Caroline Liviakis

@caroline_liviakis


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EP 225: Caroline Liviakis – Executive Artistic Director and Choreographer (autogenerated)

Dane Reis: You booked it. Episode 225.

All right. Let’s get started with today’s interview. I’m excited to introduce my guest today. I’ve got Caroline Livia caucus. Are you ready to do this Caroline? 

Caroline Liviakis: Yes, I am. 

Dane Reis: Beautiful. Caroline began her career as the founder and executive artistic director of the Carolina dance company. She has since switched her career to both a director and choreographer for film her debut feature-length film lessons in the love will begin shooting next year, Caroline, that is an ultra tight synopsis of who you are and what you’ve done.

But why don’t you tell us a little bit more about yourself filling those gaps and a little bit more about what you do as a professional in the entertainment industry.

Caroline Liviakis: I thank stain. Um, so I began my career as a choreographer of live performance. So everything that I’ve ever done in my career has been danced based. I’m a choreographer. I started the traditional path of bringing productions to life and also social dance experiences to life for audiences and the flesh.

And so I started my own dance company in San Francisco, California here in the U S and I grew that company for a few years and I was really dedicated toward that live dancing path. But as I was going, as I was creating these new works, I started to integrate more and more. Digital of digital components into my live works and from then kind of sprouted this interest in creating and showcasing dance on film.

And so I kind of just became so immersed in that. And so I, and I started to see sort of the writing on the wall in some ways of right now is just not a ideal time for live, uh, for anything live in the entertainment industry and, um, with a few different laws that were passed here in California. Um, and also with COVID, it was just not seeming like the right time to sort of be crusading for this dance company.

And my, my heart was really somewhere else. So I ended up, I. Close the dance company. Eventually one day we’ll reopen it, but that will be in the future. And I have started off on this career of directing and choreographing for film. So I’ve been, I’ve directed and choreographed three short films, and I’m off for actually, it’s going to be later this year where we’re going to be shooting my debut feature film, which is a dance musical titled lessons 

in love. 

Dane Reis: Yeah, very cool. I am really looking forward to exploring this and digging in a bit, but let’s get into this first section here and Caroline, look, I am a sucker for a good quote. What is your favorite quote? You’d like to share with our listeners?

Caroline Liviakis: My quote comes from it’s one of the most influential people in my life, Robert Green, um, and it’s from his book, 48 laws of power. And it’s one of the later laws in his book, but it’s just, it’s very simple. It’s despise the free lunch and that quote, it’s not as, you know, I guess like feel good or with a lot of, you know, starry language, but that quote and just kind of anything that he has said in general, but that quote has really resonated with me in this latter stage of my career as a director of what was a nonprofit dance company.

And I think a lot of artists in general, there’s this very kind of hungry. There’s this very hungry and kind of starvation sort of mentality that I found myself getting into. And I found a lot of. into, and cause we don’t have theirs, we’re in such a brutally competitive industry. And at the same time, there’s, there’s no money for anything that we have.

And so we have to work, you know, eight zillion different jobs to sort of make it work. And then on top of it, we’re trying to raise money and gain attention for what we actually want to be doing our art projects. So there’s this kind of beggars sort of mentality that sort of, I think naturally ends up developing from that.

And that quote sort of epitomizes this mentality that I sort of began to adopt or that I began to sort of realize was really important, crucial for not only success, but also for survival, quite frankly, in the industry where. Rather than thinking about, okay, what can someone else do for me? And how is somebody else going to make my way? It’s more of thinking about what do I have to bring to the table and what am I offering that makes somebody want to work with me. And rather than kind of having this mentality of expectation, and I deserve this, it’s more of building your, my self up in terms of my skills, my connections, in terms of my creative abilities, my vision, and then showcasing to other people what I have to offer and how, what I offer fits into what they need. 

Dane Reis: Yeah, I really liked that quote and that explanation. it’s knowing your worth. Right. And taking power of that. And I think really. Shifting your mindset from this kind of a scarcity thinking that, Hey there’s because the reality is, look, there are, he said, it’s, there’s a lot of competition in this industry.

Doesn’t really matter. Which, which part of it you’re in. But it’s specifically with dancing. My goodness. There is so much competition in the dance specific world and you have to switch something in your mind, right? From a scarcity thinking to an abundance, thinking that, Hey, know your worth, do your thing and say the work is there.

There’s there’s opportunity everywhere. And I think having that mental shift, like you’ve talked about is absolutely integral to creating a successful career. So you can really leverage, like you said, that network, those relationships that you have as well, as well as your talents and melding them all together.

Caroline Liviakis: Right, right. And thinking, I think outside of. 

Dane Reis: Hm. 

Caroline Liviakis: Is because, and this is something that I actually quite frankly have recently been kind of been kind of thinking a lot about this, but I think in this culture that we have now, especially in the entertainment industry, but with the rise of social media, it really promotes, so much of your time goes into thinking and being so in completely warped into your own world and your own. And we obviously, we all operate out of our own world and our own mindset that obviously, but every single day, you’re having a post on social media. You know, look at me, remember me here. This is what I’m doing. This is my stuff. And It’s constantly like this idea of, you’re just kind of constantly poking people.

Like, remember me, me, me 

Dane Reis: Yeah. Yeah. It’s like a forced narcissism almost.

