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Thursday, 17 January 2013

Networking and begging.

I am desperate to leave this page. Desperate. But one last thing.

Networking and begging. Often exactly the same in the case of actors.

It may not actually help you. Maybe it will hurt your career but maybe, just maybe, this will work for you in miraculous ways that it's never worked for me.

My networking strategy is to shamelessly email all the directors and producers that I know of and introduce myself. Strangely enough, it's only resulted in one positive response. I've literally sent out hundreds of introduction emails. All of Perth, and some of Victoria and New South Wales film industry members, should have an email from me which includes my CV, a link to my showreel and a note saying, "Consider me for future productions." I make sure I've at least read their CV before I send them mine but that's just in case of the unlikely scenario that they start a dialogue with me and ask what made me contact them. Mostly directors respond to such an email with deathly silence or a "thanks, but no thanks," policy. This is frustrating but doesn't put me off. If they know I exist then I figure I have a better chance of popping into their head when they're trying to cast their latest project. Of course, I may pop into their head in the same way as a mosquito does and that may mean there are directors all over Australia swatting at their heads in annoyance because of me. But that kind of appeals to the sadist in me, anyway. A young director, during a short course that I did, informed us that directors don't do anything with these CVs and that it's better to just get an agent or appeal to a casting director. That may be the case, but not all directors are that disinterested. Most are, but not all. So it may still be worth a try.

I was searching through the Screen West website for anything that might be useful for an actor... it's generally a really good idea to stay up to date with projects in pre-production in Perth. But I stumbled across this little gem.

The Screen West Production Directory! 

This has all the crew you may ever need. A list of producers, directors, casting directors, actor's agents and much more. It is a goldmine of networking potential. Use it carefully and at your own risk. But you should definitely use it!

The other resource that I recommend you use (or happily abuse) is a list of casting directors from the Screen Actors Australia website.

For Victoria and New South Wales only, these lists have limited application for WA actors. I can inform you from my ample personal experience that an appeal for representation from an eastern agency will be responded to with either, "We're full" or "Are you moving here?" or "Sorry, that's just not practical." Casting directors are slightly more open minded, usually not responding at all or sometimes responding with, "Thank you, we'll keep you on our files, good luck."

So. Good luck.

Casting Calls and Audition Notices

All I want to do is abandon my laptop. I have had almost two months of minimal productivity and in my soul I want that to continue but my OCD tendencies are preventing me from doing so before I post a few practical resources for actors.

