Start making things. They don’t have to be good, just make them, and you will get better. I am still very much learning this one. Last year, I went to a play festival to support a friend. This festival had a huge prize that could be potentially career-changing. As I watched, I was astonished by how many productions were flat out bad. But those people were brave enough to put themselves out there and that’s all it takes. People saw their work. No one’s going to find you if you don’t put yourself out there.
As a part of our interview series with the rising stars in pop culture, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sarah Rebottaro, an actress, writer, and model based in Los Angeles. She is trained in both classic and contemporary theatre as well as on-screen, earning her BFA in Acting from Missouri State University. She’s a huge proponent of creating your own work, women’s rights, and puppies.
Thank you so much for joining us Sarah! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Of course! I started acting in plays when I was about eight years old. My older brother was already acting in a community theatre group. Every time we would go see him perform, I felt a really strong desire to be on stage, be part of the magic. I continued to do theatre through school and community theatres in my area. I was big into musicals and always wanted to be on Broadway one day. In high school, I felt the pressure to pursue a “normal” career and even planned on becoming an English teacher. I was visiting a college and the tour guide made it clear their theatre department was virtually nonexistent and I think it just made me realize I didn’t want to give that up and be “normal,” I wanted to give my passion a shot.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
When I was first starting to audition in LA, I went to an audition at a casting office where indie projects could rent out audition rooms. A little confused by everything going on, I signed in on the wrong project’s iPad. I realized my mistake but had no way of deleting my name, so I just signed my name again on the correct device. The wait for my audition was long, like a good hour and a half at least. While waiting, I heard my name called for the project I’d accidentally signed in for. I let the casting director know and apologized. To this, he said, “Well, would you like to come audition anyway?” I hadn’t a clue what the project was about or the role they were looking for, but I said yes anyway, knowing my name wouldn’t be called for the other project for a while yet. In the room, I was told the role was for a burly cop who had to kick down the “door” in the scene. Despite being, for all intents and purposes, completely wrong for this role, I went all out in my improvisation. What did I have to lose? I finished the audition and had a nice chat with the directors, sort of laughing at how silly it all was. Two days later I got a call from the director telling me I’d booked it.
While I don’t recommend making a habit of signing your name on lists you weren’t called in for, it just goes to show that you never know in this business. Sometimes casting doesn’t know what they want until you accidentally walk in the room. Anything can happen, especially if you’re open to going with the flow and committing fully to all you do.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
My partner and I still laugh at some of my old self-tapes. He pretends to keep them for blackmail but he clearly just likes laughing at them. They’re embarrassing because the camera is oriented the wrong way, the lighting is awful, you could see my fridge in the background, and if my own mistakes weren’t enough, I was auditioning for some odd and low-quality content. So, seeing a less experienced me pretend I’m in outer space is a funny reminder of how far I’ve come. Aside from learning the proper way to tape an audition, it’s good to look back and recognize the work I’ve put in to improve and grow as an artist. Sometimes, when I’m between projects, it’s harder to see that progress. Looking back is helpful in those instances.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Through the last couple of months, things have certainly slowed down but one project helping keep me active is an IGTV miniseries I created with a friend of mine. It’s called Quarantine Cuties. It’s simple and silly and about life in quarantine. I also just started pre-production on a short film I co-wrote about the way society views and treats women. It has some thriller qualities to it; a genre I adore. It’s a story very close to my heart and I can’t wait to start safely filming it.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
My favorite people are the women I’ve become friends with. Jasmine Reyes, my co-creator for Quarantine Cuties, is down to clown around with me and create funny videos. She’s also been great to talk to about life inside and outside of the acting industry. She’s always willing to share what she’s learned. Heather Cox is a kind and beautiful soul I can talk to for hours. She’s been through more hardship than most but is still the brightest light. Her talent inspires me to be a better actor and her generosity is unmatched. Val Vega, I met, like many other artists in LA, working at a restaurant. She’s prolific, creating visually stunning work behind the camera time and time again. She’s unafraid to take risks and go for things. They are all smart, hardworking, and extremely talented. But more importantly than all that, they’re all supportive. Sometimes in this industry, I see people trying to secret away their resources and only have an interest in what other people can get for them. These ladies are the opposite. The success of other people doesn’t threaten them. I love that. They just continue to create art, as their genuine selves, and support and inspire my efforts to do the same.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Create your own work. I only recently started doing this, but it has already brought a ton of joy and opportunity to my life. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people, you’ll be surprised how many people would be happy to help. No matter how small the scale.
Additionally, one of the best things I’ve done for my sanity is to put less weight on material success. I don’t act because I want to be famous one day. I act because it brings me joy. I love the human experience and want to remind people how connected we all are. I make sure I have the means to keep doing that and don’t depend on it to be the means itself. That way, even if I never made a dime off my art, at least I made my art, and that’s all I need.
You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?
Where do I even begin? First, failure is so subjective. For me, true failure is giving up on my dreams. I think that mindset helps me enjoy the process and be willing to keep trying. Keep trying! If what you’re doing isn’t working, try something else!
I have also recently come to a point in my career trajectory where I am tired of waiting around for my agent to call with that big booking. So, I’m making my own opportunities. It’s not enough for me to just audition and wait by the phone. I want to be telling stories. I am finding ways, even in the most unprecedented of times, to tell the stories I want to tell. It’s also amazing because my message doesn’t get watered down. I try to remind myself of the notion of think or swim. The more time spent worrying about what other people think, whether or not you’re good enough (you probably are), what could go wrong, etc., the less time is spent doing what you want to be doing. So, just go do it, whatever it is. No excuses.
