Archive for September, 2010|Monthly archive page

You Make Your Own Luck

In Professional Advice on September 13, 2010 at 2:43 am

"When I'm not being paid to act, I pay to act" - Karl Urban studied the Meisner Acting Technique with Michael Saccente in Auckland, when not building his impressive resume

When you’re not being paid to act, you pay to act. That can mean you pay in money, for classes or workshops or actually financially funding a co-operative theatre production or short film. It can also mean you ‘pay’ in time; that you volunteer your time and energy to projects; scene study groups; practice in front of a camera or with a monologue, etc. In both cases, you pay to act.

The profession of acting is both an extremely challenging and rewarding enterprise. Challenging, because only five percent of actors will be employed at any given moment. Research from Creative New Zealand’s 2006 census of the nation’s artists revealed that the average wage of New Zealand actors was -$3,000. Yes, that’s right – negative three thousand dollars. Most New Zealand actors shell out more money for their passion and artistry than they make in a year.

While some lucky few break into the industry early or relatively easily, most actors will have to experience an enormous amount of rejection and/or lack of opportunity. In order to survive financially, you will need to find some sort of flexible employment. But this need is secondary to finding some way to both sustain and feed your creativity and growth as an actor.

Keep this mantra at the forefront of your mind: every actor must be a producer. In some capacity, if you want to act, then you must find a way to produce opportunities for yourself. Whether that be actually producing and writing your own material and then performing it onstage, or developing a short film, or producing a network of collaborators and opportunities that will assist you in generating your own projects.

If your belief as an actor is always, “I am responsible for creating my own opportunities”, then whatever other prospects are given to you, through your agent, social or professional network, or outside influence, are just icing on the cake. You cannot be disappointed and forlorn, because you will always have your own work that you are creating.  This state of being will attract more of what you want than doing nothing and feeling negative about your lack of opportunities.  I’m not suggesting that you not aim high or dream big but that you adopt a philosophy of “creating your own luck” and not waiting for the phone to ring or others to recognise your talent. 

Working actors work. The habit and the discipline you have from creating your own work and of keeping your acting muscle warm will generate more opportunities. You’ll grow and gain confidence as a performer, strengthen your professional network, and others will also get to see more of your work.

So if you want to act, then act. Here are some ideas of how you can do that:

  1. Get together with some friends to create a weekly play-reading group
  2. Organise a more intense scene study group
  3. Work with one other friend to practice auditions on a video camera
  4. Sign up for acting classes or workshops
  5. Put yourself forward for unpaid short films (as long as there is a professional approach by the filmmakers).
  6. Sign up to The Wellington Actors Studio Facebook page.
  7. Contact the New Zealand Film School and other film programs around New Zealand and ask if you can audition for their student short films,
  8. Regularly visit Bats Theatre to find out about up and coming plays that might be in need of actors (the noticeboard at Bats Theatre is a great place to find out about up and coming plays as well as other opportunities for other actors)
  9. Also make contact with the other theatres on the off chance that they will be having open auditions for any of their productions this year
  10. And, as mentioned in our last handout, all of this activity is a reason to keep in contact with your agent, giving them positive feedback about whatever activities or projects you’re involved in.

All the very best, and good luck!  Remember, its your own luck… so make it good.

Barbara Woods

The Wellington Actors Studio

For information on courses available at The Wellington Actors Studio go to


Nurturing your relationship with your agent

In Professional Advice on September 7, 2010 at 2:08 am

As previously mentioned in our other Blogs on agents, developing your relationship with your agent is pivotal to getting more opportunities and advancing your career. An agent is the person through whom you can connect to opportunities with producers, directors and creative projects you may wish to be involved with. While it is your agent’s job to promote you and seek out roles for you, it is likewise your responsibility to keep them reminded of you. In order for you to be at the top of their mind, you need to do some work.

Before investing in any of the suggestions or advice we give below, make sure you have reviewed our previous Blogs on the agent relationship and have done all the preparation you can in regards to the advice in those previous Blogs. That advice will give you the foundation from which you can now utilise the following suggestions.  

Blog on how to get an agent and what an agent does… 

For information on how to choose an agent, see …

One of the most powerful tools for creating more audition opportunities for yourself is for you to always be top of mind for your agent. While all agents have a computer program that brings up all eligible actors when given a casting brief by a casting director; and most agents do their best to put you forward for everything that you are appropriate for, experience has proven that those actors who are auditioning get more auditions. Those actors who are working get more work. Those actors who are out there being proactive about not only creating opportunities for themselves but also improving their craft, network and understanding of the business do get more auditions and therefore more work.

The logic behind this is simple. If there are two actors who are the same age, look, and type, but one has been doing an acting class and/or actively seeking out more opportunities for themselves, improving not only their skills but also their level of confidence, then as a potential product that actor is easier to promote and sell. So if your agent is updated with selling points that can help them to get you more auditions then it is to your benefit to keep them informed of these developments.

Proactive actors are also more appealing to casting directors. You are more likely to be confident and prepared when showing up for an audition, which therefore makes the casting director’s job easier when recommending you to any director or producer.

