Beth Keener is a Georgia native calling Atlanta her home for 10 years. She graduated from Kennesaw State University earning a bachelor’s degree in Communications with a concentration in Journalism and Citizen Media. Atlanta’s local market has enabled Beth to have a flourishing career in hosting, television and film. She has represented numerous household names as a spokesperson, also appearing in 25 local, regional and national commercials. Beth’s TV/Film performances include: Death Sentence, My Fake Fiance, Battle: Los Angeles, Vampire Diaries, Reckless, One Tree Hill, Drop Dead Diva, and Necessary Roughness to name a few.
Beth is now the founder and co-host of The Local Lense, an entertainment news show that brings you the 411 on entertainment in the southeast. Check out the latest from The Local Lense on their website: www.TheLocalLense.com.
Where you are from and when did you know you wanted to be an actor?
Probably when I was in elementary school. I just had a knack for performing and I loved it. I asked my mom if I could get into theater and she let me. The first thing I ever did was Oliver Twist when I was 10-years-old and it kept on going from there. I moved to a performing arts high school in Cartersville from tenth grade to twelfth grade. At the same time, I also worked at a dinner theater as a professional singer/dancer. So I had to do both – my homework and a “real job”. It taught me about managing finances and how to live on my own. Being a paid professional performer seemed like a dream come true. But I decided to come back home to Georgia and finish up my degree. I’m a Georgia girl, I grew up on a chicken farm. My dad was in the carpet business. My mom got remarried and my stepdad was a chicken farmer. We had about 50,000 chickens. It was insane, to say the least.
You were making money performing and then you decided to come back to Georgia to finish college. What did you do after that?
I wasn’t performing on a scale that I really wanted, it was a lot of hard work and I knew that I was ready for a life change. When I came back to Georgia, I actually wasn’t pursuing TV and film, I was just pursuing a communications degree at Kennesaw and I was helping my mom sell real estate. I realized I was unhappy and wasn’t pursing my calling so I bought books online like “Breaking into Acting For Dummies” and the “Actor’s Guide of the Southeast”. I read everything I could and started taking on-camera classes, learned a lot and through that I got headshots. They helped you write a cover letter and I started sending my stuff out. So I did verbatim what the book told me to do because I didn’t know how to do anything else.
Fortunately, I’m ethnically ambiguous. Because of that, there’s a huge market for me now that the world is becoming more and more blended. Atlanta is a great market and it was even changing ten years ago, I just feel like I got really fortunate because I’m in a specific niche and because of that agents were looking for someone like me. I’m not your regular, run of the mill white girl.
What do you do to supplement your income?
Initially I was a server. I served for many, many years at Tin Lizzy’s Cantina in Buckhead and I would help my mom sell real estate as well. My first supplemental income was working at Lacoste at Lenox Mall. I did that for about a year. And then I learned photography. A very important thing for actors to remember is the more skills you acquire, the better informed you are as a person and then the more opportunity you have to make alternate income to control your schedule. It’s a win-win because it’s not always easy to be self-employed as an actor, you have to come up with a side hustle for your main hustle. Because the most important thing that you can do is keep your lights on and eat food, as an actor you really have to be smart about the jobs you choose so that your schedule can maintain flexibility, so that you can go out and pursue your dreams.
Is your husband supportive? Does he have a day job that helps you in a way?
He does. He has a great job and he’s very supportive of what I do. He’s only come into the picture in the last two and a half years so I’ve really had to figure everything out on my own for the first eight years.
Do you do anything else in terms of marketing and networking?
I’ve always had a personal website. Initially I had postcards made and business cards made so that if I’m out, I always have a presence and I can always hand somebody a card and talk about what I do. Keeping your website up and running, if somebody’s interested in how multifaceted you can be or the different things you can do, or the variety of work that you have already done, is a great way to send everyone to one place, it’s a great marketing tool. Thank you cards are a great way to market, but it’s a very difficult thing because your access to your work is through your agent. But some of my mentors have said to keep that running rolodex every time you have access to a production company, keeping their information in your back pocket, and if you hear something, an award they’ve achieved, or you’ve worked for them, always dropping a “Hey congratulations on that” or “Thank you for hiring me in this” or “Hey I heard you had a baby” or whatever it is, and being present that way, making it more about them then about you. Once I got an agent, I did less of that, and now it’s frowned upon, I heard a couple of casting directors mentioned in different workshops that it’s a very impersonal thing to do, that if you take an interest in who they are in their lives that means more than sending a post card with your face on it.
What about any events that you go to that have been helpful?
