A few weeks ago we were able to connect and conversed with the quirky and endearing Amanda Marks, who wears many hats within the Atlanta Film and TV community. Amanda performs and produces stand-up comedy, storytelling shows, and creates content for Instagram, Tiktok, and Facebook. Additionally, she is an actress signed with Stewart Talent and last year she was fortunate to book one of the leading roles in a Push Push Arts production, of Artificial Island.
Atlanta Film and TV: Can you share with us how acting onstage and acting for film and television differ?
Amanda Marks: "While on camera, you need to consider more than just acting. You need to be aware of the camera's location, your marks, your distance from the camera, and whether it is on or off. For stage performances, you need to project your voice, but in front of the camera, you must speak softly because there is sound and color correction.I have learned to minimize my movements and become more conscious of my body when doing on-camera work. However, I do miss in-person auditions. I remember auditioning for Brian Beegle years ago, and he said, 'Amanda, you have a big personality, and that's what we love about you. Just shrink it down a little!' I always need reminding that I don't need to be overly expressive when auditioning for on-camera work, and I am happy to receive that direction. However, you don't always get feedback, especially with self-tapes. That's why it's important to take classes and have a list of what casting directors expect in those situations."
Atlanta Film and TV: Take us on your journey, from how you started to where you are today.
Amanda Marks: "I can go back to the 1980s when my parents handed me a microphone for my brother's Bat Mitzvah party! I used to call into radio stations, tell them jokes, and they would put me on the air. I have always been drawn to entertaining people, and I believe there is a difference between wanting to be the center of attention and wanting to entertain. Sometimes, there's a venn diagram where the two intersect, and I am in the center. I have always been a performer and entertainer at heart, and I am constantly striving to figure out what will fulfill me creatively.
After high school, I wanted to enter the field of children's television, to focus on creative development to create kids' shows. I attended Boston University, where I majored in film and television production. Afterwards, I went to NYU's Gallatin School of Individualized Studies, where I obtained my Masters in Media. While there, I interned at Sesame Workshop, visited 123 Sesame Street, Mr. Hooper's Store, and a taping of Monster Clubhouse, where Elmo was present!
After getting married to my husband in New York, we moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he grew up. We planned to be there for a few years while he attended law school before moving to Atlanta. However, we were only there for seven months, during which time I worked in production and loved being on set. I quickly realized I loved the opportunity to be in front of the camera, even though I wasn't intentionally trying to do so. I am naturally gregarious, and people would say, "let's put Amanda in!" However, I did not enjoy the hierarchy of a production shoot or the idea of being a peon and being yelled at.
As an actor, I think it's important to look around on set or the stage and recognize that everyone from all parts of production is important and has a role.
After moving to Atlanta, I focused on working at Cartoon Network and talked to anyone and everyone who worked at Turner. After a month, I landed a temp job in their consumer products division, which eventually turned into a full-time position. I worked at Cartoon Network for about six and a half to seven years before being laid off, and I basically was done working in children's television. While there, I had the opportunity to work in front of the camera and managed both Adult Swim's and Cartoon Network's consumer products and home entertainment, creating DVDs with special features and working closely with the creators. The creators I worked with got to know me, and they would sometimes call and ask if I could do a voiceover for one of their episodes. One of the creators, Matt Maiellaro from Aqua Teen Hunger Force, was doing a pilot for Adult Swim's live-action show, 'Stiff,' a horror show parody that did not make it past the pilot season but still made it on air."
"I sat with Matt while he created the pilot episode for ‘Stiff,’ and there was a demon character, which I eventually got cast for. As the demon, I wore prosthetics and molds of my face and hands because I got blown up. Instead of wearing my natural curls, I had to wear a much curlier wig. During production, there was a scene where I had to vomit on someone. The day we filmed, I wore a dress on the set and didn’t bother to wear shorts underneath. If I were an actor, all the people who I worked with would have been anonymous, but they were all people I worked with. They were all up in my business, putting a mic on me, among many other things. And, again, I wasn’t wearing shorts! It, however, was a good thing I at least was wearing underwear! At one point, I had a pipe taped on my back because that was where the vomit made from green clam chowder would be piped-out. All of a sudden the pipe begins to shake, as it turns toward my face! As it shook, I kept saying, ‘keep on going, Amanda!’ And I waited for the director to yell, ‘cut!’ Meanwhile, the pipe had turned towards me, and now there was green clam chowder and fake blood all down my bra, underwear, and back!"
