Okay, so you’ll recall from last week’s column that I had the awesome opportunity to teach in Sydney for the last half of November. Rockstar. Really dang cool. I went over with fellow casting directors Matthew Barry, Lisa Beach, Lisa Fields, Joseph Middleton, Monika Mikkelsen, Paul Weber, and Gary Zuckerbrod and taught for The Australian Institute for Performing Arts (under the direction of Marg Haynes, in affiliation with Kari Harris Casting).
Each casting director taught a series of classes in auditioning, cold reading, breaking down scripts, nailing the read, etc. In addition to all of that, I was asked to do a series of “mini workshops” on moving to Los Angeles (and all of the prep work required before doing so), issues specific to kid actors (child labor laws, educational requirements), Self-Management for Actors, and avoiding scams (on any continent).
One of the other things I wanted to do while in Sydney was meet with as many agents and managers as possible. I figure, the world is getting smaller and we’re doing more and more casting from either side of a computer screen, less and less of it “the old way.” So, the more facetime I can score with anyone in this industry, the greater connection we’re going to have when we do our jobs together going forward.
So, in addition to meeting with a couple hundred actors, I met with a dozen agents and managers, and spend a buttload of time with casting directors from here and there. (And I ate seafood every day. And discovered that Northern California Chardonnay beats Australian Chardonnay hands-down… but their Sauvignon Blanc is pretty dang awesome. And I hung out with koalas and kangaroos and wombats! Oh, my!)
Well, one of my Aussie casting friends told me that she had been afraid to visit Los Angeles. She said that Sydney pretty much “starts on a no.” She said that there’s just this general sense of “can’t do it” about so many experiences. Actors may get an opportunity to meet with someone about a role, but they’re going to have to prove that they deserve that chance they’ve been given. They’re going in having to change someone’s mind. She figured, if Sydney started on a “no,” Los Angeles would surely start on a “hell, no!”
When she visited LA, she learned that our vibe is totally different. We’re open-armed, welcoming anyone, at whatever level, and saying, “Sure. Take a shot. Show me what you’ve got. I’ll look.” And yes, you have to deliver but you aren’t trying to change anyone’s mind. You’re being invited to just bring it. And when you do, you’re expected to bring it again.
That was crazy surprising for me to hear, but it absolutely made sense, the more agents and managers with whom I met. Certainly, there were those reps who were thrilled to meet with us, the visiting casting directors. They were eager to learn more about how we do our jobs in the states, while talking to us about their clients and who might be “America-ready” among them. They also wanted to know more about the AIPA program that brought us to their country and that would also be sending some of their actors out to us, here in Hollywood, within a few months. But there were also those who felt it kind of sucked that we were coming to their market, scoping out their best actors, encouraging them to come to LA, and therefore doing one of two things: 1. scooping up their top earners, or 2. sending people who weren’t ready out into the beast that is Los Angeles (knowing they’ll be battered and uncastable, upon their return).
Uh… wow. Okay.
So, when I first met someone who said, “We don’t want you to encourage our top actors to go to Los Angeles,” I was surprised. I mean, I don’t care where you live, I can guarantee you that there’s no ONE person in any actor’s life who is going to plant the seed of “move to Hollywood” if that’s not something that’s already itching in your soul. Just as there is no one person who could say, “Don’t go!” and change the mind of someone who is hell-bent on moving to a major market, there isn’t one person who MAKES someone move to Los Angeles. It’s either in you or it isn’t. And sometimes you can’t know for sure ’til you’re here. And even then, you can get here and learn it’s “something else” you’re meant to do. It’s casting, it’s producing, it’s writing, it’s directing, it’s representing talent, it’s publicity, it’s something acting-adjacent. Many of us got here chasing the on-camera dream only to learn that it was something else, here, we really wanted to do. But here was where. Period.
I do understand that agents and managers who represent working actors in minor markets anywhere would prefer not to lose their top clients to a major market. But they’re gonna. Just like most working actors are going to leave boutique agencies that pitched ’em before it was popular to do so for “the bigs” someday, it’s just a part of how it works, in most cases. Those who are going to make it big are going to have to GO big in order to do that. And sometimes that means someone is left behind. I say, be thrilled for your awesome client who evolved past what you’re able to help them achieve. If you’ve had a good run, hopefully they’re gonna thank you when they hold up their gold, shiny thing at a microphone someday anyway. Or at least name a child after you.
