What's it Take To Be in a Music Video (and Honestly, Just Win at Life)?
When I think of the music scene as a whole, most of the time I think of the writers and musicians involved in performing the songs we hear. But there really are SO many other facets of the music world-managers, agents, producers, recorders, and many others who help round out the full musical experience for us as fans and music lovers.
Being a part of the music scene and industry doesn’t always mean writing and singing.
Have you ever thought about the music videos your favorite artists create, and what really goes into creating and producing one?
Recently, I found out the teenage son (Simon Strobl) of a friend of mine acted in a Beartooth video last spring. Beartooth. Heavy-hitting, Columbus-based Beartooth. I had to hear more about how this happened. So I met up with Simon (and his Mama) and heard his story. And I realized how connected success can be to any job in life-in the music scene or not.
HTN: I don’t really even think about Ohio or West Virginia being big for music videos.
Does anyone think about the thriving music video scene in West Virginia?…There might be ways to get involved in the music scene…say you love music, maybe you want to be involved in the music world, but you’re not a “musical person”, you know? I don’t know (yet) if you’re musical or not, but I know you’re involved in acting and modeling (and that got you involved in the music scene).
So how did the acting and modeling life get started for you?
Simon: Whenever I was younger, I’d been wanting to be an actor. And so my mom took me to conventions, and we got agents, and they’ve been sending us to auditions…and this one agent in Pittsburgh (named Terry) called…and said Beartooth was looking for a specific “look” for a music video. I’m guessing it’s “this” look (laughed), ‘cause Terry sent my picture, and I got the part.
*Note: Conventions are NOT necessary to find an agent or acting jobs…but they do help bring quality agents into one space, giving you more exposure in a smaller amount of time.
HTN: So going back before that (this specific gig), you started going to conventions. Did you ever do any local theatre?
Simon: Yeah, the Smooth Theatre, I always did those summer vaudeville camps. And whenever the Missoula theatre comes down, I always did those. I wasn’t the main person…
HTN: But you were involved.
Simon: I was involved, and it helped me, and I liked to be on stage. Of course dancing also helps with that, and I like to dance. It also helps with being on stage (in general). I was also in a choir at the Smoot, too.
HTN: So you’re also musical. You enjoy singing.
Simon: Yes. I may not be the best musical talent. I’m not Celine Dion or anything (laughs).
HTN: So if you were to make your own song, what would it be about?
Simon: I’m not the most “down” person. I don’t often listen to screaming music…
HTN: So how was that for you? You don’t find yourself listening to these guys (Beartooth)…
Simon: Yeah…so I got the part, and then my mom and I started looking into their songs. We were a little shocked.
Parnaz (Simon’s mom): We were listening to their music, and of course all jobs come through (are screened by) me…so I wanted to know what kind of music they played (So I asked Terry about it). I wanted the music to be clean-he was only a kid…
Simon: I was twelve at this point (when the music video was shot).
Parnaz: And she got back to me and said their music was “interesting”…but she didn’t think there were any cuss words in it. (We’re all laughing)…So I said “okay”!
Simon: I remember being on the computer in the hallway, and I was really confused as to why my mom was listening to “death metal”? So I asked her about it…and she said I was gonna be in a music video with this band. They’re really nice people.
HTN: So tell me about that experience, if you would (being a part of this music video).
Simon: So it’s hard being in school. I think it was on a Tuesday. The next day was Wednesday, and we had to drive three hours to Pittsburgh, and three hours back. And it was a school night. So my mom had to pick me up a half hour early from school, because the shoot started at 7. So I had to do my homework in the car, and got a little motion sick. Got it all out. Felt better, went inside and met the wardrobe lady. She gave me my costume, and the guy who was my “stunt double”, a kind of superhero guy. At the end of the video, you think it’s a man the whole time, and then you see a close up, and it’s me. My 5 second scene took about twenty minutes to a half-hour. And then we met the band and took a picture, got shirts…it was fun. And then they took a little video for Beartooth Day, where I wished a Happy Beartooth Day in my superhero costume. And we got home around 12:30, and I didn’t throw up on the way home. Plus, I’d already gotten my homework done.
It went by really fast, and everyone was really nice. Good people to work with.
HTN: So you were able to do everything you needed to do (for the music video) on one day?
HTN: And this was a paid gig?
HTN: And you got this job through the agent in Pittsburgh. Did you meet her at the convention you went to?
Parnaz: We kinda found her by luck. He (Simon) has an agent in Columbus, and one in Florida…and those two we met through the convention (in Pittsburgh).
We kinda found her by luck. He (Simon) has an agent in Columbus, and one in Florida…and those two we met through the convention (in Pittsburgh). We met the other two (agents) through the ARTS International Convention (in Florida)...
