You’re probably familiar with the lovely Actors Compass spokesmodel “Marie Edwin” by now. In real life, she is Tucson-based actor Claire Mannle and also happens to be an actual Actors Compass user. Check out her AC website. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Claire (albeit virtually) to learn more about her and how Actors Compass has been useful to her career.
Helen: I’m curious to know if you had an actor website before your current Actors Compass website?
Claire: I did have my own custom website. It was fairly comprehensive but I use my Actors Compass site instead.
H: Why have you decided to stick with Actors Compass instead of your original website?
C: I like that all my material can be seen on one page and you don’t have to click anything to find the information you’re looking for. My Actors Compass site is a digital one-sheet that I can send to potential agents and casting directors that is convenient for me to update and edit. On the previous site, I had a separate homepage, a resume page, and a reels page. Also, doing updates was more time consuming on the old site.
H: What was the process of signing up for Actors Compass like?
C: The sign-up process was very fast. It’s nice to have everything streamlined so that the content is easy to edit quickly. Since I had my headshot, resume credits, and special skills on hand, it would’ve taken 10 minutes to set everything up. But I think it took me extra time because I kept playing with the different color options!
H: Does it feel limiting to distill all of your education and experience so concisely on your Actors Compass site?
C: Not at all. I think as an actor it is a good idea to practice how to talk about yourself confidently and concisely — emphasis on “concisely”! One of my teachers in graduate school, Michael Fields, talked about the importance of an “elevator pitch”. Let’s say you have a project you really want to work on. Can you describe it or pitch it to someone in the time that it takes to ride an elevator? The more clear, compelling, and concise you can be, the better your chances are of someone listening to you and helping you. I think that idea is also relevant to how you pitch yourself online as an actor.
H: I often have people ask me what the next steps are once an Actors Compass site is created. How did you use your AC site after you set it up?
C: I emailed agents in the Southwest and listed my Actors Compass site. In my email, I said “my headshot, recent resume credits, and a reel of my work can all be found here” and knew that the agents just had to open the link and have everything they needed on one screen.
H: That’s great, because that’s precisely how we hope actors use their AC site! What kind of feedback did you receive from those emails?
C: I ended up signing with my first agent a few weeks later, so I would say I received excellent feedback!
H: That is so awesome!
H: As a professional actor, I assume you are also on industry databases like Actors Access. How do you use your Actors Compass website in a way that’s different from how you use something like your AA profile?
C: I do have an AA profile, as well as a Casting Networks profile. Actors Access, Casting Networks, LA Casting, and even Backstage are important for getting auditions — that’s their main function. If you don’t have an agent (and even if you do), they allow you to submit to auditions on your own for a fee.
The downside of directories like Actors Access or Casting Networks is that people have to log in to view your profile. You essentially have to submit your profile to a specific opportunity for casting directors or agents to find you. Then, they have to click on different tabs to view all of your information. There is a TON of detail on each tab which is pretty tough to look at on phones or smaller screens.
Personally, I have never sent out my Actors Access or Casting Networks site to agents or directors. By contrast, when I got a callback for a lottery commercial, I took my updated resume with me. I found out too late that I had forgotten to put my Actors Compass website on it (actor fail!). The director asked me if I had a reel and I said “Yes! Oh, is the link not on my resume?”. I quickly wrote in “clairemariemannle.actorscompass.com” with a pen at the top of the resume. So easy! I could have also immediately pulled it up on my phone. That kind of quick and simple access to everything in one place is where Actors Compass has helped me already!
H: That is so great to hear. So how did the rest of the audition go?
C: It went really well and I booked my very first commercial!
H: Amazing! Congratulations!
C: Thank you so much!
H: Where can we check out the commercial?
C: It hasn’t aired yet because it’s scheduled for the fall. When it does air, you’ll be able to see it here.
H: Please do, and we’ll be sure to share it with everyone then! Looking at your AC site, I’m curious to know the story behind your tagline: “Quirky convivial nerd”.
C: Ah, branding! I took a really great workshop in LA with a man named Sam Christensen which gave me very precise feedback about my brand. I think many actors with training want to do it all, and they are afraid of typecasting or branding themselves because they don’t want to limit their opportunities to work. Paradoxically, you work more as soon as you understand your brand (particularly in commercials, TV, and film). It is essential that you humble yourself and see yourself clearly, both your strengths and your flaws. For example, I can be “authoritative” but I am not “edgy”. I am “warm”, but not “fiery”. I am not “cool”, but I am “quirky”, “nerdy”, etc. You have to recognize what you do effortlessly. My tagline is a reflection of that.
H: I suppose figuring out your brand — which fellow co-founder Shannon spoke in depth about as well — helped you to “center” your professional online presence, so to speak?
C: I would say so. After coming up with my brand, the next step was getting my materials — headshot, resume credits, and tagline all in support of my brand. Your headshot should look exactly like you on a good day. It should have the energy that you bring into the room with you.
H: Besides the commercial, do you have any other recent or upcoming projects you can tell me about?
C: I am actually directing three devised projects between now and November, and then will be acting in two productions, Mary Zimmerman’s White Snake and Shakespeare’s MacBeth for The Rogue Theatre in Tucson through next May.
H: What is a “devised project”?
C: A devised project is a project that doesn’t have an existing script at the start of the rehearsal process. The director and performers collaborate to create the content as a group. In my case, as the director, I have the final/executive say about what stays in and how it comes together (read more about devised theater here).
I’m currently working on two devised shows at theater camp with 12- to 15-year-olds. One is Mythic Journeys, an adaptation of greek myths, and the other is Midsummer Madness which is a collection of scenes from Shakespeare. This fall, I’ll be working on a devised project with the BA students at the University of Arizona around the idea of water. That’s probably far too much detail for you but, hey, I’m the “convivial nerd”!
H: Well, you’re certainly a busy lady! I should probably let you get to it all! But before I do, can you tell me what is your ideal dream role is?
C: I’d love to be in a film or TV show set in a different era, like Downton Abbey or Game of Thrones. Also Viola in Twelfth Night and Varya in The Cherry Orchard.