Recently, I went to a casting for a feature film here in LA. The usual transpired, it was in the Valley which with traffic (and there is always, always traffic in LA) is an almost hour long drive from my apartment in West Hollywood, sometimes more. It was a balmy 100 degrees (LA is in a constant state of sweltering heat). Despite the usual challenges, I arrive with five minutes to spare, deeply impressed with myself for not being late. I have my script in tow and a mild whole body sweat that I’m trying to pass off as a general glow. I sit in a packed waiting room; the actor sitting next to me me tells me that they’re running an hour behind. Excellent. I wait, I run over my script, I eat a snack in my bag, I stare at my phone, time passes. Eventually after an hour and fifteen minutes, I am called into the casting room. As I walk in, I am surprised by just how many people are in this room, mostly men. Very little is said to me. Someone asks me to slate and to begin the first scene; I barely know where the reader is.read more
Diversity in casting simply means that our screens reflect the true diversity of our world. This ensures we are engaging with content showcasing authentic portrayals of our daily lives. According to a recent US census, disabled people make up 19% of the population meaning nearly 1 in every 5 Americans live with a disability. That is an alarming statistic, especially when you stop to consider whether these numbers are being accurately reflected on our screens.
“When you think of a director, you think of a man with a baseball cap on, staring at a monitor. You probably don’t think of a Katherine Bigalow and that’s what needs to change.”
Parity is the state of being equal, regardless of status, pay and gender. Parity within the film industry means more women working at all levels, the goal being to have women working from the top down and the bottom up. It means more women on set, behind the camera and in all roles helping to shape and form the narrative landscape of our film and television and the stories we allow into our lives. The value coming not just from a position of fairness and equality but also that of just good story telling from a female perspective.
‘Are you feeling a bit shaken? Maybe fearful and doubtful and completely, utterly, wildly terrified? Good. Keep going.’
– Victoria Erickson
A couple of weeks ago I was having coffee with my friend who is also an actor. Discussing life, I asked him, ‘what would you do if you weren’t an actor?’
He replied, ‘I don’t know, I’ve never thought about it.’
Time stood still. The world stopped turning. I forgot to breathe. I’m sorry what? Say that again. You have never thought about it?
What kind of magical utopia must my friend be living in, to have never, EVER, even considered the possibility that he may, at some point need a job other than acting. To have never even contemplated a world in which he could not financially support himself through acting. I was stunned.
Suddenly I began to wonder, am I the only person, specifically actor that regularly doubts acting as a career choice? Am I meant to be brimming with certainty?
I mean, just that very morning, first thing upon opening my eyes, I had found myself mentally listing all the careers I could pursue if I never worked as an actor ever again.
Was I the only person walking around with these thoughts?
The theatre is the oldest form of story telling, predating even writing and has always held an important kind of currency in the world. The theatre encourages and allows society to fully examine what it means to be human, acting as a kind of mirror to society and ourselves.
David Mamet said “the theatre is where people go to hear the truth.”
In our current political and global climate, the role of theatre, storytelling and ‘the truth’ is perhaps more important and necessary now than ever before.
Have you ever been to an audition, walked out and asked yourself the following questions?
- What the actual hell am I doing with my life?
- Who even am I?
- Was that a practical joke?
- Am I the world’s worst actor?
- Would setting myself on fire in front of the casting director have been less painful than that casting?
If the answer is yes, then cool – SAME!
If the answer is no then congratulations, you’re a unicorn.
After reading that, it may come as no surprise to you that I have been to some pretty embarrassing auditions. I have been auditioning for professional work for many years and it’s only been the past 12 months I have come to better understand the beast that is auditioning.
“Successes are a bonus, but life is made of the process of following your passion.”
October last year, I was sitting on my couch on a rainy Sunday night, throwing myself a pity party. The party involved me sitting in sweats, eating Postmates, and watching murder mysteries. I hadn’t left the house for the entire day. I was ignoring text messages and just generally feeling really sorry for myself. I had been to countless auditions that month and hadn’t booked a single job. I felt lost. To top it all off, and I had acute bronchitis. I mean oh my god, how long do you have?
“The challenge that most actors face is learning to live their life without a sense of certainty.”
A few years ago, I was the maid of honour at a friends wedding. At the wedding reception, as part of the bridal party, I was introduced to the wedding guests—a huge room filled with close to 200 people. Afterwards, I went and sat down and a friend came over to speak to me. She told me she was surprised after watching me be introduced to the room that I seemed shy and somewhat uncomfortable with the attention. I told her that I often felt shy and found such a huge room filled with people looking at me intimidating. She responded, “But you’re an actor. Isn’t that the point?”
Well, yes and no. And I guess yes.
That conversation struck me for many reasons, most strongly because it was assumed that because I am an actor I am always confident, always looking to speak publicly, that I love attention, and I don’t get nervous.
Here’s the thing about that: none of it is true.
After a tape was put in front of US agents, Australian actor Ben O’Toole began making trips to Los Angeles. A 2011 WAAPA graduate and an already working film, television, and theatre actor in Australia, Ben felt unsure about the decision to make the move. However, in Feb 2016, after shooting Hacksaw Ridge, and with a big push from his US agents, he finally did it. He gave himself five weeks to get seen and go to auditions. A year later Ben has three US feature films under his belt., including Everybody Loves Somebody, a romantic comedy with Ben starring alongside Karla Souza, currently showing in US cinemas.
In my latest addition to the L.A Survival Guide, Ben discusses nerves, last minute auditions, finding inspiration in LA, and why it should always be about the work.
In mid 2014, I packed my bags and left my lovely, happy life in Sydney to move to Los Angeles to further pursue acting. I had lived there briefly in 2011. My then US agent sent me out for castings and meetings, and I had retained one resounding feeling towards the cement city of LA—distain.
After this short visit in 2011, I returned to Sydney determined to continue with my lovely life, however I could not shake the feeling that if I didn’t suck it up and officially make the move to LA, I was going to regret it. So three years later I finally did it, somewhat begrudgingly, filled with a sense of naivety and very little cash. I found a crappy apartment in the worst part of Hollywood and hoped for the best. Two and a half years later, I’m still considered a newbie in Los Angeles, and I still learn about this town and industry every day.
There are, however, two things I can say with total certainty—moving to LA to act has been personally and professionally the hardest, most challenging experience of my life, and without doubt, the best and most rewarding one. People talk a lot of smack about LA, but if you’re considering the big move from the beautiful shores of Australia because you feel there is something here for you, then I urge you to take the risk.
Here are a few tips and tricks I learnt along the way.