- Amanda Marks
"Playing this demon has helped me build my acting resume, and I've had many amazing opportunities through Stewart Talent. I've also had many additional opportunities due to the unintentional content I've produced. If you're producing content solely to book jobs, then you're doing it for the wrong reason. I think it's essential to create content you enjoy, are passionate about, and it’s easy for you to produce. When consulting businesses that want to start social media pages, I advise them that if they can't consistently create content and don't enjoy engaging with people, they shouldn't do it. If you're uncomfortable in front of the camera, then find another outlet.
I got my agent because of a man named Jason who worked for the Yellow Pages and was creating an internal video for corporate that was similar to a man-on-the-street piece. The goal was to educate their sales team on promoting ad space to potential customers. Jason asked me to host this sales piece, and we traveled to Sacramento and St. Louis to film these man-on-the-street segments. There was no script, so I asked him what he wanted as the end result. He told me what he wanted people to say, and I engaged with people in a fun way to get them to say what was needed. This three-minute video gave me the start of my reel. I knew someone who ran a modeling agency in the same building as Stewart Talent, so I sent my reel to her and asked her to pass it along to the agents at Stewart Talent. Once she did, I was told to contact the talent agency because they wanted to sign me! Later, I met with the agents and have been with them ever since."
One thing I learned while working at Cartoon Network is that the show creators didn't just come up with concepts. They were also character illustrators, voice actors, scriptwriters, and storyboard artists. They created animated shorts before getting picked up by Cartoon Network. People who take control of their content and creative outlets will become successful. Don't wait for someone to put you on their writing staff or cast you in something. You will have to make it happen for yourself first. It's hard for me to wait for someone to do something for me, so I usually do it myself. No matter if my videos get a hundred views or a hundred thousand, I'm not only putting something out there, I am also releasing my creativity and energy into the universe, which makes me happy!"
Atlanta Film and TV: Did your parents recognize your love of the arts? And, if so, how did they nourish your gift to facilitate growth?
Amanda Marks: "My parents were supportive of my personality. Both my origin family and immediate families are pretty much personable, approachable, and outgoing. When I was seven or eight years old, my dad bought a home video camera for a trip we were taking. My brother was obsessed with making content from behind the camera, and had no interest in being in front of the camera. However, I was the one who wanted to be on-camera. I would say, ‘here I am! Put me on!
At the time, both my brother and I would watch Saturday Night Live, and all we mostly did was commercial parodies. My brother would give me direction, which was me improvising. My brother would sometimes give me lines and I had no idea what I would say. Or, he would ask me questions, and you could see my eight-year-old face trying to answer them in character, and thinking it was hilarious.
When my brother would have friends over, instead of them replacing me in front of the camera, he would say that he has a ‘cast' to work with. All the content we created is now gone, because there was no place for us to put it, so it went on a shelf. We didn’t even make our family watch it. We made it and moved on to the next piece!
As we got older, my brother digitized hours of footage he found, and there’s a two-and-a-half minute commercial we made about Panasonic boom boxes, where my brother did a voiceover from behind the camera, and I’m playing the boombox with Cyndi Lauper’s She-Bop’ and I’m dancing to it. I had just come home from ballet and I’m wearing a ridiculous blue Capezio Leotard with pink tights, and my mom made me wear these giant panties, which peek out. My curly hair was brushed into a frizz, and it looks like a haircut that a real estate agent could wear. As I watched this footage I thought, I have to use this! I eventually took a 25 second clip of this fake Panasonic Boombox commercial and put it on Tik Tok and labeled it ‘If Tik Tok existed in the 1980s.’ I got 2.1 million views, and I could not believe how relatable it was! I thought my brother and I were just doing this thing, and thought I was a really weird kid.
I am quirky, and I’m still weird. I haven’t changed much, as I am still the same person I was in 1985, and I am totally cool with that! When I saw how relatable my video was, I was happy for 1985 Amanda Goldstein. I thought if she knew the future, and thought that all these people would love her, and think that she was adorable, fun, funny, and weird in a great way, then it would’ve made 1985 me happy!
