Patty Kingsbaker with her actor son, Michael Kingsbaker, at the Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Awards. Michael Kingsbaker just starred in “Sex With Strangers” at Curious Theatre. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
As a longtime casting director, producer and talent agent, it is Patty Kingsbaker’s job to find work for Colorado actors. If they don’t get paid, she is fond of saying, “then I don’t get paid.”
Kingsbaker, co-owner of Radical Artists Agency, has seen an astonishing array of talent in the Colorado acting community over the past 30 years. That’s why she is continually surprised to see how ill-prepared actors both young and veteran can be for the scarier, business side of the industry.
“As a whole, most actors never think about the business of acting, or what they are doing to sabotage themselves,” said Kingsbaker, who, appropriately enough for her career path, grew up around the boxing rings of Miami.
Eliminating common mistakes is one theme of a three-hour seminar Kingsbaker will be conducting April 27 through DCPA Education called “The Business of Acting: How to Build Your Opportunities and Career.” Topics will include resumés, networking, agent, and where you can improve your chances at being seen for a role.
We talked to Kingsbaker about her career, and her upcoming workshop at the Denver Center.
John Moore: Tell us about the origin of Radical Artists Agency.
Patty Kingsbaker: I returned to Denver in 1995 after three years in L.A. and a yearlong sabbatical in Crested Butte. The plan was to head back to L.A. and join forces with a friend who had just opened his own agency. Someone from the DCPA heard I was in town and asked if I would sit on a panel for them. Kathey True, who was with another agency at the time, was also on the panel. After the panel a group of us went out, and that is when Kathey asked me if I would ever come back to Denver as an agent and I said no; not unless it was my own agency. Three months later, we opened Radical Artists Agency.
John Moore: Give us an overview of what your company does.
Patty Kingsbaker: We represent actors and voice talent for work in film, television, commercials and industrials.
Clockwise from top left: Patty Kingsbaker clients Billie McBride, Melissa Benoist, Leslie O’Carroll and John Ashton.
John Moore: Tell us a few success stories.
Patty Kingsbaker: We’ve had actors on all the major shows out of New Mexico. Kathleen M. Brady, Leslie O’Carroll, John Ashton, Jefferson Arca and Kurt Soderstrum were all on Breaking Bad at a time when actors out of L.A. couldn’t even get an audition. But I’m probably most proud of Billie McBride being cast in three separate film and television projects when they originally wanted a male for the roles, and I fought to get her seen. (Honestly: Why does a judge or school principal have to be male?) I also helped Melissa Benoist (CBS’ Supergirl) get her first film role in the Lee Daniels’ film Tennessee. And I facilitated a meeting with her first agent in New York.
John Moore: So explain how this works: A client company that is filming, say, a TV commercial calls you up and gives you a character breakdown, and says you can send three of your actors to the audition. Pick up the story from there: How do you choose your three clients? And what do you say to your clients who don’t get chosen? And do you get paid if your actor doesn’t get picked?
Patty Kingsbaker: I can spend days setting up an audition between e-mails, phone calls, distributing scripts, answering questions, rearranging call times and more. I’m usually working on multiple jobs at the same time. I have to make some tough calls about who gets the audition, but I’m going to send in the actors I believe have the best shot at that project, and I feel completely justified making that call. It’s a business decision, and that is what this seminar is all about: The business of acting.
John Moore: You find screen work for actors, many of whom you discover performing in local live theatre productions. What do you look for in an actor you want to sign?
Patty Kingsbaker: I look for different things. Talent goes without saying, but sometimes it’s just a great commercial vibe. This is a commercial market, so some of my best actors don’t work a lot because they don’t fit into a commercial or corporate world.
John Moore: What is the biggest mistake actors make when trying to land an agent?
Patty Kingsbaker: Not being prepared with the right tools for their trade. I’m going to cover this in the seminar.
John Moore: What is the biggest mistake actors make when trying to keep an agent?
Patty Kingsbaker: When we sign an actor, we commit to the relationship for the long haul. I have dropped actors because they did something unprofessional, or they haven’t provided me with the tools I need to market them. The other issue I have is that they don’t get back to me in a timely manner. I don’t have time to chase after actors and I made a decision when we opened Radical that I wouldn’t work harder for an actor than they are willing to work for themselves.
