Looking back over previous columns in this series I was amazed to realise that this will be the tenth such endeavour. What seemed recently to be a new venture has already effectively become an institution, one which successfully allows different facets of our industry to throw some light on the concerns and aspirations of their patch.
From the perspective of the Actors Agents Association of New Zealand, the industry is always simultaneously great and frustrating, full of optimism but also pessimism. We anxiously look forward to each new drama series and feature film as they are confirmed then have to accept the reality that it’s usually someone else’s people that have won the right to play the leading roles after a roiling audition process. We treat each new commercial casting brief with hope as it arrives in our inboxes only to despair as the small print often reveals a lack of understanding of the importance of the performer and the impact on them of a successful campaign. Nonetheless there seem to be always more individuals setting up as agents and few if any closing up shop, so it is fair to say that positivity wins hands down the vast majority of the time.
Currently we are very proud that after a couple of years of trying we have now created an internet portal that allows anyone to access local performers without having to either wade through a mass of Australians or make the trek to each individual agent’s website. As a result of support from Showcast, the AAANZ website is now a gateway to all those performers who value themselves and their professionalism to list themselves as interested and available to work on productions happening here – both local and foreign – and, hopefully, those happening overseas. Treat yourself to a visit and bask in the vast pool of wonderful talented individuals. (And let us know if there are aspects of the site that we can improve!)
We have also just concluded a revamp of the ageing Casting Guidelines, joining with Actors Equity and NZ Casting Directors (as yet without their own professional organisation) to update the document to reflect best practice for and from all parties.
We have worked with Equity to create a document, Know Your Rights, that empowers parents of children entering the acting profession so that they can better understand both their and the industry’s responsibilities to creating a productive experience for children in the industry.
We continue to push to update the machinery in place to facilitate the smooth running of the commercials industry, a seemingly sisyphean task.
Our members, effectively every agent in the country, continue to work individually and collectively to ensure that there is a choice for any entity wanting to hire performers for any production, live or recorded, as we strive to remember that without the performers none of us have jobs. Having said that, we are keenly aware that the value we can add to the lives of both performers and productions is something in which we should and do take great pride. What may seem to a producer like a facile query can allow a performer to be completely undistracted and deliver an award winning performance, similarly, ensuring a performer understands the restrictions incumbent on a production will help ensure that there are no harmful assumptions allowing everyone to support each other productively.
To conclude, communication is such an important part of our industry. Please do talk to us as a collective or individually, earlier rather than later, so many problems can be resolved easily if addressed before production and casting starts. When things become adversarial it can be easy to forget that we are all on the same path together and want to participate in a great outcome.