I have a blog called Casting Calls Wa and it collates all the audition notices and casting calls from various forums and puts them in one place. Hopefully the format is easy to read and use but if not, let me know and I'll gladly take any feedback that makes it user-friendly. In the meantime let me include a list of the places I go to look for auditions... just in case I go AWOL again. (Don't worry, I'll try harder not to.)
  •  http://www.starnow.com.au/ this site can be helpful for providing clues to WA productions but ultimately, unless you're paying the subscription fee ($5.99 for 6 months is their best deal) you won't have a lot of luck here.
  • https://www2.at2casting.com/join/artist/info is another subscriber's site which I've heard is quite good but I haven't subscribed to myself because of my stubborn unwillingness to avoid paying money before I make it. (I know what they say. "You have to spend money to make money... yadda yadda... I don't care.) 
  • http://www.i4casting.com.au/index.html is a casting director's site which you should get in contact with to get your name out there. It may not be fruitful but being known by a secretary or intern is still better than not being. 
  • http://castingsandauditions.com.au/ is a national casting forum that regularly has theatre productions and sometimes local film productions. 
  • http://www.d2a.net.au/ is another very useful national casting forum that has both theatre and film projects. 
  • http://www.open-casting-calls.info/ is only truly useful if you're in the USA but it's nice to dream and know what's in production. Because what if being in the next Star Wars film only meant a journey to LA. Wouldn't you do it? (Don't answer if you're not a fan.)
  • http://www.auditionsfinder.com/ is another USA based auditions site. It's got casting calls for blockbusters, high-budget series and lots more. Mostly seeking extras and again, not the most useful for a WA actor!
  • https://www.fti.asn.au/forums/cast-crew is our widely used, local Film and Television institute classified forum. This is free to sign up to and easy to use. As it is through a training and education institution most of the projects submitted are for student productions but it does have broader use and often music videos or independent film-makers will submit their casting calls there, too. Hard to come by paid work, however. 
  • http://www.facebook.com/castingcallsauditions?fref=ts is the first of our Facebook pages dedicated to auditions and casting calls. However, it is predominantly for USA use. 
  • http://www.facebook.com/Audition.Australia is an Australian Facebook page with limited use. There are some regular posters, however, with whom you may get lucky. 
  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/JC-Casting/87774001821 the Facebook page of one of Perth's two main casting directors. JC Casting will sometimes post casting calls and the page is used by many independent producers that want to cast their project. 
  • http://www.facebook.com/CastingAustralia is a national casting director's Facebook page. It doesn't often have anything useful but is worth it for the occasional notice. 
  • http://www.facebook.com/debbie.thoy is the Facebook timeline of a local film-maker and industry networker. Although she generously hosts two or three groups dedicated to casting calls and industry biz, her page is often littered with others' audition notices, too. 
  • http://www.facebook.com/groups/22550047639/ is a Perth Auditions group which I believe is hosted by Debbie Thoy. Regularly used for all sorts of posts. 
  • http://www.facebook.com/groups/actorslounge/ is possibly another Debbie Thoy hosted page which has the potential to be a great networking site for actors to share their audition notices but is mostly just me posting interviews with creatives... still worth a look, though. 
  • http://www.facebook.com/groups/perthfilmnetwork/ is the main Debbie Thoy party page. This group is very active and often has audition notices for paid and pro-bono work. 
  • http://www.facebook.com/groups/79847021126/ is the equivalent of the above for the younglings. 
  • http://www.facebook.com/groups/actingclassesinperth/?fref=ts is the Facebook page for Loren Johnson. While predominantly just the face of his Acting Classes in Perth business, occasionally the page hosts casting calls for local productions.
If you have any more of these useful sites please submit them! The more resources I have, the less work you have to do... in theory. 

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Working with Actors, Take 2

I asked Richard Hyde to let me know what things actors do that annoy writers! I was expecting a list as long as my arm, actually my arms sort of resemble those of a tyrannosaurus rex, so longer. I thought, "Surely, the way actors self-righteously say, 'my character would never say that!' must grate at him?"

But alas, Mr. Hyde has a different perspective to offer...

Actor Molly Kerr wrote a wonderful guest article for my blog about what actors look for in a screenplay. In return she asked me to write about the things actors do that annoy writers and how they could approach that relationship more productively. I thought about this, started writing… and was hopelessly stuck. I tried humour to ease my way in; didn’t work. Tried to jot down points as they came to me; definitely didn’t work. A writer having writer’s block writing about actors having actor’s block with writers? Far too meta.

Here’s the reason. In the writing process I have very little to do with actors. The most important creative collaborator, for me, is the director. Specifically, we are talking tone, themes, possibly the visual look of the film, maybe budget, definitely characters, breaking the story but rarely, if ever, who would be playing the characters we are breathing life into.

That’s not to say I don’t write with actors in mind. I absolutely do. Some well-known, some local. Often it’s a way in to crystallise your vision of a character. Sometimes you know an actor would be perfect for the part so you write it for them. Whether they get cast if the movie ever gets up is a completely separate discussion.

My experience with short films is similar. When it comes time to shoot the film my job is done and if I get invited on set I pretty much stay out of the way. It’s the director’s province and having multiple voices talking to actors about character or story can be confusing and (though hopefully not!) contradictory. Having said that, it depends on the director. I’ve worked with a director who was more than comfortable for me to answer actors’ questions and literally ‘set the scene’ before “Action” was called.

The only exception to date is where I was asked to watch improvisations and develop a short script from the results. That was an enjoyable process and resulted in two scripts being written and shot. I was also writing for actors ranging in age from 16 to 20 so there was far more input about the ‘voice’ of the characters and, for one of the scripts, theme.

Yet still I have not spoken about how actors annoy me as a writer. Maybe it’s because it’s framed as a negative. So let’s do it in reverse – what I like.