GPP is amazing. I’m an adjunct professor at Kennesaw State University now and I talk to my students about being a member of GPP, a member of the Atlanta Film Festival, supporting the Atlanta community. Networking, especially if you’re starting out, is key. You have to be in class with other working actors, you have to have your name out there, you have to go to events where people can get to know you and start building your network.
What do you see the future of acting being in Atlanta, do you think we are going to get the bigger roles here now?
No doubt. When I lived in LA, there was a huge emphasis on training. You didn’t meet an actor, working or not working, that wasn’t well trained. Atlanta takes for granted the need to train, and that’s why they still go to LA for these larger parts. But we have to really focus on being the best in our craft so that when we are offered opportunities for better roles, we are prepared, and that’s the biggest thing lacking in this industry. If we can get to that same level of training and we have the same quality actors in mass quantities like LA, we’ll be unstoppable.
Do you think the training available in Atlanta is good?
Yes and no. There are some great places to train, absolutely, but I don’t think that there are enough great ones here. The problem is that anybody, especially here in Atlanta, can call themselves a teacher. And then you just don’t know the value of the education, especially if you’re new. It’s important to really research and ask around, talk to people about where they’ve studied and figure out what the best programs are, get into those programs, even if you have to be put on a waitlist. It’s remarkable how many actors I talk to that are not in class. They are not in any sort of acting troupe.
Are you SAG?
No, I’ve maintained just my SAG eligibility, I haven’t joined the Union. A lot of hosting work is non-union, almost all of it actually. So it would really defeat the purpose for me specifically joining just because my goals are to host my own TV show.
Can you share more information about your show?
The Atlanta market is changing. I love people, I love being myself, I love being silly, and I love connecting and building relationships with people. There’s so much work coming here. Any larger city and larger market you go to there’s a resource, there’s extra, there’s E! news, there’s Big Morning Buzz and you’re interviewing celebrities when they’re in town or as they’re talking about their new movies. There’s so much going on here that there was a need for entertainment and someone covering all of the entertainment news. I noticed that need, put it into action and moving forward with hopefully being the entertainment guru of the south. That’ll pan out, it’s a matter of building an audience over time and that’s not always easy on any platform.
You have no plans to move out of Atlanta anytime soon?
I’ve lived in LA a couple of years, I’ll never move out of Atlanta. Not for the industry unless work calls me there, unless there’s an opportunity ongoing that’s waiting for me, I will be here in Atlanta. It is an amazing city to live, and work, and the cost of living is so low, the value and quality of life I have here is second to none so I really wouldn’t see myself leaving, especially with the market growing as much as it is. Don’t do it, that’s what I’m saying, don’t ever leave, you’d want to come back!
How do you stay in a positive mindset?
No matter what, it’s very difficult, because I have, for lack of a better way of putting it, I really have a knack for TV and film. It’s a skill that I’ve studied for a long time that’s come very naturally to me, I think I’m a good host, but I think it can be very discouraging to not be able to build your audience, for things not to move as quickly as you like, to start over, to work for free, to do it all yourself, it’s very draining. I still work through my agent and book jobs – I recently went t0 4-5 auditions, five call backs, five first refusals, I was dropped from every one.
Even when you feel like you should be grateful, you still kind of beat yourself up – what am I doing wrong? The biggest way to stay positive is to prioritize – for me ,it’s been trying to value the relationships in my life and not turning down the opportunity to go have a beer on a patio with somebody that’s important to me. That’s the best way of staying sane. So figure out what’s important and don’t let your work define you. Easier said than done.
What do you wish someone had told you at the beginning of your career?
Remember that nothing’s a big deal. You’re always going to be fine. It’s never your last opportunity and it’s never your last mistake, no mistake is too great to come back from. Quit giving yourself such a hard time. People are human and even if you think you’re the worst or you’ve done the most stupid thing, casting is always the worst. There’s really no reason to ever feel like you’ll never work again or that you’re not good enough. You’re always good enough. You’re the only person in the world that can be you. So quit trying to be what you think people want you to be, and do you, and love you and don’t play better roles. People say play better roles but don’t, do what you got to do. In a good way, not in a bad way. I’ve got so many pieces of advice, I could go on and on, I would tell myself a hundred different things.
Any final words of advice for someone starting out in Atlanta?
Don’t expect anyone to do anything for you. If you want to be successful, you have to be willing to do the work. If you’re not serious, just give it up. You know it’s very tough. You’ve got to be willing to do what every other person will not do. That’s how hard you’ve got to work.