How long have you been an Agent?
I’ve been an agent for about 8 years. Six years on my own and two years prior to that with another agency, so yeah, eight years all up.
How did you get into the agency business?
Well, I was an actor myself first, on and off for many years. When I say on and off, I went for years at a time doing it, and doing the actor/waiter/ you know, whatever kind of job. I then gave up acting, you know, sometimes for 2 or three years at a time, which a lot of actors do, and then came back into it, went overseas… so yeah I was always in and out of it as an actor. It seemed like a natural progression and I had this opportunity to get a job with an agency and literally walked right into it basically. I then quickly realized that “yeah, that’s what I want to do”.
Brilliant! So was most of your acting here in Australia or overseas?
Ok. And was it mostly film or theatre? What were you more into?
I never did any film, it was all television. I’m talking like going way back now into the 80’s. So there was soapies stuff like…. Well you might be too young to recognise them….. Like Sons and Daughters, I was in that for a bit. I was in a defunct one called Family and Friends. A bunch of other cop shows, just guest appearances and stuff like that. I did a million television commercials, and some musical theatre.
Oh right, musical theatre as well? I didn’t know you could sing!
Yeah, that’s my main thing actually (laughs). I still do a bit of independent musical theatre, it’s still in my blood.
In regards to your Agency, would you class it as a small, medium or large agency?
And the reason for that?
Well, it’s only myself here. I honestly think that there are a lot of agencies out there, even some agencies who are just a single agent, are trying to service in excess of like a hundred actors or a hundred and fifty actors. I think that’s just detrimental to what the actors are trying to achieve, and pretty much what the agent is trying to achieve. So I’m actually at the moment, the least I’ve ever been, just under 60 or so. And I find that to be quite a serviceable number. In the beginning, I had these ideas of expanding and bringing other agents on and what not. But, I’m just happy… you know, it might be that I’m a bit of a control freak, but I kind of like just doing it by myself… and yeah I have no desire or designs to go bigger at this stage. I like to keep it, keep everything small… pretty much the way I work is that I have got a hands on approach. I have my hands full already with the amount of actors that I’ve got.
When you say you have a hands-on approach, are you actively involved in their craft? Do you give them advice?
Yep, absolutely. So, quite often I have Skype meetings with actors and we will go through scripts etc. That doesn’t apply to everybody because have a lot of experienced actors who kind of don’t really want it or need it. But a lot of them do, particularly for the kids, with the musical theatre side. And to give you an idea of what I do, and this pertains to you being a photographer, a lot of agents say, when they take on a new actor “Go and get your headshots. Get your showreel done” and leave it at that. Apart from that, we chat about who the photographer will be, do you need a haircut, or do you need to dye your hair, what are you going to wear. I’m very big on stuff like that, because…. I don’t want to say that I don’t trust actors (laughs), but a lot of them need guidance. I feel, that the very few times that I’ve let that slip, sometimes they have come back with, you know, no fault of the photographers because they give the actors what they want. But sometimes I’m seeing some crazy things or even a showreel scene that, if by any chance I wasn’t involved with it, which is very extremely rare, they have come back all wrong. The wrong type of script or it’s too long, it’s too short, the character’s too crazy. So I always have a discussion with my actors and I’m very hands on.
When you are interviewing talent or looking to sign someone up, are there anything in particular you are looking for in the talent?
Well (laughs), I think that as clichéd as it sounds, you are looking for someone with that x factor. If I had to expand upon that, just for instance, these days I’m not taking on new people at the moment. Well, put it this way they would have to be pretty amazingly special for me to take them. Even with graduate season coming up at the moment, I would pretty much only be interested in musical theatre actors who can also act on film and TV. Just because I would like to expand upon that division, and those types of actors are easier to represent because they can work across more genres. But I guess probably at the moment, say if I was looking for something obviously, as the whole industry knows, is that ethnicity is really huge at the moment, so if you are an actor of ethnicity, I think you really have a leg up on the competition these days, opposed to back in the day if you were a gorgeous blonde haired, blue eyed actor, you knew you were going to be on Home and Away, those kind of actors, I think, are finding it harder and harder to work at the moment. Even if you are an actor of ethnicity, you still have to be a great actor. So I guess that’s the long winded answer to that question (laughs).
