Wednesday, October 24, 2018

PI Meets DNA-Forensic, Genetic Genealogist

On TV and in Real Life
My last casting interview was easy: 

2011 with Tim Mcgraw, NBC (now on TLC)
Q: Are you an actress?  
A: Yes

Q: Have you taken acting classes
A: Yes, and extensively, lately

Q: Do you have TV appearance experience
A: Yes, since 2011. (Of course I already sent my resume).

Asia Business News_ Ethics and Value of Genetic DNA Tests for Genealogy
Q: Do you work with DNA analysis?
A: Yes, daily.

Q: Did you see 60 Minutes when CeCe Moore was on it recently?
A: Yes.  

Q: Do you use the same tools?
A: Yes.  Same tools are used for criminal cases, adoption cases and family history research. (Long conversation follows). 

Q: Are you a Private Investigator
A: Yes, a licensed PI, state of MO, one of the hardest licensing states
Historical Researcher and PI on Travel Channel
Hell in the Heartland
At this point, I'm thinking, "why are these questions designed just for my strengths?"

Kathleen Brandt

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Talent / Modeling Agency Contract Gone Bad

On Jan 27,  I signed a two year 20% of gross exclusive contract with a non-franchised (not SAG) local talent agency. My contract was based on GROSS only. Between Feb and April, I went on 5 auditions and landed 3 jobs (2 national). Not until May when the paychecks began to come in did I realized I had made a mistake.

Luckily, I had protected my genealogy TV production media work with an added rider to the contract. So I'm still filming, just not for paid acting commercial work. Still doing voice overs for my normal market.

Oh...and I'm taking acting classes. Now that's fun! I've completed two stage readings with a local production company. Constantly meeting actors in the field who are represented by some awesome Talent Agencies. I'm also working on another local genealogy TV project now. This is an exciting project. But I'm out of the commercial acting business (for pay) for now.

Strikes Given Against Agency
Prairie Band Casino
We all have lines in the sand that we draw. I know others have no issue working with the agency, because, well heck...they are getting paid to be in front of the camera and that's what we all want, right? Well it turns out, that was not my driving force. First of all my biggest goal was to get more camera experience on set. I've had several TV appearances as a genealogist and licensed private investigator on TV shows and I wanted to make sure I was always presenting as comfortable with the cameras. Auditions alone would give me this experience. Secondly, I wanted to find out if I was even bookable as a commercial talent. Would I like it? Commercial acting work is out of my normal skill set. But it did lead me to acting classes as of March and that helps with both TV appearances, news appearances, and keynote speaking jobs. Loving it.

But back to the paychecks. I'm a numbers person. I'm an ex-executive, a business owner and I want others to practice ethically and fairly. And it turns out, my ego is not stronger than my need for ethical and fair practices. Plus, there are other ways to get practice in front of the camera and to hone the needed skills than to sell my integrity. So I had to evaluate this partnership, as I would any other, and the negatives outweighed the positive on set experiences.

Strike 1: Paycheck 1 had a gross of $454.21. Somehow 123.87 was deducted from my paycheck and with a wordy manipulation of money and the explanation, 123.87 was passed as 20% of my gross pf $454.21.. Strike 1:That's not 20%! Remember...I'm a numbers person, but this one wasn't hard to notice. Hmmm...the following is from the Agency (not from the production accounting, which is above).

From Agent to Me. Note Gross of 454.01
All my scribbling was an effort to make sense of it. Igonore it.
Re-read contract, and it says 20% of gross. 
So it appears that even though they are not SAG franchise, the Agency felt entitled to the 10% "Overscale" SAG union franchised benefits, even though that is not in my contract (effective 30%); and they did not extend the SAG rules of 10% for talent to me. Still scratching my head on this one. Remember they are not a SAG franchise agency. If they were I would have paid a 10% commission and they would have gotten overscale. Again, my contract says 20% of gross. Nothing else regarding finances.

