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Conversations with the Inspiring Dani Keaton

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dani Keaton.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I fell in love with the arts by the time I was five years old. I remember the exact moment, I was on my first stage to conduct my Kindergarten Choir at Primanti Montessori School. I was super nervous but the moment I raised my hands and the audience got quiet, with the student’s eyes on me and then they began to sing this beautiful music and I was no longer afraid.

I was a very shy child and it wasn’t easy for me to make friends. My parents put me in an after-school program called Sunshine Generation Kids, where we would learn songs and choreography. It was because of that program that really helped me get out of my shell. I then started taking acting classes, dance classes, and singing lessons. Because of my three older siblings who were active in show business, I got an agent and started my acting career.

I first started with print work & commercials and then TV/Film & Theatre came next. There was something about performing that made me feel safe, I was able to express my full self. I wasn’t always so secure as Dani, but when I was acting there was no limit to who I could be.

I also found a great community of friends from my acting class who I am still friends with till this day. There’s something special about having friends who have similar passions as you because they really understand you.

The acting class that really shaped my whole life was called THE SHOP now known as Simply Acting. My teachers Andrew Magarian & John Homa are probably two of my biggest inspirations and mentors of my childhood. They created a safe space for me to express, to share and not feel judged. Acting is very personal and in order to get to certain emotions or play different kinds of characters you really have to have this sense of emotional freedom. It requires a place with people who are sensitive to one’s feelings and not judgmental to peoples past or present stories.

I continued acting all throughout my teenage years and most of my young adulthood. I never really experienced a “normal childhood.” When school friends were at dances or football games, I was filming or auditioning or taking classes. When I was around 22 years old, I wanted to try something new. I felt burnt out. I spent my whole life acting and never got a chance to see what else was out there that made me happy. I decided to go to school and kind of start over. I was going to school part-time, working a “normal” job and then interning at different production and casting companies to see what would speak to me.

I was so excited when I got an interview with Director & Producer Todd Phillips’ Production Company Green Hat Films. I remember meeting with Executive Joey Garner and just being completely honest about my story. You don’t usually get interns who are in their mid-to-late 20’s but I wanted to learn. I ended up getting the internship and four months later they hired me. My usual day consisted of Script Coverage, Receptionist Duties, Office Manager and then I started working as Todd’s Assistant. A year later, we ended up merging with Bradley Cooper’s Company, 22nd & Indiana. I spent a good three years working there but I was still missing something. During my time working at Warner Brothers, I was also coaching friends for their auditions for a little pocket change but also it was fun for me. Being able to dissect a character and tell that story so truthfully is not easy but I was excited to help my friends find their way to get there. They started to get callbacks & book jobs, not saying it was all me but I did find a calling for it.

So, I reached out to a non-profit Theatre Group, Phantom Projects who I actually did a show with years back to see if I could possibly teach a class, the founder Steve Cisneros was totally on board. I remember teaching my first ever Acting Workshop and I loved every minute of it. Seeing students come out of their shell in the first class was just an amazing feeling. Needless to say, I started teaching every Saturday Morning while I was working at Warner Brothers. Another studio reached out to me and it was then I had to make a decision… keep my job and only teach on that Saturday or make it more of a full-time job.

I went for the full-time job, I know it might sound crazy leaving a well-paid job, with benefits, working for big stars but I wasn’t fulfilled. Now, three years later, I can say I love what I do. Besides just acting classes, I also have a film team where we are creating our own content. I don’t just have actors in my classes I have filmmakers, writers, editors, fashion designers… and I love that I get to share my passion for storytelling with the next generation and be a witness to the start of many of their careers.

There’s something about the art of expression that I feel is so needed in this world for us to connect. I see from my classes, friendships being formed, lives being changed just from being able to express themselves. Students don’t feel so alone, they feel understood and they are able to feel empathy for others.

I can go on and on but this interview would take forever. Besides teaching, I have a lifestyle/creative arts blog, showing you the best of California, plus I feature artists from all over the world. I have become an Activist for Arts Education so I am constantly looking for artists to share their story. I think the more awareness we raise on how art shapes us, our schools, government, and society would find more ways to increase the budget on Arts Education rather than minimize.

Things that are in the works; my husband & I’s production company!

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Definitely not a smooth road but I don’t think any road is. I think all the bumps, cracks, and roadblocks are mandatory for life. Without the hardships, I wouldn’t know what I am passionate about. Without failure, I would not be able to grow as a person or artist.

Hmm… advice… it’s OK to make mistakes. As an actor, sometimes, the best moments come from “mistakes” so don’t freak out about it. Don’t be afraid to try new things or “start over.” Who cares what others think about you. Don’t worry about people not liking you. Stop being a people pleaser. Enjoy life. Work hard. Seriously, Actors/Artists DON’T be LAZY. Don’t wait for your opportunity, make it. Be your BEST-SELF. Be kind and STAY kind. Keep learning. LOVE OTHERS. Create ART.

Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
Hmm… well, for now, I am proud of all my students. They have come so far as artists and I love seeing them grow. I am proud that my blog has become a 2nd job for me when I first started it, it was an outlet for me to express myself and possibly inspiring others. So, thank you to everyone who has come along my journey with me.

I don’t honestly know what sets me apart from others. I just try to be my authentic self and share some art with you all.

Looking back on your childhood, what experiences do you feel played an important role in shaping the person you grew up to be?
Oh, yes. Everything… literally, everything I experienced growing up definitely shaped my way. Not just on successes but also hard times too.

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        Image Credit:
Danielle Keaton

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