What It's Like To Be
What It's Like To Be

The Whole Story

by Summer Ayala 2 years ago in career

Who is she and what does she know?

The Whole Story

"THIS is what I'm going to do when I grow up."

Let's go way back in the old'n days to when I was five. I remember sitting in the red 80s Camaro with my mom at a red light. A casting notice came on the radio (back when they did that sort of thing), "Open Casting Call for a National Nabisco commercial! Seeking kids and teens!" We went straight to the casting. It was in Waxahachie, Texas in a huge warehouse. My turn came and I sat in the older gentleman's lap, shoved a cracker in his mouth, laughed hysterically. The director said, “She’s it, we’re done on this” and told everyone for that role to leave. Don't remember much else after that, except that I strutted out the door with the biggest bag of Oreos I’ve ever seen in my life. I heard there was something like a 1,000 or 10,000 check following. Whatever. Cookies in hand, I just experienced a huge win. Amiright?

My mom said I was in my room playing Barbies when the commercial aired during the Rose Bowl Parade. Did I care? Heck no! This is serious woman! Ken and Barbie are about to get married, again.

Side Note: I've been obsessed with Barbies since I could breathe.

As any mom would do in this situation, she immediately took me to Kim Dawson for training. Then I began auditioning for agencies. Clipse Management signed me and hired my mom as an agent for the babies and toddlers division because she was the epitome of beast mode in this biz. Everything happened incredibly fast. I spent the next eight years of my career at this agency. After school, I'd sit and stare at the walls, watch models shoot, listen to the agent phone calls—I was hooked! I had found my calling and didn't even know it.

Fast forward to age 12. After years of auditions, training, shoots and commercials.... I decided to quit because my mom became THAT mom you couldn’t take to set. She was obsessed with sideline parenting and I was miserable, not to mention always embarrassed. Oh, and one of the agents also stole $10,000 (possibly more) from me by signing my name to a document and keeping the check. My Granny was driving down the highway, we look over and I’m on the side of an 18-wheeler doing a herkie on a trampoline. Talk about being burned by something you love more than life itself.

Fast forward:

  • I had my daughter
  • Got assaulted by an agency photographer in L.A. who's still working even thought he's on a blacklist BTW
  • Left L.A. in a heartbeat
  • Interned for one of my childhood agents
  • He stole $2,000 from my sister
  • Got my associates in Business (4.0 with honors)
  • Begn going through a divorce after seven years of marriage
  • Got hired to work at a law firm
  • Finalized divorce myself after firing my drunk attorney
  • Got a Paralegal degree (4.0 with honors)

That was 2004-2010.

For some reason, entertainment always ended up back in my lap somehow. I tried to leave so many times because it wasn't the "smart thing to do," even though it was the only form of work that made me so incredibly happy. Besides that, it was just easy and made sense to me. Friends and strangers were constantly asking me if I would help them become an actor or model. Heck yeah! I loved it and began to thrive on it. In 2005, I became the model coach for a very small start-up agency in Dallas. Don't even remember how this happened, and I'm not too proud of the connection, as they were not very legit, but it was low-key experience. I began part-time managing two of the talents that came to me after the agency went under. One of them is still with me over ten years later. The other one? You can't save everyone no matter how hard you try. After that, I did some scouting for a local agency to get experience with the legit business side of entertainment. You can say I started in the mail room.

I decided to fast-track my life goals when I met a producer in Dallas that asked me to help cast his indie film. He also suggested for me to do some PR for the lead talent in the film given my experience. Long story short, within two days, I owned a talent management company. Terrified? Yes. I was more than ready, but not ready at all. I had weird vibes, but like anyone with a dream, I dove face first and didn't follow my gut instincts.

Over the next year, I managed the three lead stars while they were working full-time on this film, and helping with their other projects. One of the actors was signed to agencies in every market and moved to L.A. He ended up working on a million dollar film in Russia for eight months. Another one now has a four-page resume. They were local superstars and I still love them like family.

