“Finding opportunity,” says Barbara Corcoran, “is a matter of believing it’s there.”
Over and over Jen Rudolph has been a believer in opportunities — for herself and others. She is also a make-it-happen kind of person. Her first job out of college was at a talent agency. “I loved working with actors, listening to what was happening in their careers and would give them advice,” she shares. “I realized that I wanted take more of an interest in them outside just ‘Here’s your appointment.’”
Early on Rudolph had great mentors to nurture her love for acting and storytelling. Tina Landau, the wildly talented Tony-nominated SpongeBob SquarePants director is her first cousin. “When I was a teenager she was at Yale and I would see her shows there,” shares Rudolph. She was also inspired by another cousin, Oscar-winning producer Jon Landau (Titanic, Avatar) who is James Cameron’s producing partner. Then there was her high school drama teacher, Jennifer Fell Hayes, who gave Rudolph a scholarship to an outside theater program that she was running. “I was in all the school plays but one of the most memorable shows I did was a piece called Find Me where I played one of the five personalities of a girl who was schizophrenic. It gave me such an outlet for my my teenage angst,” says Rudolph. “Jennifer Fell Hayes helped me cultivate my love of the business. She saw in me what I couldn’t see in myself at the time. She brought me to life and helped me blossom.”
After working at the talent agency she ultimately learned of a highly coveted position as an executive assistant to the senior vice president of Mandalay Television which which could potentially mean working more with actors. She got the job. When one of their shows, Young Americans, was picked up for The WB casting director Jeff Mitchell was hired to cast the show. And Rudolph, ever fearless, asked her boss, producing giant Scott Sanders, if she could help with casting. When Scott said “yes” she marched over to Jeff’s office. “I said “I work for Scott Sanders and I’m going to be your assistant,’” she recalls.
So Mitchell and Rudolph worked on Young Americans. “I was his assistant, then became his associate and then his partner, all within a year,” says Rudolph who helped people book jobs and discovered Michelle Monaghan. Even when Mandalay closed its New York office, Mitchell and Rudolph continued to work together and cast more than 40 film and TV projects.
As Rudolph loved working with actors so intensely, she also began teaching. Her classes sold out. “I love casting, but in a casting session, I can only work with actors around 10 minutes max and then it’s on to the next person,” she explains. However, in a classroom she could really mentor students. “I can take a vested interest” says Rudolph. “There is nothing like having an actor in your chair and getting that spine-tingling feeling where you know how to bring their raw talent into the vision of the writer. You know how to merge the two.” If the person is right for the role, Rudolph can help find that character within. “I loved making that phone call saying ‘You booked the job,’” she shares.
With so many actors asking Rudolph for advice and the joy she felt nurturing them, she felt a pull to do something beyond casting. “I wanted to teach people how to rise from being a no-name to booking a costar, then guest star, then series regular,” she says. “So I took a risk.”
In 2008, The Actor’s Green Room (AGR) was born.
The risk Rudolph took was giant, especially because the market was saturated with several competing companies that had been around for years. Like her role model Shark Tank’s Barbara Corcoran, Rudolph began with very little money. “I had something like $1000 in my bank account,” she shares. She was just in her twenties, but was guided by an unshakeable belief in herself along with a fierce desire to assist and guide. “I have so much to give and I genuinely wanted to help people. And when you want to serve people, that is when you make money,” says Rudolph who rented a tiny space and kept her overhead low. “I didn’t have money to pay people and was doing everything myself,” she recalls. “I was the CFO, CEO and marketing executive.”
Rudolph built a strong following. The word spread about her scene study, on-camera and audition technique classes. Her courses sold out. “I knew, I had this fire within me.” she says. She also enlisted top casting directors. «I offered workshops with casting people from NBC, CBS and FOX.” She ultimately had to move to a space three times as large. “I had to sign a commercial lease and double my rent and had a panic attack,” she recalls. “But I told myself, you can scale this. I think of the quote in the movie Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.” I realized the more passionate I became, the more my numbers and value increased,” she says. Within eight years Rudolph, who started with nothing, built a million dollar company. Now The Actor’s Green Room grosses much more.
But Rudolph didn’t stop at acting technique and auditioning classes. Several years ago Kristin Hanggi, the Tony-nominated director of Rock of Ages and actress, author and meditation teacher Natalie Roy brought their holistic program C.R.E.A.T.E. to The Actor’s Green Room. An acronym for “Community Reclaiming Every Artists True Expression,” C.R.E.A.T.E. lovingly arms artists with tools to empower and support their dreams and growth. They established life-changing workshops for performers to come together to ignite and unleash their magical mojo. “Having C.R.E.A.T.E changed the whole scope of my company into blending the professional and holistic,” says Rudolph.
From there, Rudolph further expanded to add an online mastermind program called ELEVATE that is chock full of content. For example, Roy did a six-hour class on nerves. Business coach Jordan Ancel created a whole series on the physiology of business and goals. Rudolph offers a 26-week marketing course. “Every actor needs to understand the mechanics of how this really works because they don’t teach this in school,” she explains. There’s also a soul-supporting Facebook group called The Green Lounge that has nearly 11,000 members. “It’s really one-stop shopping for actors,” says Rudolph of all the offerings. “And now, through ELEVATE, I can teach you how to market yourself from anywhere in the world.”
Actors find Rudolph’s services to be invaluable, especially since the competition is beyond fierce. For just one co-star role in a TV series, casting directors routinely receive a minimum of 800 submissions from agents and managers. But a mere 10 to 15 people are usually selected to audition. “Many of my actors are part of those 10 to 15,” says Rudolph. “I make sure they have an industry standard headshot that sells in two seconds, a well-formatted resume and an amazing simple and easy to navigate website.” Her philosophy has always been that you achieve more in community than you do with competition. “There is a place for everybody. You just have to understand how to market yourself and where you are going to fit. What makes you unique?” she adds.
Rudolph continues to find joy in helping people make into doors which are otherwise closed. “It’s so hard to break into a very saturated market. And much like in any business, you have a product,” she says. “You need to come up with an innovative and a smart angle. I teach people how to go into that shark tank and slay it.”