Philly actors find support, coaching in online video forum

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — While COVID-19 has shut down movie, television and stage productions, a group of Philadelphia actors is meeting online every week to support one another.

Actor and model Rich Henkels started using video conference platform Zoom to meet with performers he has worked with and former acting students he has coached.

Now they’re getting together for weekly Zoom sessions they call The Actor’s Think Tank.

Henkels said the idea is to help actors improve their craft, develop audition skills and define their individual brands.

“If your brand is bland or ill-defined, casting directors see that, and you can’t make firm decisions about how you want to present a character when you go in on an audition,” Henkels said. “So that was a great example of something that a group of people can help you.”

In the last two months, groups of 15 to 20 actors have attended each meetings. Henkels has brought in casting directors and other experienced actors for the sessions.

He said technology like this could become the new entry point for future casting calls.

“It doesn’t mean that you might go to the final casting,” Henkels said. “You’re not going to meet them face-to-face. But certainly the first two levels of casting, the initial auditions could very easily be done via Skype and via Zoom.”

Actor Jeffrey Adam Baxt, a Brooklyn native, said the Actor’s Think Tank has been a tremendous lift.

“I have new technology for producing self-taped auditions,” said Baxt. “I consider this a branding tool, a marketing tool — not just for me but for everybody in the group. Because we’re all contributing, we’re all working together to build our skills, help with the technology that’s needed.”