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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Jodie Bentley, professional actor, entrepreneur, career coach, and teacher in NYC

JODIE BENTLEY is a professional actor, entrepreneur, career coach, and teacher in NYC. After graduating with a BFA in Acting from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts at the Stella Adler Conservatory, she discovered her other loves – sales and marketing. While acting in New York, Jodie also built her own highly successful sales and marketing company from the ground up. She cultivated years of experience in targeted branding, successful sales tactics, and outside-the-box marketing strategies. Her company laid the foundation for her success in the business of acting, and developed her keen eye and gift for helping other actors achieve their own goals. This she does now as the co–owner of The Savvy Actor.

At ten years old, her acting career began when Jodie landed her first professional role as one of the Snow Children in Carousel. Jodie proved her dedication to the craft by cutting off her hair to play a boy! Although Jodie loved performing she had considered a career as a cardiologist. But after receiving a hefty scholarship from Tisch, she never went to her second interview for the pre-med program at Brown. At seventeen Jodie packed her bags and moved from New Bedford, Massachusetts to the bright lights of New York.

After graduating she worked like a dog -- playing a dog in the title role of Sylvia at Bristol Valley Theater. She reprised the role at Cortland Repertory Theatre a few years later to rave reviews. Ironically, she did both versions of Sylvia with an amazing actor named Michael Schaefer and during their second run, they began dating. They were engaged in April in Paris and married in 2005 in Central Park's Conservatory Garden. Ninety degrees, delayed town cars and some raindrops; still the most thrilling day of her life!

Jodie has played leading roles in workshops of new musicals and plays at the York Theatre, New World Stages, The Workshop Theater, and all over NYC. For two years in a row, she has starred in a new musical at the New York Musical Theatre Festival, Cyclone and the Pig Faced Lady and Girl Gang. She performed Off-Broadway as the runaway bride in the critically acclaimed The A Train (re) Playsand the New York premiere of Stephen Schwartz' Captain Louie. She recorded the cast album of Captain Louie, as well as many demos of new musicals.

In 2006 Jodie met fellow actor Kevin Urban through a mutual friend. Eighteen months later, they launched The Savvy Actor. Between the two of them, Jodie and Kevin have over 20 years of combined experience in the acting business, and as working actors in New York City. With Jodie’s experience in running a marketing and sales company, and Kevin’s degree in PR/Marketing Communications, the partnership was a natural. The Savvy Actor took off.

Their goal is to empower actors to think like small business owners and become successful savvy business people with the skills necessary to compete in the industry today. In their first year alone, they taught at NYU, UCI, Baldwin Wallace College, Weist Barron School, The York Theatre, and The Network. Their clients have booked Broadway shows, signed with agents, and continue to get through the right doors all the time. As professional working actors they know exactly how to help other actors achieve the goals and career they want.

Jodie can currently be seen in a HBO promo, a national Carmax commercial, and a regional spot for Bloom Grocery Stores. She also works frequently on voice-overs, soaps, and in print. Her latest project, a new play, Next Year in Jerusalem, opens October 8th at the WorkShop Theater. Jodie is a proud member of Equity and AFTRA and is SAG eligible. Whom You Know is pleased to present her as our latest Mover and Shaker!

Peachy Deegan interviewed Jodie Bentley for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: How are actors and businesspeople alike? How are they different?
Jodie Bentley: Actors are business people. Every actor is a small business owner. The only difference is actors are also their own product. A lot of actors struggle because they never fully embrace the business side and therefore never see past their emotional attachment to their product. That’s why Kevin and I started The Savvy Actor to help actors become business people and to help them view their careers with an objective eye. I think actors feel being a businessperson is stifling and they can’t be creative. But the opposite is true. Sure, there are structures and systems that need to be in place, but actors can be creative with their marketing like no one else. Acting is a business but it’s an outside-the-box business.

What are the most common mistakes companies make with branding?

1. The most successful companies are the ones that have a brand – so first and foremost the biggest mistake is not having one! (The same goes for an actor. We need to know what we are selling in order to market ourselves.)

2. Not understanding the audience, the demographic, sometimes companies brand themselves incorrectly. (The same goes for an actor. We need to know who we are auditioning for and know what our clients need to fill the job.)

