Working as an actor, professional speaker, voice over artist, host, team building facilitator and print model, it seems as if there is nothing that Bradley J. Van Dussen cannot do when it comes to the world of entertainment. He had a feature role in Empire Falls as well as background roles in State and Main, Mystic River, The Invention of Lying, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, The Proposal, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, The Maiden Heist, The Box, Pink Panther 2, and Bride Wars. Van Dussen was also a background actor in the upcoming films Furry Vengeance, Grown Ups, and The Company Men, which are all currently in production in various locations around New England.
Born and raised in Pittsford, New York, Van Dussen relocated to Massachusetts in 1984 and has remained there ever since. In addition to his numerous on-screen appearances, Dussen is involved in CustomersFirst.com Corporation, a consulting company that offers free, fast and reliable customer feedback to other organizations. He is also the creator of www.NewEnglandActor.com, a networking website designed specifically for actors to promote their talent.
HEC: How did you get started in your career as an actor?
My first experience in the entertainment industry happened when I was cutting lawns for summer work in 1981. While I was cutting a lawn, the owner came out and asked if I wanted to be in a TV commercial for Sherkston Beach Amusement Park in Ontario Canada. Clueless to why someone would want to hire a grass-stained, smells-like-gasoline lawn cutter, I said, “Yes.”
While that experience was wonderful, I did not pursue any other entertainment work until 1988 when my girlfriend said, “You should be a model.” Wasn’t that the line I should’ve been using? My first modeling agent wanted me to file my teeth…next! I soon found a photographer who created the first headshot that got me a few auditions, which landed me three SAG TV commercials in only a few years; two of which were national spots.
HEC: How has your education/training helped you?
My gifts from God and life experiences are the best training I’ve had for preparation in this industry. I used to be an announcer at beach volleyball tournaments and was told that I had a great voice and should do something with it. Next thing I knew, I had a voice over demo reel and started getting auditions and gigs, including announcing the Massachusetts Lottery live for four years at WCVB-TV 5.
My formal class training comes from the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, Rex Trailer, CP Casting and VO coaching from Jordan Rich of Chart Productions. Keeping oneself trained and educated is just like any other career: necessary. However, unlike employees of companies, we have to front the cost of classes, etc. and the opportunity cost must be weighed-in. For example, when does shelling out up to $350 for a voice over class make sense? When it brings the artist auditions and jobs! Yet, what is the guarantee this happens?
My most recent class was an acting class from CP Casting and taught by “A” list actor Bates Wilder. Did it help? I think so. I was challenged, prodded, whipped and stretched to extend my abilities. In my humble opinion, and it is humble, practice is the most important training an actor can get.
HEC: What is it like as an Actor/Voice Talent/ Host /Model?
Imagine going to over 30 job interviews per year and getting denied most of the time. Actors need to develop that proverbial “thick skin” to continue up this career path. It’s not easy; anyone telling you it is, is either lying or has plenty of income coming from another source!
An actor, voice talent, etc. is his or her own promotional department. We must continually promote our work and skills as well as seek employment opportunities. This costs time and money. One should decide if this work is to be a full time or part time job; either choice needs an investment of time and money-just in varying degrees. It’s hectic and can be stressful at times, but it’s a wild, fun ride!
HEC: What are the best & worst parts of being an Actor/ Voice Talent/ Host /Model?
The worst? Getting a shot at a national commercial and not getting it, especially when one needs the income for SAG health and pension benefits! The best? Doing something different each time I get hired. Whether it’s hosting a team building event in front of 250 people or alone in a sound-proof recording studio, it’s always something different where I can take the gifts God gave me and hone them with practice.
HEC: Any advice for people just entering this industry?
Practice your craft; if it’s acting join and participate in the Cold Reading Group by Thomas Benton. This group helps actors prepare and be prepared for auditions. Take acting or voice classes at CP Casting, Boston Casting and Maura Tighe Casting or LDI Casting in RI. They have the best actors teaching and they get a chance to see your talents; plus they remember who you are. Please note: just because they may remember you, does not mean they’ll call you. With auditions, they call in actors with the talent and the look their client needs.
Be professional; get a quality head shot or 8 x 10. No amateur snapshots! Professional shots cost money, but then again, who has more of an opportunity to get hired, an actor with a professional 8 x 10 or one with a snapshot of him/her in their kitchen? If you’re thinking about print modeling, the first thing one should do is send the best photos you have to the print agents. They’ll be brutally honest about whether you should continue pursuing a career in modeling.
Once you’re serious about pursing acting, being a voice-over artist and/or print modeling, join www.NewEnglandActor.com. This social platform helps to promote professional actors from New England by posting headshots, resumes, voice & video demos, actor slates and more. It’s free and casting agents, companies and photographers have used it to hire talent.
HEC: What has been your most memorable work experience thus far?
For movies, it was my role in Empire Falls (Fred Schepisi, Director) as the guy who tries to pick-up Robin Wright’s character on the beach. She has cute toes. For TV Shows, it was as a bar patron lip-syncing “New York, New York” in Empire State. For TV Commercials and print, it was for CVS/pharmacy. It simply was the gift that kept on giving.
Lately, my most memorable work experiences have been for other actors via New England Actor.com. I love it when an actor gets hired from their profile page by a casting agent, company, photographer, director or producer after reviewing his or her profile on NewEnglandActor.com. It truly is a blessing and I am thrilled. Creating and maintaining www.NewEnglandActor.com takes a lot of work and time, but I think it serves the acting community well. It’s an outlet for actors to promote themselves and for casting agents, photographers, companies and directors to easily search and review talent.