Why "The Give" Is the Key to Industry Success



A conversation with Actor and all around creative Catalina Valencia, on the guiding principles that have allowed me to develop my career while always being of service to those around me.


To listen to the episode click here


Cata:

Hello and welcome to Creative Connect. Today we are continuing with our Out the Window series, the podcast that highlights creatives who are forced to let go of their plans and pivot and are now thriving. I'm your co-host Catalina Valencia.


Bobby:

And I am Bobby Oliver.


Cata:

Today we're speaking with the queen of pivoting. The amazing Caroline Liem. She's a casting director, acting teacher and audition coach. And as you're about to find out so many more things.


Bobby:

Caroline, thank you so much for joining our podcast today. As we know you are the queen of pivoting. And we are so looking forward to having you on the show.


Caroline:

Hi, Bobby. Hi, Catalina. Thank you so much for having me here today.


Bobby:

Caroline, can you tell our audience a little bit about who you are and what you do?


Caroline:

So things that I do on paper: I am a casting director, I am an educator, I am on the National Board of the Casting Society of America, where I am currently vice president of advocacy. That's me on paper. Not on paper: I am vegan. I'm a vegan with no oil. Try that. And I am an advocate. Yes within the organization, but I'm also an advocate for animal rights and for underrepresented communities. And that's me in a nutshell.


Cata:

So knowing you, I know that you have these values that you hold very dear to you and from knowing you, it seems like you have a really great understanding of who you are as a person in a way that is so great for all the people that you're around because you really help people. You know, you help people find that within themselves. But as I understand, your journey hasn't always been a straight line. Could you tell us a little bit about it and what you were doing before you were working in the entertainment industry?


Caroline: Oh, sure. Before I was in the entertainment industry, I was “destined” because I come from a medical family... I was destined to become a heart surgeon or something having to do with surgery. I instead pivoted and ended up working as an optician and I worked with ophthalmologists. So for those out there, ophthalmologists work in eye surgery. And I used to teach anatomy of the eye. I did that for a period of time. I was also teaching after school science to elementary kids. I was a musician. I studied classical clarinet for a period of time, I also studied opera. Lots of different things that I tried. Really what I wanted to do was act but that just didn't exist in my family. Not that it was a bad thing. It just wasn't what you did. And so coming from a medical family, I just leaned into anything but the creative but also kept coming back to it. So when college came around, I just made the choice. And my family was not able to support me. So I just got scholarships, and I started acting. It was really a lot of fun. I learned a lot about myself, got a lot of degrees, I've many degrees, and I decided when I was out of grad school, what do you want to do with this? Do you want to keep acting? Do you want to teach? Do you want to backpack across Europe? What do you want to do? And it's at the time I was trying to decide where do people who look like me fit? And in my mind really wasn't an employed actor. So I decided to create a place. And that's when I started working with different casting offices and just learned the craft of casting. I started in television and then moved into features. And now I do both.


Cata:

That sounds like an incredible journey. But just to clarify the timeline. When were you working as an ophthalmologist and teaching science after class was that after you got out of grad school?


Caroline:

Oh, sure. That was before grad school. So I was not an ophthalmologist. I was an optician working with ophthalmologists, because that's a whole other thing. But I was an optician for 11 years. And so I was doing that in undergrad. I was doing that, that was my side hustle. That was the day job. That was the job that got me through all the cool stuff that I did on the side. So all the things that I wanted to do. It helped pay the bills.


Bobby:

Caroline, it sounds like you've had quite the journey. So, can you tell us a little bit about the thoughts and feelings and fears you've had along the way? You know, going from this, you know, medical family and really going after your career in acting, and all that in Hollywood?


Caroline:

Sure. I come from an Asian family. So you know, you do everything by the book, you do what's expected of you. And you know, and by you, I mean, me, you know that because I can only speak for myself. But the expectation was that you go to college, and you get a degree and, and you understand business, and you understand, you know, where you are in the world and how you can contribute. You know, an actor's life, you know, as a creative life is very, very much you know, during classes and you're studying you are alone, you're alone in the world. And at times, it can feel egocentric. And so if I'm being raised in a family that says you must give back and contribute to the world, I didn't know how to reconcile that with myself. As an actor, that was one part of it, in addition to, I didn't see anyone who looks like me, in the world of theater, and commercials, and film at the time. And so it was challenging to make that decision and, and the pivot, because you spend your entire life dreaming, and then pursuing and educating and training and creating the foundation around art and acting, then life comes in after you get through a really intense program. And now now you get to bridge back into the world, you don't see yourself there, and people don't know where to put you. And they want to put you somewhere they want to label you. They being, you know, the agents, managers, casting directors, because they, they need to know how to pitch you, right? And they need to know where to place you. I just didn't fit and I got tired of explaining who I was and what I was, and why couldn't I just be me, and, you know, do my job and be really great at it. And so that decision to pivot, and go into casting happened during an audition. I was auditioning for a national and international tour of a musical that you would know, when I hit my belt, I hit my high note. And I pictured myself on the other side of the table. And that was the moment where I knew where I could incorporate being of service and giving back and using my art and being creative and never being bored. And I would say two, three months later, I started casting. So it was excruciating to come to that realization and decision, but once the decision was made, everything fell into place. And I feel that that's something that everyone goes through at certain levels that you know, you're really weighing the pros and cons of things. Other times you just throw yourself in it and see what happens. But there is a point where you pivot, there is a point where you decide, all right, I'm going to go left instead of right. And I am just going to jump and the net will appear. And it did and it has for me over and over again.