Using the improvised scenario, there was a character that, in many ways, was the token “bad guy”. This was mainly as a plot device to spark a conflict that would resonate throughout the script. The actor playing that role was uncomfortable – with valid reasons – with the portrayal. He was prepared to fight for his character and while I still needed aspects for the conflict I tweaked it to redeem him in the end.

Now, when I say “fight” I don’t mean histrionics and slanging matches. It was a quiet word and an observation. That’s all I needed. The reason I like that so much is because the actor was protecting his character which means he had bought in and, for want of a better term, cared enough to make sure he was well serviced in the writing.

I like actors who ask intelligent questions about their characters and the story. I like actors who are prepared. Most of all I like actors who respect the writing and what writers do. What may seem simply like a one page scene may have been written and rewritten many times. None of it should be arbitrary. We’re not making stuff up just for the fun of it. Set-ups and pay-offs are critical. Blow off a line or an action and the scene may still play… except you just lost the set-up for a scene five, ten, or twenty pages away.

If I’m doing my job properly there should be plenty of room for you to create your character and inhabit him or her within your process. I try not to be prescriptive but there are beats that need to be hit for story and character within the greater arc of the story, especially for features. Trust me with that. Writers spend drafts and, in some cases, years getting those beats and arcs right. If you go “off script” you may not understand the ramifications and knock-on effects. For me, structure is everything – tamper with that and a train wreck awaits… but that’s maybe a note for things that directors do that annoy writers.

If you have the opportunity to give me feedback before a script is locked either through rehearsals or even on set (with the director’s consent) I will listen if you approach me respectfully and with the best interests of the film at heart. I don’t have time for divas though. The goal always has to be to make the work better not just your role at the expense of others or the overall film.

There’s really no magical formula. Film is a collaborative medium but in many ways a hierarchical one as well. I love writing for good actors, smart actors, intelligent and perceptive actors. I like the opportunity to hear their insight into what it is I have written even though that doesn’t happen as often as maybe I would like. Good actors respect good writing and vice versa.

It’s when agendas and egos and other ephemera intrude that things go awry. I’ll repeat – the only goal is to make the best it can possibly be. If that’s not your motivation then that’s very likely to annoy me! I’m always open to have a genuine conversation about the script but just remember, a screenwriter serves many masters, and ultimately it will come back to those things that were discussed maybe as far back as the inception of the project – theme, tone, structure, specific story beats – that will determine any changes that are made.

Finally, the character you are playing may have been created within the fractured recesses of my imagination but you need to breathe life into them. I’m trusting you to protect them, fight for them, do justice to them. In essence, care about them. Do that and I won’t be annoyed at all!

Richard Hyde

For more of Richard's perspectives visit http://rwhyde.blogspot.com.au/ and follow his misadventures!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The Ash Girl

So I have a few friends in an upcoming Harbour Theatre production called 
The Ash Girl. 

First, there's Nicole Miller, she portrays the Ash Girl or Ashie. Nicole is a very talented make-up artist but this time she's not standing behind stage, making sure people look old when they're supposed to and not shiny when they're not supposed to. No! Nicole is putting all her charm and vulnerability on the stage. I can't wait to see her awesome performance as The Ash Girl! Everyone who's seen a preview is seriously impressed!

Then we meet Teigan Isobel (credited as Teigan Downing, just to confuse you, Harbour likes to disregard actors' stage names) as Gluttontoad. I can assure you that Teigan is anything but gluttonous or toad-like. I met Teigan on a set shooting a party scene for a feature film. Unlike the complaining and sour-faced Molly Kerr, Teigan was jolly and enthusiastic and friendly through the entire shoot. I'm sure that the Harbour cast and crew have had just as much of a hoot working with her on stage!

And speaking of a 'hoot'... the man playing Owl is the one and only Trevor Dhu! I played alongside Trevor in Jane Eyre and Trevor directed me in The 39 Steps and I got to watch two of his wonderful perfomances. One was as Bondi Bitch in Ladies Down Under, directed by Peter Kirkwood and the other was at the Melville, Life After George, where he played the title character's best friend and the confidante of the lovely ladies he left behind. This is something that carries into reality, as Trevor always has everyone's back.