Caroline Liviakis: And if we did this stuff in real life, You w you would be kicked out of the social group in immediately, it’d be obnoxious, but because of this online universe that we’re having to weave our way through, we have to adopt these really strange behaviors. That, and that’s the only way that you kind of can survive on, on these platforms.

And right?

now in the internet, in many ways in the entertainment industry, because they’re becoming so linked at this point. So it creates this that is feeding into and creating this kind of very, just everything becomes about you. And every, every second of your day is revolved around thinking about me and presenting myself and pushing myself out there.

Where if you step back for five seconds and think about. Other people and what they’re looking for, what they need, what are their interests? especially when you’re networking, if you start thinking more about other people and versus immediately going into just pushing yourself forward, totally changes your interactions with people.

And it changes in many ways, your sales pitch, because I have many for instance, um, I know we’re getting into a networking conversation here, but like I’ll, I’ll put out, you know, auditions for all these different things and I’ll get these cover letters from these dancers or these actors. And, and they’re immediately a lot of them.

I mean, I’d say maybe 70% of them that I get are, you know, dear Caroline, whatever I want to be part of this, this project, this film, I want to dance for your company. And they always started off with, I know how, What a great opportunity this is for me. Um, I’ve always wanted to be in a film. I know it’s going to be great for my career.

I’m going to do this. And they’re trying to tell me that they want this job that I’m offering, but they’re telling me about how great of an opportunity it is for them. , and I cannot even begin to tell you how much of this I get and coming from a sort of sales perspective, if you’re thinking, if they’re coming into this, trying to convince me to hire them because of how great it will be for them.

And it’s like, I know it will be, that’s why I’m offering the job. Like, I know it’s going to be great for you, but how is a great for me, you know, to hire. And 

so,

Dane Reis: Yeah. What do you bring to the table that I can leverage?

Caroline Liviakis: and, and also just thinking about, well, what might I be looking for? You know? And so. When I, and so seeing that from, I get to be, I get to be on that side of things, but what I’m trying to network myself on, I’m trying to network with a producer or, you know, we’re trying to pitch a film or anything like that now kind of having that perspective rather than coming in and being like, I’m this, this is my film, blah, blah, blah.

It’s researching. What are these people actually, what do they want? Who are they? And then showing, okay, well, this is how I fit within that. And it kind of, it totally changes your perspective on 

things.

Dane Reis: Yeah, a hundred percent very valuable. And I think for everyone that is a section to rewind re-listen and take in for sure. So good. 

Caroline Liviakis: Thanks. 

Dane Reis: let’s dig into this next section here. And Caroline, of course you are an entertainer. I’m an entertainer. And I think that you’d agree that this industry can be one of the most subjective, brutally, honest and personally emotional industries in existence.

And you know, as well as I, that in order to create and have a successful career in this industry, like you’re having now takes a lot of dedication and hard work. And while there is an outrageous amount of fun, excitement and fulfillment doing what we do, there are going to be our fair share of obstacles, challenges, and failures that we are going to experience, and we’re going to have to move forward through.

So tell us, what is one key obstacle challenge or failure you’ve experienced in your career and how did you come out the other side better because of it.

Caroline Liviakis: Okay. So, um, when you presented these questions, I was trying to think through, because there are just so 

many, like, it was like, okay, so which type, how bad, how bad did we go down the rabbit hole on this one? So, um, so, okay. I’m gonna give you, what would you estimate really has been one of my worst ones.

Um, I’m going to hide some of the details. Cause some of it was just kind of, I guess, I’m not going to go into everything, but I 

will give the gist of it. 

Dane Reis: Yep. Fair enough.

Caroline Liviakis: so the second film that I, the second short film that I ever directed, um, in easy out breezy, it was my transition period from when I had my dance company into me just going solo, and going into the film world.

So I was, I still was working with a lot of the same people that I had worked with in my dance company years, but it was under, you know, this different structure, The people that I had worked with a lot of them were very close friends of mine and, or they were, you know, they were just people that I had had become friends with or were friends with.

A lot of times I would hire my family to be damned. Cause I have two sisters who were dancers. And so everything was very tight knit. And so I had, I did, you know, I would, I would do photo releases and stuff, but I didn’t, I kept the. Not super intensive on the legal contract and the things and which is how I wanted it, because it was, we were, we were all just, we’re here all together.

We’re making it work, you know, and, and I, we set our payment agreement and I pay you do the work I pay you done. But, and that was fine. Um, except when it wasn’t. And, um, so I had a person that I was, that I had been collaborating with. We were very, very, very good friends, um, up through the early days of my dance company.

And he was, he became the cinematographer of my film and we set our payment agreement and everything like that. , and I told him, I, cause we had never signed contracts before. It was just, you do your work. I get the footage, you get the money where. But this one, I said, you know, it’s a film, I’m spending a lot of money on this thing.

Like, I was literally spending a year’s worth of money that I had made teaching Pilates, um, and dance. I had saved all of this up and it was a year’s worth to pay for this film. So it’s not like a laughing matter. And I said, you know, we need to sign contracts just so I, I was like, I trust you. You’re my greatest friend, but just, and he said, yes, totally.

