Interview – Dane Davenport

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Dave Davenport Headshot

Dane’s credits include Flight (2012), Let’s Be Cops (2014) and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013). He is represented by People Store in Atlanta. More information can be found at his IMDB page: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2474245/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm

 

Your IMDB page says that you’re from Plano, Texas. How did you end up Acting in Atlanta?

I grew up in Plano but went to high school here in Atlanta and spent my teenage years here. When I got out of college, I was a sports broadcaster. I started working with my sister, who’s also into sports broadcasting. There’s nothing more demeaning than talking about sports and having your sister be better at it. I wasn’t terrible but I wasn’t going to go anywhere with it. I knew that right off the bat, I wanted to be in front of the camera but this is not the right avenue. That’s when I got into acting. I was in Wilmington, North Carolina, at the time and they were filming One Tree Hill and other things there. So I said, let’s try that out.

 

You didn’t study acting in college?

I didn’t. I minored in theatre but I didn’t concentrate on acting in any way. It was more theatre production. When I quit broadcasting to pursue acting, the first thing I did was background extra work, just to see how things were done and see if it was something that I was interested in. The good thing about that is you talk to a lot of people on set. Some have either done it for a while and know what they’re talking about, and some don’t know what they’re talking about. But, you get a lot of good insights doing that. People told me, you need to get headshots, resumes, agents, classes, credits. So that’s what I did. I also started taking a class and read some books on how to become an actor. I was still in North Carolina at that time. I stayed about six months out and then moved back to Atlanta. I started off with the usual real low budget stuff, just to get some filming credits wherever it may be. I also did some more classes and courses to put on my resume.

 

How did you get your Atlanta agent?

I got my first headshots in North Carolina. And quickly after that I moved to Atlanta. So I had headshots. I built some kind of a resume. I did my research and just found out who the Atlanta agents were and if they were respectable. I started sending out my headshots and resume to them.

 

Back in the day, nothing was digital. It was all on a piece of paper – headshot and a resume. And you sent it out with a cover letter saying who you are. I probably sent it out to around 40 – 50 agents, not only in Atlanta but in Florida, New Orleans, and North Carolina. It took me a while to get an agent. I sent out one batch of resumes and I got no call. I sent another batch, got no call. It was the third or fourth time I did it, that I finally got a couple calls. And immediately, I went up and met them and got interviewed, which is basically auditioning for them. I got lucky enough to sign with one of them – People Store here in Atlanta. Been with them for close to 10 years now.

 

You started in Atlanta and did some acting here for a couple of years before you moved to LA?

I did. I got my first guest star role on a TV show and that made me union eligible. It also gave me the feeling of wanting to do this my whole life. It was great. But I made the mistake of thinking that because I got one job, I’m going to get plenty of jobs out in LA too. I opted to move and basically started over. A lot of people do that and it’s a whole different ball game out there. It’s another different story in itself. I came back to Atlanta and made my home here after that.

 

It’s been pretty good here since then?

It has been, yes. I’ve been here 4-5 years now. I came back when all the business started coming back. And got lucky enough that my agent took me back.

 

When you moved to LA, did you have to become SAG?

I didn’t have to. I chose to. The union thing is very, very different in LA. Because by being union, they think that gives you some sort of reputation of being someone that they could sign. But I was so young and so naïve to the business that I wasn’t anywhere near where I needed to be to book any of those jobs. I was going up against guys who have been doing this for years, and knew the business, and knew that they wanted better actors than me. At the same time, if I wasn’t union, I wouldn’t have gotten those opportunities. Out here you can be non-union, you can still have opportunities and book those jobs.

 

Why did you move back from LA to Atlanta?

For me, personally, it was a lot of different factors. One of them was LA was not working out. And the other main reason was because of family. I’d just gotten married. My wife is from here. She wanted to start a family and our life in the southeast. Of course, it didn’t hurt that there were more opportunities coming in Atlanta too.

 

When you started out, did you do anything else to support yourself? Do you still do stuff outside of acting?

Absolutely, yeah. I was a bartender and waited tables in North Carolina. I did it when I came back home to Atlanta. I did it when I was out in LA and even when I came back to Atlanta the next time. I was still bartending. I got lucky on a personal level, that the bar that I was working at was up for sale. I used whatever collateral I had and bought the bar and restaurant that I currently own now. That’s where I make a living when I’m not acting. When I was bartending, I was responsible for finding some of the work and getting my shift covered. Now that I own it, it’s really nice. I can be here and not be here whenever I want. I have the ability to do anything I need to do for my career.

