International Actors: Part II

In Part I of Advice for International Actors, we covered some of the basic fundamentals that all international actors should be aware of if they are serious about pursuing a career in Hollywood. Let’s say you’ve been working on the aforementioned topics for the past couple of years now. You’re pretty good with English, you have a good number of acting credits under your belt from your home country, and you’ve already begun looking into getting a work visa. So what comes next? Once again, since getting work papers is one of the last steps in becoming an i

nternational Hollywood actor, the following tips should help better prepare you for making that U.S. transition, which, in turn, can better your chances of being approved for a visa/green card.

1. Have Local Representation

Even though the entertainment industry differs from country to country, most places where acting is prevalent (especially English-speaking countries) will often have their own talent companies that operate similarly to U.S. talent agencies and management companies. Having a local agent in your home country has a twofold purpose: 1) Helping to find and secure acting work for you, and 2) Parleying with agencies in the U.S. on your behalf. The latter function can be a crucial factor since most major talent companies in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand all have established relationships with agents and managers in the United States.

 2. Be on the Lookout for U.S. Productions Shooting in your Country

Although you should definitely be keeping busy working on film/television in your home country, you and your reps should definitely be on the lookout for U.S. productions that shoot abroad. Many U.S. projects (both film and television) shoot internationally, and not surprisingly, a lot of them tend to gravitate to countries that speak English, e.g. the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, etc. Although the lead roles in these projects are typically “Hollywood” actors, there are often a slew of other roles that need to be cast locally! Working on these types of productions are not only good learning experiences, but you can use the opportunity to network with U.S. actors, directors, producers, and the like. The majority of shows on The CW shoot in Vancouver/Toronto; New Zealand is the shooting location of choice for both Starz’s Spartacus series and The Hobbit / Lord of the Rings franchises; and major blockbuster films like Life of Pi, Captain America, and Skyfall all shot portions (if not all) in England, China, Turkey, and India.

 3. Find U.S. Representation

As previously mentioned, finding U.S. representation as an international actoris much more feasible if you have the help (and connections) of your local talent representative. U.S. reps are typically always on the lookout for up-and-coming international talent (especially if you can do a “perfect” American accent), and your chances of landing a meeting with a U.S. agent/manager are actually significantly better than if you were a local American actor (more on this later)–assuming that you have a talent rep from your home country helping you out.

As an international actor, having a U.S. rep is a big no-brainer. The casting process and the way the entertainment industry works in the U.S. is significantly different than other countries, so it makes sense that you would need a U.S. rep to not only help you find your next acting gig, but also to help you navigate the crazy waters of Hollywood. Even if you wanted to forgo finding a U.S. rep, and just want to rely on your rep from your home country, having them work for you would be extremely difficult since they would have to deal with working not only internationally, but also from completely different time zones. Granted, there are exceptions to this rule (for example, if you have an agent in Vancouver, and you’re living in Los Angeles, you’ll be in the same time zone), but it’s a fact that your Vancouver rep won’t have as many close connections with L.A. casting directors when compared to a well-established L.A. agent/manager.

 4. Timing is everything!

When making the transition to the U.S., many foreign actors think that they just need to get a work visa/green card and then make the permanent move to Los Angeles/New York in order to be fully immersed in the industry and ready to audition at the drop of a hat. However, this “full immersion” effect can be quite costly, and is definitely not for everyone. A popular alternative to this is to “visit” Los Angeles/New York for a couple months during the year–particularly during times when the industry is most busy, i.e, when there are lots of projects being cast. By far, the busiest time of the year for a U.S. actor is pilot season (the time when all the major networks/cable channels start casting all of their pilots). Because of the massive amount of projects and roles that are made available during pilot season, many out-of-country actors will spend a few months in Los Angeles to try their luck with pilots, and living the life of a Hollywood actor.

If you can afford to move to Los Angeles for a few months during pilot season, and are interested in breaking into the Hollywood system, this is definitely your best route. Networks/cable channels budget a considerable amount of money toward pilots, and can often accommodate traveling out-of-town actors in order to audition them, as well as sponsor work visas for those that need them, which is an even bigger reason why international actors flock to the U.S. during this time. It’s also worth noting that if you live in one of the international acting hubs (Canada, the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand), you might not even have to travel to the states for pilot season, since many pilots will hire casting directors in the previously-mentioned acting hubs to see actors locally, and then send the audition videos to the folks back in the U.S.

5. Your secret weapon

We’ve described in detail that transitioning into the Hollywood entertainment industry is extremely challenging for the international actor, but one important note to take away is that, with the right preparation, YOU HAVE THE ADVANTAGE. American actors probably don’t want me to reveal this, but it’s a fact that international actors are a hot commodity in this business, especially if you can do a perfect American accent. Look at today’s batch of leading men in film and television: Chris Hemsworth, Eddie Redmayne, Hugh Laurie, Andrew Lincoln, and Tom Hardy are all international actors, just to name a few.

During pilot season, the demand for international actors is even greater as most casting directors, studios, and networks are all looking for “fresh blood”, which is why they are always happy to see actors that hail from a different part of the world. Of course, this doesn’t mean you can simply waltz into town and expect auditions to just fall into your lap; you still need to be prepared. You need to be an experienced actor, have some kind of mastery over your dialect and the English language, have enough money to support yourself, and have good representation (both international and domestic). At the end of day, international actors don’t have the immediate advantage just because they are foreign. They have the advantage because if they can be a successful actor in their home country while also jumping through all the hoops to establish themselves in the United States, they’ve ultimately just been working longer and harder than most. Dedication and hard work pays off!

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  1. Emily
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 12:48 am | Permalink

    How can i persuade my parants to let us move to hollaywood cause there are lots mor opportunities there than there is here in England, Europe x thanks 😀

  2. kasper smart
    Posted April 24, 2016 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    am in uganda but can join im stil astudent at college

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