The Flick Chicks

07/21/06 UNLV Actors Expo

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Judy Thorburn

University of Nevada Las Vegas First Ever "Actors Expo"

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Las Vegas Round The Clock

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Photos by Stephen Thorburn

Hollywood actors, a famous director and a movie producer were the featured speakers at the first ever Actors Expo held Saturday, July 15 at Marjorie Barrick Museum located on the campus the University of Las Vegas. Young acting hopefuls looking to succeed in the entertainment industry heard first hand, in up close and personal discussions, what it takes to stand out from the rest in a very demanding and tough business. Afterwards there was an open period with the speakers addressing questions from the audience.

Victor Webster and Mario Lopez - Photo by Stephen Thorburn

Handsome actors Mario Lopez, whose resume includes TV shows Saved By The Bell, Pacific Blue and ESPN Hollywood, and Victor Webster who has appeared in such shows as Sex in the City, Mutant X, and The Lot, spoke about how they got started and the need to fine tune your craft with lots of hard work and study. An emphasis was on taking advantage of what your local community has to offer, going on open, or cattle calls and letting struggling up and comers know that there will be plenty of rejection and doors slammed in their face. Needed is an agent who will get on the phone, fight and hustle for you. “If you have the talent and have a thick enough skin you need the opportunity to find someone who believes in you. Be persistent and never give up,” they said.

Although both are extremely good looking, these busy actors made a point of saying that “there is room in the business for all types of looks, a place for everybody”. But, the one thing both actors agreed is most important is having the “passion”. In other words, “acting must be something you must do and cannot live without. It must be in your heart,” they said. “You must be honest with yourself. There is a big difference between actors who are driven by their craft and celebrities who are famous and have a big house on the hills”.

Finland born Director Renny Harlin, the man at the helm of such movies as Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger and Driven, and Kia Jam, producer of The Jacket and one of this year’s best movies, Lucky Number Slevin added additional insight from a filmmaker’s point of view.

Kia Jam

Renny Harlin

First, these two bigwigs wanted to make it clear that they are examples of people who did not come from a legacy of entertainers. They had a dream they needed to fulfill and went at it full force, telling details of their background, how they started and what led to becoming a success. They went on to discuss the casting process, as well as giving some hard facts about money being the bottom line and how Hollywood is enamored with youth as the driving forces behind the movie-making machine. For instance, it is different for men when it comes to a lasting career. The perfect example is an aging Sean Connery (they joked that he is probably 112 years old) who can act besides an actress young enough to be his granddaughter and no one bats an eye. But for women there are three age groups with roles that fit- 15-25 mistress, 25-35 mother, and 35 up district attorney. Only a few female stars such as Meryl Streep, have been able to keep their star power and longevity in movies at her age.

A strong point was made that whatever you are doing; make sure it is the best, even if it is Xeroxing, because you never know where it will lead. Kia said the business is designed to keep you out, but you can’t be discouraged.

Kia Jam and Renny Harlin

Judy Thorburn, Kia Jam, Renny Harlin
and filmmaker Jeremy Settles of

Harlin mentioned that he found Viggo Mortenson by chance sitting outside an office and cast him in his first starring role. When it comes to casting, the filmmaker wants to stay true to their vision, but must be open to something fresh and listening to casting ideas that might sound off the wall. Harlin brought up the issue of casting unknowns in a major film and realizing sometimes it is better to cast unknown faces rather than a star in a film so that it is story driven and audiences won’t be distracted by their celebrity image.

In just a few hours I am sure the audience, consisting of wide-eyed acting students, were educated in a way that would leave a valuable and lasting impression. But, like they all said, the key is having the passion and THAT cannot be taught.

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