We’ll sign it. I’ll, you know, I’m giving you the footage, all that kind of stuff. Um, I’m not going to go into the details of why this happened, but, well, okay. So we didn’t end up signing the contracts because I just got too busy to actually draft them. And so 

I was going to have them after ready after the shoot, something happened during the shoot, where he got miffed at me over that.

And After the shoot happened. he did not give my footage to me, so he held my footage hostage and he would not release it to me and not sign the contract. So I finally got a hold of the footage, but he still would not sign the contract. And what I found out really hard way, was you don’t own your own footage until someone has signed over that it’s work for hire. So I own all of the stuff that’s inside of the footage, but I don’t own the actual footage itself unless I have this person signature. So that was a year’s worth of my life right.

there of money spent for something I couldn’t use. Um, so I had to, it was just a very horrible situation. I had to go through a legal battle over it and just to get my film back in my hands.

Finally, I was able to get the footage and, you know, make the film, but it was a, it ended up taking six months of my life of this back and forth just because I hadn’t made someone sign a contract before the shooting began. And I trusted that. Okay. We’re friends, it’s all going to be good. 

So that’s a lot, that’s like a real, that’s a very real one, not like a, oh, I didn’t wear the right color to an audit, you know, right. Colored leotard to an audition or something. It was, that’s a real one, but it’s one that whenever, you know, because I teach at different, uh, um, different colleges and whenever I’m giving a lecture on different lessons, For the industry.

I always really stressed this cause it ends up biting a lot of people I’ve, uh, this is not just my experience, many people where it doesn’t matter if it’s your mom working on your, you know, in your dance company, on your set, always have people sign contracts because there’s, it doesn’t matter. Things happen and people’s emotions get involved and that’s going to affect your work and your money that you’ve put at stake. 

Dane Reis: Yes, I think that’s an incredibly valuable story. Thank you for sharing that. And we can all learn a lot from that. I think yes, contracts are so important and really whatever. It comes to money. When it comes to IP or intellectual property, you need to protect yourself and you need to, if you’re the artist getting handed a contract, you need to make sure you read your contract and actually read it.

Um, even if it’s this, and I say this to people all the time, that even if it’s from an agency or some booking that you, you work for regularly, and it’s essentially the same contract, uh, you know, copy pasted, new date, new gig information, new pay information, right? Same contract, fine. Read it. Because what that does is it’s instilling the habit of reading your contracts so that when one does come up, that has different information in it that you know what you’re looking at, that you’re used to going through that motion.

And it’s habitual to read your contracts before you signed them. And it’s so important. . You have to try to separate yourself. I mean, it’s, sometimes it’s easier said than done that. Like when you’re working with friends or family, uh, it’s just something it’s just business.

It has nothing to do with emotionally, with you it’s that this just needs to be done just because it needs to be done. Just like you have to wear your seatbelt. We just got to do this. Okay. And that’s it. There’s there doesn’t go anywhere beyond that, but it needs to, you need to have things in writing and things need to be contracted and it’s so important.

Like you experienced it can save you a lot of, money, a lot of frustration, in the future.

Caroline Liviakis: Yes, Yes, 

Very much so. 

Dane Reis: Yeah. Uh, what’s the other thing about contracts? Oh, I also, I personally, I mean, not everyone is like this, but when it comes to performing on a contract, say there’s a lot of people on a gig and. maybe a handful of different agencies or castings contributed to the, whatever the event may be for the talent.

Well, I think it’s always helpful to chat with people and be open about, you know, okay, well, what’s, what are you getting paid to be here? You know, if you’re on the same gig and you guys are literally doing the same thing, I think those are good conversations to have because it’s very taboo, especially in America or, you know, most first world countries to not talk about money.

And I think in our industry, it’s really important to talk about money and that if you find, if you’re on a gig and you realize someone’s getting paid, you know, double what you’re being paid or 50% more than what you’re getting paid, that’s good information to know. It’s nothing to get upset about is to go, oh, that’s okay.

All right. Well, who booked you? Like, how did you get that? So then you need to know that those kinds of things exist in that. Maybe there’s some negotiation room, or maybe you need to get connected with various different agencies or people, but you don’t know these things unless you have these conversations.

That’s why I think it’s so important to talk and be open about what your arrangements are with, , with your peers.

Caroline Liviakis: right. Yes, definitely. Well, and also this, I mean, this is coming from a creator’s perspective. A piece of advice that I did get, , from one of my, one of my early mentors was, you know, in the, and we’re talking very early stages of starting anything artistically, but, , she always, she emphasized, it doesn’t matter if, you know, if it’s a little tiny appearance or if it’s this or that always, always pay your dancers.

And, um, always because sometimes like, you’re just with your friends and you’re just going to go, oh, let’s just do this gig. You know, it’s just us having fun. And, but the fact of having a payment immediately makes it a professional relationship. And, I mean the contract makes it better, but at least the money will help put a boundary on that of even though, you know, it’s all, it’s no matter who you’re with.

If it’s your friends, if it’s your family, A random person, you found it audition, whatever it immediately creates a professional relationship with certain expectations and it forces you to outline what those expectations are. , so that was also another thing in that sort of contract realm or payment realm that has worked well for me.

And I’m glad that 

I’ve stuck to 

Dane Reis: Yeah, I think that, I think that is so important to create, uh, actual, real professional relationships and in money does it doesn’t have to be great gobs of money, but it does have to be having that transaction is huge. I think, , it sets expectation. And also, I don’t know about you the way I personally feel about things.

