One of the many reasons I decided to move to London was because I felt in Toronto I was just another blond actress in her mid 20s trying to compete with the thousands of other actress who looked just like me and sounded just like me, but started their career much earlier. The first agent I met with fresh out of school basically told me "there are many actresses within your type and age range who've been doing this much longer than you have so they have an advantage." I was 24. Needless to say, I needed something to help me stand out. In the UK I have an accent, which even my agent here said is unique and will run in my favour. Needless to say, since arriving on British soil I've been busy settling in and haven't exactly been completely focussed on acting. However, over the fast month or so I've found my focus again. This is a list of things I've noticed so far that differ between the Toronto and UK acting industries. (I won't include information about Spotlight because I already discussed it in one of my previous blog posts: Moving to London: The Struggles)
Don't even think about bringing your $500 headshots from Toronto to the UK thinking you can use them. The style here is so different, after getting my new headshots here my agent didn't even want me to use my Toronto headshots at all, which is a shame, because they are good headshots. In Toronto the style is very much capturing your 'type.' Your headshots are a reflection of what casting directors will see you as. They're very stylized, with posing being used a lot. Here is one of my headshots by the lovely Hayley Andoff from Toronto.
In the UK, however, simplicity is key. Headshots are supposed to represent you, not who you can play. They're much more close and intimate, allowing the casting directors to see you as a blank slate. Black and white is still used here, as well, however, I think its currently on the way out. I received my new headshots in both black and white, as well as colour. Below is one of my new headshots curtesy of Yellow Belly.
One of the most significant differences I've discovered from being an actor in London vs. Toronto are the job opportunities. Toronto is such a film and television hub. Productions from the U.S. as well as our own home grown media is filmed there. From Workin' Moms to the Handmaid's Tale, there are always a ton of film, television, web series, commercials, etc, filming at any given moment. From an actor's perspective, this is awesome, because that means a lot of work. Its unfortunate though that most American productions only cast American actors for lead roles. Basically, a working actor in Toronto has probably done a few dozen commercials and maybe a few one liners in an American television show by the time they retire. (If they can ever afford to retire.) Oh, and also a stint on Murdoch Mysteries, of course. Film and Television is where the money is, so even actors who are faithful to theatre will probably do a commercial or two. Speaking of theatre, compared to screen, its a smaller industry. Of course you have the likes of Stratford, Mirvish, Soulpepper, etc. The people I know who make a living in those companies and are regularly paid theatre actors are mostly those who are well trained from proper, established theatre schools. (I'm not sayings screen actors don't train, but its more common practise for them to do short courses and private coaching. Not to mention screen acting is very visual so its less about talent and more about looks, unfortunately.) I don't want to jump the gun and say theatre is harder to get into than film and TV, but perhaps because I've been in London where theatre is so massive compared to screen I now know just how small the Toronto theatre industry is.
London is a whole other ballgame. I mentioned how enormous the theatre industry is, and it is enormous. Musical Theatre especially. I'm almost at a disadvantage because I don't want to do Musical Theatre. Furthermore, because theatre is so huge, drama school is taken into the highest regard. The UK houses some of the best drama schools in the world, and most working actors you meet probably trained at one of them. Moreover, castings are much more diverse. One of the biggest casting categories in the UK that you never see in Toronto are cruises. So many cruises cast in the UK, and most of them are musical theatre (again, I'm at a disadvantage). Furthermore, there are many more international castings in London. Commercials filming in Turkey, Spain, Italy, Norway, etc, are constantly popping up on casting websites. This is just an example of how attainable Europe is (well, until Brexit comes into place).
Pantomime is another huge casting category in the UK. I remember studying Panto a bit in school, but you never really see it in Toronto at all. The UK has loads of it, especially now around Christmastime. Lastly, student films in the UK can be PAID. In Toronto, film schools have an agreement with ACTRA which basically makes each actor work for free, regardless of union status. In the UK its a bit different. Not all student films are paid, but some are, which is kind of refreshing if I'm being honest.
I'm still learning about the UK's acting scene, but I'm excited to dive head first into into. Hopefully in the New Year I'll start auditioning more and really experience what its like to be a working actor in London!