Tyler McClendon still cringes a little when he recounts his first attempts at auditioning for roles in television and film.
Standing alone in front of a camera, with a panel of casting directors looking on, he’d blank.
“I was nervous and scared, I couldn’t remember my lines,” he says, chatting casually over coffee in his Fort Langley studio, where on March 1 he will begin offering classes in on-camera acting.
Even as he was auditioning, McClendon knew it was bad, but when the reviews came in, they were even worse than he’d feared.
He simply wasn’t ready to be there, the casting people told his agent more than once.
He’d had a ton of theatre experience, but nothing to prepare him for this.
It went on like that for 10 “horrendous” auditions before the talent agency that had picked him up a month out of university — where he’d finished a BFA in theatre — told him to look for other representation.
“When Lucas let me go, it was devastating,” he recalled.
Although his fiance (now his wife) urged McClendon not to give up on something he’d been striving after for years, the blow stopped him in his tracks for a few days and left him reassessing his entire life plan.
Then one day, while he was watching Inside the Actors Studio, Kevin Spacey came on and told a similar story about his own career.
“He said, to make it, you must live it, eat it, breathe it.”
So McClendon pulled himself together, called up a buddy from theatre school and pitched an idea.
Over the course of a year, the men put on 10 one-act plays, mounting them in a small theatre in the Commercial Drive area.
After coming to understand just how much work was involved, the following year they scaled it back to four plays.
“We nearly killed ourselves, but we loved it,” McClendon said.
The exercise did the trick and the men even managed to turn a small profit.
“I learned so much about why I’m doing this. I learned about myself as an actor. It made me figure out, through sheer intensity, whether I wanted to keep doing it.”
Then, in 2002, McClendon was working at his day job, painting a fence, when the big call finally came. He’d landed a role on the Vancouver-shot sci-fi drama, Andromeda.
It was news he met with a mixture of disbelief and euphoria.
“I’m going to be on TV? Talking?
“I was bouncing off the walls — I’ve got a gig. I don’t completely suck,” he laughed.
Fast forward 11 years, and the Langley man — a graduate of D.W. Poppy Secondary — boasts television and film credits that include guest starring roles on everything from Fringe and Supernatural to Love Happens and The Day the Earth Stood Still.
But the road to becoming a working actor was rougher than it needed to be, the 35-year-old believes.
“It took a solid five years to gather the tools I needed. That could have been sped up with proper training,” he said.
McClendon recently returned to Langley so that he could raise his two-year-old son in a house with a yard, rather than in a small two-bedroom apartment in Vancouver.
Being back in the Valley also offers him the chance to help other aspiring local actors to get a foot in the door — to offer something that didn’t exist here when he was growing up.
Starting next month, McClendon will begin offering on-camera acting classes at his small Fort Langley studio, which he has decided to call simply, The Space.
Located the back of a shop on Glover Road, the unassuming little room is all that’s required to teach aspiring actors how to perform with a camera pointed at their face.
During four weekly classes, McClendon will cover topics ranging from audition techniques to scene work, cold reading, the business of show business and how to get the job.
“You could call it an art or a science. It’s a technique — it needs to become something an actor can do,” he said.
“The biggest thing I want people to take away is how to bring a performance to an audition.
“The skill set to performing on stage is very different from the skill set to performing on camera.”
It’s also important to McClendon to get across to his students the notion that it is, in fact, possible to get work in film and television.
“It’s not for everyone. I try to be open and honest about my experience,” he said.
But there are jobs to be had out there if you’re willing to work for them, he added.
February is pilot season, and McClendon is once again going to several auditions a week.
The difference is now, instead of terrifying, it’s fun, he said.
If his work schedule happens to interfere with class time, the hours will be made up or refunded, depending on what students want, he said.
The actor offered a couple of tips right off the top, to help people avoid being taken in.
“You should never have to pay to get an audition. Ever,” he said.
“You pay to get training.”
And good training shouldn’t cost a lot of money, either, he stressed.
McClendon is charging $160 for four weekly three-hour classes, offered separately for teens and adults on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Anyone who is interested in learning more or would like to book a spot, can contact McClendon at 778-881-2453 or email email@example.com.
To watch McClendon at work, go to tylermcclendon.astralstream.com.