Bloomsbury at Surviving Actors

Last week Bloomsbury were once again at the excellent Surviving Actors convention. The seminar’s main focus was on how actors can effectively market themselves while not stepping on their agent’s toes and potentially damaging that relationship.

The panel was chaired by Lloyd Trott, editor of the Actors and Performers Yearbook. I joined Lloyd, alongside agent Matt Chopping from Waring & McKenna and BBC Drama casting director Derek Barnes. Here are the main points from a great session.

Actors need to take care of business

Once an actor signs they can easily neglect important aspects of their career, leaving responsibility for their marketing in their agent’s hands. Sometimes the opposite problem occurs; actors want to market themselves but feel frustrated because their agent has tried to restrict them. Or perhaps they feel the relationship with their agent is unstable and are uncomfortable discussing submissions or suggesting roles they would like to be seen for.

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London Agents

I’m just returning from my London trip where I met with various agents. I was so happy to find pleasant faces to match the voices I have heard on the other end of the phone for years.

 Since I am living and working beyond the pale so to speak, self-taped auditions are more important to me than ever. They are progressively becoming the norm everywhere.

 Dallas Smith at UA was speaking about how in the old days, the American networks used to fly English talent out to L.A. for a few days for an audition. After the long plane flight, the actors were often too tired and stressed for the meeting. Self-taped reads give actors the opportunity to control the process themselves in their own environment.

 At my own agency, Conway, Van Gelder, Grant they mentioned that Jesper Christiansen had won a role in the early days of self tape…I mean like back when we used clunky video tapes. He was in Denmark so couldn’t appear for the audition. He’s so well …

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Accents and Attitudes

Accents are back in the news – quite literally!  For the past week, BBC Radio 4’s 5.30pm news headlines have been delivered by a different regional journalist each night.  The accents represented came from Cumbria, Liverpool, Wales, York, and Somerset.  (Scots are pretty well represented on BBC radio news these days.)  Whether this practice will continue may depend on the public’s response, but it came about because of media reports that a Cumbrian teacher working in a school in the south of England had allegedly been told to sound more Southern.  Whatever the truth of the matter, the outrage and concern that these reports provoked led the producers of Radio 4’s ‘PM’ programme to conduct their experiment. 

 The BBC also recently had quite a success with ‘Peaky Blinders’, a gangster series set in 1920s Birmingham.  Historically, the ‘Brummie’ accent has often been stigmatized in England, but now it has acquired …

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TO HAVE (an agent) or NOT TO HAVE (an agent)

I was asked an interesting question at a masterclass yesterday – Was it better to have a bad agent than no agent at all?

My instinctive reaction was to say that an agent was such an important part of an actor’s life that not having one made the job impossible. But on the way home, looking through some CV’s for a new production, I noticed several from certain agents which were incomplete; no date of birth or playing age, no heights given, no singing range etc. Where other agents had bothered to note at the top of each CV which role they were submitting their actors for, these bad agents hadn’t bothered, leaving me to guess myself where best they fitted – a tough quest given the important information wasn’t available. A good agent knows what we need to see and what information to include, and let’s be clear (before I discuss the negatives) there are many, many excellent agents out there. They aren’t the ones to worry about. It's the bad 'ins we need to …

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