as told by Bradi Nathan
|My daughter was just four when she took over as the featured entertainer during a NYC party my family attended. With a microphone in hand, she belted out her version of the lyrics from Rihanna’s hit song “Umbrella.” The remainder of the night was spent cutting up the rug with boys three times her age. She is uninhibited and outgoing and I wish that I were actually more like her.
Mary Egan-Callahan and Brooke Thomas are Casting Directors at House Production & Casting in NYC. It is their job to not only hire the uninhibited and outgoing but teach them as well. Six years ago Brooke and Mary founded their own company offering on-camera commercial intensive class for actors. Brooke is the adoring single mother of a twelve-year old girl and nine-year old boy. Mary is a loving mom of two daughters, ages three and one. In an exclusive interview with Butterfly, Brooke and Mary share their secrets in balancing children with casting and commercials:
BN: How did you two meet?
MEC: We met at the University of Rhode Island. Brooke had graduated and was helping to choreograph Cabaret. Mary was a theater student playing one of the Kit Kat Club girls. Clearly, it was fate.
BN: What did you do before you started teaching on-camera commercial class?
MEC: We both dabbled a bit in "acting" before getting a more stable job in casting.
BN: Were you both casting directors at Liz Lewis Casting Partners?
MEC: Yes. Liz is a great lady.
BN: How did that prepare you for owning your own business?
MEC: Seeing this woman launch her business was a nice thing to experience... but working at LLCP did not prepare us for owning our own business. We had been teaching workshops for different acting schools in NYC and decided we both didn't like the same things that were going on at these schools. We decided to come together and create a class devoted to the actor.
BN: When did you realize that you should open up your own company called “Brooke and Mary?”
MEC: We knew that our class was a success when we posted a notice on a very obscure message board and got over 100 voice mails in an hour from actors who wanted to sign up. From that point on we have not done any advertising.
BN: How often are both of you in the office? Do you work on the same days?
MEC: Brooke works full-time and Mary works three days a week. We always teach our class together.
BN: What are some characteristics one should look for in a partner?
MEC: I’d have to say honesty, sense of humor, ambition, the ability to take risks, and optimism.
BN: How did you go about starting your own company? What resources might you share?
MEC: We talked about what we wanted our company to be, came up with a business plan and took the risk. We were confident that what we had to offer was valuable to the acting community. We opened a banking account in both our names, each contributing $400 and placed an ad in an actor trade paper. We found a studio to rent and committed to a date. We filled our first class and the rest is history. The word spread fast and we were off and running.
BN: Is acting a realistic career change for women looking to return to the workforce?
MEC: Wow, that depends. Acting is a very complex profession. There are many avenues that one can take. We specialize in training for on-camera commercials. Anyone can do a commercial. We have cast many people who have never done a bit of acting in their lives. Training for commercials and trying to obtain work in the commercial market can be a very good choice for many women returning to work provided they do not NEED the job. Anyone who needs a paycheck to support their families should not rely on commercial acting. Although it can be lucrative once you land the job, the competition is fierce. We find that most people who are auditioning for commercials because it is a fun thing to do are the ones who end up booking the jobs. People who are desperate for work often come across as desperate thereby ruining their chances.
BN: How might an acting class benefit women?
MEC: Hell, an acting class would benefit anyone. We teach "commercial" acting...which is much different from a traditional acting class. We often tell people that an IMPROV class is the most beneficial to everyone and anyone. UCB, PIT, any improv place in NYC is a great time and great for the mind.
BN: What advice do you have for those who have dreamed of acting but chose to put motherhood first?
MEC: As long as you have the support of your family, we say go for it. Keep things in perspective. If you blow the audition, you blow it. Big deal. You still get to go home to that fabulous family and enjoy life.
BN: When do you spend the best quality time with your children?
Brooke: Dinnertime is always quality time for us. We always sit down together for dinner and discuss the day. Mary: My kids are young so...although I like to read with them...the way we have the most "fun" is by throwing on a good CD like PINK and start dancing! They see the real me then and not just the mom who makes dinner or rushes off to work.
BN: Do your own kids want to become actors?
Brooke's kids do not. Mary's kids are too young to know but perhaps Maggie does. (Mary hopes not!)
BN: What type of role model do you want to be for your children? How does working help you achieve that?
Brooke: I want my kids to know that not only am I a mother but I also have a life outside of being a mom. I want them to see me as making a contribution to the world and know that they can do the same. I want my daughter to know that she can be a mom and still have a career and earn her own money and not rely on others to take care of her. At the same time, I want her to know that it is okay to let someone take care of you and love you. I want my son to know that both women and men are to be respected as money makers and should be treated equally in the workforce. Mary: I just want my daughters to always know that family comes first and dreams come second. Respect, loyalty, trust...are most important in all facets of life...and KARMA takes the cake.
BN: How do you balance owning your own business with family?
BT: That's the great thing about having a partner. Mary had a baby...Brooke covered! Brooke has a pot-luck or parent-teacher conference and Mary covers. No questions asked...we know that each of our families comes first!
BN: Do you have any additional thoughts you would like to share?
MEC: We think it's great you are starting this website! Congrats and BREAK A LEG!!! Contact Brooke and Mary, c/o Rourke Media Group, 155 Wooster Street, Suite 3W, New York, NY 10012 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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