Cata:

That's such an interesting point. Because I think a lot of the times, you know, we speak with our guests, and a lot of the times what they say is that these moments of pivoting kind of almost came to them in a very surprising way, in a way that it wasn't like them sitting down and being like what am I going to do? How am I going to do this? It was kind of like they tried something where they had this moment. And their success comes from rolling with it.


Caroline:

Yes. I would say rolling with it, but also being open to it. And it's the “Yes, and” of it all I love. “Yes, and” and “Thank you, more.” And also being gracious and I, you know, I'm an only child. And so I do have conversations with myself as only children do. And you know, people might call it conversations with your higher self, they might call it other other things. But I will sit here and I will say, “thank you, thank you so much.” And I will move forward whenever that person turns up, that mentor falls in my lap, that that book or that movie, or whatever it is


Cata:

You know, there is this attitude of being open and gracious, which are both obviously so important. What else do you think makes you so good at being able to kind of roll with the punches? Because you have a lot on your plate, right? You do a million different things. And I can imagine, you know, they didn't all start happening right at once,


Caroline:

Right. And I think it's really important to be clear about who you are. And what you offer the world, it may be as simple as a smile, anyone who you come in contact with. For me, it has been getting clearer day after day after day in regard to what I am here to give back. How am I serving... my family, my craft, myself, my community. And if anything is out of alignment with that, it will kick me in the you know what. It comes back to me at any time, anytime I am out of balance or out of alignment, or feeling extra tired or unfocused. It's because I am not in alignment with what I'm meant to be doing.


Cata:

I just want to ask a little bit about how COVID-19, specifically at the. beginning, how that affected all of the plans that you had, and whether you had regular check-ins with yourself? Because you know, there was so much that was unknown. What was your inner life like and what was your outer life like right before the pandemic started?


Caroline:

Sure. So leading up to lockdown, to the COVID-19 announcement, I had just come off this really amazing project. And I was teaching and I was doing master classes. My family was healthy. Friends were good. And it was my birthday month so since it was my birthday month I was planning, you know, fun things with friends. So it was another regular week. Just working and doing lots of meetings, you know, just doing life and then I remember… It was March 13. I thought, “Oh, you know,” like everybody else in the news, “it'll be a couple of weeks, and then we're back into it” right? Yeah, for me initially, I thought, wow, I love the idea of being able to stay home, not having to drive on the 405. It was like a staycation. It was really lovely. You know, when lockdown happened, actually, and then it extended and then it went on. I am naturally an introvert. So for me, and people don't think of me that way. But I am the person who is truly an introvert. And I would more than anything, like to stay home. And I have and it's, I feel, there's so much pain, and suffering, and loss that has happened over you know, this past year. And I am thankful that my family is good, and that my friends are taken care of. But I have really enjoyed working from home, I did move the adjustment that I made, and a lot of people moved. But the adjustment that I made was that okay, if I need to stay in alignment, and I need to stay true to my goals and and where I want to be and what I want to do, I couldn't do it, where I was downtown, because it felt too static, and it felt too sterile. It didn't feel as if it was living there. I didn't feel as if life was happening there. And so I moved to a part of town that is surrounded by life and nature. And that feeds me and I, you know, that's something that I need to to balance out the work. So then when I look outside my window, I see trees, and I see hills, and I'm surrounded, and I wanted to community, I didn't have a community where I was before. And I moved to some place and I asked for it, I asked the universe, I asked, you know that badass on my shoulder, I said I want space with a community and I want trees. And I got it. And you know, my place is affectionately known as the tree house. Every one of my neighbors has a cat. And we all come together on warm days and share a glass of wine or a bottle. And that's what I dreamed.


Bobby:

What that sounds you know, I mean, this was a crazy year, but you figured out what works for you, which is super important.


