How to get ahead in acting? Gordon Gaffney talks to the Gaiety School of Acting, actor’s agent Maureen McGlynn and casting directors Thyrza Ging and Maureen Hughes.
There are a huge number of actors available to work in Ireland at any one time. According to Amy Dawson, coordinator of the Gaiety School of Acting, 16–20 actors graduate from their full-time course each year, with another 90 or so graduating from the one-year part-time course and a staggering 1500 or more from their 10-week acting courses throughout the year. A recent casting seminar in Filmbase attracted 300 applicants and there are about 500 actors’ profiles on the Irish Equity website, which is only a fraction of the total number out there. With such a large supply of acting talent, it’s crucial that you go about securing work in the correct manner and avoid common pitfalls with the three most important weapons in an actor’s arsenal: the cv, headshot and showreel.
Casting director Thyrza Ging has cast the feature films Satellites and Meteorites and Savage and the television miniseries Prosperity, and is also guest tutor on the Acting for Film and TV training course in Filmbase, giving advice to actors on the business side of acting.
So you’ve photographed yourself in the mirror using your phone, is this enough?
‘Your headshot is your calling card,’ explains Thyrza, ‘and the most important thing with a headshot is to give a true and fair view of who you are as a person. Some photographers say, “Please don’t smile” but if you are a very smiley person it isn’t going to be a good representation of who you are.’ Prices for professional headshots range from €80, where you may just receive your photos on a CD, to €200, which may include multiple A4 copies and personalised business cards with your headshot and contact details on them – very handy for schmoozing opportunities at industry drinks receptions, glamorous film festivals and in the Filmbase basement.
‘It’s very important to get it right, and for you to feel comfortable in front of the camera,’ Thyrza continues. ‘I recommend actors to at first play around with a digital camera in the back garden because it is important that you feel comfortable in front of the camera before spending hundreds of euro on a shot. The standard in the Irish industry and the uk is a black and white A4 photograph. In America it’s colour, but a lot of actors here, especially red-headed actors, get colour shots done.’
Have all casting directors embraced the information superhighway? Some common sense research will help. ‘A lot of casting directors will say it on their websites if they want you to forward a hard copy and not an email – or vice versa. If you do send a hard copy in, I would recommend that you put the headshot and the CV into a ring binder sleeve – it makes life easier for the casting director. Personally, I prefer email.’
The full article is printed in Film Ireland 131.
Special thanks to Dan Gaynor for his illustrations. You can see his work on www.artofdang.com