3. Companies aren’t always consistent with their message or brand promise and this becomes confusing – consistency is key. (The same goes for an actor. From the initial mailing, to the follow up, to the resume, to what walks in the door and finally auditions – we need to be consistent to gain trust in this industry.)

4. Companies try to brand themselves as too many things; this dilutes the message. (The same goes for an actor. So many actors think type is limiting, when it is the exact opposite. Typing yourself will open more doors down the line.)

5. Having a cheap, poorly designed logo. (The same goes for an actor. We need to know our ‘fonts,’ ‘color schemes’ and have an excellent ‘logo,’ our headshot, that represents our business.)

What strategies do the most successful brands pursue? What brands would you identify in this category?
A brand is a promise. Therefore to me the most successful strategy when implementing a brand is consistency, consistency, consistency. Just look at Apple, McDonald’s, and Disney. These are companies that are always consistent and consistently successful.

What acting projects have you enjoyed working on the most and why?
There are two, actually. One is when I played the title role in the play "Sylvia," by one of my favorite playwrights, A.R. Gurney. Sylvia is a play about a dog, the couple that adopts her and the conflict that results. Yes, I played a dog. A dog that could talk, barked by yelling "hey!" and had all the doggie mannerisms. I just loved this role! The play is hysterical and the challenge of developing a character with all that physical behavior was thrilling. I've done the role twice now, and I met my husband doing the show. Actually, we got a dog last year and of course we named her Sylvia.
Last year in New York, I played Cyclone in a new musical, "Cyclone and the Pig-Faced Lady." It was written, composed and directed by women, and the two leads were women. That doesn't happen often in musical theater. The show is about a comic book writer who lives vicariously through her characters. She learns to deal with the tragedies in her life through her art. I was the superhero in her comics. That's a question I loved delving into — how does art heal us. Yes, I love to entertain and to make people laugh, but there is a whole other side of why I perform, to question people, relate to people and to make them think.

What was it like to be in Carousel at age 10?
It was a blast! It was my first professional acting gig and it got me hooked. I loved going to “play practice” and watching the actors work. It was so fascinating to me. I have naturally curly hair and I hated it as a kid. They actually cut my hair short for the role and straightened it – I was in heaven. The only horrible thing was waiting for my poor afro to grow out for the next two years. Yikes!

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?
I have to say first, my parents. They let me move to New York at 17 to pursue my passion. They have always supported me, no matter what, and taught me that I can do anything if I set my mind to it. Their love and commitment to each other and our family has kept me going.

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan?
Central Park – it helps keep me going. And my apartment – I LOVE my apartment.

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan?
I wish this was something more exciting but I have to say Banana Republic.

What is your favorite drink?
Green iced tea in the summer and hot green tea in the winter.

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan?
I am such a foodie I can’t pick just one! A new find that my husband and I stumbled upon is Lima’s Taste down in the west village – fabulous Peruvian food.

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience?
I am definitely not a sports girl, but if walking is considered athletic, then I think I am about to have my best athletic experience. I am walking as a survivor in the Susan G Komen Race for the Cure on Sept. 13th with my Savvy Actor Team. It will be a very special day for me.

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else?
I can swim in the public pool across the street from my apartment and then 2 hours later watch an opera live at the Met. There are no limitations. Even my dog has been to Tavern on the Green, going incognito in her bag – don’t tell anyone.

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience?
I have seen so much great theater. I’d have to say one the best experiences was seeing August Osage County. It is such a brilliant play. Also the first time I saw Wicked I was floored. Fabulous. As far as visual art, Cristo’s Gates was in Central Park was a pretty breathtaking installation.

What do you think is most underrated and overrated here?
Most underrated thing in this city is all the beautiful and quiet public spaces and pocket parks. Most overrated concept is the “city that never sleeps” - a lot of things close.

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
I have the cutest mini dachshund ever and her name is Sylvia! And I really love what I do and I love how both my passions feed each other. There is nothing more fulfilling then when my clients succeed.

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?
Email is always the best - You can also look at my websites: ,, and I wouldn’t be savvy if I didn’t say you can also reach me on any of the social networking sites!

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