I don’t like owing people favors. I like to, I like to be clean and cut and dry. So why money exists? Right? Cause we’ve standardized. We standardized compensation, right? That’s the purpose of it and, or standardized value. And I like being very, even with people all the time and I like favors to come from a place that helps.

Everyone in a way it’s, it’s leveraging a network. It’s, you know, I’m helping you out because I know that you’re great for this role, this job, this gig, whatever it might be. And I’m referring you because we have a great relationship. And then that becomes reciprocated that I’m not getting gigs or I’m not expecting to get gigs because of a favor that’s based on some kind of ambiguous value thing.

So I think that also helps keep things cleaner throughout your career and keep your relationships and your networks much cleaner.

Caroline Liviakis: Yes. I could not agree more. And then you’ll enter and then you enter into those things thinking, okay, well, this person’s going to, if you do something. Or what, or if they do something or whatever, then you’re constantly keeping this tally of like, okay, well, when are they going to sort of, I guess, maybe pay me back or whatever, not money-wise, but just like reciprocating and then it doesn’t happen.

And it creates this, this resentment or whatever, or if it does, was it equal to, or more, or it’s? I think it’s just so much easier. Just, okay. You do this amount and you get paid this done. 

Dane Reis: yep.

Caroline Liviakis: yeah. 

Dane Reis: Yes. Like I said, standardizes value. That’s why money is so important. Otherwise you said he was like Dow there’s this, this, this subjective balancing scale where each person inevitably thinks their thing was more valuable. So , you’re setting yourself up for not good things, , down the road.

Caroline Liviakis: Yup. 

Dane Reis: Beautiful. Love that section. So good. And. let’s move on to a time that I like to call your spotlight moment. That one moment in time you realized, yes, I am going to be an entertainer for living or maybe it was, yeah, this is what I need to be doing in the industry. Tell us about that.

Caroline Liviakis: When I was in college, I was, I was a philosophy major and I was, I was also a dance major, but just not at all, ingrained in what I was doing, dance wise, that was just so that I could move my body through the day.

But I was, career-wise completely engrossed in philosophy. And my goal was to become a philosophy professor and, or a lawyer. And so I was going through those pads and that, and I was, that was my whole focus. And so, you know, choreographing or entertainment, all that kind of, all of that was to the way back of my mind.

Um, So I started however, choreographing for the Stu I choreograph to piece my junior year that got into the student dance concert, which was kind of a somewhat, I guess, prestigious thing within our university. Cause it was, you know, this whole adjudication process and everything. So I had, I had a little thing going, but I still wasn’t focused on dance.

Um, it, it was still just kind of a thing that I did for fun rather than something serious. And as I kept I the year then went into his, you know, senior year and I’m preparing to go to law school and, and as I’m thinking about it, I’m just going, oh my gosh, like, I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to be a lawyer.

I don’t enjoy this at all. I don’t know what I’m doing. And my whole world sort of, I guess not crashed around me. That’s so dramatic, but it was kind of a moment of, wow, I don’t know what I’m even doing. And I was thinking about, okay, well, what am I doing that is actual, that I will do. That’s not prompted by anybody because in order for me to write as much as I loved philosophy, if I wouldn’t write a paper on my own, I wouldn’t write an article on my own.

I needed an assignment to get me motivated, to do it. Whereas with dance, for these different, for these different concerts, I would be in the dance studio until 2:00 AM, almost, you know, on the weekends, on my own, just choreographing. And I would be up very late at night and writing notes after pages of notes for my dancers and all of this was completely unprimed.

By anybody, it was just me doing it because I really, really wanted to. And I kind of had this somewhat epiphany of, well, this is where my effort is going. This is what I should be doing. And I mean, I truly enjoyed it. I just never thought of it as a career option. I never thought I never thought that I was ever going to do anything in dance.

Cause I, I’m not a dancer myself and I’m not good at dancing. And so there’s kind of this idea in the dance industry that if you’re not a dancer or if you’re not good at dancing, very specific styles that you kind of don’t belong. And so I’ve kind of always felt like I’ve just been this sort of amateur, you know, my whole life, even though I have a lot to say as a choreographer. And a lot as a teacher, but it doesn’t fit into this one very specific, but very highlighted, you know, area within dance. And so that idea of it being a career was just so off my radar. But once I started to realize like, this is where your effort is actually going, I went and I talked to one of my teachers and she said, Yeah. you know, you can be a choreographer as a profession that is possible.

And so I just kind of, that, that was just a moment of, oh, it is. I didn’t realize that. And so I guess it was not as specific, but it was, I just remember this one evening, I’m sitting there and thinking about what, where, what do I actually do? And what do I like doing, where do I spend my time when nobody’s telling me what to do? And that was the light bulb. That sort of set it off of what my, I guess destiny was 

Dane Reis: Yeah. Yeah. I really liked that story. And the idea, like you said, sitting with myself and thinking, you know, what am I doing, unprompted, where’s my energy going, because that’s just what I’m drawn to. And I think that’s, I think there’s a lot to be drawn from that and learn from that. And I think we can expand on that as well.

