Hello, and welcome back to Double-j-creative! Today I will be doing another “must-have books”, you can find my last one on helpful books for actors in a previous post.
So, if you don’t know, I went to university to study film and got to do a lot of practical work for film and tv production. Although I love being an actress, and hope to continue to pursue it when the right role comes along, I am very interested in becoming a production assistant. It has come to my attention that this is where my skillsets are strongest out of all the roles in production, and I am very passionate about pursuing it.
Over lockdown, and even now, has posed a significant challenge to do anything in the film industry. There are some productions starting up, but for those still trying to get their foot in the door it is a little harder to get work. However, I have been determined not to do nothing. I am one of those people that has to have something to do and be proactive about my career. It is a blessing and a curse because as times such as now, I am feeling that more and more I don’t know what more to do with myself. So if you are in the industry and have ways you have been staying proactive comment below, I would love to hear from you!
More to the point, one thing that has kept me occupied is reading! Lots and lots of it! There are so many great books out there if you are wanting to learn more about the industry and get some good tips. Here are some of the ones I’ve been reading and love:
Must-have Book List :
Producer to Producer – Thinking of becoming a producer one day, or are making your own films? This is a great manual to get you going! From pre-production, budgeting & finance and distribution – this book has got it all! You can even get free downloadable templates.
Action! – Now, there is an actress and a crew one of these books so make sure you get the right one. Or if you are like me, get both! This is a very helpful guide to navigating you career into the film industry. A breakdown of each role, CV tips, looking for jobs and what to expect when you are on set.
Making Your Own Movie – I refer to this quite a lot and could be very useful to aspiring filmmakers, especially during COVID. Take 39 steps to creating your first film, which could be completely on your phone! Also, there are some helpful templates in the back of the book to refer to, as well as film suggestions.
Poldark : The Complete Scripts : Recently I have been rewatching the Poldark series, and I am a sucker for period dramas. I was so excited when I saw they had a book with the complete scripts so that I could follow along as I watch the series to see the translation from script to screen. If Poldark isn’t your thing, I still highly recommending reading scripts. Whether that is from online download (check out Shore Scripts) or finding books like this one.
These are just a few I have, but I am sure there are plenty more!! I am constantly on the look our for more helpful books to add to my collection so if you have a suggestion drop it in the comments.
A little life update, I have been pretty busy lately and will soon be filming this month on a teaser. It’s all very exciting and I’m looking forward to what lies ahead. With that said, I will now be posting every other week. I hope you continue to follow my blog and let me know if there are things you want more or less of. Thank you(:
Are you an aspiring actress and wondering if it’s worth doing extra work? I’m sure you’ve heard many people tell actors not to do it because it is below them or it looks bad, but that is not always the case – especially if you are only getting started. I am here to share with you my experience as an extra (or supporting artist some may say) and what I have gained from the experience.
In 2016, I officially moved to the UK from America. In a way, I felt like I had to start all over again to find a new agent, understand the acting system and build a network again. I started university in the autumn of that year doing film and drama, which opened me up to the idea of supporting artist work. There are many different agencies to sign up to, but I started with Maddog and slowly made a shift to POP casting. It took a while for me to get my first booking because a lot of casting is based on size, look, availability and continuity. So, don’t get disheartened if it takes a while to book your first extra role – it’s really like winning the lottery sometimes.
I’ll never forget my first booking on ITV’s Victoria season 1 back in 2017, partly because I was freezing cold for two days. Don’t let that put you off though, sure it can be long tedious days, but what you get out of it is worth it – new friends, experience on a professional set and getting to time travel to a different world for the day.
How it works
So once you have signed yourself up with an agency you will enter in all your profile details and upload four main pictures (headshot, front, back, left side, right side). Uploading pictures that represent the natural you are so important for casting because it is essentially the thing that get’s you booked. After all your details and required documents are set up, you are good to go and just have to wait. The agency will submit on your behalf for anything they think you would be suitable for, and when something does arise, you will be given an availability check. Availability checks do not mean you’ve got the role, usually it means you are right for what they are looking for and need to know you are free in order to put you forward to the production company. Once the production company has all the submissions, they go through and pick who they want. Usually, you will get pencilled or heavy pencilled if you’ve been narrowed down before you get the finally booking. It’s important to note that this can be so last minute, and sometimes frustrating, but is why you need to keep that date 100% available just incase that ‘pencilled’ turns into a ‘booked’. Getting booked is very exciting! You will get an email with your call time, base location and any additional information you may need for the day.
