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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!