Conversations with Atlanta's Movers and Shakers with Stand-Up Comedian Amanda Marks
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.