Every year when pilot season hits, there’s a flurry of excitement about what to do next. As the self tape requests flood in, excited actors chance the idea of getting their O1 visas and making a break for Hollywood. Will they cross the shores or stay where they are?
I won’t lie. I’ve considered it myself a million times. The glamour, the contacts, the red carpets, the studios. Who wouldn’t want access to that. And truth be told, it’s probably something I will work towards sooner or later.
I guess any move is the same. I did it myself many years ago by venturing all the way across to the other side of the world to hit Britain. Sure, it doesn’t have quite the same pizzazz as LA, or the snowy sparkle of New York, but it’s still a big city and offers much more of the big industry feel than I was finding available in my happy Brisbane surroundings at the time. And yet, with any move comes great expectations and equally, much fear and trepidation.
There are also some other minor (major) details that get left out of the gym locker conversations about moving continents to pursue an acting career. Some of these things impact a person so much more than they realise, and they really ought to be on the ‘check list’ when deciding if one is really ready to jump ship and live abroad.
Here, I’ve decided to get honest about my move from Australia to London so that anyone wishing to venture into the unknown really has a good idea of the realities of ‘making a go of it’.
- It costs a lot of money to settle in a new city: Stepping into the glorious streets of London and onto the bustling tubes was so wonderfully surreal, but sadly I really hadn’t considered just how much it costs to live in a brand new city, to set myself up in a home, and to just get about daily life. The cost of moving to LA is no exception.
If you want to make the move, don’t head over with just a $1000 in your bank account. And if you do that know that $1000 will only likely pay for your first month’s accommodation OR about a month’s worth of beers, expenses and Casting site fees. After that, you may end up serving pints in a pub while you work out how the hell you’re going to cover the extortionate rental prices.
- Jobs are just as important as auditions at the onset: Over the course of my time flitting between the UK and Australia, I’ve been everything from a brand ambassador standing awkwardly in fake eyelashes in Liberty’s or giving out yoghurt in a tube station, to a Senior Account Manager on makeup launches in shopping centres. And I’m one of the lucky ones, because my skillset was transferrable and I haven’t had to be a waitress (again!) or pour pints in a pub. But often that’s what becomes the reality for many a struggling actor as they start out. Half my buddies who left London for LA work part time as waiters and wrangle time off when their last minute auditions pop up. This is called real life.
- You have to build your networks: Just like you had to build your extensive network in Australia after you graduated from acting training, so too will you have to do that all over again in a new city. And sometimes this can take years. Attending Casting Director workshops (which has become all the rage in both the UK and US) is useful given that go-sees are so rare nowadays, but they too cost money. Networking events are fun but you won’t always know which ones are useful. And often it simply comes down to booking the acting jobs and building a network over time, and with hard work and good manners.
- No one gets discovered overnight: I promise you…it doesn’t happen overnight! Ever. Anna Kendrick is huge now because she has been in the acting game for nearly 20 years (her first Tony Award nomination was around age 10). I absolutely adored John Boyega’s speech at the 2016 BAFTA’s the other night. And he was absolutely correct when he said “Guys, I haven’t been doing this for a long time, it’s a fluke! I’m gonna share this award with all the young dreamers who are determined, who are hard working, who are quite frankly amazing. This is also for you.”
He said himself it was a fluke. This happens one in every trillion times. While I’m all up there for dreaming with the best of them, you’ll see it all over my acting blog…reality still dictates that point 2 is how you make it. Hard work and good manners. Whether you move to London, LA, New York, or Sydney, remember that if you don’t yet have a recognisable face or a rather sexy IMDb list of credits, it might well take you 5+ years to break into the market.
- With acting passion comes great determination, preparation and training: You will hear over and over again after you finish training that your training doesn’t stop there. When you arrive in a new city there will be expenses involved in finding the right sort of acting training that you can continue to take part in. This might be an Anthony Meindl group classes, or private lessons, or weekend workshops at the Actors Centre. Whatever you decide to do, remember that it is massively important for building networks, continuing to advance your skills and also for your personal progression as an actor. Sitting on your hands is not!
Don’t fall into the trap that so many do when they hit London and spend the whole time drinking and enjoying the exciting thrills of a new city. Just because the tubes don’t finish until midnight doesn’t mean you have to do the same. Work hard, train hard and reap the rewards.
6. Headshots and websites: The business side of the industry also dictates now more than ever that you need to be ready for the city you’re in. When you arrive in a new city, one of the first things you’ll have to do is find out what to use in terms of websites (to find work and show your own CV) and what the industry dictates your headshots should look like.
Don’t underestimate the power of your headshot – in London and LA more than ever. There are hundreds and thousands of actors in big cities all trying to make it. Your headshot needs to stand out. Don’t skimp and get a cheap ones done just because you want to save a few pennies.
And just like you need to be on Casting Networks in Australia, so too do you need to be on there in the UK, along with a number of other websites. It’s a big busy business and you’ll want to get on top of that ASAP.
There are so many other considerations when making the big leap. But for now, this will hopefully give you a tiny bit of insight into some of the things you need to consider carefully, if the lure of pilot season or the grey shades of London’s sky is beckoning (I jest but I absolutely adore this city). Don’t be afraid of making the move, just plan and be ready. Kind of like how you need to plan in your career!
And if you do decide to move, it can be the most thrilling, exciting and challenging experience of your career, make no mistake about it. It just helps to know what you’re getting yourself in for.