“If you’re not paying for it, you’re not the consumer, you’re the product.” – Anonymous.
So, on Saturday, I attended an event called Surviving Actors, an expo stacked full of ‘opportunities’ for the aspiring/struggling/stalled actor. I specify this type of actor, because the place was full of people selling things that beginners may not know they need, and other things besides.
This may be no surprise to many of you. There’s half a dozen of these things every year – Surviving Actors, The Actors’ Expo, Perform!, etc. – generally between January and April, and they’re all either free, or cost very little. The people who pay for it are the people selling you stuff, and what they’re buying is a room full of potential marks. Here is my quick (and probably not 100% accurate) tally of the various services available:
- 5 casting organisations (i.e. CCP, Spotlight, etc.)
- 4 photographers
- 4 booksellers
- 4 showreel providers
- 6 resting job recruiters (virtually all telesales or T.I.E.)
- 8 people offering a variety of courses
Miscellaneous included accountants, presenter training, some sort of health supplement pyramid scheme, and a whole raft of people selling advice, offering media managing packages, NLP training, US visa deals, etc. Virtually no one on any stall (a few photographers aside), it should be added, was upfront about any costs unless they were specifically selling tangible objects on the stalls. After all, the sizzle is always free: you’ll only find out what’s in the sausage when you’ve decided to buy it.
In terms of practical, proactive things to do, it was a bit slim on the ground: there were no agents there to meet. There were a few cardboard dropboxes with casting directors’ names on them, into which you could chuck your CV and headshot, but that’s it. This was a marketplace selling the one thing we all want: opportunity.
Now, some of these products are essential: if you lack headshots, you need to get them done, and unless you’re lucky enough to know a professional photographer who knows what is required of a headshot, then you have to pay for it.
If you feel untrained in certain aspects of performing (or, indeed, all aspects), then here’s where you can find out about stage combat courses, horse riding courses, Meisner courses, voice workshops, acting workshops, and so on.
In addition to that, stalls selling plays, technical manuals (voice warm-up exercises, intros to Method, what-have-you) and the many variations on contacts have a valid contribution to make to any actor’s career, and their utility comes from the actor’s willingness to use them, not the actual quality or purpose of the product.
I suppose, if you’re struggling to find a resting job that’s working for you, then stalls where you can sign up for teaching acting or manning call centres also serve a legitimate purpose (though I personally think there’s something rather sordid about selling someone lessons in how to earn money, which some places seemed to be offering).
All the casting resources were there too. I initially baulked at finding stalls for Spotlight, Casting Networks, CCP, Star Now, etc., but of course the reason they’re in attendance is because not everyone knows about them. While I’ve been around the block long enough to know that this is where the jobs are to be found (even if vanishingly few of the ones not advertised on Spotlight are actually decently paid), anyone aspiring to act for the first time would find an event like this an invaluable resource.
God, I wish I’d known about something like Surviving Actors when I graduated in 1998; back then, the full extent of careers advice I got at university was “(Technical) TV jobs are advertised in The Guardian on Monday, acting jobs are in The Stage on Thursday. Good luck!” EF
Image credit: Costumes by Malabar, all rights reserved.