If these local legends fail to whet your appetite for theatre, maybe this media release will... :D

Directed by Nicola Bond and Peter Kirkwood

Enter a world of mythical proportions with a Fairy in the Mirror, a handsome Prince, brave field mice, and a stepmother with only the best of intentions. Olivier and New York drama Critic’s Award winner, British playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker has written an expansive adaptation of the Brothers Grimm version of Cinderella. This exciting Australian Premiere production that is Harbour Theatre’s final season for 2012, is being brought to life by the award winning directorial team of Peter Kirkwood and Nicola Bond whose previous directing credits include the Harbour Theatre smash hits Ladies Day & Ladies Down Under, Oliver Twist, Sleeping Beauty, Dracula, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights to name but a few.

The story of Cinderella has never been so strongly conceived! The Ash Girl is a rich folk tale with hints of allegory, myth and fantasy. There’s still a slipper, a Prince and a wish-granting Fairy, but the journey to the Royal Ball is fraught with danger. Only when she finds the strength to confront the monsters lurking in the forest—and in her heart—will Ash Girl regain her missing happiness.

Best director award winner Kirkwood and Bond say “The monsters that The Ash Girl must confront in order to find happiness are those which lurk inside all of us and these days particularly young people making this story a fable for our times.” 

Nicole Miller (from South Fremantle) is delighted to have been chosen to play the part of The Ash Girl from over 40 auditionees and states “The Ash Girl is a complex character with many of the challenges that Ashie has faced in the past and continues to face, so applicable to young people of today. This role is very different to the Good Fairy that I portrayed in Sleeping Beauty for Harbour Theatre in 2008 and is very exciting for me. Over the past few years I have qualified as a Make-up artist and have therefore been behind the scenes for a lot of Harbour’s productions. This time I can put away my greasepaint and brushes and enjoy being on stage.”

Bond and Kirkwood add “The cast of over twenty people that we have selected have embraced all facets of this complex production with enthusiasm and commitment. They bring to life the humour and the dark realities of this rich fairy story with huge amounts of talent and energy. This is a show not to be missed”.

The Ash Girl plays at Harbour Theatre on November 30th, December 1st, 5th, 7th, 8th, 12th, 14th & 15th @ 8.00pm with matinees on Sunday December 2nd and 9th @ 2.00pm.

Bookings through Ticketek – www.ticketek.com.au $24.50 full, $22.50 concession and $19.50 f./T Student and child < 15. Members bookings 9433 6260 or email tickets@harbourtheatre.org.au

For further information on this and other Harbour Theatre productions as well as membership enquiries visit www.harbourtheatre.org.au

2013 in Harbour Theatre’s 50th anniversary of entertaining the community – if you want to find out how to be a part of this important milestone visit our website.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

"Sorry Red Camera Operator, We Can't Pay You!"

Actual quote.

Or near enough to the actual quote to make my point. (And possibly get me sued?)

Now, it's important to note that actors will work for free (or for food) when they feel they are part of a team and that everyone is putting in the same commitment for the same reward. Usually this is a non-monetary sense of achievement and a beautiful, or at least passable, piece of art that will last for as long as digital does. If the creator needs to pay a specialty service to like a lepidopterist or something, to make the project happen then the actors are really likely to understand and not feel ripped off. But why should one person that contributes to the film significantly, like an actor, not get paid for the benefit of another team member, like a Red camera operator?

The context of this 'actual quote' is an online discussion of the logistics of paying one's actors. The person who said this was using a slippery slope fallacy... or possibly a straw man fallacy (I can't remember, it's been years since my first year philosophy unit, Critical Thinking, introduced me to all these terms) to conclude that it's better not to pay your actors, just in case it leads to not being able to pay your crew. Or even more devastatingly, not being able to pay yourself.