 

It’s tough to find such opportunities but it’s out there. You don’t have to buy a business or anything like that. You can find those types of jobs that give you that flexibility – that’s one of the most important things for an actor. You can’t just not have a job and hope to make some money on acting because you never know when you’re going to work, or even if you are going to work. But on the other hand, it’s also not fine if you have a 9 to 5 job that doesn’t give you time for your acting career.

 

I have a good management team that basically runs the restaurant and bar. I’m more of just an overseer but occasionally, when I don’t have anything to do and I’m not busy on my career, I’ll spend some time, hang out, make sure everything’s going exactly like how I want it to be, but most of the time they run it. They’re really good at it and that’s a blessing in itself.

 

From your experience, what kind of jobs have you seen other actors typically have in Atlanta?

I’ve seen a lot of variety, I’m sure that there are a lot of actors that do the restaurant type industry job. But something I do see a lot of is people doing work with computers. Or it’s some sort of technology where they can work from home. Some people provide IT services, some sell stuff online. Whatever it is, it seems that a lot of people do that. And now with all the self-taping stuff, people are basically building their studios in their garage where they charge other actors for taping services. That’s a great idea because your “other job” is still in the business. You’re still learning and making connections. That’s hugely beneficial.

 

Do you typically have your own setup for self-tapes or do you use a taping service?
I have my own setup and I also use a friend who has a taping service, depending on what my kind of schedule is like. Because I live in Peachtree City which is 30 minutes away from Atlanta. If I get an audition on Wednesday night and I need to turn it in by Thursday morning then I’m going to just use my own setup. But if it’s something that I have a couple days for, I’ll drive up and then have my friend do it.

 

What kind of training do you have?

I’ve had a lot of different teachers and all of them have given me something different to concentrate on. That’s from when I was in Wilmington to Atlanta, to LA, to back here. My opinion is to find someone who you really connect with and who you really are learning a lot from, and just stay with that person. Always keep studying.

 

What do you think are maybe two of the most important skills for actors starting out to learn?

If they’re just starting out, it’s important to have business type training to it, because a lot of people will come into the acting business and want to be an actor, a star, but not understand how the whole process works. I’ve been told by some different people in the business that that’s one of their pet peeves. A guy might be the greatest actor in the world but he doesn’t know how to instruct himself or even steps over boundaries you’re not supposed to go over, whatever it may be. It’s hugely important. Because no matter how good you are, that’s something that can ruin your career. For example, if you piss off the wrong person they’re going to make sure that not only them but everyone else who they know is not going to use you for anything. Then you’re in trouble. The next important thing is to find someone to teach you a style of acting that you feel comfortable with, that you can always keep training with. Once you’re at that point, there are showcases you can do for agents and casting directors.

 

What do you do in do in terms of marketing and networking?

Back before I had an agent, sending out different letters was a great way to market. I know nowadays a lot of casting directors aren’t very appreciative of getting things in the mail, from what I’ve heard. But, at the same time, if you don’t have a way to talk to people, one of the things that everyone here struggles with, you have to find a way. I talk to my agents regularly, making sure that they still know that I’m willing and ready to work. I talk to them about other opportunities. I take the initiative instead of sitting around waiting for them to call me. Get known by the decision makers. If you have a choice between someone that you worked with, or someone that you know, and someone that you absolutely haven’t seen around, you’ll probably go with the guy that you know.

 

It’s always ongoing too. You can’t just get in front of somebody thinking they know who I am. You’ve got to make sure it’s ongoing, whether it is sending them a thank you card or sending them your headshot, or getting in front of them in another workshop. You’ve got to make sure that you’re fresh in their mind too because you’re one of thousands and thousands of people who are acting in the southeast. They might remember you but in a week, they’ve also seen 1,500 different actors so they’ve forgotten about you. Keep them engaged. That goes for working on low budget stuff for free. You know you’re getting in front of people. You’re getting to know them. If you do a good job, they’re going to remember. Personally, I want to make sure I’m going to do everything I can possibly to make it happen. I’m not going to wait around for something to happen to me.

 

Do you self-submit to projects? You are out there looking for projects?

Absolutely. I’m looking for projects on a daily basis, finding out what projects are coming to town even if I don’t know what the breakdowns are or if I’m right for them or not. I still try to find a way to know. Do I know anybody that’s working on it? Do I know any way that I could find a way to get in front of the casting director? Do I know a way of being on set that I can see if this goes somewhere?

 

I use Breakdown Express, Actors Access, NowCasting, Casting Network. There’s a lot of websites and you can search to find out what projects are coming to town. Variety and Hollywood Reporter will tell you basically every project that’s happening and where it’s happening. For example, you look at the front page and realize Ant Man was filming here in Atlanta. Look on the Internet for low budget films and student films to work on. Get to know more people and as you talk to some of them, they might know a friend who’s putting a film together.

