I have also learnt versatility is somewhat of your enemy here. My worst question is
“So what kind of actor are you?” or “ what kind of genre do you want to focus on?”
Um, I am an actor. I act. That means I can do a variety of characters and genres, because that’s my job. This seems to confuse people. You must either do comedy or drama. Are you more of a multi cam comedy actress? Single cam? 1hr dramatic episodic actress? TV? Film? Theatre? Wait! What? You sing? Dance? Choreograph?
What do you mean you do Voice Overs? Ok, what kind? Animation? Narrative? Commercials?
It’s almost impossible to believe that today people don’t understand that due to the unstable nature of our industry, dating way back to the gypsies and court jesters, performers have always had to be able to diversify their talents to make ends meet. This, however, is not seen as a perk here, it is somehow seen as a lack of focus or having a poor understanding of how to sell yourself in one particular area. I think maybe its because until we are wrapped up in a nice little package with the “how to market correctly” instructions neatly attached we present far too much of a time consuming marketing challenge for our would be agents and managers.
This is why I was informed by one of my previous managers that he couldn’t get me “into the room” because I was new in town, and therefore needed to write and produce my one woman show. Then perhaps some people would respond to an invitation and come and see me work. Isn’t that the job of the manager? To sell you and get you in the door, whether it is a CD or a meeting with an Agent? It’s not like I gave him nothing to work with here.
But sure, let me just quickly find a place to live, find a car to drive on the other side of the road, in the other side of the car, and decide what washing powder to use out of the 376 brand names I’ve never heard of at the supermarket I’ve never been too and pay with a currency where the 5c is bigger than the 10c because that makes total sense here.
See what they don’t understand about us “foreigners who talk with an accent and spell tire with a Y, and realize with an S ” is that our struggle to get here has been twice as difficult than anyone moving from another state in the US. Now I’m not saying that when we all get onto that even playing field of auditioning and working the system it isn’t fair game and all bets are off, but initially we have to get here. We have to get the Visa; we have to find a way to get a car and a place to live with no credit. Ah, and then to understand how impossible it is to start building a credit rating, and when you start to, your mailbox is inundated with banks offering you credit cards. I think there be a clue as to why the economy may be slightly unwell…
We have to learn about a Social Security number. We have to learn the hills and freeways, surface streets and madness of how Americans hoot loudly from their very big cars if you miss the first split second of a traffic light turning green. Then they call it honking…. Funny that.
Find our way to a Pharmacy called CVS, find a doctor in your network group (what!), find a dentist, medical insurance, find a grocery store that makes sense and pretend we can afford organic food because everything is bad for you here, or so the labels should say. I’ve never seen so much paranoia around hand sanitizer in all my life. Everywhere I go there is hand sanitizer. I went to do my taxes and there on the reception desk sat two choices of hand sanitizer. My taxes are now, and forever, germ free. This makes me laugh only because I come from a country that sees the poor population eating out of rubbish bins, and people drink from a garden tap.
We share cool drinks (or sodas) out of the same cans, sometimes… without using a straw! We take bites of each other’s sandwiches, which get handed to us, and we sometimes even sip from each other’s water bottles. We survive – with dirty germ filled tax returns and strong immune systems.
So my point is when a South African, Australian, English or any foreign actor makes the choice to move here, and please understand, I mean no disrespect to any born and bred USA actors, but you really have no idea what is takes to get past your well protected border and start from the bottom rung of the ladder, no matter what success had come before. To swallow your pride and learn the ropes again. To understand a new culture and way of life. To learn about your postal system and have 180 headshots sent back to you because the American postal service reverses where to put the “to” and “from” addresses on envelopes.
No matter how much American TV you watch, or how often you have come on holiday, it’s a different world living here. So we don’t take this decision lightly. South Africans are known for their strong work ethic and tenacity. As difficult as this journey is, know it can be done.
Even if we have to learn to speak “American.”