This probably was two strikes, but I'm a generous type and chopped it up to I need to do more research. I did. I talked to three other actors on the set and they shared their paystubs and information. Fellow actors (at least in KC) are pretty kind and cool! Lightbulb: this is when I realized there was a stark difference in SAG and non-SAG practices. This led me to talk to a SAG/AFTRA representative, I talked to Team Services (writers of original check - accountants for production company), I talked to my entertainment lawyer, and I spoke to others who had past relationships with this Agency.

Strike 2: On two jobs the Agency deducted 20% of my personal wardrobe reimbursement: Strike 2. Was this normal? Time to ask the experts: Did I mention I'm a researcher and licensed private investigator. I like asking questions.

Yes, I turned to Wendy Alaine Wright of Talent Managers for Actors (TMFA) on facebook for several questions on this issue. I was told by the Agency that "all nonunion non-franchised agencies take commission form the extras listed on your check, including wardrobe, overtime, etc." Of course I was fine with overtime. That makes sense, but my personal wardrobe? Really?

Well, they had the legal right to deduct a commission for themselves on my personal wardrobe, since it was bundled in my gross. But my real question was, is this a normal practice? Again, I could live with that naivete on my part. How did I know wardrobe was part of gross? I guess it's something they knew but I didn't. But I agree with the experts in the industry:

Strike 3: For the second larger two day shoot, I was denied the paystub that showed my gross, so who knows how much my gross was. Strike 3 - not transparent. Guess it didn't pay to ask for and pose questions about the original paystub for the first job. I'm assuming I will find out when 1099's are dished out in Jan 2019. Yay! Jan 2019, that will be one year down off this binding contract.

Stuck in Contract
Was told in orientation that if the arrangement was not working, I could ask to be released. Of course, I was denied. At this point that was expected. Yes, I used an entertainment lawyer, thus the rider that protected my genealogy business and previous production contacts, but the Agency is standing fast to the two year contract. Legally they have the right to do so.

But, that means, I had a rather easy decision to make. 1) don't audition or do paying commercial auditions until Jan 2020 or 2) continue the auditioning process for two years and accept the Agency's practices which personally I deem unethical or at minimum, not transparent. Please know, I was fine with 20% of my gross and the non-SAG franchise agreement. That was not my sticking point at all.

I have a small business. I believe in working with integrity, and transparency. I only make money if my clients are happy. Why would I lower my standards for a few thousand dollars? Why would I feed into a network that does not meet my standards? I wouldn't.

Through the experience with the talent agency at least I learned 1) I'm "bookable" for commercials.
Omaha Steaks, Skillet Meals Commercial
2) I've learned a lot about SAG vs non SAG franchise agencies and guidelines. And this by no means is a slight on non-franchise agencies. I've learned of many that abide by their contracts. In the Kansas City market, however, I must say that the more reputable agencies have a SAG component. Yes I've researched this a lot further since May too.

3) I've learned the value in honing a craft that can be transferable across many fields.

Would I Do It Again?
In the end, this two year contract has been a rather positive learning experience - and I share it with many groups when speaking. I've added it to my offering of keynote speaking - the beginners mistakes. The agencies have a right to practice as they wish, but it is my obligation to share my good and bad experiences and mistakes as a newbie in the business. Plus, I share with participants some of the best agencies and production companies I've worked for in the business. And let's not forget, working on the set with the other actors has been fun. Lots of work. But, fun.

Kathleen Brandt
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Saturday, September 15, 2018

Acting Improv and the Skills

Most of you know that I'm a keynote speaker, storyteller, writer and researcher.  You probably even know that I do client TV shows - research and/or appearances: Who Do You Think You Are, Finding Your Roots (PBS), Travel Channel, History Channel for ITV America, and even Dead Files.  I recently filmed a new pilot. But, I've never billed myself as an actress.  I'm a Genealogist, an Advisor, a DNA expert, a Historian, a Storyteller, and a Licensed Private Investigator.