And I think there’s a lot of people. That simply don’t take the time to ask themselves those kinds of questions or sit with themselves for a second and go because especially if you are, if you are a dancer, if you are a singer you’ve been doing theater for you’re usually started most people. I was not one of them, but you start very, very, very early in life as a child.

Right. And it’s something that you’ve always done and you’re always doing, so it just kind of, you’re doing this as a natural progression, just because it seems to make sense, but is it really in alignment with you? That’s, that’s another question that I think a lot of people oftentimes don’t take the time to think about.

And I think that also expands into a professional career when people go, okay, well, I want to do this professionally. So, what do I want to do? You know, and to really take the time to think about, well, what do you want out of your career for real? Do you, do you want to be in New York? Do you want to be an LA is living in New York, something that even vibes with you or as being in a place like New York and going to absolutely be out of alignment, same thing with LA or Vegas or wherever it might be in the world that you’re going, that you want to work.

Very few people take the time to really sit with themselves and go, okay, what is it I really want out of my career because different venues, different markets offer different types of opportunities. And you have to, I believe the goal is to try to find the markets that offer the opportunities that are in alignment with what it is that is ultimately your end goal.

So you can set yourself up for success before you even get there.

Caroline Liviakis: Yeah.

yeah,

definitely. And I think there’s also, there’s this focus so much on when people, you know, talk about like picking your career, they’re like, what’s your passion, you know, follow your passion. And I don’t know. I always, and I, I’m definitely a pessimist, so I guess I’m going to be the Grinch on this one, but I always that the idea of like your passion or whatever, always just kind of annoyed me because everybody has certain things that they like doing under certain circumstances.

But when you’re doing something professionally, it’s putting on, you have the fun elements that ignite passions, but then you have that accompanied with the realities of what it’s like to make it actually work as a profession. And so you have all of the stress load and all of the challenges that come with that.

And. You know, so you might, yes. Like you might really, really enjoy being in jazz class and taking jazz, but what does it actually mean to be a professional jazz dancer? Well, it means you have to pee auditioning all the time and you’re having people constantly judge you. It means you have to somehow oftentimes work other jobs.

You don’t have healthcare, you know, all these other things that people don’t really think about. So like whenever I’m talking to other people about their goal, you know, how do I figure out what my, um, you know, where are my places and all this kind of stuff. I always just say, it’s you follow your effort will reveal where your true career passion is.

It’s follow your effort, not your passion, because it’s, I think that’s so much more of a sustainable mentality than just passion is just very, like, we are all it’s floaty and happiness and it’s this. But there’s just so much that that will go against and will kind of taint and ruin that original, that original, like starry-eyed happiness and it’s ultimately, it’s what kind of poisons are you willing to deal with in life?

And each career is going to have that really fun passion filled, you know, vibrant, but it’s also going to have its healthy, healthy dose of, of its own version of poison. And can you deal with 

that? Um, and your, and your effort will reveal what you’re willing to go to put yourself through and what you’re willing to tolerate. 

Dane Reis: yeah, for sure. I, a hundred percent agree with that. Um, I think it is, uh, it is about asking those hard questions, you know, are you willing. Like you said, what does it mean to be professional, jazz, dancer, professional, anything right in the, in the arts, you know, in different markets. For instance, if you look at the average, say musical theater person in New York, look, the fact is, or not the fact a high probability is that you’re going to have to have multiple jobs to support yourself while you are pursuing what you actually want to do.

Right. And oftentimes for a long time. And then the question also comes is, okay, well then once, so say you’re in New York, what’s your goal? Do you want to work in New York? Do you want to be on Broadway? You want to be on off-Broadway do you want to be in film, but there’s so much work say in that market, right.

But let’s say you book something, you book a tour. Okay. Well, do you take it or do you not take it? Because now. You showed up. Why did you go to New York? Did you go to New York because there’s an abundance of opportunity or do you go there because you want it to work specifically in New York and getting clear about trying to get clear on that, I think is as much as possible.

Obviously this is a moving target, always throughout a career. So then when opportunities do present themselves, you can have, you can come from a place that’s less emotional and be like, no, this is what I’m working towards. I’m going to say, I’m going to turn this opportunity down or no, I want to, to take it.

Like for my instance, when I went to New York at first, you know, I, my original idea was, oh, I want to be on Broadway. I want to be on Broadway. I went to a school that, that was, that was the trajectory, right. What I ultimately found out. So I got my first contract and I needed it. And my agent’s like, we’re going to turn it down.

And I said, Nope, I need the money. So I was like, okay, good. We’re going to do it. So I did that. But what I found out in that first contract is that I didn’t necessarily want Broadway. What all I really wanted to do is I just wanted to work professionally as an entertainer and let that experience take me around the world and travel and meet people.

Like that’s what I, that’s where I was like, oh, that’s what I want. I’m like, oh great. So now I can feed that. Right. But like you said, it’s your energy follow your energy and your effort.

Caroline Liviakis: Yeah.

And as you just said, like every project that you do, it will reveal a little bit more of that extra puzzle piece that puts together what you’re actually. And also, it also changes over time, you know? So you might start in your early twenties, like, woo. I want to travel the world. And so being on a cruise ship might 

sound really awesome at 

22, whereas, you know, 32 might not be 

so great. 