HTN: So there’s definitely a level of commitment that comes with this (acting). It’s kind of like a relationship, or a series of relationships that are built that lead to a job like this.
Parnaz: If people could see what’s going on in our house. The kids (Simon and his twin sister Sofia) come home, and…auditions are always sent to us, the day before they’re due. All of the sudden I’ll be looking through my emails and there’s an audition that’s due the next day at 3. And it’s always on a school night. And sometimes it’s memorizing 5 pages of lines. And if he ever has an audition, she (Sofia) has to be involved, because she’s filming. They always have dance ’til 8:00. They memorize their lines, and there’s nights we’re up ’til midnight because we’re taping and sending in audition videos.
Simon: It’s a lot harder than I thought it was when I was around 7, and said I wanted to be an actor. It’s a lot harder than just asking someone if I can be in their show.
Parnaz: It’s a lot of balance, a lot of time management. There’s a lot of connection and communications. You know, out of 30 auditions, you might just get one “Yes”. So it gets to the point of wondering if we should even do this tonight, because we likely will not hear back.
Simon: Time management is definitely the hardest part.
HTN: Do you feel like you’re auditioning for everything that comes through?
Parnaz: Yeah, I do think so. But that’s where having our agent helps. A lot of the auditions that come through…
*Also Noted: Reputable agents will not charge an up-front fee. They will work off commission when you get jobs.
HTN: She screens for you?
Parnaz: Yeah. They send us a lot of stuff. Unfortunately, we just haven’t gotten anything big. But in the meantime we’ve gotten some little things, which are still great resume builders. And then a part of me thinks everything happens for a reason. And maybe they’re supposed to be here doing kids stuff.
Simon: All of the things we’ve gotten so far have been one-day stuff. A couple weeks back, we had a two-day stay in Columbus. But we just stayed overnight and shot the next morning.
HTN: But now Beartooth, that was the first music video you’d ever done?
Simon: That was the first, and hopefully not the last.
HTN: If there was someone at any age, that was interested in being a part of something like acting in a music video, and/or being more involved in acting or modeling in any way…do you have any suggestions for them?
Simon: Chances are, first audition, you might not get the part. So you have to make sure you keep practicing, be involved in your local theatre. Keep on trying. We go to acting workshops in Columbus and Akron, we go to conventions…
HTN: And how do you find out about these workshops and conventions?
Simon: Well the big convention in Florida, we actually found on the radio. They were doing auditions at the Grand Pointe, and there were three workshops to prepare us for the auditions: You could do monologue, dance, sing, you could do improv, modeling-there were different types of modeling…and then you go down to Florida and do the “full thing”, and a bunch of agents are watching you, and seeing if they like you or not.
Parnaz: It’s really cool because we heard about this arts showcase, when they advertised it on the radio a few years ago. They’re (Simon and Sofia) getting to the age now where they’re gonna have to soon decide what they want to do…if this (acting, dancing, modeling) is just a hobby, or not. And they need to choose a plan B. Because as we know, just acting is…it’s not like you can just say “I want to be an actor” and “Boom”, you’re on TV-especially in the area where we live. We’ve had agents scout both kids, and invited us to meet with them in New York and LA. And then their next question is to ask if we’re moving. And we cannot live there, now. But they have those connections, so when they’re older, if they do move, they’ll be connected when they do.
Simon: When you go to big auditions, it’s helpful to sometimes be a “triple threat” (sing, act and dance). We’re working on that.
HTN: Any other advice?
Simon: Besides getting involved in local theatre, you have to know how to take rejection. You’re going to get rejected on a lot of auditions. Don’t give up. You have to also watch out for what you want to audition for. Be selective in your script choices. And if you do get cast in something, be able to accept criticism.
On the surface, this could seem like a kid who got lucky and heard about a random audition for a music video. This story might seem negligible, just another day in the life of a kid, of someone who wants to be an actor, in a sea of actors. Some might say they could never have this experience because they don’t have the resources this family has-that the odds are stacked against anyone else who wants something as bad as this family does, and isn’t getting it for one reason or another.
But to me, this story is everything. This kiddo has wanted to act for at least 6 years, now (and he is). He built up his love for acting in local theatre, maintains his craft, seeks ways to build his resume and skill set, auditions for jobs nearly daily (sometimes even uses cell phone videos to audition, while maybe getting one “yes” out of every 30), keeps his head up, understands his look and acting talent is not for everyone, stays positive and finds the good in every situation, while giving advice to others about how they can follow their dreams, too.
If Simon doesn't represent everything I hope my daughter can be, I don’t know who does. He’s a shining example of commitment and kindness. He deserves every bit of success he gets, and I can’t wait to see him grow and advance in whatever career he chooses.
See the full video, here (Simon's character appears at the end):