CRESTVIEW — One of the entertainment world’s most respected showcases for new talent will star a Crestview High School senior in January — but only if she can raise enough money to fly to Los Angeles and participate in the International Presentation of Performers, known in the industry as “iPOP!”
Following her acceptance into iPOP! after try-outs in Fort Walton Beach, Michelle Bryant is talking positively about her fast-approaching opportunity. In her mind, there are no ifs, ands or buts. She’s going. Period.
“I am going to L.A. and I will perform in front of, like, 600 people,” Michelle said. “I’ll be singing and acting. I got accepted after I actually did an audition down in Fort Walton Beach. It was intense. I was in rehearsals for two months.”
However, to participate in the program, Michelle must raise about $5,000 — and she needs to do it fast.
“I fly out there (to Los Angeles) on Jan. 2,” she said. “iPOP! runs January 3-6.”
Michelle is signed with a New Orleans talent agency, which recently raised the possibility of her being cast as an extra in the HBO series “Treme.” However, the exposure budding performers receive at iPOP! reaches a wider audience, she said.
Locally, Michelle has garnered some name recognition. She has appeared in several Crestview High School drama productions, most recently appearing in May in “The Sound of Music” as Marta, one of the singing von Trapp children. She’s appeared on the Pearl Tyner Auditorium stage in “Touchtone M for Murder,” “The 21st Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” and “Seussical the Musical.” She hones her already impressive vocal talents as a member of the elite Destiny show choir of the Crestview High chorus. In October, she was voted the Bulldogs’ Homecoming queen.
“She has a little local recognition now that she’s been homecoming queen,” Crestview High School drama and English teacher Annette Gebhardt said. “She’s a great, nice girl. She went to state with us last year in the small-group musical competition category.”
In California, Michelle will do more than perform before an audience of casting directors, talent managers and theatrical agents. There are professional development and educational components to iPOP.
“I’ll be singing and acting,” she said. “I’ll go to seminars with other kids and we practice a lot. Then we get to perform.”
The program gives participants a taste of the entertainment world, including auditioning before professionals responsible for casting films, commercials and television shows, and for populating fashion show runways, according to the iPOP! website.
“Every performer auditions for qualified professionals who are currently working in the industry,” the iPOP website states. “Some will walk away with cash awards and scholarships and some will find success after the event in the acting, modeling and singing arenas.
“All of them, however, will get a chance to experience the realities of the entertainment and fashion industries from the inside. They will get valuable experience in performing in front of large groups of people, practice their auditioning skills, and develop networking skills.”
Though Tinseltown visions dance in her head, Michelle concentrates on the latest high school production. When “It’s a Wonderful Life” opens Friday evening, Michelle will experience theatre from a different perspective than she’s used to.
“I’ll be working backstage, doing makeup and stuff,” she said. “I’m not actually onstage this year.”
As she prepares for the upcoming show, Michelle has been seeking sponsorships to attend iPOP. She hopes to attract local businesses willing to invest in her dream of becoming a professional entertainer. It’s a big investment, but it’s also an incredible opportunity, Michelle said. It could even propel her to national recognition.
“There are no ‘contestants’ at iPOP! ‘Contestants’ go to beauty pageants,” the iPOP website states. “iPOP! respects each participant as a performer, who attends the event to improve their auditioning and performing skills, perform in front of the leading professionals in the industry, and develop networking skills that will benefit them in the future.”
There’s just no way a price tag could be attached to experience that valuable, Michelle said.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.