Cata:


Caroline, how would you say COVID forced you to pivot? And you know, during your journey during this past year, what would you consider your biggest challenge during this time?


Caroline:

Oh, okay. Well, COVID for me, it forced me to... I feel like force is such a strong word. I feel that I was led. Yeah, it led me to just stop and really assess what this was. There was not an expectation that anything needed to get done. But I'm not somebody who just rests. So for me, it was, alright. So, if no one's checking in, and I don't need to report to anybody, and everybody's kind of taking this, this, you know, stop for a second, what do I want to do? You know, so that's what it kind of led me to. So I think that's how COVID led me into, into the pivot. It just made me more aware, it gave me a moment to breathe. So, then I could choose my choice. And then as far as the biggest challenge during this time, I'm sure there were challenges. I think my challenge now is dealing with steam fatigue, on a larger scale. How do we all move forward? So it's a larger scale thing, because I was called, I had to make a decision, I did make a decision to, to change how I teach, where I teach, how I cast where I cast now, and in some respects, who I work with, and to have the grace to, I would say, have really deep, real conversations. I think I'll add that to it. Because it really, the biggest challenge was truth. We've all been asked to be really truthful.


Cata:

I love talking about truth, because it's so relevant. We've all been forced to, you know, have really honest conversations with ourselves about what matters and what doesn't. And it feels like the entertainment industry has been going through something similar in the last few years, you know. Which changes are you noticing really having the biggest impact in the industry?


Caroline:

Well, I think the biggest change is what's going on, right outside our window right now, which is, who we are, and how we are as humans, and our humanity. These are big topics, and it's happening globally. It's happening in our industry, how do we represent? How do we present? How do we identify who we are as people walking the planet? But then how we, in the industry, receive those who are in underrepresented groups who may not be afforded the same opportunities as others?


Cata:

So, do you mean sort of finding and really creating a space for these people? Sort of in the way that you know, you said you didn't see yourself when you came out of college? Right? Is it more about creating the space for people who should be represented? And often, you know, historically have lacked that?


Caroline:

Yes, I think it is creating more… I think it's creating more space for those who need it. And those who should be represented from underrepresented communities. Because what's happening is we know we need to do a little bit more than this area, there's one or two projects for so many different groups that are vying for it. Right. So I know we're talking in broad terms here, but I'm talking about every underrepresented group. To understand that we aren't about checking boxes anymore. It is about more truthful depictions of life and love and of people. If I'm a person, as an actor, as an actor, if you are trained, if you fit the vision as an amazing artist, who can tell this person's story? What does it matter if I have a disability or an accent, or, you know, the color of my skin, and all of that, all of that big, big box? And it seems like Finally, the entertainment industry is getting a little bit less stuck.


Cata:

But I think that that change, while it's happening, can feel a little bit slow. And I think, absolutely, an amazing change is happening. I think it's interesting that for a lot of artists, it's happening. Also at a time where maybe there's a little bit less work, or it feels like there are less auditions, you know, because a lot of places really are shut down. And a lot of artists understandably feel a little stuck right now. What advice would you say to them and into people in general that feel a little bit stuck and stagnant?


Caroline:

Sure. And there's a lot of it. My colleagues and I talk about it all the time. So it feels separated, and it feels slower. And there's more caution. That's around, it's around the auditions. You know, there's also this feeling of are we ever going to get back? Well, I don't know what “get back” is, because there is no normal in my mind. I think self taping will always be a part of it. And I think the beauty of self taping is that we can see more people and reach more people. Where before there used to be a gatekeeper, and it was impossible to get a hold of somebody, you can now be in a room with them on Clubhouse. You can sign up for a general with different casting directors... I think in some respects, it's slow, and it feels stagnant. And it feels like you're not moving. In other respects, the industry is reaching out in new and different ways than it had previously and it’s making itself available more than it has previously.


Cata:

It's an exciting time for actors and artists in general and humanity. Because really, we've learned so much. And we will continue to learn so much from the last year I think, as humans moving forward.


Caroline:

I agree. I think I think it's all about the core, what is your humanity, and we are all being called to get real about it. The norms and the practices of previous thought forms are just that and they need to be let go. And we need to move forward. And we move forward together, not separately.


Cata:

I think those a perfect, perfect last answer.


Bobby: Caroline. It's really been a pleasure talking to you. And can you just let our audience know where they can find you online?


Caroline:

Well, thank you so much for including me today. This was such a great and thoughtful conversation. And I'm always happy to continue the conversation. So where can you find me? I am on Instagram and Twitter and clubhouse at its Caroline Liem. I also have a Facebook page. I am an easy one to Google. So please reach out. Please feel free to say hello. And I look forward to deepening and continuing these kinds of conversations.



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