Next came the research, meeting casting directors, phone calls, sleepless nights, and Skype meetings. Then, I hit a brick wall and found out that I had to be an agent in order to gain access to castings. How in the hell do you book talent? You know, the legit bookings. I want to see my people on TV. This is not a game, but the struggle became very real. Then, as life has it, the "producer" that was supposed to help me, flaked and stole my brand new computer. That's a whole other year long chapter.

Meanwhile, I was literally stalking casting directors daily to get a recommendation letter. I needed FIVE and I was now determined since I dropped my entire life to do this. Suddenly having 35 talents you're responsible for helps motivate you a bit. I sat outside of one casting director's office every day for a week, called her twice a day for months, sent her handwritten letters, and emailed her every day. She still hasn’t responded almost four years later. One casting director belittled me for asking about a recommendation and pretended she had never booked any of my talent and didn’t know who I was. Forget the fact that I spent three days straight driving back and forth to Austin, took her staff champagne and chocolates, and had just spoken with her and her staff for a month filling roles for a huge James Cameron movie in Austin. Don't worry about all of that. I'm not mad.

Prior to this idiocy, I spoke with a national casting director for ten minutes and he wrote me a letter on the spot and thanked me for believing in what I do and to not give up. Those little things will motivate someone like me for days. That letter got me into the second largest casting database in the world. The letters started coming in hot until I got to the last one, naturally. My mentor once told me, "I never said this would be easy." His voice is always in my head, as any good mentor should be. Boy, he never tells a lie!

I was getting desperate because I was losing talent for not having film and TV work. I swallowed my pride and asked (a.k.a. begged) a casting director for a recommendation letter for the second time with tears flowing down my face as I typed the email, and even told them I’d buy them tacos and beer. At the same thinking to myself, "Don't be stupid. You know you can't even afford that right now." I had my fifth letter in ten minutes and they said I didn’t even have to buy them tacos or beer! #winning

For three long weeks I filled out paperwork back and forth with THE official big-time casting database, and my agency was finally accepted after three long years! I remember it was 2 AM and I ugly cried for a good 20 minutes because I was so happy seeing, "Congratulations! Your agency profile set-up instructions are below!" Still one of my biggest milestones. I'm one of those weirdos that will probably frame that email in a $40 custom sparkly frame and put it on my office wall. When you work that hard, you gain every right to be extra.

Now, reality quickly set in and I needed more talent. With my research, I need about 4-600 more to be exact. However, during my training call with the casting database, the rep said, "Wow! I'm shocked you have more talent in here than most agencies do when they're accepted." I may have patted myself on the back when I responded, "Oh, that's not even a third of them, but thank you so much!" You go girl with your bad Barbie self!

The past three years have been a whirlwind, but I've learned so much about myself, true die-hard artists and this beast of a business. Again, with my mentor's voice in my head, I am only one person and I can’t do it all, as much as I’d thoroughly enjoy doing so.

My true love, passion and life purpose come from a short lifetime of this insane business. My ultimate goals are to educate and give back. Not too sure what my goal is with this blog really, but for me, it's a start to putting my daily/weekly/monthly madness in black-and-white. Who knows? Maybe my life experience will help someone. If not, I'm sorry, not sorry. Keep reading and hopefully over the next few years, I'll make more bad decisions you can relate to. You're welcome.

P.S. I've spent years using proper grammar and spelling. Been obsessed since first grade to be exact. This is my outlet. If you want to be the grammar police, I'll give you my log-in and you can work for free. Otherwise, get over it and enjoy the story. :)

Summer Ayala
Summer Ayala
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Summer Ayala
Owner & Talent Agent (www.merakitalentagency.com), Co-Owner @ Entertainment Education (www.getentedu.com), Creative Consultant. Acting, Modeling, Pageants from 1983 - 2014. Experience in law, production, & web design.

See all posts by Summer Ayala