But this past spring was the time to expand my skills to a new level! So I began taking acting classes in March. Who knew the depth of acting skills?  But it's all paid off.  I decided to start with commercial acting. From March - May, my trial period to determine if I was "bookable," I went on five auditions and booked three commercial TV ad jobs. I think the agency that had represented me on those jobs was even shocked.

How did I do it?  I got the best acting trainer / coach in Kansas City.  Richard Alan Nichols of Actors Craft Studio makes you work, encourages you to hone your skills, and pushes you to strengthen your  improv and concentration work, as well as scene study.  (Shhh...and his price is extremely reasonable- see the flyer above). The classes are fun and a great way to expand your acting community.  I didn't even know Kansas City had such a strong acting community. There are small playhouses, improv opportunities, stage readings and so many other opportunities. Yes, I've already worked on an original stage piece, and I've done a table read for a screenplay.  These opportunites were real eye-openers.  Remember, I'm a REAL beginner!

Currently, I'm taking the Scene Study class with Nichols, and this Improv class starts next week.  Will there be enough time to do them all?

Kathleen Brandt

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Where Am I Now?

Did you know I work with the Media: #ITV America, #RedBanditMedia, #Leftfield Pictures#ShedMedia, #PainlessProductions, and more as Expert Genealogist, DNA Expert, and Licensed Private Investigator.

Kathleen Brandt


Pilot Host

Recurring Guest Star

ITV Studios
Dead Files
Guest Star
Travel Channel
Who Do You Think You Are
Guest Star
How the States Got Their Shape
Guest Star
Travel Channel

Prairie Band Casino
Bark Production
Omaha Steaks
Liquid 9 Productions

Monologues / Scene Study
Scene Study: Uta Hagen Method
Actor’s Craft Studio
Actor's-Craft Studio
Richard Alan Nichols
Richard Alan Nichols
Voice Over /Speech
Scene Study/Monologues Process
Actor Training Studio
Actor Training Studio
Andy Garrison
Andy Garrison

Special Skills

Voice Overs
Stage Readings
Industry, Commercial, Radio
Potluck Production, KCMO

Expert Witness

Keynote Speaker
DNA, Genetics and Genealogy
Licensed Private Investigator (MO)
Professional Genealogy
Corporate / Executive Skills
Genealogy Topics
DNA, Genetic Genealogy

Spanish (Castellano), French


Sunday, May 6, 2018

Carrot Soup in Cuernavaca, 2005

On Friday I pushed myself.  I was feeling good and temporarily forgot my health is compromised! The mirror doesn't always reveal my health status.  So I grabbed the leash, not once, but twice to walk the dog.  That was Friday, today is Sunday, I'm still short of breath, have lung pain, and miserable.  Saturday the walk with the dog was restricted to five doors south of my starting point.  I realized this was the making of a disaster, and turned around after a ten minute rest talking to a neighbor.  The dog and I made it two lots north, back toward my home, when I released the leash and let my dog sprint to Hubby on the porch.  I kneeled in hopes to catch my breath. Another 5 minute pause. Hubby, who received a dog without a wife, went in rescue mode immediately. He walked down to assist.  I slowly made it to the house. That was Saturday.

Today it's Sunday. What's a girl to do?  Mostly nothing, while eating nutritiously.  When I feel bad, I remember the delicious carrot soup the Senora made me when I was in Cuernavaca.  This morning, I made carrot soup. It's healing.

Here's an excerpt from the unedited book version of my 2005 Mexico visit. Just a glimpse of why I turn to carrot soup when I'm feeling particularly weak and compromised. 

La Familia – The Family (2005 Cuernavaca)
For twenty four hours there was so much excitement, I ignored all signs of my worsening ailments.  Thanks to the Curandera, I had slept for several hours on the Mexico to Cuernavaca transport bus, and that was refreshing.  There were lots of bendigas (blessings) once I descended the bus, with a wave, in front of the school campus.

I had packed light, much was not needed. I had attended the Universidad de IberoAmerica in Mexico City summer of 1980 and I knew the possible heat that was awaiting me. And, it was a particularly hot summer for Cuernavaca. My suitcase had 5 sets of skirts and thin blouses, and three rolled up sundresses with two pairs of shoes. It all fit in one medium size suitcase. 

