Originally published in https://actdancemodelsing.com.
Featured Actor, VO Talent, iActing Studios’ Instructor, Storytelling Coach, & Technologist David H. Lawrence, XVII At the first, “hello,” we could see why this actor, voice over talent, entrepreneur, problem solver, creator, and inventor, is so successful. With his velvet voice and intelligent, expressive eyes, David H. Lawrence, XVII has a very down to earth, no- nonsense, get real approach to the industry. He has had a diverse career, spanning a couple of decades, in radio, stage, television, and film. It was a privilege to sit and talk with him in the middle of West Hollywood, California this past week.
“Be committed, be persistent, be good at your craft, your business and your technology.”
David came to Los Angeles in 2003, the goal to do on-camera work. His previous experiences were mainly on-mike work in radio for 35 years. It was important to him that he didn’t start auditioning seriously until he felt completely prepared, understood how the business works, and received some really good training. “I began my training, in terms of the art of acting, from instructor, Howard Fine, and also from a book called, ‘Secrets of Screen Acting,’ by Patrick Tucker.
They became a lynch pin of how I’ve approach acting all these years. I had to learn how to let go of my on-air radio personality. One of the problems with radio people is they’re always too loud. When on set, they figure the louder and more dramatic they are, the better, but it doesn’t work that way. Louder isn’t better on camera, as it is on radio. I didn’t actually start auditioning for anything on television or network until 2007. Instead, I auditioned and filmed over 150 student films, because that’s how many you have to do, to get the footage that you need for a two minute reel (we both chuckled).”
When asked about working on student projects, he offered, “Well there are two things working against you. Number one is that many schools are just playing at being film schools. There are many colleges with very high pedigrees, that offer film programs, yet don’t even come close to University of Southern California (USC) and Chapman’s film programs. These two colleges are the only places that I recommend to work with. The other local schools fall short in comparison The majority of the people that end up working in the industry are the graduates from USC and Chapman. Period. If you are serious about acting and want a really good demo reel, then you want to be in productions that have great lighting, great sound, great stories, great direction, and great editing. Film with a team that gives an end product that looks like network quality. Both schools are at the top of the list and it was a clip from a student film from Chapman and another one from USC that actually got me to audition for the show that most people know me best from, a show called HEROES. I played Eric Doyle, one of the really bad guys on the show. Season 1, I was at the wrap party and the casting director said, ‘You know why we brought you in, right?’ I told him I had no idea. He said he saw a clip from a student film where I played some creepy ring master, so he brought me in and the rest was history.”
“Reminiscing about the auditioning aspect of HEROES, when I walked into that audition room and everybody in the room was highly recognizable, I tried to keep it together. If you think you can walk into that room as an unknown actor and have your self-esteem raised, you’ve go another thing coming. I was surrounded by actors and characters that scared the crap out of me every week on television and in films. Come on, I was sitting across from the guy that played the bad guy in GOLDFINGER! Even though he looked like he was in his nineties, he was prepared to do what he does best, like he has done in all the other projects he’s worked in.” “Regarding training, beside Howard Fine and my go-to reading, mentioned earlier, I highly recommend casting workshops offered at studios such as ACT Now, Actors Key, Connect Studios and Real Pros. I recommend them all for different reasons. Each has it’s unique benefits. Actors just need to keep training and getting the opportunity to build relationships with casting directors, giving you a huge advantage, to learn directly from the source.
Speaking of expenses and financing your career, David mentioned there is a real advantage to having a war chest when you come to Los Angeles or New York to become an actor. “If you don’t have money and you don’t have the ability to make money, then the struggle will be a thousand times worse. But if you plan ahead of time and provide yourself with the resources you need, then you’ll be much better off. Almost all of the good classes cost about the same, about $250 a month. So, if you plan to go into this industry, then get a great job and save your money.” David came out to LA with a six figure war chest he admitted he didn’t have to touch much while he trained and prepared for his new career. Samuel L. Jackson once responded to TV host, David Letterman’s comment of being an overnight success by saying, “It took me fifteen years to be an overnight success.” When David heard this, he took it to heart and established a five year, a ten year and a fifteen year plan, all that were well thought out and he also admitted to having a fifty year plan, just in case. He got his first major role at age fifty.
“Acting for me is a second major career change for my life.” When asked about auditioning tips, David said, “I don’t have any secrets to auditioning, although I highly recommend Michael Kostroff’s course, Audition Psychology 101, to anyone who is auditioning. (Kostroff is the author and actor from LAW AND ORDER.) His approach to auditioning is a fine tuned version of my approach when auditioning. Like he suggests, I always bring excitement and anticipation. I leave the nerves in the car. I am completely off book and I have character alternatives in my back pocket, ready to go. I’m off book because I created an app called Rehearsal® Pro, which makes sure I am prepared and does the same thing for about eighty thousand other actors all over the world. Being prepared is the best possible tools you could have.”