Dane Reis: Yeah. I’ve got a five-year-old girl. I’m not going to, I’m not going traveling around the world anymore. You know what I mean? Like 

priorities change and that’s, that’s cool. You know, and that’s totally fine. Um, But I love that. 

 And I want to piggyback real quick, and I want to talk about your number one, booked it moment. Walk us through that day, the auditions and call backs. If they happened to be a part of it, what was going on in your life? And what about that moment?

Makes it your favorite? Booked it moment.

Caroline Liviakis: Okay. So I’ll talk about the very like glitzy moment, I guess for me. Um, it was so the moment when I just knew, okay, this is where I’m supposed to be. This is, this is what I meant to do was. It was actually in my first, uh, for my first film, it was the world premier at the new filmmakers, Los Angeles film festival in LA or Yeah, obviously LA um, I, I had this, uh, my first film I ever did called better than you do, and you don’t be mad.

It was premiering in this film festival. And I, this film was made by absolute, you know, pulled like nothing. It was $900 for the film. It was my family and my friends. We pulled this thing together. We shot it in one day. Um, it was just kind of, we’re trying to make a film out of basically nothing. And, but we got in this, it’s a pretty good film festival.

I am there next to the other films that had been directed. There were directed by people that shoot commercials for Barbie. They’ve done all three feature films. They’ve done. Like all of these people were very in the industry already really, really making it. And, you know, they had budgets of, you know, $50,000 or whatever for these tiny four minute films.

And then here I am there with my $900 film with my mom and there. And, and, and so I remember being on stage for the Q and a, and they were, we were going to, you know, we had all the directors up on stage and, and the moderator was asking all of us. And we were, we just went down the line, answering. And like not to toot my own horn, but I kind of am.

Um, it was a moment of realizing, even though I was so beyond the lowest level person there, in terms of my experience level, in terms of the budgets I had to work with in terms of anything, I mean, I was at the way bottom of that, of the totem pole, but I was the per I, you can see in an audience when they’re really gravitating toward you.

And I just, when I would talk, when we were doing the Q and a, I could see everybody’s eyes light up when I was talking and how the audience was really responding to everything that I was saying. And I saw that that was not there. With the other directors, how, and when they were describing their works.

And even though my film, I mean, it was fine. It was fine for a first film. It’s not going to blow any doors down or anything. It’s not that great. But, but what I understood there is that I had tapped into how to communicate a vision to people that expanded beyond just that four minute film that I had brought to the festival.

And it was a vision that people were excited by and that they wanted to see more of. And it was just very palpable. And so, and then, and not just kind of continued throughout the festival, but I sort of felt like I had really tapped into, okay, I know what I’m creating that spans way beyond this moment.

And I know that once I’m able to really showcase exactly what this vision is, that there are going to be people on board. And so I remember like the evening I called my boyfriend at the time and I was like, This, I, I, this is where I’m supposed to be. I was just, I was so beyond excited, but I just felt like I had found, finally found my place.

Dane Reis: well, let’s take a moment to talk about the present. What projects are you working on now?

You’ve talked about it a little bit, but what are you looking forward to and how do you see this industry moving forward to the next couple of years?

Caroline Liviakis: So the. Most, I guess, upcoming project that I’m working on, um, is my debut feature, my feature, film, length debut as director and choreographer and writer. Um, it’s titled it’s lessons in love. I’ll give just a little info about it, but I can’t give too much. Um, but it’s, it’s a, what I call a dance musicals.

So I’m kind of working on, I guess, creating a new genre, but it’s, it’s a musical, but where dance is very, very integral in woven within the narrative of the story, it actually helps communicate the narrative of the story. It’s not just like the traditional musical format where you have the talking and then you just cut to the song, accompanied with the dance.

The dance is a lot more integrated and woven throughout. Um, so it’s, it’s kind of a pop art style dance musical, um, and it features this couple. As they are, they meet each other and they get married and then they get divorced and it’s following them through this lovely, uh, tr this lovely journey of the, of the high up into this marriage and then the down and where they start to hate each other.

And so it’s this kind of very comical, um, very playful over the top, um, sort of showcase of the course of their relationship, but the biggest thing that I’m trying to show within this film and that I’m just kind of working on in general with every project that I work with. Especially the features. Are it a rebirth or this is kind of my mission, I guess, is the sort of rebirth or the reimagination of what the movie musical looks like.

And because the musical and for people like us, we are musical theater people. So we, you know, anybody in our circles are like, yes, musicals. We love them. You know, it’s part of our blood, but there’s a lot of people that don’t feel that way. And it’s kind of, I just find it so interesting. The more that I’ve sort of gotten into the film universe, how the, because I’ve just been so dance, you know, my whole life and then sort of going into this new realm, just the amount of people that just hate musicals is very staggering to me.

And I really want to change that. Um, but also I just, I think that the musical over the past 40 years has gone through a really, really sharp decline in terms of interest and in terms of how many are actually being produced. Um, it’s just not even, we’re not even in the, in the same realm of what it used to be.

And I really, really do think in terms of connecting this to where we think the industry is moving forward. I definitely think that that is in the horizon. I’m not going to say the next two years or whatever, but I think that it’s definitely within the next, I’d say five to 10 years. I definitely think that the musical is going to become more and more popular.