What do you think is the most important thing an actor can do to improve their craft?
Yep. I’m asking the big ones!
Yes, it is…. Whilst I definitely believe in the acting schools, I am also a big believer in the natural talent. SO if you’re not an actor that can afford to go to NIDA or WOPA, I think these days it’s very easy with the technology we have to be able to train yourself. What I mean by that is, by doing self-testing. Everyone has got a phone these days. Actors are always asking me what else I can do. I say "If you’re not going to classes, then get 3 or 4 of your other actor friends, and each week put down two scenes… and American scene and an Australian scene." Pu them on film then put it up on the screen and critique each other. The more you do that, the better you’re going to get at it (well hopefully anyway). I would also definitely ask your agents opinion as well. My actors do that all the time. In fact when you just called just then, I was just looking at a test that an actor had done like that. I tell my actors to do things like this all the time, I don’t know if other agents do, I’m sure they probably do. Whether they look at them or not is another thing you know. I think the same can be applied to stage and theatre as well. If you aren’t in a play or class, put together a play group and get up and perform scenes for each other. You just need to be exercising those muscles all the time. I think if an actor hasn’t had an audition for some time and you get one for them, and they haven’t been practicing like this in the interim and keeping busy, then it does show.
How important is the headshot for an actor?
Super important! (Laughs) I think it’s literally the most important thing because it is the first thing that anyone will look at. You know, one casting director, I won’t say who it is, she says the things in ascending order are, she will look at the headshot first. If the headshots not right, they won’t even get to the next step. The next step is she will look at the CV. For this particular director she likes to see what training they have done. Another casting director told me she doesn’t even look at the training! Both really big casting directors within our industry, so I thought that was really interesting. So you know, they look at the headshot first and quite often when an agent does a submission, say I am submit two actors, every other agency, maybe 20 or 30 other agencies, the casting directors are just flicking quickly through those headshots. If that headshot doesn’t capture what they are after, then that actor doesn’t really have any chance.
What are you looking for in an Actors Headshot? Are you looking for more of a blank canvas or a character or more of the personality of the actor?
Over the years obviously my views have change sometimes about actors headshots, and I know that whatever I say to you is purely how I see it. I always tell actors that the best actors headshot is one that does portray them, yes, as a blank canvas. A casting director can look at that blank canvas and either dress them up for the role or dress them down. They can see them as a rich party girl or dress them down as a heroin addict. And what I mean by that is no crazy makeup, no crazy hairstyles. I think it is fine to have a couple of different looks if you want too. But I think the one good headshot is all you need. One of the big things for me is the wardrobe choice. The clothes are so crucial. I just like actors to wear super neutral clothes. Because when I or a casting director looks at a headshot, I want them to look at the face and not what they’re wearing. They need to go immediately to the face. So many actors, and I even tell them time and time again, not to wear wardrobe with outrageous neon colours or , I’ve even seen crazy things like fur pieces attached to dresses (laughs) ….. Oh over the years you wouldn’t believe some of the things I’ve seen. I know that there is quite a debate between people that some think they should be really character…. I’m not necessarily saying that it is right or wrong, it is just how I see it.
Great. Ok just one last question. What advice would you give any new actors coming into the industry?
Oh gosh (laughs) um well so much. I think be prepared to hear the word “no” far more then you are going to hear the word yes. Don’t let that deter you. I think honestly being an actor or being in this industry, I think you can pick a tougher career. It’s a career full of knock backs. You have got to have the stamina and the mantle and the self-belief in yourself. Time and time again you are going to get that self-belief knocked out of you, trust me I know it, I’ve been there. I think the ones that are still standing are the ones who have the ability to be like one of those jack-in-a-box toys that get punch but keep springing back up again. And as I said, I am a big believer in training with the proper schools, but natural talent goes a long way as well. I think what I would suggest to somebody coming into this industry is find someone that you know, whether it’s a personal connection to an agent or a photographer for example. Get a self-tape in front of somebody like that and just ask them “do I have what it takes”? Get someone that’s really honest to give you an honest answer “yes I do” or “no I don’t”. Having just said that, if you get the wrong person that says “no I don’t”, they may not be necessarily right. Yeah I guess I would say just have the balls to keep going (laughs).