John Moore: What makes an actor better-suited for the stage as opposed to the screen? And do you try to steer them into a specialty?
Patty Kingsbaker: I personally don’t believe actors are better suited for stage or screen. Years ago, when I was building my business with theatre actors, producers would tell me they didn’t want to see theatre actors because they were too “big” in their acting. I explained that they had been seeing bad actors, not theatre actors. A good actor can adjust to the medium, an inexperienced actor cannot – and I stand behind that to this day.
John Moore: Everyone wants to be a star. What do you find actors are least likely to do in order to make that happen?
Patty Kingsbaker: If they tell me they want to be a star, I tell them to find another career. If an actor can’t imagine anything else in this life that would make them happy; if they need to perform and they’re always working on their craft – which is a lifelong pursuit for an actor – they might have a shot at making a living. Then, if they get a break and get to make big money, it’s about doing what they love – not being a star.
John Moore: For some actors, the goal is to get to New York or L.A. As an agent based in Denver, is your job to help them to get there? Or to convince them to stay?
Patty Kingsbaker: The big opportunities are in New York and Los Angeles. Some are ready for that leap and some are not. I’ve pushed some actors out of this market and I’ve told others they aren’t ready – and they usually go anyway. I’m always trying to prepare younger actors for bigger markets. But they need to be grounded in who they are, what they want and understand that this is a business.
John Moore: For other actors, the goal is to stay in Denver, raise a family and do as much fulfilling professional work as an actor as they can along the way. But is there enough film, TV and commercial work for an actor to make a living in Denver?
Patty Kingsbaker: I have actors who make a living here – some who make an extremely good living. Most of them do multiple things like theatre, teach, voiceover work and on-camera work. But they’re committed to this business and have arranged their lives so that they don’t miss opportunities when they come up. Others have full-time jobs and aren’t always available, but they understand that is the choice they’ve made. Our top-grossing guy was in radio, but he decided to make the leap into full-time voice work. He started Skyping with Los Angeles and then New York coaches. It put him into a whole other category, and he is now doing national work on a daily basis. The biggest problem with Denver actors is they stop studying their craft.
John Moore: Give us a brief overview of what you will be covering during your three-hour seminar at the Denver Center on April 27?
Patty Kingsbaker: I’ll be speaking about training, headshots and resumes. These are an actor’s biggest marketing tools, and most fail at getting them right. I will also discuss casting websites – what to avoid and why. I’ll touch on what you need before to go to a larger market, and of course how to get and keep an agent here in Colorado. I will also discuss industry etiquette, which should be common sense, but unfortunately from my experience, is not. And I’ll probably throw in a few war stories along the way.
John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist.
Patty Kingsbaker: Career at a glance
- Began as a casting director in Denver
- In the late ‘80s, became a producer for Grad Films in Phoenix
- Returned to Denver in 1991 and began career as a Talent Agent, building one of the strongest talent divisions in Colorado over the next 10 years
- In 2001, became Talent Producer for Wild Jams Productions at FOX Television in Los Angeles
- Returned to Denver in 2005 and opened Radical Artists Agency, where she currently represents the top echelon of Denver actors and voice talent for work in film, television, voice-over, corporate industrials and commercials
The Business of Acting: How to Build your Opportunities and Career
One session • $60 • Three-hour class time
Wednesday, April 27 • 6:30-9:30 p.m. • Conducted by Patty Kingsbaker
Information: 303-893-4100 or REGISTER
Course description: Becoming a successful actor takes a serious review of your approach to the business side of your career. You’ll take a look at your resumé, networking, agent, and how immersed you are in the market to determine where you can improve your chances at being seen for a role and landing your next job. Patty Kingsbaker, Partner and Agent at Radical Artists Agency, will share her knowledge and insights stemming from a 30-year career as a casting director, producer and talent agent. Topics will include getting prepared for the business side of acting, finding an agent, how to choose casting sites, and how to build your career as a working actor. If you plan to stay in this market or move to a larger one, this evening is a must.