Life on set as an Extra
Now, life on set as an extra is by no means glam or A-list actor personal trailer glam. Sets can vary depending on production and how they treat their extras. If you are lucky you will have hot tea and coffee waiting for you upon your arrive that can be as early as 6 am, yes I have been there. During my time as a supporting artist I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. I will not list names as it is not fair on productions, but one of my worst experiences was only being used for one hour in the day then waiting in a conference room until 8-9 o’clock at night until a security guard came to clear out the buildings and was shocked to see us still there. Lets just say communication was not a strong suit that day. However, there have been more good sets than bad ones I like to keep in mind. Extra’s have their own space during production for dressing, eating and waiting. Be prepared to wait around most of the day, but be ready to be called in at any time to start filming. Extra’s on set can range from a handful to hundreds, it all depends on the type of scene being shot and honestly I have found that depending on how many extras on set can largely impact the way you are treated. The times that there have only been a handful of us are my most memorable time because I got to get to know the crew and talk with the ADs a bit more – only do this if it is appropriate, and if you are an actor do not start trying to sell yourself, it is not what you are there to do. Getting the chance to be a small number of extras on a set is wonderful, but not always the case. If you are on a set with hundreds of extra make sure to stay patient and respectful of the process. It’s a lot of people for hair & make-up to get through and for ADs to monitor, so try not to complain. At the end of the day everyone is there to play a part in creating TV and movie magic, so enjoy the downtime when you have it and be ready to do a scene over and over again until they have the shot.
My experience and views on being an Extra
I have been doing extra work since 2017 and have worked on sets for Victoria, Gentleman Jack, David Copperfield, ABC Murders, Super Woman 2, Peaky Blinders, etc. While I don’t do as much anymore because I have an agent now (yippee), I still reflect back on what I’ve learned on the numerous sets and the relationships I have formed. There have been countless time I have bent over backwards to get to these productions, mostly because I never wanted to turn down an opportunity to engage in what I find so fascinating and hope to one day be working in, and I can say I never regret any of it. My time on set was a constant learning experience, always watching how things operated and learning who was who. As I said, I was at university for most of my time doing extra work so as I was learning film production I got to live it as well. It’s important to always maintain a professional attitude working on production as an extra, and while it’s easy to want to talk to everyone and ask how you can get a job, you have to know when the right time is, and sometimes that opportunity will just find it’s way to you. You hear the stories of actors getting picked up for lead roles by working as an extra, and while not always the case it can happen, it did happen. While it wasn’t a lead role, I did end up getting my featured role on Peaky Blinders by simply just being an extra for three days. Those three days were the most exciting and yet most exhausting days ever. I was coming from York by train and one night I didn’t get home till 11 only to wake up at 2am and jump on a train at 4am to get back to work again. Why? Because that’s how much I love what I do, acting, working on sets and getting experience. I’ll tell you though, I am so glad I did because on my last day of work the 2nd AD offered me a feature role as Finn’s Women saying the director has seen me. Honestly, I couldn’t believe it. I remained calm and accepted willingly, but I am not ashamed to say I walked out of the studio feeling like I was on cloud 9. I was sure everyday till I filmed (from October to January) they would have found someone else. But nope. I went in, had my own trailer and got to feel like a part of something bigger than me for the day, only to be requested to come in again for close up shots. My two days only amounted to three seconds on screen, but overall I cannot say how thankful I was for the experience and who it has led me to meet.
So do I recommend being an extra? Yes! Okay, it gets a bad name sometimes if you are actor but, if you want experience on set and get comfortable in the environment, than do it! My confidence has grown just in the short amount of time working as an extra because I have seen first hand the operations, and if I were to ever finally book my leading or supporting role I will now go in having already a glimpse of the set life. My only advice is, don’t go in expecting to get noticed or make conversation with the cast and crew. Be professional, seize opportunities when you can and just enjoy the process of what you are there hired to do. If you just want to do it for a little extra cash, for a hobby or experience the set – great! Whatever your reason is for becoming a supporting artist I can confidently say you are sure to make amazing friends, memories and come home satisfied after a long day of work.
If you like my posts be sure to like and subscribe. I post new content every Monday, Friday and Saturday (:
There are probably thousands, if not millions of people out there hoping they will be the next big thing! Whether that is on television, a cinema screen or stage production. But, what does it really take to get from here to there, especially if you are just starting out. There is no linear route to becoming an actress, throughout your whole career there will be highs and lows, but the key is to embrace every chance you get because you love it. Even the small parts. Life as an actress isn’t easy, I can definitely attest to that, but I want to stress that the littlest moments and parts you get in your life can sometimes be the stepping stones leading you towards success.
So, what has my journey been like? Everyone’s will be different but if you’re interested to hear my story, I aim to offer you some tips I’ve learned along the way, and hopefully inspire you to keep charging forward even in the hardest of times or obstacles.
