Thursday, March 29, 2012

178. Q&A with Julie Alexandria (Self-Made Girl)

"A man sooner or later discovers that he is the master-gardener of his soul, the director of his life." - James Allen

When I started posting the "interview series," I had intended to complete interviews with three people that I admire and consider to be creating thriving careers in the BIZ, each are graduates of the MFA programs that I've been auditioning for:

All three of them were generous enough to sit down, answer all my prying questions and share their experiences for your and my edification and inspiration. THANKS GUYS!

However, it dawned on me about a week ago that I was not being very thorough in my representation of the NY experience for successful artists. For there are MANY thriving artists that I greatly admire in NY that DO NOT HAVE AN MFA.

So in the interest of giving a full spectrum of perspectives to the "interview series"...I asked my friend Julie Alexandria to share with us her experience and her unique perspective on the matter.

Due to the fact that this Accepance Project Blog will be completed in 3 days, Julie and I didn't have time to sit down for a face-to-face interview. (This woman is craaaaazy busy!) But we don't let obstacles like..."there's-no-time" get in the way of the greater good! So I sent her some questions by email and she was awesome about responding super fast!!! I've included her answers below.

But enough from me...Let's get to Julie, already!

V: Hey, Julie! Where to begin? How about...Give us a little mini bio...Where are you from? Where did you attend undergrad? Where do you live now?

J: Hi, I'm Julie Alexandria. I'm a TV host and sports and entertainment reporter based in NY and LA. I was born in Queens, NY, and then grew up in Orange County, CA when my family moved us out there. I was really into the arts as a kid, and I was fortunate to attend a performing arts high school which was really the start of my artistic journey. I worked at local Equity theaters and at civic light operas, as well as performing in high school productions. I later attended Cal State Long Beach as a theater major.

V: Tell the readers how we know each other...

J: Virginia and I met performing in summer stock theater out in California. We played opposite each other in a production of "Honk!", and we bonded instantly.

Virginia & Julie circa 2003 (Summer Repertory Theatre - Santa Rosa, CA)
Sorry, Julie...I HAD TO...LOL! (She's going to KILL me for including this photo.)

J: Virginia was, and continues to be, a great friend. (Except when it comes to posting embarrassing photos on her blog...CLEARLY.) It was there that one of the directors told me "You're good. You should move to New York and make something of yourself." Four weeks later, I did just that.

V: Give a little overview of the kinds of jobs you are making your living doing currently...

J: I'm currently involved in several projects, including hosting a show about baseball for Bloomberg Sports, covering an interesting angle on entertainment reporting for a new show for Travel Channel, and keeping busy in the studio as a voice over artist. I'm also out as much as I can auditioning for new shows, commercials, and VO spots.

V: Who has been your greatest supporter/most influential mentor?

J: I draw a lot of support from my family. They were there to chauffeur me to rehearsals when I was a kid doing community theater, they sat through my "Experimental Theater" performances, and they flew across the country to see my shows in NYC. They have always encouraged me to keep going, to never give up, and to take risks. For that, I am forever grateful.

V: Have you have any negative motivators? (Ex. Naysayers...Back-biters...Your own limiting beliefs) How have you delt with people that don't support you in your dreams/goals?

J: Sure, there are lots of negative people in this world. People who try to bring you down, who plant doubts in your mind, or tell you that it's impossible to be successful in this business. To those people I say thank you. Thank you for making me try harder, and for strengthening my desire to succeed. Sometimes in this business, you are gonna meet some people who do not see you as the talent you think you are. And that's ok. The important thing is to try to take it in stride and not let it bring you down.

V: Strategies for success in NY: What was your expectation of the kind of work came here to do vs. what actually ended up happening? How do you feel about where you are at now as compared to what you used to think was possible?

J: I initially moved to New York with dreams of starring on Broadway. Acting was my thing -- especially Shakespeare. I expected to act off Broadway, perhaps tour a bit, and eventually break into the Broadway scene. But my career took a different path. After a few years I signed with an agency, and they started sending me out for auditions. I ended up booking my first hosting audition, and I really enjoyed the work. I still had a passion for the stage, but I figured, why fight it? I'm working and making money, and it just felt like the right path for me. (Check out her HOSTING REEL HERE.)

V: Have you ever considered grad school? Why did you decide not to take that path? Do you think an MFA gives one an advantage for a successful career in the arts?

J: I considered grad school, and I even went out to ACT to audition for them. I hadn't prepped with a coach, and I didn't really know what I was getting myself into. I did a Neil Simon monologue (I know… I know… I was young, don't judge ;-) and surprisingly enough they asked me to stay for the group callback. I made it into the alternate pool, but I didn't end up attending the program. I sometimes think back on it and wonder what if, and perhaps someday I will go back and study that art that I adore.

Everyone has a different path, and I don't think an MFA is a requirement to be successful in this business. It can give you certain tools that can be helpful along the way, and it can definitely help with the networking side of things. Grad school gives you access to a large community of like-minded individuals, as well as access to agents, casting directors, producers, directors, writers and many others who can help a person along their journey. It really depends on the person, some people are better off learning on their own and making their own way, and others thrive in the more academic setting of an MFA program. Whatever the path, in the end it doesn't matter what name or letters are after your name, what really matters are those precious few moments in front of the director, producers, and casting director once you open the door to the audition room.