“The next best possible tool is to walk in with the belief that you’re not going to get the job because you’re not. It would be great if you did, but the sad fact is, you’re not going to get it. When I walk in with that resolve, then I am free to just act. The cool thing I’m usually right. I keep track of my numbers and 72 percent of the time I am absolutely correct. I did not get the job, but that also means, 28 percent of the time I am irrevocably incorrect; and I booked it!. Now that’s a great feeling.” “Something else to remember, when I have the attitude that I’m not getting the job, I don’t generate desperation in my performance. Casting can smell fear. When I walk in knowing I’m not going to get this job, the audition becomes absolutely fun. I am open to doing it the way I want and if casting wants to change it up, then I change it. I’m ready and prepared.” When David arrives at the audition, he never has excuses and he is just thrilled to be there, and we can imagine the energy and the magic he brings to his characters.
Performing has been a dream all throughout David’s life. It’s been radio, performance, and technology, with the three intertwining back and forth. David worked 35 years in radio, both local network and syndicated, and then formed a group called the American Comedy Network in New York, were he established an on-radio format for many other stations to follow. As a voice over talent, David worked on all kinds of great projects. He even worked on a video game and voiced over 64 of the characters! David also created a company that produced commercial and interview parodies, sound effects and song parodies for the smaller radio stations to use in their programming for more interesting and comedic shows. These elements have made the smaller stations sound like they were big league rather than broadcasting from a little station in the middle of nowhere. He worked for America Online and was the voice of their tech first support lines for almost 30 years. He worked for companies such as NASA, Google, and Yahoo.
David started his first relationship with a computer, a Mac, from the day it was released in 1984 and he still uses a MacBook Pro to this day. He uses technology to help advance whatever project he is working on. “Technology is one of our greatest tools. In 2009, I was working on the set of HEROES and was in my agent’s office on a Monday afternoon when he got a call for me to come in for an audition the next day for the show COMMUNITY. My agent mentioned I was sitting right there in his office, but I would be on-set working the next day, and couldn’t attend the audition. The woman at the casting office told me to get to the casting office by the end of business that same day, and they’d put me on tape, since they knew I was already approved by NBC, so I would be sent straight to producers because they knew of me and loved my work. That was all very nice except it was 3:30 p.m. and I was in Studio City (Los Angeles), and close of business was 5:30 p.m. Casting sent the sides, I jumped into my car and used voice memo on my iPhone to try to rehearse as I drove there. It didn’t work out very well. All the way I kept wondering if there was an app to help me prepare and learn my lines for auctions. Even though the part that I auditioned for was written out of the script, it lead me to develop a really cool app that helps actors prepare for auditions, Rehearsal® Pro. It follows an actor’s workflow. It’s mostly used for preparation and is perfect for actors everywhere.
The App has been featured in New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and used by quite a number of celebrities. I love it when I get an email saying, ‘you need to see what Lili Taylor said about you,’ or ‘what Kevin Bacon said about Rehearsal® Pro.’ It’s pretty awesome knowing that my app is helping others. I designed it to help myself succeed and it just works. And even if I were the only user, I would be happy because it has proven success.”
We then asked David about his voice over business. “The way I teach it is from three perspectives; the art, the commerce, and the science. We teach our students how to book commercials. They will learn about narration work and audio books. I show them how to do animation and video games voice-overs, promos and trailers. We also place a somewhat higher importance on understanding the technology that’s required to have a successful practice. You will know how to run your own business and the correct technology that’s required, all in 36 classes. It’s very thorough and what a voice over talent needs to be successful. I’ve even won four Backstage Readers’ Choice Awards for best voice over instruction.” How does he do it all, you might ask? “I probably spend about half my time performing, acting and doing voice overs, then about a quarter of my time teaching voiceover, and finally a quarter of my time developing, marketing, and supporting Rehearsal® Pro.”
When asked about his downtime, and what his secret passion was, he said, “I make sure I have plenty of personal downtime. I make time to watch television. I love television. People like to ask about what shows we watch. Well, I tell them that I watch everything, from reality TV, like MARRIED AT FIRST SIGHT to great sci-fi like, I, ROBOT. My girlfriend and I spend a lot of time binge watching as well.”
We asked a big question that many have a strong opinion on, as does David, ‘Do you recommend that actors watch television and movies?’ “ If they aren’t, then it is the biggest mistake they can possibly make. They should be watching the very outlets that they’ll be auditioning for later that week and I think that’s a huge mistake in judgement if they aren’t. They should also see as many films as they can. I’m not just talking about lovely art films, but the blockbuster films, because that is where the money is. It should be a goal to want to generate a career that is both profitable and satisfying, as opposed just being to artistic and uplifting, yet you’re unable to pay the rent. Friday is my favorite day, when I go to my mailbox to pick up my SAG/AFTRA checks from the network projects and film projects I’ve worked on. You don’t receive checks from student films, or nice little art films, web series and things like that. You receive checks from working on network television and big studio films.” And with close to one hundred network episodes and just over forty feature films under his belt, David knows this first hand.
David likes to give back to the acting community by mentoring actors. He makes it a point to take a lucky actor out to lunch every so often, because he feels that actors are notoriously hungry for food and for information. It’s something that no one did for him when he was first getting started in the business. Also, because he’s had the success he’s had, he feels it’s important to prevent people from making some expensive mistakes. “I can’t stress enough to other actors, that you have to be as much of a good business person as a talented actor.” Thank you, David, for all the great information! !!!
How can our readers follow you? Website: http://davidhlawrencexvii.com/ VO Teaching site: http://www.vo2gogo.com/ Rehearsal® Pro: http://www.rehearsal.pro/ Twitter: @dhlawrencexvii
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