Um, first of all, I think just historically speaking, um, so. This is, and these are all my opinions, but I personally think that tick talk is pretty much a modernized version of, um, of vaudeville. Um, it’s, it might sound kind of strange at first, but it’s like, but vaudeville was based off of really, you know, short acts that were showcasing a variety of different, you know, variety of different people.

And people would become very, they wouldn’t be necessarily, sometimes there were exceptions, but they would become infamous, not classically famous. And it was about short bursts of fame where you’re known for a very specific thing that you do, you know, I’m the, I have the big, you know, dress and I, you know, hide different things under my dress.

Or I’m the person that has fire and I have, there’s all these, there’s very specific kind of things that you’re known for. And I think, and it has this like kind of chaotic energy about it, which I think tic talk just completely epitomizes in the modern day and what ended. And it’s also, what has, where is if everyone is glued to tic talk, which quite frankly, I don’t understand why, but it’s like, I feel like there’s a generational thing there, but, um, it, what it’s kind of revealing, I think in terms of young, a younger generation is there’s this interest in having things that are much more lighthearted, um, Sumi, fun, dance and music. And it’s right now revealing itself in this very short form kind of chaotic silly format. But I don’t, I don’t necessarily think that that energy is going to stop there. Just as you know, there was the, kind of the whole boom of the musical era that really heightened musical era that came at right after vaudeville.

I don’t necessarily see why that wouldn’t happen now, um, that this energy and this interest in dance that has really been showcased on something like tech talk. I don’t see how that is not going to translate into some slightly more serious formats, like TV and film in the next five years or 

so. Um, so, and, and we’ve started to see this on certain shows.

Like there was, um, Crazy ex or a crazy ex-girlfriend, um, for, you know, for TV and there’s other, so many others that I’m just blanking on right now, but there are many other TV shows that have really been kind of working on this idea of creating music, of adding a musical into a more narrative context.

And I think that there’s progress being made there. there’s a question as to whether or not it’s, you know, the right characters and all that kind of stuff to actually use as a vehicle for this format. But, um, but I think, I just think that the musical has a future, first of all, in terms of being kind of rebirthed again, but it needs to be any slightly re-imagined format to fit a more modern context.

And one of the outlets that I, or one of the movies that I particularly find to be the most interesting. Um, in that, which would not be classically considered a musical at all, but it’s actually, uh, Edgar Wright. Um, he’s for those who don’t know a director, um, his two films, but, uh, Scott Pilgrim versus the world and baby driver, those films are very clearly not musicals in the, in the traditional sense. Um, there’s no dancing or very little to no dancing and there’s no singing in them. But I think I would make a huge, I could write a paper on this, an argument that those are musicals. They’re just, re-imagined in a very, very different way. They’re entirely music driven, but they use found music material, but every single cut in the film, every single line has a very musical, uh, presentation to it.

And it’s somebody thinking of how are we integrating music? And any sort of movement, but in a very sort of new, highly stylized context. And so, um, I think that there are some films like that and somebody can even take that format and you’re adding more dance and actual singing to it. And we can kind of push that to really we’re combining that style with traditional a traditional musical.

And I think that, that something like that is going to be sort of where the future of musicals, why, and that’s what I’m trying

to create. 

Dane Reis: very cool. Very cool. I love all of that insight. Fantastic. Well, let’s see what happens.

Caroline Liviakis: Yeah. Yeah, We’ll see. But the, um, with film, this is, I guess the lot there’s so much that could be talked about with this, but I guess I’ll just leave it on this. Whereas the film in general is just in such a weird state right now. It and television too, but it’s just we’re the technology is working itself out right now.

And so the content hasn’t really been able to fully establish itself because the technology is not completely figured out yet. Are we fully on streaming? Are we doing both in theaters and streaming, which streaming services are gonna win out and be the big guys by the end of this big battle, that’s kind of going on.

but once all of that is sort of worked out, um, I think that the idea of what it means to have a film showcased in the theater is, is going to look very different than it does now. And I mean, there’s so many different variations of what it could look like, but, the, the biggest draw that I think will bring people into the theater again, is not.

Oh, okay. You get to see this one month before people get to see it on streaming, it’s going to be, how do we create an experience out of going to the theater again, versus it just being like, okay, I’m just going to go sit and practically like rent a chair for, you know, 20 bucks or whatever for two hours, which is kind of what it feels like.

It feels very impersonal. It just, it’s not exciting to go. At least for me, I’m talking about myself, but for most people, I don’t think it’s feels exciting to go to the theater. There’s just a used to be like, okay, I mean, this we’re talking a long time ago, but like you got dressed up, there was an intermission.

It was, it was an experience that was treated almost like a regular live show, but just, it wasn’t live. And I think somehow. For brevity. I won’t go into all of the different ideas that I have, but I think in different ways, there are different ways that we can sort of capture that experience quality to, to going to see a film, rather than it just being I’m just

watching. So it becomes something you’re involved

in. 

Dane Reis: I love that. Very cool. I love it. Yeah. We could chat about this for a 

Caroline Liviakis: I know 

Dane Reis: I think. Yeah, it’s so good. But let’s move on to one of my favorite sections in the interview. I call it the grease lightening round. I’m going to ask you a handful of questions. I want you to answer them as quickly and concisely as possible one after another.

Are you ready? 