V: Share with us your best piece of advice about auditioning in NY/LA.

J: When it comes to auditioning I hear now more than ever, "Just be yourself". Maybe it's the success of YouTube, and reality TV, but the media is obsessed with the unpolished, the unique, and the real. In light of this, it's a good idea to highlight what makes you unique or different. Do you have a certain skill or aptitude, something that makes you stand out? When choosing an audition monologue pay close attention to your type. Ask yourself "Can I currently play this part?" or "What can I bring to this role?"

Most of my Hosting auditions usually have some cold reading component. I suggest taking a class on this if this is not your thing. It is common to also demonstrate improv skills - either alone or in a group. When it comes to a written script, I like to alter the copy and put my own spin on it. This can be risky, but if you are familiar with the subject, I say go for it. Otherwise, stick to the script. Half the battle is just getting in the room, the rest of it is what you actually DO in the room.

V: Care to weigh-in on the importance of networking?

J: Fact: It's a small industry. When you think of all of the big Hollywood and Broadway producers and directors, you know they had to start somewhere. Either as a PA working on the set of a movie, getting coffee for everyone, or maybe as an office temp pushing papers for the big wigs.

My point is -- Be nice to everyone. Today's PA's are tomorrows Producers. You never know when the assistant you are working with will be offered a bigger job, or in 5 years, that guy who was wrangling the extras on set, is now an associate producer. It never hurts to be nice, and never underestimate the power of learning a person's name.

As in any business its important to keep in touch with people you meet. Have a business card, and always keep them on hand. You never know who you might run into. I'm also a big fan of thank you cards/notes/emails after a meeting or audition.

(Side note from Virginia: I have sent thank you notes to the faculty at NYU & Yale every year that I've auditioned...and I even sent thank you notes to some of the faculty at Juilliard after attending the MFA Info Session. A well-written and heartfelt thank you note that says something unique and TRUE and personal...really shows that you care and you're willing to go-the-extra-mile. NOBODY sends hand-written notes anymore. So taking the time to do this can really set you apart from the crowd in ANY situation.)

V: How about social networking, any thoughts?

J: When it comes to social networking - anyone can see your page/profile/timeline; so regard it as such.

As far as Twitter is concerned I like to reference this quote from the awesome Ellen DeGeneres "Don't tweet anything that you wouldn't want plastered as the headline of your local paper" I'm paraphrasing, but it was something to that effect. I happen to love twitter, so follow me! @JulieAlexandria. Very often in hosting auditions I'm asked "How many Twitter followers do you have?" They wanna know what and who you bring to the table.

Social networking is a great way to build your community, share industry info, and keep in touch with other actors/artistic people. It's also important to have a website so that people can find you online -- it doesn't have to be overly fancy-schmancy, but it should have your basic information including contact info, head shot, resume, and reel.

V: Anything else you'd like to add?

J: Be fearless. There are no mistakes, only learning experiences.

I also want to say thank you, to you, Virginia, for your candidness, your honesty, your truth. For sharing something so dear to your heart. Thank you for showing us what it is to be a brave artist, and to be your true self. You have a bright future ahead, and no doubt will accomplish all you have set out to do.

Thank you, Julie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If there's any question in your mind that you might not be able to have a successful career if you don't go to a fancy grad school...or ANY grad school for that matter...I hope that reading about Julie's experience has helped inspire you to get moving and make things happen on your own.

Grad school is not the only way.

Make your own curriculum. Figure out the areas where you feel you need training to strengthen your craft and start practicing now.

YOU are the creator of your own experience. YOU can create the kind of successful career you've always dreamed of...You don't have to wait for a silly acceptance letter to TELL you that you can. Give yourself the permission to GO FOR IT! And be open to the opportunities and helpers that will come your way.One thing will lead to another...lead to another...lead to another...and as long as you keep on the path and moving in the direction of building what you want...and don't give up (even when all the obstacles seem soooooo overwhelming that it just seems like total insanity to continue)...DON'T GIVE UP... and don't be attached to HOW you're going to get there...but just know/trust/believe/imagine that you WILL get there...that you ARE there...and enjoy the journey along the way... and be grateful for the mistakes as well as the triumphs...because those are the things that help refine you and make you awesomer. Don't be afraid. You are awesome already. True story.

Anyway, anyway, anyway...blah, blah, blah...Enough of my soap-boxing!

Get off your computer and go DO IT!


P.S. OMG! Two more posts and the project is DONE! WHEW!!!!!...If I paid myself by the hour for this project I'd be rollin' in the dough! LOL!...As it is...I will take my payment in good karma. That's got a better rate of return than cash anyway. ;-)

P.P.S. Follow me on Twitter! @viavirginia ... Julie's inspired me to want to tweet more. :-P

P.P.P.S. Check out Julie's latest Verizon commercial!...Loooooooove it!

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