Back Stage West – Origins

Interview with Founder/President Kevin E. West
By Jackie Apodaca
Senior Columnist, Back Stage Newspapers

Why would a working actor like Kevin E. West bother founding an organization with the longest running performer’s business curriculum in the history of the United States? Why would he and his Vice President, talent manager Paulo Andrés, share what they know about the entertainment industry, stealing time from their own careers to educate others?

“I had a dream,” Kevin says, from behind a desk cluttered with all matter of acting business paraphernalia, “and I’m not joking. I woke up in my little apartment on Laurel Canyon, rolled over, pulled out a notebook, and began writing down possibilities.” West’s dream was a response to the frustration and depression he saw in fellow performers, struggling to make careers in the sometimes-brutal city of Los Angeles. He had seen only too clearly the common actors’ dilemma of balancing life with career. “Being an “actor” can mean fifty different things,” he says, “and the fact is that actors face no immediate consequences for “not showing up” every day if they have no current acting work.” Without traditional job parameters, West saw a debilitating lack of focus on the part of many of his peers, which he thought he might help rectify.

“I didn’t start this as a business,” he explains, “I did it because there were a lot of scenarios I was encountering that were not written about. There are so many permeations and combinations (in our profession), so many possibilities on a daily basis, and I just didn’t understand why people didn’t discuss them more. I couldn’t believe that actors were not more useful to one another. We are so powerful when we share knowledge, encounters, and experiences.”

The Actors Network provides a forum for such help, with actors learning from one another’s mistakes and successes. Instead of going it alone, members benefit from the camaraderie of a genuine network. “It’s ongoing,” says West, “It’s a family, a neighborhood, a community… and it’s a personal trainer in terms of how to manage the information, the opportunities, the quagmires, the problems, and the scenarios actors encounter in Hollywood on a daily basis.” Instead of wrestling with bits and pieces of information alone in their apartments, members gather together to share war stories and ideas, and perhaps most importantly, find a needed shift in perspective.

Asked to distill the purpose of the Actors Network down into one sentence, West whistles skeptically. But after sitting with the question for a moment, his answer couldn’t be more lucid.

“(The purpose of The Actors’ Network) is to help you really understand what it is to be an actor in Los Angeles and to give you the tools you need to have a fighting chance to become a working professional,” he says quietly. “The rest is up to you…”