 

For me, if it’s a non-paying or student film, I would do it if it’s something I truly believe in and feel I could connect to. When I first started out. I would do anything and everything. It didn’t matter to me whether I really liked it or not. I had no credits. I had nothing. I wasn’t at a place where I could be even a little choosy. I still don’t believe I’m at a place where I could pick and choose my projects but I am a family man and I have other stuff going on in my life that maybe the time just to do everything isn’t available.

 

Do you think it’s worthwhile for actors to subscribe to the print versions of Hollywood Reporter and Variety?

No, they’re pretty expensive. And that’s one of the big problems. It’s that we don’t have any money being actors. There are ways to find out either just by being on IMDB and maybe doing Google searches for Atlanta films. That will get you started. If you find that is not enough, then maybe you start thinking of doing digital subscriptions to these publications.

 

Do you attend the GPP meetings, Get Connected and such events around town?

I have in the past and they are very beneficial for someone to go to. I would try anything once, and see if it’s good for you, if it’s something that you could attend regularly. The GPP meetings and other events are not the same thing over and over again. It’s different news, different questions being answered and different speakers and topics. I don’t think I’ve ever sat in any type of meeting or seminar or workshop where I haven’t learned something. If you’re debating whether to watch TV or go to the meeting, you’re going to be a lot better going to the meeting.

 

Do you think Atlanta is going to get to the point where they might be casting bigger roles from here?

I haven’t quite made a decision on that. I know that any type of project that comes here is going to be more work for Atlanta actors. That being said, the bigger supporting and obviously the lead roles are coming out of LA and other bigger markets. That’s not a knock on Atlanta actors. There’s not a TV show film that films in Atlanta that doesn’t have at least one Atlanta actor in it. The ones that are getting those roles are doing a great job. The more and more we do that, the more and more people will start trusting us, and the more and more roles we’ll get. It’s just that for all these producers and studios that are putting all this money into a film or a TV show, their main goal is to make money and it’s easier to make money on someone that they know they can trust to do the job and also that they could sell to the public.

 

Do you have representation outside of Atlanta?

No. As of right now, for my career, I feel that Atlanta is where I’m going to get my best work. If at some point it gets to where I have to become more bicoastal, I will get representation out there. A lot of the agencies here in Atlanta do bicoastal. You might be reading for a project that’s filming in LA that your Atlanta agent has submitted you for. That happens a lot ,so long as you can pay for a flight to LA to read for a casting director out there even if you don’t book the role. If you’re willing to do that and you have the income to support that, by all means there’s no reason not to.

 

What about New Orleans though?

I consider New Orleans and Wilmington, and Orlando, Miami, everywhere at the Southeast in general, to be local. I feel like the casting directors in the southeast, whether they’re based in Atlanta or New Orleans, are casting from the same pool of people. I don’t think there’s any reason to have an agent in every single town that you possibly might work in the Southeast.

 

Atlanta is becoming the biggest market in the Southeast. If you’re part of the southeast market in Atlanta then you should be part of the rest of the southeast as well. I know actors that are working and living in Atlanta who are getting jobs in New Orleans.

 

Do you ever struggle with rejection or ever wonder am I doing the right thing?

Earlier on, I did. We’re actors so we always are very self-conscious of ourselves. We always wonder why didn’t I get that job? I could have done something differently. Oh, this, that, the other. It’s always going to be there but one of the huge things that I realized is that you can’t think like that because if you doubt yourself then why is someone else going to give you money to do something that you’re not even sure you could do.

 

I made that choice a few years ago to be comfortable with myself and confident that I could do it. Because if they know I’m confident, they trust me. And that comes with time. I didn’t just snap a finger and say I’m thinking that. I had to work at it, and I had to keep taking classes and learning and getting jobs. Over time you get to a point where you say wow I can do it, this is what I want to do. It just comes to you and it makes you that much better of an actor. That’s something you learn early on in the business – as long as you do your job and make sure that you’ve done the best work, put the best foot forward, you’re not the reason you’re not getting the job.

 

What advice would you give somebody starting out in Atlanta?

The simplest advice I could give and the most important is to never quit. It’s a very tough business but if it’s something that you want to do, you’ve got to go 110% into it and don’t look back. That means when you’re first starting out, do all the necessary steps, from the bottom, to get to the top. If you don’t have any credits, find the non-paying credits that you can do. If you don’t have an agent, do whatever you have to do to get in front of agents so that they want you as a client. If you haven’t talked to casting directors, find a way to get to know those casting directors. You’ve got to do all those steps. You can’t just say I want to be an actor and then you book the job. Have faith in yourself. Know what you’re doing, and never stop learning and getting better, whatever it is.

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