**Scroll to the bottom for top 5 tips to stay motivated
How I got started
I was a very shy kid growing up, to this day my mum is still amazed I wanted to become an actress; because of how terrified I was to be around anyone. However, it was something I so desperately wanted to do and I kept being drawn to performing. I think my major breakthrough moment on the stage was in 3rd grade, I was 6 years old. It was the talent show and I sang “When there was me and you” from High School Musical (because lets be honest those are the best movies ever). My first audition was a train-wreck, I left the room before I could even sing. But one of my favourite teachers believed I could do it and let me re-audition, sometimes you just need that extra push. Turns out, singing in front of five hundred people wasn’t so scary after all. Okay, maybe it was but it got me out and showed myself that I could do it if I really wanted it badly enough.
Acting didn’t come straight after that, though. It actually took me many years to build up confidence, and to be honest is something I still continue to work at to this day. But what really helped me ease my self into the spotlight and become comfortable on the stage (or camera), was my love for dance. I didn’t have to talk or sing, just let myself have fun through the movement. It helped me in more ways than one. I went from just generic classes to competition team, and before I knew it was performing in front of thousands. It really helped me break out of my shell and understand that performing is a deep passion of mine, I was finally comfortable enough to put myself out there and into acting classes.
I’m sure most people watched Disney Channel growing up. Suite Life, Hannah Montana, Wizards or Waverley Place? Yes, no? Well, for me, at the age I started acting (14 years old) all I wanted to be was on Disney Channel. I can tell you now it did not happen (obviously) but it was a dream that gave me something to aspire to. To this day I still have hopes of being in a Disney Production, or Disney Live-Action film. But what ever your goal or dream you have as an actress, don’t let go of it. Especially if it is what drives you to keep going, even in the hard times.
My first agent was Page Parkes in Houston, TX. I became homeschooled so I could really focus on training, and dedicated myself to it. I took intensives, six week courses, and workshops. Honestly, starting out this really helped and highly recommend taking classes. I made the switch from stage to on-camera which can make a big difference in how you perform. I met loads of friends as well which was great because we all encouraged one another and helped each other when we had auditions. Auditions are so exciting to get, I got ones for Disney Channel, Feature Films, Commercials (I actually landed an Academy School Advert one time) but they can also come with a lot of rejection. One thing I wish I knew when I was starting out was to have more confidence and put everything you’ve got into every audition because it is an achievement in itself just to get called into the room or a self-tape, so don’t forget that.
At age 17, I packed my bags and made the jump the the UK. I kept my agent from America for the longest time, but shortly got an agent here. I studied Drama and Film at university and worked tirelessly along side my studies to continue to create my own projects and put myself into being an extra onset. Every step has been a learning opportunity, because although I wasn’t always acting I was constantly engaging with the production world and it has also taught me about my love to write for screen and do more behind-the-scenes work. A lot of people will tell you not to take extra work, but some of my best memories and learning experience has come from them!
So finally I am in London, it’s been a long road to finally get here and amongst it all. Of course Covid has slowed things down since I got here, but I have hopes for what is yet to come.
MY TOP 5 TIPS ON HOW TO KEEP MOTIVATED :
Remember your WHY – why do you want to become an actress? If you don’t have a passion to act or work in the film industry rejection is going to hit you a lot harder.
Don’t let it consume you – I’ve been there, I was so wrapped up in it constantly. Who was getting what audition, why it wasn’t me, and what did that person have I didn’t. STOP. Your time will come, I know that is cliche but it is true. Don’t forget to enjoy the ride and where it’s taking you.
Keep training or exercise your craft – Staying in tune with your craft can get you prepared for when the auditions do come. This could simply be taking a workshop class, finding a monologue to record yourself, finding student films to act in, or just having another friend to rehearse scripts with. Like with anything, practice never hurts.
Pick up a hobby – Remember at the bottom of your CV there is the ‘skills’ section? Well why not make yourself more available to work by learning a new one. Maybe teach yourself a new language, or learn how to dance. With all the free time actors usually have between jobs it will keep you busy and could come in handy one day.
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF – Cannot stress enough, this is so important. You are your business, you are pitching yourself for everything. Making sure you are healthy and rested is not only good for you, but when you do finally book the job it will be busy and you’ll need to ensure you will have the energy to do it.
I am by no means a top actress, but I continue to strive to do the best I can to achieve my dreams. All the rejection, little victories, and hard work has made me appreciate how much I love what I do. With perseverance and passion, will come success. Hang in there and if its all you can think about doing, then don’t give up.
Sending you every once of luck! xx
Be sure to follow and like my posts. I post new content every Monday, Friday, and Saturday (:
Follow me on instagram : @Jennifer.james16 @Double_J_creative