Nova Scotia is quickly becoming "Hollywood North". In fact, many have nicknamed our little city "Haliwood". So how much work is really here for those pursuing an acting career? That all depends on how persistent you are.
Many people want to cash in and become the next Ellen Page. Fact is, chances like that don’t happen to everyone, or often. You will undoubtedly spend a lot of time sitting in the shade as an extra, waiting for your 11 seconds of camera time. If you’re lucky. More often than not you may be able to catch a glimpse of the back of your head as the camera quickly pans past you.
However, if you look at acting on film as a way to have fun and make a few extra dollars and maybe see a star, then you will enjoy it. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet Sandra Bullock, Dennis Leary, Mike Starr and Vanessa Redgrave. But remember this, never, ever approach the star of a show like a star-struck teenager. They’re there to do a job. The fastest was to get kicked off a set is to approach them and try to strike up a conversation. If they approach you and start a conversation feel free to engage, but keep it professionally. Be polite, be courteous, be friendly, be yourself, but don’t be annoying. You’re not there to interview them or to have a “selfie” taken with them. You have a job to do and so do they. Respect that and you’ll be called back as much as possible
Now, another way to enjoy acting is to find local volunteer theatre groups to work with. Although you won’t get paid, you will gain valuable experience that casting agents will look for. Even though theatre acting and film acting differ greatly, it still gives you the experience of learning the craft, and many of the techniques are transferrable. It also helps fill that acting resume.
Speaking of which, it’s time to prepare a resume that gets you noticed. There are as many ideas as to what makes a great resume as there are actors. As in most industries, simple is often better. Be detailed. List your acting credits, if any. If there are none, don’t lie. The acting community talks. You will be found out. A lie will get your resume discarded and trust me, casting agents share information. Go online and research some other actors, both film and theatre. Then find something that speaks to you. Also, be sure to keep accurate and recent headshots on file. With many of the casting agents now being online, some allow you to upload many different shots of yourself. They do have some guidelines so be sure to read, understand and follow the requirements they put forth.
Once you manage to get on-set there are a few important things to remember. First be sure to listen. Don’t try to think that doing something your way will have the Director “discover” you. They want it done a certain way for a reason. Improvising will most likely be a termination. This is a perfect example of “do as you’re told, no questions asked”. If you listen to instructions, follow them to the letter and understand you’re there to do a job, you will gain a reputation, over time, of being easy to work with. This will get you jobs on many projects.
Another thing to remember is to be quiet. Talking and chatting to others will distract them and others. Anything you feel an urge to chat about can be done in the privacy of the holding area, (a place that extras are asked to wait for their call). Don’t talk on set unless you are asked a question by Directors, Assistant Directors or people in charge of placing extras where the Director wants them.
By following a bit of common sense rules you can have some wonderful experiences. A friend of mine had Kelsey Grammer buy him and his poker buddies pizza and beer for their weekly poker game on one occasion. So keep in mind, while you may not be “discovered” you will have a lot of fun. But who knows….