Fame isn’t a good goal - for me it’s happiness. I love to entertain and make people laugh, because it makes me happy! I think it’s important to look at little successes. A big success for me would be my sister and I getting our own show from our podcast, or being cast in something where I get to be a part. I am happy to get any opportunity to be in front of the camera, and if that's me not having any words, or if it’s one word. The feeling of being with the cast when I was doing the play with Push Push Theater, I hoped that I would get the opportunity to be a part of that family again, because it was special."
Atlanta Film and TV: Can you talk to us about the importance of branding in entertainment?
Amanda Marks: "Part of it is just knowing thyself. I am self-promotional, but hopefully not in an icky way! It goes back to creating content that’s fun versus just to show off something you’re doing. Like a lot of people will post I have this audition, or I’m on this set. The auditions I’ve posted weren't really auditions. I’ve posted where I’m continuously slating with all the different hairstyles and outfits I’m wearing. Or, there's posts I’ll share with me doing crazy faces, because I have a lot of expressions.
Part of branding yourself is making sure that you have the foundation to do these things in a healthy way, because if you’re going to be a part of this industry you have to have thick skin.Branding has to do with what roles are available. My friend, Tony DeMil who is a fantastic actor and coach told me a story about a friend of his who is an actress, who had sexy headshots, and got a lot of auditions for sex kitten roles. However, her personality was adorable and bubbly! As she auditioned, she would compete with women who were sex vixens, and when she would audition she would be bubbly, adorable, and gorgeous, but she wasn’t getting booked. Eventually, she decided to get her hair cut, and redid her headshots that fit her personality and in the end began to get booked! In saying all of this, I think it’s important to understand your personality and essence, and make sure it’s reflected in your headshots, in the videos you create, and know it is important to know you are being booked because you are being your authentic self, rather than being someone else. However, when you audition, are you being asked to be someone else? 50 percent yes! But with the other 50 percent, they want to see you bring a part of your personality into that character. They want to see that person behind that character. Doing that is your job - which is to tell the story that they already established, added with some flavor! "
Check out our full conversation below!
Atlanta Film and TV: Talk to us about your experience as a Stand-up Comedian. How did you get your start and for those who may want to know, how do you come up with your jokes?
Amanda Marks: "It all started when I took an improv class, and a friend said, "Hey, you should come take this stand-up class with me!" And, I told him, "Uh, no Thank you!" The thought of taking a stand-up class freaked me out. It wasn't that I was afraid of being on stage. The idea of writing five minutes of material seemed difficult. I have a background in writing, but writing for me for the stage and being funny constantly? I thought, "How is that going to happen?" I let my friend be the guinea pig and he tried class. Once it was over, he let me know it was great. Later, I took the class. It was like a creative writing workshop. The teacher would give us writing assignments, and we would bring whatever we wrote to class to workshop it.
After six to eight weeks, we had five minutes of material, and for graduation, we performed in front of a measly crowd of 300 people! Everyone was there to laugh and support their friends on stage, making it a kind audience. After taking the improv class, I thought, "I can do this!" because I wasn't depending on anyone. I was in control. I wasn't sharing the stage with anyone and thought it was a good fit. During the first year of stand-up comedy, I only did a handful of open mics and booked shows.
After a while, a friend connected me to a woman named Jen O'Neil Smith, who wanted to get into comedy. Jen was like a greyhound let out on the race track, who produced shows, was at every open mic, and she was a mom! I thought, "If Jen could do it, I can too!" She was the one who inspired me to do more and get out there. For me, open mics are much scarier than booked shows because for booked shows, I do my best material, while for open mics, I'm workshopping my material. The rejection is scary because it comes from other comedians.
The benefit of taking the stand-up class was that it fast-tracked me into having five minutes of material I could take to open mics to work on and smooth out, and sometimes completely delete most of my jokes. Having that material allowed me to decide what works for me, like conversing with people at a party or with the cashier at Trader Joe's. I write it down and try it out on stage. I also use what happens in life. There are different ways to get into stand-up comedy. As a content creator, I have seen actors a lot of times who are in LA get into stand-up because they think it's a means to an end. These actors believe if they get into stand-up comedy, they'll get their own show centered around them, and they think ‘maybe if I get into stand-up, I’ll get my own show! Which is not a good reason to get into stand up.
