Question Time- Part Two

Welcome back!

Last week I started answering some of the questions that the wonderful people of the Instagrams put to me (you can check out part one of my answers here). Now it’s time to talk about what happens after you get an agent/ace that audition.

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How do you prep from night to night?

Sleep and food are very big for me. A lot of actors have a post show routine that involves cups of tea & sitcom reruns, but I’ve never had the problem of trying to shut my brain down! The moment I lock my front door behind me, it’s serious sleeping time. (If it does take me more than five minutes to drop off, Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter knocks me out like THAT- true story).

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If it’s a gig that allows me the day off, than I try to make the most of that time. Because as we all know by now, I’m a #internetaddict and if I don’t schedule something to do then I can lose hours doing absolutely nothing. And I feel better if I get a workout in, really I do!

The routine I follow prior to a performance varies depending on what it is- if it’s a theatre job, I’ll try to be in my dressing room 60-90 minutes prior to the show. Then it’s makeup time and hair (or a wig). I try to leave getting changed into my costume as late as possible, and once it’s on I make sure to keep a dust-gown on top because there’s nothing more terrifying than admitting to wardrobe that you just spilled coffee on that nice, clean costume.

For a commercial shoot, the routine is basically the same except although it feels like 90% of the time I have to be rocking up at 6am, there’s a coffee cart waiting to IV caffeine directly to my brain, and I get to relax while someone else does my makeup! So my prep for those sorts of jobs is trying to make sure my skin is in good condition, and I turn up squeaky clean, vocally warm & physically ready to go.

Any time I’m about to work, I also like to try and squeeze in a meditation session (I mostly use Headspace) to clean out the chatter in my brain and let me focus on what I’m about to do. Failing that, I’ll plug into some songs that I know from experience are able to settle me down.

 

Can you see the audience when you’re on stage, or are the lights so bright, and the house so dark, that you can’t? Or are you so focused and busy that you never notice?

This depends on the theatre. With some of the largest spaces (2000+), it might be tricky to see the back few rows, but for the most part you bet we can see you! But normally the only time I really take a look at the audience is during the bows or if the direction calls for me to be interacting beyond the fourth wall (the front of the stage).

An exception to this was the recent production of Rheingold as part of Opera Australia’s Ring Cycle- a major feature of the set was a giant mirror suspended above the stage at an angle, reflecting everything that went on below it from birds-eye. I was involved in the production as an actor (who knew that was something a gal could do?) and lying on the slowly revolving stage as the overture started and the lights of the audience flickered in the mirror above us was a surreal & magical moment. And you can bet I was checking to see who was doing one last phone check after the performance had begun!

 

What do you have to do when you switch roles? Does it take awhile to shake off the last character?

I don’t recall ever having struggled with this, at least so far! Most of the characters I play, I find quite easily inside myself, I just need to reveal a little more of one aspect of myself or another. I don’t know if my answer would be the same if I was having to dig deep for something really challenging – hopefully I’ll be able to come back and revisit this question one day.

 

What is it like to finish the final performance of a show.

Bittersweet, that’s for sure!

Actors live in a weird reality where we’re regularly thrown into a room with a whole bunch of people for short periods of time. We all need to create art together, so friendships are formed very quickly and usually very intensely. You’ll live in each others pockets for the run of a show, and then all of a sudden it’s over! You’ll never say those lines again, stand in those lights again, or drink at that bar with those people again.

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For me, finishing a job also usually means that it’s back to the casual work I rely on between gigs. Double whammy of sadness. But ending a gig meant that you had a gig to do in the first place! And that’s always something to be grateful for.

 

How often do you start a new show?

Not as often as I would like! For better or worse, I’m quite cautious about doing unpaid theatre work, which is the sort that seems to come my way the most often. As a Kiwi living in Australia, I don’t have access to financial help from the government, so I always have to be cautious about missing out on paid office work to do unpaid work that feeds my soul. At the end of the day, bills have to be paid! This means that over the past few years I’ve only done one or two public seasons a year, focusing the rest of my time on acting through corporate work and building my skills so that when those paid jobs come, I’ll be ready.

Where do you like to holiday?

I was born a small town girl, and even thought Melbourne, Australia is small compared to many cities, it still feels like the big smoke to me! Any chance I get, I like to get back to somewhere with trees and wide open spaces. These normally end up being small weekend trips to the beautiful areas around Melbourne, but I’m slowly directing some of my income to saving for trips further abroad. In July I’m heading to Tasmania, so send your Must Do list my way, and keep an eye out for that blog post!

