Actress and filmmaker Giovannie Espiritu was nominated alongside Academy Award Nominees Alfre Woodard and Amy Irving for Best Supporting Actress at MethodFest for the Mynah Films feature film Fiona’s Script. Her primetime credits include a recurring role on ER, Bones, Gilmore Girls, Trauma, and Perfect Harmony.
She can currently be seen as the lead in the Amazon series, “Dyke Central,” which was featured in After Ellen, BuzzFeed, Bust Magazine, and Curve Magazine as a top LGBTQ series to watch. As a filmmaker, she was featured in Elizabeth Banks’ WhoHaHa Media for her parody song, “An Introvert’s World,” and her storytelling has been featured in Ms. Magazine.
She coaches kids/teens online nationwide through HollywoodActorsWorkshop.com and was just named as one of the top 40 Audition Coaches in Los Angeles by the Hollywood Winners Circle founded by Wendy Alane Wright, a top talent manager.
Her students are represented by the top agencies in the Bay Area and Los Angeles and notable student alumni include William Lipton (Daytime Emmy Nominee, Cameron on General Hospital) and the Espina Sisters (Hosts of Dreamworks’ “Life Hacks for Kids on the Road”).
In her spare time, she rock climbs and advocates for Domestic Violence Awareness/Prevention and LGBTQ equality. She has served on the Board of Directors for C.O.R.A. (a Bay Area domestic violence hotline and agency) and been awarded a Certificate of Recognition from the Senate for her community service.
She is in the development of her first feature film, DisGraced, which is a dark comedy loosely based on her experiences coming out of a Biblical doomsday cult. Her pitch for the film won the inaugural Winston Baker Pitch competition at AFM.
Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started your business?
I started in voice-over for video games as an actor in the San Francisco Bay Area. Because agents only get paid on commission, my agents wanted to submit me for more on-camera acting gigs and I enrolled in a film/tv acting class.
Since I was one of the early success stories for the school (within 8 months, I had signed with an LA agency and with a year of signing, I booked a recurring role on the TV show, “ER”), my teacher suggested that I begin to teach for her.
When the 2008 WGA strike hit and the acting jobs were at a standstill, I decided to start teaching on my own since I was also a single mom and my $50/class teacher’s pay wasn’t going to cut it.
Where did the idea for HollywoodActorsWorkshop come from?
I picked the domain name, “HollywoodActorsWorkshop” because I’ve always taught with an eye for the Hollywood industry. That’s why my students do so well… in the smaller markets, they tend to dominate because LA has different standards when it comes to talent. In a smaller town, most actors are hobbyists, and in Los Angeles, you are competing with the best of the best.
How did you get started in your industry?
I started in voiceovers on a fluke… I was part of a Biblical doomsday cult and we were living in the woods. In my isolation, I used to keep telemarketers on the phone because they were my only link to the “outside world,” and one of them mentioned that I had an interesting voice and that I should get into voiceovers.
I had no idea what he was talking about and I looked it up on the internet and sent in a really gritty recording to the biggest agent in SF that I could find (SF was the closest market, but we were still 4 hours away in Grizzly Flats) – they ended up calling me in, I signed with them, they sent me on an audition the very same day and I booked it.
I took it as a sign from God (I was still in the cult mindset at the time, although I do not consider myself religious at the present time.)
What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your business?
I try to put out educational one-minute clips on social media. It helps people to know that I actually do know what I am talking about and have the success stories (myself and my students) and industry experience to back it up.
Because I look so young, a lot of adults don’t believe that I know what I’m talking about, so my specialty has become kid/teens, but I’ve had a lot of adults become successful as well.
What are the three biggest challenges you have faced growing the business and how did you overcome them?
The three biggest challenges that I face in this industry are sexist behavior, covert racism, and lack of opportunity.
There is an African proverb that has been haunting me for the last few years since I made the move to Los Angeles: “Until the lion learns to write, the stories will always glorify the hunter.”
Many of the stories in media are told from a male perspective, and the number of speaking roles for women reflects that (see the statistics at the Geena Davis Institute for Gender in Media)… so as a woman, particularly as a woman of color, the number of roles are limited.
You have to be three times as good for fewer opportunities. And everyone expects you to be grateful and likable and not ruffle any feathers… which makes it easy for predators to take advantage of people that are lower on the ladder.
It’s getting better though, as those from marginalized backgrounds begin writing and producing for themselves. That is also what I’m beginning to do to change the status quo… but I’m still learning the fundraising and distribution aspect of the business.
Thankfully I’ve got a great mentor in Suzanne DeLaurentiis and Florencia Manovil, as well as organizations like the Alliance of Women Directors.
As an entrepreneur, what is it that actually motivates and drives you?
I love watching the next generation become more emotionally adept and expansive. I think that understanding people and knowing how to navigate relationship dynamics is such an enormous asset to have, even outside of the film and television industry.
What social media platforms do you usually use to increase your brand’s awareness and why?
I generally use Facebook and IG for increasing awareness. I post student success stories, one-minute actor tips, as well as engage with those that have questions about the industry.
What is your main tactic when it comes to making more people aware of your brand and engaging your customers? How did your business stand out?
My business has stood out primarily because of the success stories that have come out from my school. I have an Emmy nominee (William Lipton on General Hospital), a sister duo that Dreamworks’ created a show around (the Espina sisters – “Life Hacks for Kids”), and countless callbacks and bookings that attest to the validity of my teaching methods.
What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?
Word of mouth has been the most powerful driver of new clients… although a lot of agents and parents tend to keep me as their secret weapon. My best word of mouth comes from agents and managers who send me their clients because they know that I can help them book work (Agents and Managers only get paid on commission) – in the last month,
I have a few students test for series and get pinned on recurring guest roles on Disney shows, plus one that booked the lead in a feature film.
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Wendy Alane Wright, who is a Hollywood manager and entrepreneur herself gave me this mantra: “I am independent of anyone’s opinions of me, good or bad.” That really helped me in a business that is built on opinions and judgments. It helped me realize that I am still an artist, regardless of anyone else’s approval.
What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up their first business?
I would advise new entrepreneurs to do something that they actually love and find their strong “WHY.”. You might as well spend your time doing something that you enjoy – because if you are going to strive for excellence and it is going to take up a good portion of your life force, your reasons behind it will sustain you when the going gets tough.