All hell broke lose. Actors everywhere suddenly erupted into diatribes of indignation against the stand that this producer was taking at our expense. The actors decided en masse to join the MEAA and boycott any producers that thought it was okay to exploit their passion and commitment for their own personal financial gain (or puffed up reputation with their film-making buddies). There were online protests and a few public demonstrations when actors were told they 'wouldn't find work in this town again, partner' because of their lack of cooperation with the unjust and corrupt system. The original forum went into meltdown, trying to cope with the traffic between angry actors fighting courageously for their right to share in the booty and the producer who, I'm sure innocently, suggested that actors really don't count in the creative process enough to count in the budget. Finally lawyers had to get involved when actors started sending the producer bits of their flesh, scabs and dead skin, in a symbolic gesture. 'No more blood and tears for you, Mr. Producer, Sir,' the dried up flesh seemed to say.

Oh, wait. Sorry. I'm mistaken. That didn't happen at all.

A couple of screenwriters stood up for actors: suggested that it was reasonable for actors to at least ask, on the projects for which they were being expected to offer their time and talent for free, whether anyone else was being paid. They were, rather predictably, berated by the producer and friends and accused of being communists. (Because that's a bad thing?)

Where were the actors? Did they stay silent? Did they watch nervously, reasonably concerned that any interest in money would make them undesirable for future casting? Did being a dime a dozen actor mean they settled for being a dozen actors per gratis? Did the actors secretly long for someone in the upper film-making echelons to stand up for them and say, 'wait, it's okay to want to be paid for your time and talent, especially when everyone else actually is being paid for your time and talent' and hope that the producers paused long enough to hear the growl of their starving bellies?

Actors' pay day.

No. The actors LIKED these comments.

Too bad these actors can't afford to put themselves through a critical thinking course. 

Extra Ordinary Bites.

"Whoops, we didn't organise enough food, umm..."

Maybe he was going to declare that he'd take us all to a nearby pub and pay the tab in apology for not catering for us properly. We could have chips and pies and dips. Mmmm... dips.

"...Take half of what you'd usually eat."

That was the organisational and problem solving skills of the Assistant Extras Coordinator from a filmset I was on recently.

To be fair, he was just the spokesperson, but I feel like shooting the messenger.

I already don't like being an extra. There I said it. My problems with it are as follows:

1. I'm not the main character.
This is challenging. I want people to notice me and preferably to adore me. If I'm just one of a crowd the chances of this are significantly reduced.

2. I'm not acting.
I want to be acting. I don't understand how texturing a background is required anywhere in an actor's apprenticeship. All it proves is they can stay positive in the face of absolutely demeaning treatment. (And I failed at this aspect, just ask the Extras Coordinators that have worked with me. I feel genuine pity for them by the five hour mark- that is five hours of being onset, ready to shoot, without having a camera pointed at me yet.)

3. I don't get anything out of it.
Oh, the networking, the new friendships, the experience. Those are great. I love those aspects of production, whatever sort of production I get them from. However, if I don't have at least thirty seconds of material to choose from for my showreel, I get kind of resentful. That resentment increases if I can't even promote my involvement in the production because anyone watching wouldn't have seen me at all. Why did I spend twenty hours on your set if no one was ever going to see me there?

So it's established. I don't like being an extra. Okay, sometimes I like being an extra. If you have me on set, working, straight away then I'm just happy to get to practice my craft. Also, if I get to wear cool make-up or costumes then you've probably bought yourself another two hours of contentment from me.

Though, I must be specific, this is only relevant for those unpaid extra roles. If you're paying me to be there, I'll pack you a lunch, if you like.

For unpaid work as an extra, I usually want to convert to Christianity so I can curse God to his face. But for whatever reason, up until recently, I've been under the impression that I need the experience of being an extra to improve my craft and the networking aspect to further my career. Even knowing that I would probably be invisible in the finished product, I've tried hard to get what I can out of the immediate experience.

One of the things I got out of the experience was FOOD!

Extra: will work for food!

It's really a very simple policy: feed me well on set.

Here are three hard and fast rules to go by if you're planning on having extras on your set. Unpaid extras, remember. If you're paying them then see what the union says. They're not my problem.