The ideal is to be in regular email, phone or face to face contact with your agent once a fortnight. However, agents are extremely busy, and it’s preferential for your agent to be busy putting you forward for potential jobs than it is dealing with yet another email or phone call from you that isn’t giving them some kind of valuable or important information they can use in promoting you. This means, in order for you to be in regular contact with them, with valuable updates, you have to be proactive in doing something towards either developing your craft or building your profile on a fortnightly basis.

I’ll give some examples below. However, as previously mentioned in our 10,000 Hour Rule Blog, you should already be doing this work anyway, in order to accrue the time it takes to become proficient at any skill, including acting.

Examples of what qualifies as “news” or valuable information to your agent:

1. A significant change in hair length, colour or style.

2. New photos you’ve updated because you have matured since the last photos your agent currently has (you should have discussed this with your agent previously anyway). When sending through your photos you can mention the ones you like, but also ask for their opinion.

3. A play or a short or feature film that is low to no budget, which you are auditioning for.

4. Feedback or confirmation of a play, short or feature film that the director or producers want to hire you for. This is for two reasons:

  • One, to update your CV and, as another selling point, help promote you. If others are prepared to cast you, then it says something to other casting directors, directors and producers about your abilities.

    Tom Cruise as producer/executive-from-hell, Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder

  • Two, if it is a film or television project then your agent should know the conditions for which you will be working and the exposure that the production intends to have. For instance, if someone says they are producing a low budget film or series that will be uploaded to the web, and are looking for actors to either forgo payment or agree to minimal payment, then sell that production to a network or distributor, then an agent would be able to not only advise you but protect you from unscrupulous producers.

            5. You’ve signed up for a new acting class or workshop or any other class that could improve your ability as an actor, for instance, martial arts, singing, dancing, stage combat, or even a new sport. Similarly, if you are taking language classes or receiving accent coaching. This is something for your agent to not only add to your resume, but also be aware of.

6. If your agent sends you on an audition and you get feedback in the audition, or if something negative happens in the audition, email or phone your agent right away to inform them. You don’t need to contact them if the audition went well but nothing significant happened. Contact them only if you get really positive feedback or if something troubling happened in the audition.

7. If you do a weekend workshop or short course, after it finishes, be sure to contact your agent and inform them of the feedback you got and your experience of the course. Even if it is to say the course wasn’t that great, but this is what I learned from it. i.e., “I felt more confident about knowing what makes good performance, because this course didn’t deliver.” So, even bad or average experiences can be turned into an opportunity to further communicate with your agent.

8. If you are in an ongoing or regular class and receive praise or feedback from your teacher about significant improvements in your ability, then this is something you could also pass on to your agent. Just don’t overuse this reason for contacting your agent. It has to be genuine, specific and significant improvement.

9. Through your own networking, if you have met a director, casting director, producer, or another actor, who talked with you about a specific project they are doing, and there was potential you could audition for it or be involved with it in some capacity, then this is useful information for your agent to have.

            10. Finally, if you hear about projects that you haven’t already been put forward for by your agent, meaning you haven’t received an audition for, and this project is something they wouldn’t already know about (meaning, not a major feature film or TV show), then you can contact them to ask if they have heard about this project and if you have been put forward for it. You need to use your discretion around this last point.

  • Recently, I heard about a German feature film that was being shot in New Zealand and a few agents did not know about this opportunity. It was people in the German community here in Wellington who then let agents know about this project, and then the agents went in search of what the project was and who was producing and casting it. This is a good example of actors who have a specific social network knowing about opportunities before anyone else, even before their agent, and then being proactive about informing their agent and thus creating an opportunity for themselves to audition for this project.
  • It is still necessary to go through proper channels, but sometimes an agent isn’t the first to know about every production happening in New Zealand.


Warning about this last point: nothing is more off-putting, distracting, and inconvenient for an agent than an actor desperate for work or even auditions, calling, emailing or dropping by their office incessantly, asking to be put forward for projects or asking the dreaded question “Is anything happening?” Or, “Why aren’t I getting more auditions?” In most cases, your agent is doing the best that they can to put you forward for everything that you are appropriate for. And while most agents are patient and understand an actors’ frustration about not getting more opportunities, often it is not because of something the agent is not doing, but one, because there isn’t enough work, and two, you could be doing more yourself to improve your craft and profile.

Do NOT contact your agents about the following:

-Just to complain that you haven’t had an audition in a few months.

-To tell them how great you’re doing each week, in your acting class.

-To tell them you trimmed your hair, or got a pedicure.

-You met someone famous.

-Any other trivial, insignificant information.

DO contact your agent if: you have an audition or have been cast in a role and have a question about the script, character, shooting dates, times or location. Don’t be shy about getting whatever necessary information you need in order to do a great audition or a great job.

In conclusion, it is in your agents’ best interest for you to get work. So they are going to be doing all they can to secure you auditions and then work. But do not ever be under the impression that they are responsible for your career and success. You are. You need a good agent, and to develop a working partnership that you both feel comfortable and happy in, but ultimately you are responsible for the development of your craft and the building of your profile. So do one small thing, one small step, each week that does either or both.

Good luck to you!

Barbara Woods

The Wellington Actors Studio

For information on courses available at The Wellington Actors Studio go to