Expert Advice for Actors by Amy Gossels


How did you fall into this business? Were you an actress as well? Or was it not a fall, but a plan back from your days at RISD?

I actually have my undergraduate degree from Brown University and did grad studies at Rhode Island School of Design. While at Brown, I studied theater as well as other arts as part of my semiotics major.  I performed in a number of productions at Brown and also directed a couple of shows. I knew early on that I wanted to be involved in something creative, whether it was studio art or performing arts, and therefore pursued both. But after my graduate work in studio art, I began to shift my focus towards film production. As for how I built my career, there is no simple answer, because I did it very differently from most. Whereas most get into the field by working for someone established, I never did. In fact, I never worked for anyone in the industry and actually started out by taking on the role of producer on an indie feature being directed by a friend of a friend. So, I was completely self taught.
It’s a long story, but in a nutshell, I was producing a film I that I really believed in, but as we were working with a micro budget, there was no money to hire a casting director. So, one of the many hats I wore on that production happened to also be that of casting director.  I learned “on the job” so to speak, out of necessity. During the shooting of that film, I not only was able to bring a couple of name actor friends, I also discovered a couple of wonderful actors who went on to become household names. My casting career was literally an offshoot of that new producing career, because the production designer I hired on that feature invited a commercial producer to set on our wrap night, and he was so impressed with the cast, he asked if I’d like to take a stab at casting a national network Lotus commercial for a certain director, who at the time, was the number one commercial director in the business and had just fired two other casting directors with whom he was unsatisfied. And as I’m not one to say no to a challenge, but rather one to embrace a new challenge, I said yes. But, I will admit that at first, it was a bit daunting, taking on a commercial job with a very high profile director was an entirely new endeavor which involved an intense learning curve that I had to navigate on my own. But, here I am about two decades later, feeling very blessed that I have a career that I love and still find great joy in everything I do, on both the casting and producing fronts.

What film projects have you enjoyed producing/casting for most? Why? 
I usually find the greatest joy in working with people whom I love, creatively and as human beings. I’ve been very lucky to love most all of the filmmakers I’ve worked with, but if I had to single one project out, it would be a short film I cast and co-produced called “Zen and the Art of Landscaping”. It went on to win more than a dozen film festivals, including Sundance and the Student Academy Award, aired on Showtime Networks and plays in film festivals showcasing the best of the best of short films to this day, about 15 years later.

Short films have always been a passion of mine, and my goal with shorts, as with features, is to not only find actors who will breathe the most interesting and engaging life into the roles, but also to raise the bar of each film by drawing actors who are not only talented and accomplished, but actors who will find nuances in the script so that the final film is even better than it was on the page. The beauty of short films is that they are usually a truly organic creative process, as opposed to one that is driven by distribution needs with often too many cooks in the kitchen. Everyone’s goal is very pure. To make the best film possible. A film that honors the script and the director’s vision that will delight an audience. This film stands out to me not only because of its success and awards and because so many people know it, love it and remember it to this day, but because I fell in love with the script and had a very strong, specific vision for the cast I wanted and was able to realize that vision because the director’s vision was completely in synch with mine and I was able to secure all the actors I had in mind. That rarely happens. That kind of serendipity where you see the final film on the screen in your mind, the director completely agrees with your vision and then you’re ultimately able to lock your dream cast to fully realize your vision and then the final film lives up to your hopes and expectations is a true gift.

Alyssa and I attended your workshop a few weeks ago! Thank you again for the invitation. We really enjoyed it. You are full of such great advice and give amazing direction. If you could give one piece of advice to new actors what would it be?  

I don’t have one piece of advice for actors but instead I have four crucial pieces of advice.
  • First, make sure you have a great headshot that makes people want to get to know you, that makes people interested in you, and that represents you very accurately while bringing out your unique presence. Your headshot often makes the difference between getting the audition or not, and in many cases, actors are booked based on a headshot and reel without an audition, so if the headshot isn’t compelling, clients will not bother to watch your reel or be interested in auditioning you.
  • Secondly, be proactive, submit through the established breakdown sites on a daily basis, listing your representative if you have one, and keeping them in the loop and/or asking them to submit for you.
  • Third, keep up with your training and make sure you’re training with the right people, because when you do get that big audition or opportunity, you want to be sure you’re confident, prepared and can compete with trained professionals who are also vying for the role.
  • Finally, work as much as you can. Work begets work. Take small things, including unpaid gigs from time to time, especially film or video bookings that might be used for your reel, and even background bookings now and then, especially if you’re new to the business. Wonderful new opportunities, connections and growth come from actively putting yourself in the midst of the creative process. I can’t tell you how many great things have come about in the most unexpected ways because someone was in the right place at the right time, i.e. on set and open and receptive to the magic of the moment.
What do you find most rewarding about your career?

I feel rewarded by so many things and can’t narrow it down to just one. As I touched on earlier when talking about my favorite film project, that experience of fully realizing your vision for a film and then seeing the audience thoroughly embrace it is certainly on the top of the list. I also love working in television and the adrenaline rush of being given an impossible challenge on an impossible timeline and how great it feels to deliver against all odds, exceed your clients’ expectations and then see your work air just a day or two later. And finally, I love teaching and am incredibly committed to the process and to achieving great results for the actors with whom I work. I can’t tell you how rewarding it is to hear from my students about their new success. In just the past couple of weeks, I heard from one recent student who just booked her first national network commercial as a principal, from another who booked a supporting role on “Law & Order”, from another who just got into the Actors Studio and said he applied everything he learned in class to that audition, and another who is now being courted by two agents since finishing our workshop.

Helping actors hone the skills they need and to compete and succeed and sharing insight to give them a strong sense of direction with their career and then seeing that all translate into tangible new success gives me immeasurable joy.

For more information on how to build your experience with Casty Director Amy Gossels, contact Eliza at:

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