At the school registration, there was an oral test. The registrar asked me if I felt okay? My breathing was labored, and walking was difficult.  She hailed me a taxi to my hosting family.  I wanted to lay down and not move. 

My hosts family, a lovely couple, were accommodating, warm, and full of energy.  The universe must know exactly what you need.  The wife was a professional cook and they were into natural healing. They immediately wanted to feed me. It became evident that the school director had called the family before my arrival. I joined two other students, both men. We all met at dinner.  I would never be so rude as to miss meals, so I dragged myself down the flight of stairs that had taken me a long time to ascend and graciously took a teaspoon of everything served. This was the daily meal routine mornings and evenings. I joined the others, even though I couldn’t eat. I nibbled. Also, what became obvious to the family was once I went upstairs after dinner, I did not descend until the next morning.

We had our own rooms and I had my own bathroom.  I was grateful, because I showered a lot during my stay. As I mentioned La Senora was a professional cook.  By dinner of day two she began making me soups, and fruit. My favorite was carrot soup. I had never had carrot soup before, but it felt so comforting.  She also made me pitchers of iced horsetail tea and iced mint tea.  We were not allowed in the kitchen, which was fine with me, but she made sure I had filtered cool water in the room.  The room was hot, no air conditioning, but fans, and I slept little for two weeks.   I learned to lie on the bed with my feet lifted on the headboard. I was trying to get the swelling under control, but it was stubborn. I showered a lot. It was the only thing that made me feel good. Since I was up all night anyway, I did my homework, read extra stories from our reader, wrote elaborate pieces, increased my vocabulary, and studied sentence structure.  My Spanish improved immensely.  That’s my overview of two weeks in Cuernavaca.  It’s also the story I told my husband - I was still bloated with ankle swelling, but it was probably just the altitude and jet lag. My host family did not buy that story. They were looking at me everyday.  They could hear me during the night. They knew I wasn’t sleeping and was forcing myself to eat at least a little. They knew I could not walk the six blocks to the school.  They really did not buy the “I’ll be okay.”  Matter of fact they accepted that for two days only. 

The first day of school, I was excited. I love learning.  In looking back at my diary I had noted before this trip, 6 May 2005 'Mother always wants me to relax, but actually relaxing to me is learning and doing.  I am trying to just breathe! I pray for integrity, honesty and patience and of course an increase in faith. I believe with these tools, I can conquer all.'

Day one of school, I left with the guys. I think they were given strict instructions to watch over me, because they crawled at the same slow pace with me, until we reached the main road two blocks up a slight incline.  I couldn’t go any further.  I convinced them to continue and I caught a taxi for the last 4 blocks.  I tipped big.  I took a taxi home. In my two week of schooling, I only saw the student cafeteria and lounge twice. The school was a large rectangle with an open air pavilion, but there were daunting stairs that I knew would ruin my day. The lounge and cafeteria were on the ground floor, my classes were on the second. I could look down over the open air plaza. I could see the sunshine from the second floor platform, but mostly, I went directly to a class, settled in, and didn’t move.  Between classes there were 15 minute breaks.  I used that time to get to my next class and recover with deep yoga breaths.  Classes were 90 minutes. The students were watching me.  The teachers were watching me. The school director was watching me. 

Day three of the school was full of surprises.  My hostess handed me a sack lunch, and when I followed the guys toward the front door to go to school, the host grabbed his keys.  The night before it was clear the guys had already informed them that I was unable to walk the six blocks to school.  At dinner, the host had casually asked me how much I paid to get to school. I told him $7.00 with tip one way.  It was high traffic, and I was grateful a taxi driver would carry me 6 blocks when they could have made a fortune. I watched the host has his lips twitched.  Then I realized he was doing the math.  So, I was not too surprised when he met me at the front door on day three and announced in a very fast authoritarian Spanish “I will be taking you and picking you up daily for $10.00/day” He opened the door and added “That includes tip.”  I think he expected an argument. My thought, “What a deal!” Plus, I was forced to speak more Spanish with him. 

