Wednesday, 17 February 2010

To be or Not to be an Actor (or 'So you want to be an Actor?' Part 2)

The other day I wrote a post about the course taking place at the Tobacco Factory Theatre during Half Term. Well, the course is well under way and today I popped along with my agent to talk about ‘being an actor’ and all things agent-actor related, so this post is largely for those who attended the talk, but not exclusively aimed at them.

I mentioned a couple of books which are listed with links at the bottom of this post and I will try to cover points that may have been confused or I never returned to explain during the discussion. If you have any other questions, either ask in a ‘comment’ at the bottom of this post or email me.

Is there work available in Bristol and the South West and what kind of work is it?

Yes there is work available in the locality and in every discipline (theatre, film, television and radio).

However, just because it is made in Bristol does not mean the audition will be in Bristol. It is very common to be asked to audition in London even though the entire production will be created in Bristol.

Should I dress like the character in an audition?

This probably became a bit confusing for those of you who had fallen into the deadly post-lunch switch-off phase as ideas went back and forth across the room.

Essentially, the only thing you need to do is dress ‘appropriately’ for an audition, which can mean different things depending on the audition. We all agreed that in theatre you are less likely to need to dress like the character than you are for a TV or film audition. As Caroline correctly pointed out, you only ever reflect your interpretation of the character and this isn’t necessarily how the director sees the character, so this could have the opposite effect by making them think you are unsuitable.

The examples Lou gave of me turning up ‘in character’ were specific auditions where we both knew that the character's appearance differed so drastically to my natural look, I needed to demonstrate that I could achieve the look required.

What Lou was also trying to convey is the trust she places in an actor when she sends them to an audition; she needs to know that an actor understands how they are perceived and that they are prepared to do whatever they can to give themselves the best chance in an audition.

‘Representation’ is a Two-Way street

This is something we didn’t cover in the session, but leads on from the above point.
Your agent represents you to potential employers and you represent the agency when you audition and work as an actor.

An agent needs a good reputation so that they can attract business, including casting directors (I’ll explain who they are in the minute) who contact them with casting opportunities. Equally, you need an agent with a good reputation so that you stand a chance of getting auditions and hopefully work. How you present yourself (not just how you dress, but making sure you know your lines and turn up on time) reflects on you and the other members of the agency, and how other members present themselves reflects on you. Therefore, you need to make sure you are prepared for casting opportunities in every way possible so that the cycle keeps going. Basically it’s like this:

Well prepared actor = happy casting people = they like the agency = they send future castings to the agent = agent trusts well prepared actor = agent puts actor up for more work

This also means that you need to research potential agents (as best you can) before you approach them, because if they have a bad reputation (it might not be because of the behaviour of their actors, it could be that they’ve upset a lot of casting people or they are known for not paying their actors) the diagram looks more like this:

Agent has bad reputation = no one wants to deal with that agent = no one sends them casting opportunities or they don’t select their actors for audition = hardly any opportunities for work = no point in having the agent, they're doing you more harm than good

What is a Casting Director?

Good question. Not all productions have one, but the larger a production is, the more likely it is to have a Casting Director.

Quite simply, a Casting Director is the person in charge of finding actors suitable to audition for the roles in a given production. Crucially, and perhaps slightly confusingly, they do not decide if you get the job that is usually down to the director and producer. However, they often have a lot of experience of working with actors and are consulted by those who make the final decisions.

Since Casting Directors are the people who could potentially select you for an audition they are equally as important as agents if you are trying to find work as an actor. This means that lots of actors will write to Casting Directors when looking for work, but as with agents, you need to approach them in a particular way and if you want to know more, it’s worth reading about how to do this before you make contact (I’m not going to write about it here as there’s lots to cover and there are different opinions on the subject, so it’s worth researching this separately).

Books I Mentioned and Other Things that may be of Interest

Here are the two books I mentioned (click on the links to see them on Amazon):

Here are a couple of other books which may be of interest:
The Actors’ Yearbook – covers some elements you find in Contacts and has useful articles
Adventures of a No Name Actor – the reality of being an actor means it’s not all glitz and glamour
A Shakespeare Glossary – modern explanations of almost all of Shakespeare’s words, it’s also useful for GCSE/A Level English Literature.

Finally, if you think you might be interested in becoming an actor, write down the names of everyone you have met and worked with on the course. Networking is a really important part of being an actor and you never know who you may bump into again or need to contact on your journey to becoming an actor…

I hope you all enjoy the course and I wish you the best of luck with whatever you choose to do in the future. If there’s anything you forgot to ask about or have thought about since, either ask it in a ‘comment’ below or email me.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

So you want to be an Actor?

Yes, yes I do.

Oh, you’re not asking me...

Well, if you were, and I was between the ages of 14 and 16, I’d ask you to send me to the Tobacco Factory this Half Term so that I could find out.

SO YOU WANT TO BE AN ACTOR? Is the brilliant week-long course taking place at the Theatre from Monday 15th – Friday 19th February, combining skill-based workshops and industry tutorials aimed at providing an insight into the acting profession.

Now in its second year, the course is led by Bristol-based director and former actress Caroline Hunt. As a director she has worked with companies including the Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre, and she has taught extensively at the East 15 Theatre School. I know her from my days as part of the Bristol Old Vic Young Company, when she directed me in Ibsen’s The League of Youth (one of my favourite productions I performed with the company).

Caroline developed the first course with the Tobacco Factory in 2009, and between them they have created a course that enables students to work with professional directors and performers to explore actor training. There will be dedicated classes on areas such as voice and movement, allowing development of existing skills as well as introducing new techniques.

Perhaps, most exciting of all, are the masterclasses. Why? If you’re seriously considering becoming an actor, here is the chance to practice what is arguably the most important ingredient in the recipe for an actor’s success... NETWORKING. Masterclass leaders include Chris Donnelly (a frequent performer with Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory and co-ordinator of their education programme), Gary Owsten (voice and speech tutor and the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and director of the Bristol Acting Academy) and the fabulous Andy Burden (his work includes Alice Through the Looking Glass and A Christmas Carol for the Tobacco Factory Theatre) – if I wanted to be an actor I would love the opportunity to be in a masterclass led by Andy...wait, I am an actor and I still want to be in a masterclass led by Andy!

There will also be an opportunity to find out a bit about the ‘business’ side of being an actor, with insiders’ thoughts on subjects including the pros and cons of drama school and working with agents.

So, if you’re considering a career as an actor, or have a teenager who has announced a desire to ‘tread the boards’, this could be just what you are looking for...

For further information, including cost and how to book, visit the Tobacco Factory website.