What is on your bucket list?

At the moment, travel! I want to see the whole wide world- there’s so many incredible places that I can currently only dream of seeing.

More long term, I have so many goals swirling around in my head. I would love to book a TV show, land a great role in a big-budget play, have one of my many half-baked novel drafts finished and published, create something to help performers with their finances because their bad habits make me streeeessed, live on a place with roaming acres that’s only accessible by horseback (I’m not sure about this one).

Do you ever feel like quitting?

Honestly? Not yet.

But do I ever doubt that I’ll get further with my career than I am today? All the time.

Acting is an impossible career. And of those that are able to make a living from it, how many of them have to credit their successful career to timing, luck, good looks, or just one person at the right time putting the right amount of faith in them?

Whenever I’m asked by a younger person if they should go into acting, my answer has been ‘If you’re asking me that, then probably not’. I’ve always said that there is any other career that can bring you joy and fulfillment, go and do that instead. When I moved to Australia, I had set myself a deadline to go home and retrain if I hadn’t forged a ‘successful’ career. That deadline actually snuck up on me last year, and you know what? I didn’t even need to stop to think about it. There’s nothing that can bring me the level of joy that I get from what I do (when I get the chance to do it), and all the other slaving away at day jobs, the fruitless auditions and the endless acting classes? Totally worth it. So I think I’ll stick at it.

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Even if I end up in a garage somewhere doing this 


If you want to see more of me, you can check out my Instagram & Twitter, I would love to see you there!

Question Time- Part Two

Question Time!

So a while back I floated the idea on Instagram of doing a Q&A post. I wasn’t sure if I would get any response at all, but one of my intentions with this blog was to provide an insight into what it’s actually like to be an actress at the start of a career and to do that I needed an idea of what people actually wanted to know!

Bless their little cotton softs, there were so many lovely people who were happy to provide questions. So many that I’ve decided to split this topic into a few posts! Keep your eyes peeled for Part Two next week, and I would love it if you added any questions of your own below!

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  • A disclaimer before we begin- like any non-linear career, every actor’s story is their own. Even without taking into account the huuuuuge differences between acting in the US, UK and Australia, my opinions and experiences could be a world away from those of the girl seated next to me in an audition waiting room. I will try to be absolutely honest with every question, but please bear in mind that end of the day I’m only one gal trying to make it in the cruel actors world, and my answers will reflect that!

 

How do you get an agent?

For me, not easily!

Usually agents will sign someone in one of three ways:

  • After seeing their work in person
  • After having someone recommended to them by an actor they already represent
  • After being approached by an actor looking to join their ranks (this route can be very tricky!)

Most graduates in Australia get to have a graduation showing for agents in their final year but I was immigrating from New Zealand a few months out of drama school,  too late to get seen in the wave of new graduates! With no Australian credits to my name it was a hard slog to be seen among the crowds of talented bright young things
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According to a frustrating & oft-quoted maxim, you have to be working to get an agent, and you need an agent to get work!

Fortunately, after booking a small independent production of Hair, I did end up managing to land representation with my first agent. With her I was able to build a small body of work, which made it easier for me to move on when the time came.

 

When should you get an agent?

In my opinion, as soon as you can! If you’re wanting to make any money from acting, you’re going to need an agent to act as your go-between. It’s rare to find a Casting Director who’s happy to send out briefs to individual actors, so an agent is your gateway to the bigger auditions.

(NB. A reputable agent is never going to charge you for doing their job- their pay is through a cut of your total earnings whenever you actually book a gig. While they might encourage you to get new head shots  or a show-reel, it’s a big red flag if they’re requiring you to have these done by a particular photographer – any agent insisting on this could be making a nice kick-back on referring actors they never expect to actually work.)

At the start of your career you’ll probably find that an agency happy to represent you is going to be sending you in for bit parts and perhaps extras roles. Don’t stress, once you’ve added a few lines to your CV and started to build a relationship with the people doing the casting, you’ll slowly work your way up the ladder!

Contrary to how it seems in the media, there are very few overnight successes – people spending millions of dollars on a few minutes of film like to work with people that they know have proven themselves time and time again. This is a journey that actors go on with their agent, so it’s important to find someone that you’re comfortable taking advice from, and that you can go to with your questions.