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Kathleen Brandt
BrandtMotivation@gmail. com

Thursday, April 26, 2018

I Can Do More!

I have recreated myself many times.  I've danced professionally for a Brazilian troop in Europe (Carnivale season), danced with a ballet group in Atlanta, was a system engineer and product manager with Fortune 500s, worked internationally for Belgium company, owned a dance studio in DC, taught foreign languages at universities and colleges, and became a professional genealogists for my senior life and added keynote speaking not just for genealogy but also to motivate and encourage those suffering with chronic and rare diseases.  Yes, I have that too. The issue is my senior-life job choice was premature. 

Yes, I still own a3Genealogy, and I'm scheduling now for 2019 keynote speaking events. They both are thriving.  The other businesses I've sold or dissolved (out of making time for new interests).  This is the recent update: my genealogy and keynote speaking businesses expanded into television appearances, motivational speaking and writing for industry and genealogical journals, and even national magazines. are caught up with my life up to April 2018.

What's New?!?
In 2017...I got called to be a host for an upcoming genealogy based TV show (more info later, has not yet been announced by the network, even though we have already filmed the pilot).  In my search for someone to review the blah-blah-blah of the legal contract, I stumbled across the Life Style Commercial Modeling industry. It was a crash self-paced course on learning the difference between a Talent Agency and an Entertainment Attorney.  (I needed an entertainment attorney, but now have both).  Being the person that I am, I threw my hat into a ring for commercial modeling and have been booked for three shoots so far. That was late January 2018. 

Four auditions later, I have landed two commercials.  One actually included testing food and giving a testimonials.  I'll post it here.  
My 3 seconds toward fame! Fun...I'm at the end.  Omaha Steaks

The second one was for a fun-filled Casino in Kansas. (The commercial will be out in mid May. I'll post it when it airs.)  In the meantime, there were head shots (seen above; more forthcoming), acting classes, with Richard Allen Nichols at Actor's Craft,  and voice over classes and creating the voice over demo reel with another great coach, Andy Garrison at Actor Training Studio.  Oh my... my plate is full, but my life is fulfilling. 

Will see where this takes me!

Kathleen Brandt

Monday, April 9, 2018

The Lost Earring

 In my youth, I read a book about a girl (about my age at the time) who lost a penny - or a coin. It was a form of a mystery for nine year olds.  The details of the book escape me. I can't remember if she lost the penny/coin by dropping it on the street, in a hole, or in her coat pocket.  But she was desperate to find that blasted penny.  My impression now is that she was poor, but this girl has evolved, manifested and impressed herself in my mind's-eye every time I lose anything.  If memory serves me - which I can't say it does- I remember she dropped a second (maybe even a third penny) in the same spot to see if these pennies could find the first.  Of course she kept losing pennies which was devastating (that's probably why I thought she was poor).  Anyway, she  methodically worked out a plan where one penny would find the other(s).  There was a line towards the end of the book where she proclaims something on the line of "of course the penny will always find the other penny (pennies)."  Or it might have been "only a penny can find the other penny."  Who knows.  I looked an hour tonight to find the title of that book.  If you remember it, please share. 

That takes me to my topic: My Lost Earring.  
Here it is in a nutshell.  Friday, I went to French Class, stopped to eat (a rather high caloric lunch only beaten by the amount of its fat gram), and then home.  I know I had both earrings on at lunch.  At home I changed to a warm sweater and swapped shoes from heels to flat Clark's because ....well the weather in Kansas City and the fact that my dog was not going to allow me to rest without his afternooon walk.  Guess he has learned, that if I let grass (or dog hair) grow around my feet, I would not go back out.  It's April freezing here.  Yes APRIL. 

