ACTORS - DO YOU CHOOSE WHERE YOU LIVE, OR DOES IT CHOOSE YOU?
When I arrived in London in February last year, I was so excited to have the privilege to train in a country that produces some of the greatest actors in show business and to experience another great city for actors, after living in Prague, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Yet now, after a year and half, I’m again convinced that LA is the place for me to be. I’ll be writing about that in more detail on my personal blog.
Yet it left me wondering whether a place chooses you or if you choose it? In my last post What actors could learn from travelling, I mentioned that I read a lot of travel blogs. One of the things I noticed a lot of travellers experienced was coming to a place and realising that’s it – this is the place for them. So I went on Facebook and Twitter to ask my fellow actors how they feel about it.
I got replies from actors based both in the UK and the USA, and all of them agreed on the importance of placing yourself in one of the main markets, as that is where the jobs are. However, I also believe you have to really WANT to be where you are based, otherwise you won’t be happy.
From the answers I’ve been reminded of how different our paths are. For some actors, the decision about where to live came with time and figuring out what they are best at – finding their niche helped them place themselves in the most suitable market. Some have tried various markets to see what fits them best, such as Andrea Shreeman, who tried three places (Washington D.C., NYC and LA) before finding herself settling down in LA. Others said they keep their options open, considering a move if there’s an opportunity. The rest weren’t tempted to go elsewhere.
In a business like this, it’s also important who you know. The rise of social media has changed the face of show business, with contacts and relationships often starting via these platforms. Also, the Internet has changed the way many auditions are handled these days – it’s becoming a common thing to tape your audition and send it over. I recently read an interview with Eve Myles, who apparently did her audition for All New People via Skype. Or how about Emma Stone who got her role in Easy A by auditioning in her room and taping herself doing a monologue?
Could this also affect the importance of placing ourselves in the main market? Some of the UK actors responded that they have no desire to base themselves in London and choose to commute for auditions or classes. Steve While lives in the Midlands, as he finds the living costs more affordable – London is one of the most expensive cities in the world. Mandy Bhari, who was born and raised in Glasgow, commutes as well.
Bhari also found her niche by connecting two of her passions: martial arts and acting. As Liane-Rose Bunce said, “The more I work in this industry I realise it’s important to have a niche or a set of special skills that makes you stand apart in the market place.” However some actors are afraid that focusing on particular skills will result in typecasting, so insist on learning many diverse skills.
Then there is the struggle with unpaid work, which actors often have to turn down, unless it’s something they feel they have to do. It has always been difficult breaking into acting. Perhaps because of that some actors had a different career prior to focusing solely on acting. Steve While and Lee McGovern both started their careers later on, despite knowing that’s what they wanted to do since an early age.
I’ve certainly learned a lot from everyone and even though our journeys are different, there are many things we have in common. Sometimes only fellow actors can understand this. I’d like to hear from you, AYT readers, on this topic as well. Many thanks to everyone who contributed, shared and retweeted.
Lenka Silhanova is an actress with a truly international flavour. Originally from the Czech Republic, Lenka has also lived in the USA, UK and Germany. She has trained in San Francisco, L.A. and London. Lenka recently appeared in a show at the Tristan Bates theatre in London and has just finished shooting a short film. Her goal of becoming an international actress led her to start the blog Acting Abroad, where she writes about the experiences on her journey with the aim to help those with the same goal. This, in turn, led to her writing the International View blog for A Younger Theatre. Lenka's blog has been featured on various acting websites and recently she was interviewed for The Huffington Post.
Casting Director Bonnie Gillespie tells Karen Worden of Film Courage why she is so generous in helping actors cultivate their careers. To hear the full Film Courage radio interview archive, click here.