 

The audition process!

Ahh auditions, the bread & butter of the actor’s world.

There’s a long running joke that an actor really gets paid for all the waiting around on set, the acting is something we would happily do for free. I feel like we really get paid for all of the auditioning we do, only you don’t see a penny of that pay until you actually book a job!

Every audition starts with a Casting Director sending out a brief to all the agents they’re in contact with. If I suit the role my agent will submit me, and if the CD agrees with my agent, I’ll get an audition time! For screen work, this could be as soon as first thing the next morning, or even later that day. For theatre it might be a little longer, and with musicals you normally have a few weeks to prepare because the rumours start flying long before the production is officially announced!

Once I have my audition booked, it’s time to prep. For a musical, I’m looking for two 32-bar (about 30 seconds of music) of contrasting pieces that are similar to what the show would require of me. I have a folder with options ready to go, so it’s normally just a matter of brushing up. For theatre I might need to bring in a monologue, or I might be sent a scene to work through. With TV or film, there is usually always a scene, (although if the audition is for an ad, there might not be any lines in that script to learn!)

For all the stress and preparation that goes into an audition, they can feel a little anti-climactic. You’ll do your prepared work once, and maybe get a few alterations before trying it again. And that’s it! It’s rare to be in that room for more than ten minutes in a first call.

If it’s a smaller screen or commercial role audition, this could be the whole process! I’ll get notified if I’m On Hold, and then I’ll either be released or booked (at which stage I do a happy dance and finally let people know I actually auditioned for something).

For everything else, my agent will be notified if I have a callback and she will pass it on to me. There will normally be more material to prepare, and probably a slightly longer audition with more important people in the room. I’ve never had more than two audition rounds, but I know people who have had to go through five or more rounds, including being flown interstate for even more important people! Needless to say, it definitely gets to a stage where actors are throwing their hands up in the air and pleading ‘just make up your mind already!’

 

There must be lots of people auditioning for a part. How do you cope with rejection when they pick someone else?

I touched on this question in On auditioning & my love life…, but it’s always an interesting one to revisit. Basically, just like dating, there are going to be times when not getting that phone call is enough to make you call a mental health day and crawl back into bed with Netflix and a tub of icecream. However, I promise that the more times you go through it, the easier it gets!

I’ve now trained the people around me to never go ‘Did you hear back about X??’, and if I can get away with it, I won’t even mention when I’ve been auditioning. I’ve learned that for me, the easiest way to cope with the very surreal audition cycle is to go into the room, have fun, and then forget all about it. I find if I get too worked up over booking a job or imagining what it could do for my career, I just twist myself up into knots and it’s impossible to take good care of my mental health if every ‘failed’ audition is taken as a personal reflection of my abilities.

The thing that I’ve learned over time with auditioning, is that my abilities may not factor into the decision at all! As long as I can prove I’m good enough to be considered, then a whoooole other score of factors come into play. Am I the look they’re after? Do they want someone more ethnically diverse? Do I look too similar to someone that’s already cast? Is my ‘vibe’ not quite what they were after? So many things that I have absolutely no control over, it would drive a person nuts trying to worry about them!

As an example, I was once placed on hold for a TV Commercial (which means that the producers were trying to decide between myself & normally one other person, and both of us have to keep the shoot date available until they can make up their minds). I didn’t book the gig, and didn’t think much more about it until I saw the commercial on TV a few months later and finally met my ‘competition’…

She was over 60 years old!

During that time we were both on hold, the producers weren’t tossing up between two similar actors trying to decide which one was ‘better’, they were looking at two completely different finished products and trying to decide which one conveyed the message they were after!

So it helps me to remember my TV Commercial ‘competition’ whenever I’m getting twisted up over a role. Once I’ve walked out of that audition room, my job is done.

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How difficult are open calls?

Open calls aren’t as big a thing in Australia as they apparently are overseas, as they’re not required by the unions. It’s mostly the US companies that come over here to audition (cruise ships, Universal & Disney) that have the big ‘cattle calls’ so they’re still a novelty for us Aussies. Having said that, I have attended a few of them!

The biggest difficulty attending an open call is that the day is long. Like, super long. You can be at that same studio for a full 9-hour work day, and only spend a maximum of 30minutes actually auditioning – around 2 minutes doing the vocal call, and the remainder of that time in a dance or vocal callback (if they like what they see in your first audition and want to test you a little more). And for the rest of that time? You wait. And you wait. And you wait.