I don’t get out to open mics or perform as much as some other comedians. I perform at least three or five times a month, and I produce my own show. I've been producing a variety of shows pretty much two years into doing stand up. I am okay with knowing that it’s going to take me longer to get where I want to be because I have to do what makes me happy! Whereas there are some comedians who go out three or four times a night, or almost every night they’re doing stand up comedy. Going out that much is something I cannot do because it's something that doesn’t work with my family's structure because I want to be with my husband and kids, and I get sleepy! I get tired!
I’ve tried to brand myself, and it’s okay to be niche. When you think about promoting what you do, you know your audience. If your audience is everyone, how do you promote that? But, if you're a product geared towards dentists in the southeast who work on children or a family dentist, then you know who to promote to. I have done a lot of branding on being Jewish Comedian, and I get a lot of opportunities to headline Jewish organizations. I am also able to open for headliners who are brought in for fundraisers."
Atlanta Film and TV: You host a podcast called Sis & Tell with your sister, Alison. Can you share with us about that, and where can people listen?
Amanda Marks: "I host the Sis and Tell Podcast with my sister Alison, who is seven years older than me, and an Emmy-nominated talk show host for PBS. You can listen to us wherever you get your podcasts, or on our website at sisandtell.com. Our weekly half-hour podcast is improvised storytelling; we don't plan what we're going to say. Just two minutes before recording, Allison will ask if I have a story, and sometimes I'll reply, "No. Maybe? Let's just start and see where it goes!" Our podcast aims to make people feel like they're listening in on our conversation. However, it may not be for everyone. We've had people reach out and thank us for our silly discussions, while one woman told us that our conversation reminded her of the chats she used to have with her late sister. Our show talks about everything and nothing. Which is why our tagline is "a whole lot of talking about a whole lot of nothing."
Atlanta Film and TV: We are big on networking and building relationships. Could you share with our readers and viewers its importance, and how you benefited from networking and building relationships?
Amanda Marks: "When people think about networking in the arts, they feel uneasy, and will say, 'I don’t want to get a part because of someone I know. I want to get a part because I’m talented.' Networking is how life works in every profession. Sometimes you need someone to help you get your foot in the door or get your resume to the top. I constantly build relationships. Not because I want something from them, but because I like connecting with people. Build relationships for a professional cause, no matter what industry you’re in. However, it’s important to not go to people when you only need something. If you’re looking for a job – even if you are already in a job never stop networking because connecting with people is always important, no matter what industry you are in. As you network, tell them what you are looking for and ask who they recommend you reaching out to? I’ve gotten opportunities not because of the content I’ve created but from people I know. I don’t ask, 'Hey, can you book me in this?' The people I know have thought of me for a specific role, which can take years. But be patient while constantly building your network and relationships. Be sure to network authentically, as it is easy to spot when someone is not genuine, and be sure to pay it forward! If you’re the person networking and someone connects you with someone else, be sure to follow through. I have connected people to friends, I have to help them along their career paths, and they have not followed up with them, which makes me reluctant to connect people."
Atlanta Film and TV: Do you have a piece of advice for someone who is graduating from high school, looking to pursue a career in film and tv?
Amanda Marks: "I would let them know that there are so many things in the industry that they probably don’t know about. Be open-minded and talk to everyone. I have spoken with so many people who were in different aspects of their career paths. What I learned is that everyone’s career path is different. Sometimes, you will find people who happen to get to where you might want to be. But also, careers change, and life and your interests will evolve. Talk to everyone, but be open to things changing. Be sure to start interning while in high school and do it as much as you can. Even if it’s for a day, week, month, or a full year. Be sure to do it because if you think you are interested in one career path and you do it for a week, you may say, "no thank you!" But then, you would have learned something."
Atlanta Film and TV: Do you have any G.E.M.S you would like to share?
Amanda Marks: "Since we’re talking about follow-through, reach out to me. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org Be sure to put in the subject line Atlanta Film and TV: Networking so I know I can find you, so I can provide any assistance that I’m able to, so take advantage. I might be able to introduce you to someone - or no one! I am still figuring things out, because I don’t know everything - which is important to know. But, don’t think you know everything. Always be learning!"
Atlanta Film and TV: Tell us about any upcoming shows you have and how we can support them?
Amanda Marks: "I produce a show every month with my friend Amy Brown at the Distillery of Modern Art. Our next show is April 13th. You can follow me everywhere at Mall of Amanda on Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook and you will find my comedy shows there. You can also check the Distillery of Modern Art’s website to see when our next show is."