Ok...back to my story.  Leash on, with heaviest gloves to match my red coat (the warmest I own), the victorious mutt and I set out for a walk around a long block.  (I have to say that, so you don't think I'm lazy.  It really is a half mile and it really takes us FOREVER, even in the artic windchill of freakin' April). The mutt refuses to be hurried due to my discomforts.

Sniff, sniff - hike a leg, hike a leg - pull the leash Chewey and I were halfway through the walk before I had a major decision to make.  People with babies in ski suits (looked like it to me) were blocking the east sidewalk, chatting like it was a spring day, and a bulldog had just "apparated" on the top of the hill on the west side.  Not good.  Chewey is still in behavioral training for ugly greetings towards the likeness of both of these subjects.  Not babies.  He loves babies. But, the tall man on the sidewalk, and the bulldog, that was going to take a mastermind to maneuver.  I crossed from the east to the west side of the street and walked up about four houses. Chewey with a keen eye on the tall man with the baby, didn't see the onward coming bulldog still safely 8 houses away with his master.  I then, crossed back to the east side of the street before reaching the POD that was parked on the street.  Yeah, where I live, there are POD's parked on the street.  To be fair it is due to a storm damaged garage from EIGHT MONTHS AGO!  Ok...KC weather, they may be still waiting for spring to rebuild the garage. Heck, I'm waiting for spring to arrive before attacking my to do list.

So...I get to the east side of the street without a lunging circus on the leash, bulldog, hidden by the POD, was out of sight, and we walked home without incident.  FAST FORWARD. 

Where's the Other

Time to go bed -  hair, face, teeth, pj's...where's my earring? The beautiful set Hubby bought me last year for my birthday. One was in my ear lobe as it should've been, but the other ear was 'decorate-less'.  Tired, as usual, I went to bed totally believing it was somewhere in the house.  Saturday night, after a day of looking around, shaking clothes, lifting things on my desk, checking my coat (more than once) and retracing my steps from room to room - everywhere I had talked on a phone, I was convinced the earring was lost. UGH!

But the the worst scenario here is I'd have to pay the designer to make a matching one. But who has money for that????  Woke up on Sunday, 8 April and it was snowing, slushing and doing it's KC thing to ruin another weekend, so I lounged around, took a shower, and put on clean pj's.  I didn't leave the house.  Most people didn't.  

Our block excitement was the old catatonic man on the neighbor's porch who we had to call the police and ambulance on twice in less than twelve hours.  He was still looking for his wife.  He would freeze in place mimicking a mannequin, and stand in one spot for 30 to 60 minutes. All the neighbors were calling each other and describing the scene, but no one wanted to call the police. Hubby called the police in hopes the live mannequin didn't actually freeze. Thanks to Hubby the man was picked up both times without incident. And we are all praying the city was able to help him kindly. 

Lost Earring on Friday.  Now It's Monday

Monday comes, and I'm determined to find that earring.  I must have lost it when I walked Chewey on Friday. (Have I mentioned I'm a licensed private investigator. Seriously!). My childhood book came to mind, I got dressed (at the crack of noon), leashed up the rambunctious mutt, and kept my eyes peeled to the ground as I retraced my steps of three days before.  I made it to the bottom of our hill, before I began to question my own sanity.  Maybe the old man had been outside my house casting a spell of insanity on all that lived within.  I crossed from the east sidewalk to the west just at the right spot. 

How do I know it was the right spot, you ask? Because I went up about four house, totally convinced by now that I had "lost my marbles" (let's just say I think they existed at one time for the purpose of losing).  Before crossing back to the eastside, as I had done on Friday, I looked down. Right at my left foot, laid neatly, my beautiful purple stone (no really it isn't an amethyst, but beautiful none the less) earring.  Right there. Perfect shape.  No damage.  Did I mentioned I had put the other earring in my pocket?  If I learned anything from the girl in the book: "one will find the other." 

Thanks for the bad April weather Mother Nature.  You did me a favor by keeping people by their fireplaces in April, vs enjoying a spring like weekend of dogs, babies and strollers. 

The End....True Story. 

Kathleen Brandt