Caroline Liviakis: yes. 

Dane Reis: All right. First question. What was the one thing holding you back from committing to a career as an entertainer?

Caroline Liviakis: The fact that I’m not a good deal. 

Dane Reis: Second question. What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

Caroline Liviakis: from my sister, it was from my sister, Audrey on she’s a news producer. She completely changed the way that I think about, about writing and about how to present my work, uh, from a communications perspective. And I could say, I’m trying to be, I’m trying to be short, 

Dane Reis: No, you can, you

can expand a bit. 

Caroline Liviakis: um, and you wouldn’t know this by the way that I talk.

Cause I’m, I’m very wordy, but, um, writing my writing use a lot of what I do, even though I’m a choreographer and director. So I’m dealing with dance and film. The vast majority of the stuff that I do all day is writing. Because I’m writing, you know, zillions of emails, I’m writing, press releases, I’m writing pitch decks.

Um, I’m constantly having to write things where I’m communicating my ideas to other people. And when you’re communicating that there’s, you obviously need to be persuasive. And the way that I was sort of thinking about writing and communicating before was co came from academic writing, which is so not the way that you’re supposed to write in real life.

And I used to think, you know, using all these big fancy words and making these long drawn out sentences meant that I was really good, cause it made me look intelligent. But I realized because of her, of how she’s worked with me on this, that being short, being really concise and punchy with your active, with very specific active language. is an language that people actually use regularly is so much more effective than having this sort of, you know, pseudo intellectual sort of jarbled language that I used to use.

Dane Reis: Yes. I love that third question. What is something that is working for you right now?

Caroline Liviakis: Offloading work to other people. 

Dane Reis: Uh, like delegating.

Caroline Liviakis: Delegating. Yeah. So specifically in things that are my absolute weaknesses, like, you know, social media and stuff like that, like I understand what my weaknesses are. And finally I’ve always been just fighting, trying to do it all myself and finally releasing some of that control and giving that to other people who are better at it than I am is very, very 

helpful. 

Dane Reis: very good. Yeah. We only have so much energy. Right? 

Caroline Liviakis: Yeah. 

Yeah. 

Dane Reis: delegate, if you can. And the fourth question, what is it your best resource? Whether that’s a book, a movie, a YouTube video, maybe a podcast or a piece of technology you found is helping your career right now.

Caroline Liviakis: Um, anything written by Robert Green, but particularly 48 laws of power. 

Dane Reis: Great. Fifth question. If you had to start your career from scratch, but you still had all the knowledge and experience you’ve collected from your career in the industry, what would you do or not do? Would you do anything differently or would you keep it the same?

Caroline Liviakis: I would have done so many things differently. Um, I’m like, I’m going to try to not name ever. I’m going to like only get to a few things, but, um, I would not have gone to grad school. Um, I potentially would have not gone to college either. I would not have started my dance company as a nonprofit. I would have kept it for profit.

I would have hired a social media manager way earlier. I would have moved to LA sooner. I would have networked more all of these things there’s way more, but 

Dane Reis: Yeah. 

Caroline Liviakis: there’s always going to be so many things like, but yes, there’s a lot of, uh, I should’ve done that. 

Dane Reis: Yep. And the last question, what is the golden nugget knowledge drop you’ve learned from your successful career in the industry you like to leave with?

Caroline Liviakis: Comfort is the enemy of growth. 

Dane Reis: Love that. Can you expand on that a bit?

Caroline Liviakis: You definitely need some time for recovery, obviously. So it’s not like always being miserable is good. But, , if you feel like you’re the smartest person in the room probably should go to a different room, if you feel like you don’t have anything, that’s really pushing you to be better, to learn more, it’s time to find something else. Being in a position where you, where you feel pressure is, is going to be a very, very good thing, the best choreography that I’ve ever made the best. The times when I’ve risen to the occasion have been, when I actually had a need to rise to an occasion, it came out of a necessity versus me, just hoping that it would happen. 

Dane Reis: Wonderful. And to wrap up this interview, Caroline, it is time to give yourself a plug. Where can we find you? How do our listeners connect with you? Is there anything you want to promote?

Caroline Liviakis: so you can find me on Instagram at, at Caroline underscore Livia caucus. And, uh, you can also find me on YouTube, just search my name. Carolyn Libby orcas, my website, Caroline Livia, orcas.com. Uh, In terms of promotion. I have a, my short film boys and girls is out on film on the film festival circuit right now.

So I will be announcing what film festivals that’ll be in. So if, if you follow my stuff, you can maybe go see the film in 

person. 

Dane Reis: Very cool. And for everyone listening out there, I’ve put the links to all the different ways to connect with Carolina into the description of this episodes. You can easily connect with her and also be sure to share this podcast with your fellow entertainers, coaches, teachers, arts, and entertainment educators, and anyone, you know, aspiring to create a career in the entertainment industry.

You booked. It is the number one resource of expertise on how to actually create a successful entertainment career case in point, everything Caroline gave us here today. So many amazing golden nuggets throughout the entire episode. If you enjoyed this one, make sure you hit that subscribe button. So you don’t miss the next one.

Caroline. Thank you so much for being here. I’ve had a blast chatting with you and we really got into some really great stuff.

Caroline Liviakis: Thank you. I appreciate it.