsh reality for many actors. However, the business for those who rise to the occasion is a multi-million dollar industry, a dog eat dog world which gives a whole new meaning to the term “hustle.” The actor is no longer an artist, but a commodity.
Along my journey as an actor I have, and will, undoubtedly continue to experience highs and lows. I have learnt that not everyone will have your best interest at heart, to always stay true to yourself, to listen to that invaluable artist intuition, and that for every person who rejects you or abuses your trust, there is always someone who will believe in you and build you right back up again.
For me that someone is actor, author, teacher, and New York City’s finest Casting Director, Jeffrey Dreisbach.
I first met Jeff at a time in my career when I was looking for a change. My focus and commitment as an Actor had reached its highest point. Yet, I knew my talent had not reached its full potential. Dropped and robbed by my first agent, I was, without realising, jaded when it came to the business. Jeffrey Dreisbach, with his humorous wit, contagious enthusiasm, and genuine belief and love for actors, restored my faith in the business of show business.
At one point I remember sitting with Jeff, with my gallon of water (I was on one of many cleanses), crying and thanking him for his endless encouragement and belief.
Jeffrey’s career as an actor spanned 30 years, from Off Broadway to Broadway to film and TV, including film credits such as the Thomas Crown Affair, Die Hard 3, and Splash, TV credits such as Max Bickford, Another World, and One Life to Live. Additionally, he found success in commercials and voice-over including Pepsi, KFC, HBO, Mattel Toys, etc. Jeffrey also conducts workshops for acting and audition techniques for the camera, voice-overs, and actor career development. Current and recent colleges and universities include Brookdale College, Southern Methodist University, University of Missouri, University of Connecticut, Rutgers University, University of Delaware, Terry Schreiber Studios, One on One, TVI Actors Studio, and Penny Templeton, among many others. He is the author of Conversation Pieces out of the Studio, The Voice over Workshop for Professional Actors (Dog Ear Publishing 2011)
More recently, Jeffrey has been a casting partner at McCORKLE CASTING, LTD. McCorkle Casting Ltd. has cast Broadway productions of End of the Rainbow, High, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, The Glass Menagerie, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Ride Down Mt. Morgan, Amadeus, She Loves Me, Blood Brothers, and A Few Good Men, among many others. Notable Off-Broadway projects include Hit The Wall, Tribes, Falling, Our Town, Toxic Avenger, Almost Maine, Ears On A Beatle, Down The Garden Paths, Killer Joe, Mrs. Klein, and Driving Miss Daisy. A partial list of feature film projects include My Man is a Loser, Premium Rush, Ghost Town, Mama Mia, Funny Money, Secret Window, Basic, The Thomas Crown Affair, The 13th Warrior, Madeline, Die Hard with a Vengeance, School Ties, etc. and for TV Sesame Street, Californication (Emmy nomination), Max Bickford, Hack, Strangers with Candy, Barbershop, Chappell’s Show, and Remember Wenn, among several others.
I only wish that all actors would find their Jeffrey Dreisbach at just the right time as I found mine.
ALIXANDRA: You started out as an actor. What made you change direction and start another career path?
JEFFREY DREISBACH: I had reached a level of success with my acting that I began to ask, “Is that all there is?” I loved (and still love) performing, yet the business side felt so out of my control and I simply had no real career guidance to help me. I said yes to everything I was asked to do without breathing (figuratively, of course). I wanted to move away from it for awhile.
A: Casting director, teacher, mentor, author; with your multiple careers how do you maintain your focus and success?
JD: I like the unique creative aspect of each of these areas and try to keep them separate. Casting is a way to evaluate talent and help the director/producer see their vision. Teaching is an outlet for me to perform while sharing my experience and knowledge with others. Being a mentor is a way to personalize the journey we are on as creative talents with another talent. Writing is a private process with which you can connect with your thoughts in an outward way and not constantly listen to your inner monologue. (OK, so I do hear voices!….wait…at least they’re mine!) I seem to get fed with each of the arenas I’m in. I also remain teachable. I am constantly learning from others.
A: You love actors; what is it you love most about them?
JD: It’s what you said about the vulnerability of actors. We are asked to be emotionally and sensitively connected to our roles, while at the same time have a tough skin. How is that possible? It is the effort that I see actors make to reconcile this dichotomy that I find so attractive. Wanting to be fully invested in the work, yet continually ask for validation from others. I love this earnest nature that actors possess. I identify very easily with them on their journey. It’s quite inspiring.
A: What is the most exciting thing about being a casting director in NYC?
JD: Discovering the perfect actor for the role. The best feeling is finding someone the director didn’t expect or didn’t think of and it works. I guess you would say, “out of the box.” I say, “interesting, different, special.” It’s exciting because it doesn’t always happen, but when it does, the creative process is alive and well!
A: Last but not least, what is the one piece of advice you would give to all actors?
JD: The question that surprised me the most when I began casting was the director or producer asking, “Are they nice/good people to work with?” I am not sure why, but I was astonished how being a good, nice person, in addition to being talented, went a long way for booking the role. You mentioned how ruthless and difficult this business is and it truly can be tough. What I have learned is that everyone is afraid. Everyone. The agent is fearful that their clients won’t book, the producer is afraid of failing, the director is worried about their career, and the actor…well, you know. It is because of this fear that many become hostages to their fears and that creates anger, not to mention a bad reputation. Being a good person removes the fear. Being fun to work with changes the creative environment for everyone. I am not talking about some false, phony role you “put on” but rather a genuine present self that says, “I am happy to be part of this process.”