One of the best things I did for myself when I moved to LA was to make it my home. I hate the phrase “bloom where you’re planted” because I think everyone should leave their small towns at some point but definitely bloom where you plant yourself. Move to a place that suits you, makes you happy. I hate cold weather, so I got out of the Midwest. Go explore what your city has to offer. Meet people and make friends, but not just because you think you can benefit from them, but because they are people you genuinely vibe with and can see yourself around.
I see the irony of giving my advice as I say this next part, but don’t listen to too much advice. There are no rules. I think other struggling actors are quick to spout things they’ve heard someone else say and it holds them back from making moves. “Casting directors don’t like it when you do x.” Did you take a poll of every casting director ever? No. Trust your instincts instead. People will try to discourage you, tell you “you know, it’s like really expensive and the traffic sucks,” but I find those people are just afraid to take the risk themselves. Take the risk, you’ll figure out the details along the way.
Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Kindly share a story or an example for each.
Iam a huge advocate of self-care. For me, that means finding balance in my life; balance in my emotional life, work, the types of physical activity I do, everything. I start every morning writing at least three pages in my journal. I took that practice from the book The Artist’s Way. That’s a core way for me to keep my mental health in check. I just process how I am feeling. I try to rid myself of any unnecessary mental energy. Any given morning this can look like a vent session, philosophical musings, a plan for the day, and usually a combination of all three. I highly recommend finding ways to not only check in with yourself but also to challenge yourself. A big part of self-care I think people forget about is accountability. For me, that looks like assessing whether my current mindset is one of complaining, comparing, commiserating, or one of the solutions to my problems and trying a new approach. I try to only compete with myself. That way, I am continuously getting better instead of holding myself to the arbitrary standards of other people.
I also try to exercise at least a little every day and eat well. I think physical health is so specific to the individual, so I always recommend listening to your body and finding what works for you. My dog helps with the exercise because we walk a ton. I’m a big fan of FRC, mobility work, yoga, and just started incorporating strength training and cardio to the mix. Again, finding a good balance and listening to your body are so important.
For my heart, I try to mix in some creative learning and exploration. Especially if it has nothing to do with acting. I have been doing a lot of painting lately as well as teaching myself to play the piano. Having creative outlets where there is no pressure on a final product or desire for it to be “good” (whatever that means) helps me to apply the same principles to my acting and just feels great in general. The freedom to make mistakes and fail is a beautiful thing.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Kill your heroes. People are people and you don’t need anyone’s approval. That goes for every casting director, agent, professor, boss, fellow actor, fellow human. When you do you, your people will show up.
2. Start making things. They don’t have to be good, just make them, and you will get better. I am still very much learning this one. Last year, I went to a play festival to support a friend. This festival had a huge prize that could be potentially career-changing. As I watched, I was astonished by how many productions were flat out bad. But those people were brave enough to put themselves out there and that’s all it takes. People saw their work. No one’s going to find you if you don’t put yourself out there.
3. Let go of all your stories and blame. You can spend your entire life saying “if things were this way, I’d have had a better chance, I’d be farther along” but the truth is you have to just meet yourself where you are and make up the difference. In an acting class recently, we were asked to share our dream job situation. We were encouraged to think big and get specific. Then we were reminded that the only way to get to that place, that dream, is to see yourself as worthy of it. And if you can’t right now, how can you work your way there? That was a big lesson for me.
4. Don’t wait until you are “ready” or “good enough”. Those are just ideas that don’t really exist. The reality is if we wait until we’re ready, we could be waiting until the end of time. You can always be better, so you’ll always find something you want to fix. Stop editing and get out in front of people.
5. You have to love yourself and know yourself, all the good and the bad. Many people have tried to tell me this one but usually in a “just be you!” type format which can be tough without having already done self-exploration. This may be the most important thing I’ve learned. Every time I let myself be present and unfiltered, I’m providing the world with something completely unique. And it can’t just be the stuff I like about myself, that’s only half the story. The reason it’s so compelling when a person is themselves is that the human experience is pretty universal, and when you’re brave enough to show up and be in all your humanity, including all your fears, insecurities, weaknesses, you remind others of their humanity and give them the space to be who they are. That’s why I think good storytelling is so powerful.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.” -Virginia Woolf. I believe being honest with yourself is the first step to success, to powerful storytelling, to growth in any arena. Truth is a highly regarded commodity to actors. (I suppose to most people.) We strive for it in our work. If we don’t have it, we fall flat. It feels forced. It can be hard for people to look at themselves honestly. It’s scary! But for me, it’s the only thing that got me out of that feeling of being stuck, which I was feeling for a long time. It’s the only way my acting is any good. It’s the only way I grow. You have to start where you are.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
It’s near impossible to just name one, all my close friends and family and colleagues have influenced where I am today. But most consistently through the years, I’ve been in LA, I’d say my partner had a big impact and I am very grateful to him. He doesn’t even work in the industry, but he has always allowed me to be exactly who I am and simultaneously encouraged me to grow and take risks, challenge myself and create the life I want. He does this well because he does all those things himself. He’s unabashedly himself at all times, and his drive to learn and grow and try new things is stronger than anyone I know. Having that kind of support is invaluable. (Thanks, Kan!)
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I am very passionate about empowering women. It’s still so wild to me the disparity in equality between genders. I want to help women speak up for themselves, demand respect and proper treatment as well as the opportunities they deserve, and learn how to love themselves inside and out.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
Quentin Tarantino. I love his movies, I love how weird he is, I think he would be really fun to have breakfast with. It’s a dream of mine to be in one of his films and since he is allegedly planning to stop making movies once he’s made 10, I’d love to try and convince him otherwise or at the very least score a spot in his last one.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!