The larger part of the disturbance in my personal “force” came from the idea that we’re being irresponsible when we encourage a young actor who has the support of her family, a visa, a safe place to land here in LA, a flawless American accent, and some of the tightest-honed craft and natural ability we’ve seen to “get on a plane, now.”
When a talent agent scolded me as if I were a representative for the half-dozen other casting colleagues with me at AIPA who agreed that this particular actor really did need to be in Los Angeles, and soon, I raised an eyebrow and asked if it weren’t the above-mentioned issue (that he didn’t want his big earner going away) he might really be upset about. Nope. Turns out this actor has booked nothing in Sydney under his wing.
“So why can’t she come to LA?”
“Ah,” he replied, “If she’s not booking, why should she go to LA?”
Oh. Got it. He’s worried she won’t book. “She’s not your typical Hollywood beauty,” he said.
So I asked, “How many roles are right for her, here?” He said, “Very few.” “Right,” I said. “Very few will be right for her in LA too. But when one is, she’ll be the next Ugly Betty or Precious or Tracy Turnblad. And she can’t get that here.”
And, more importantly, I noted, was the fact that she has the support of her family, a visa, and the drive to be in Los Angeles. So, why not? Why not get out here and give it a go, while she’s young and enthusiastic and totally castable within a very specific niche?
Ah… “Because she’ll not make it in a year and then she’ll come back to Sydney broken. She’ll be bitter and she’ll have lost exactly what makes her so exciting to you, right now, which is that roughness, that shine that isn’t manufactured by Hollywood, that ‘it’ that makes you love the Aussies so much,” the agent said.
Augh! Who can know?
This particular actor’s trip to Los Angeles could be a life-changing experience in which she books the role of her dreams. Or it could be a dream-crushing experience in which she is scammed. Or she could meet her soulmate while here. Or determine a different path is hers. And if she were to stay in Australia, she could book the role of her dreams. Or she could book nothing and always wonder “what if.” Or… or… or….
So, I boarded my plane back to LAX, having had an amazing experience filled with laughs, connections with fellow casting directors I’ve admired for years, and even facetime with a koala. And the flight attendant for my section of the plane was on the first leg of his second-ever round-trip flight as a new employee of Virgin (the best freakin’ airline, ever, y’all). He was so excited. So was I. Heck, I idled at excited, even when I took a jet lag tumble down some marble stairs on Thanksgiving, earning me the title of “Gimpy McGee” for the rest of my trip. Just to travel across the world and experience so many things I never thought I’d encounter was phenomenal.
I chatted with the flight attendant and he talked about the differences in Australian passengers and American passengers. “I like it when we’re filled with Americans,” he said. “You’re all so excited.”
And y’know what? We are. I like to think we encourage people to live their dreams not because we want to snap up the talented people, taking them away from other markets, not because we don’t care whether they are or are not qualified to really make it, but instead because we really love encouraging people to live their dreams. Period. Because we know it can be done. Because we are doing it ourselves. Because we know there’s no stopping someone who really wants to move to Hollywood, and there’s no convincing someone who isn’t ready to BE ready. We just know it feels good, to us, to live our dreams, and we like to see others do it too.
To the actor friend who said, before I left for Sydney, “Whatever you do, don’t tell those Aussies to come to LA. We have enough competition as it is,” I say, “Honey, your competition is NOT your obstacle to booking work. That attitude is.”
There is no number of aligned, excited, fed-by-drive people on the planet that can keep another aligned, excited, fed-by-drive person from booking work. Sure, there are way more factors involved than will ever be understood or explained, but one thing I know for sure is this: When it’s yours, you book it. And that happens no matter where you are, no matter who you are.
So, to the lovely Aussie actors I met over the past couple of weeks, I say this: Have fun. Live your life. If Hollywood is calling, come check it out. Be sure it’s a right fit. Don’t make any premature moves (without a doubt, there is a TON of work you can do before you come anywhere close to booking your first visit, to be sure you hit the ground running), and don’t set an expiration date on your experience. Be where you want to be, doing what you want to be doing. If that lines up with Los Angeles, awesome. But know you’re dealing with the Super Bowl of Acting, here. And that means you train every day, you work hard for it, and you compete with people who want it even more and who work even harder… and the “win” is never about who deserves it most.
If you can be happy in the pursuit of that work at that level, awesome. Welcome home.
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001116.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.