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And that can be the fun part of open calls! There’s bound to be a friend or two that you haven’t seen in months, and it’s always good to make new connections as well. Cram a hundred highly-strung performers into a room and there will always be something interesting going on.

 

What do you look for in a role?

Ooo, a tricky question!

If it’s an audition that has come through my agent, then it’s something that I would only consider turning down if there was something in the material that I find seriously objectionable. Otherwise, I trust that my agent and the casting director have both looked at the work and found it worth their (and my) time.

If I find that I haven’t been working a lot and want to get back in front of a camera (or on stage), then I might start casting the net for independent or student work. These are the sorts of projects that I am much pickier with. I look for a well-written script that captures me, and a role that will hopefully challenge me but is also something that I would be believable in. Equally as importantly, I’m hunting for a professional team of people that are all working with the same goal in mind (creating great work in a tight time-frame). There’s nothing more frustrating than turning up for an unpaid day on set and then being put on ice for five hours because the crew are still ‘deciding on their setup’. I learned that mistake the hard way!

 


 

What do you think? Are my answers what you expected? I would love to know! There are still a bunch of fantastic questions waiting to be answered, including my theatre rituals, what it’s like to finish a show, and where I like to go on holiday!

Sound interesting? Make sure to subscribe and all those answers and more will be sliding into that inbox shortly…

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If you want to see more of me, you can check out my Instagram & Twitter, I would love to see you there!

Question Time!

On auditioning & my love life…

So I had an epiphany this week, and it may or may not be due to finally getting the gears churning on a new year of this acting game -> The process of auditioning (which, let’s be honest here, feels like it’s about 90% of being an actor) is exactly like playing the dating game.

I know, revolutionary.

 

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…Or not, but for those who haven’t gone through the endless saga that is auditioning, the metaphor is pretty close (and La La Land basically nailed the process. Still not ‘the best movie of the year!!’  UGH LET ME MAKE MY OWN DECISIONS HOLLYWOOD)

You primp and preen and say your prayers, maybe try to squeeze in one more visit to the gym. You shave, definitely shave. You run through conversations in your head, compulsively check the mirror, and pretend that this small moment means nowhere near as much to you as it actually does. And then when it comes, you smile, fake laugh at their jokes and think playitcoolplayitcoolplayitcool.

Will they like you? Are you what they’re looking for? Will you be the perfect match, or will you be left without that all-important kiss at the end of the evening? (And by kiss, I mean callback. Please don’t go kissing your Casting Director).

When you don’t get it, you enter that spiral of self doubt. Was it them? Was it you? Were you too funny? Not funny enough? Too fat? Too thin? Too much like the others? Not enough like the others? Did they notice that pimple that is about to erupt on your chin? Around and around, and not an answer in sight. The game seems endless. You’re on the verge of swearing off it altogether, but the thought of giving up is scarier than carrying on. What would you do, get a real job? How would you even manage all of that mystical grown-up money?

 

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When you’re younger, it feels like every single rejection is the end of it all, you’ll never be able to carry on. Then your heart gets tough, you become a little bit more jaded and take care to care a little less. You’re pickier about what you’re looking for, and like to think you’re more in control of the situation.

BUT every once in a while that one comes along- that one you didn’t see coming and most certainly didn’t expect to care about, not at all. This perfect match sneaks up on you so quietly that you don’t even realise you were planning a blissful future together with a home and 2.5 kids, so when -WHAM- you get the ‘that’s all we need for today, thank you’ (and why can no one in the industry ever say No?) It’s like a brick through all of your dreams and you realise that maybe you were never that tough to begin with, at least not where this potential soul mate was involved. You put on a brave face, smile, say Thank You and drag yourself home for a pity party.

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Some things help to patch over the aching void that you didn’t expect to have every again  – ice cream, action movies, absolute denial, swearing black and blue that this is the last time you’ll feel this way (as if). Just like a breakup, in a day or a week or a month, you’ll forget just how much this hurts, and go barrelling out again. Maybe your cards will tucked just that little bit closer to your chest, but let’s be honest again, isn’t the pain just the price we pay for the joy of caring?

If you want to see more of me, you can check out my Instagram & Twitter, I would love to see you there!

On auditioning & my love life…