1. Any shoot under three hours- you can get away without feeding us so much as a breadcrumb. Any shoot three to five hours- please provide some refreshments. Any shoot between six and eight hours- you really must provide a substantial meal. Any shoot over eight hours- you really should provide a substantial meal and refreshments throughout. At all times provide water. And for goodness' sake, cater to vegetarians!

2. If for whatever reason you have failed to organise yourself properly and catering has failed to satisfy the hunger of your dedicated team of background texturers, DO NOT DISMISS THIS PROBLEM! You deserve to be mobbed and have a full-blown riot on your hands if you think that is an acceptable managing of affairs. Call the pizza place. Call the sandwich place. Call your mum. Call anybody! Put it on Tony Abbott's tab. Tell the director it was a magwie attack! Do anything. But don't leave your extras hungry, man. That's not on.

3. If for whatever reason you suck and are NOT catering, you MUST tell the extras when they are signing up. Don't let them come unprepared. The day before the shoot you should remind them so they can get their mum or boyfriend or trained platypus to pack them the meals you should have been providing. If you aren't providing water, let them know this, too. You may have fewer extras for your honesty, sure, but on the other hand, people that volunteer to be extras are often in it out of a sense of altruism or a misguided idea that it might be fun or beneficial to them (admittedly, most of the extras I've come across have seemed happy just to be there. It kind of makes me feel bad for being such a misery guts but the chip on my shoulder is there for a reason). Exploit these characteristics to your benefit and the fact that you aren't feeding them could become a real gimmick to attract their attendance.

So that's it. You've learnt that I'm not in the slightest bit altruistic and that I like to eat. Maybe I should censor myself a bit more effectively?

Catering suggestion for your next production.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Triple Threats

This year I have met a lot of talented people. Last year, too.

At the end of 2011 I was introduced to the term "triple threat." Apparently, this is someone that can sing, dance and act.

However, I have met people that are multitalented and creative in other ways that deserve the recognition of this coveted title.

Let me introduce you to a few.


 Sarah Cosstick has been singing and dancing onto our musical theatre stages for years! I first met Sarah during the rehearsal period for The 39 Steps, directed by Trevor Dhu, where she portrayed Margaret, the crofter's wife, and Mrs. Jordan. She also sang live and choreographed not only her own original dance piece for the West End Music Hall scenes but a two person dance for herself and her on-stage husband, Christopher Kenworthy. Sarah ensured the quality of her performance by rehearsing before the show started each evening and raised the morale of the cast by baking delicious cupcakes for us! Sarah was directed by Trevor Dhu, again, in West Side Story, starring as Maria and received great reviews for her role as Cosette in Les Miserables, directed by Eileen Frith.


The 2007 WA Screen Award for Directing was awarded to Christopher Kenworthy for Some Dreams Come True. Christopher has two Master Shots volumes to his name, with expert cinematography techniques and tips. He has written screenplays, plays, short stories, poems, novels, instructional guides, online tutorials and blogs. He also draws, sculpts, paints and photographs. Oh and he's a magician, he performed in a whole bunch of magic shows with Matt Penny at The Blue Room over the years. The first time I met Chris, he told me he worked with software. At that point he was portraying Edward Rochester for a Nicola Bond directed production of Jane Eyre. He went on to portray Professor Jordan in The 39 Steps, along with dizzying array of other characters. He is a professional freelance creative.


Meet the director of my latest short film and the make-up artist that created the creepy zombie face that scared the wits out of the children I live with. Natalie is an ECU film student and a director, videographer and self-taught make-up artist. (Natalie is gorgeous and I could have shown you that, but this photo demonstrates her FIRST attempt to do zombie make-up, on herself, and I wanted you to see the impressive results.) She will pursue her career in London and South Africa, where she is interested in creating promotional documentaries for local industries. As a director, Natalie is very aware of the camera and her actors. She balances team work and leadership. As an actor you always feel like you're in safe hands, working with Natalie. If you want to see what she can do with a camera when left to her own devices visit her blog.

There are so very many more people that I want to introduce you to, and I will. But I need to get their permission first so you will just have to wait. But trust me, this town is brimming with talent and these people are a pleasure to work with, I hope you will be as lucky as me in the near future as you indulge your passion for performing and creating.