Letters from a voluntary exile: Melbourne

GUEST POST: Nick Backstrom is an actor and writer, formerly based in Brisbane and more recently in Melbourne.  He also sings, teaches and directs, though rarely at the same time.  Nick’s Melbourne relocation will form the basis of his occasional posts to Greenroom.  He would be delighted to respond to any comments or queries made here.

Like many before me, and more to come, I have been lured away from Brisbane to Melbourne for – well, more work really. That and a summer that doesn’t last half a year, leaving you living in a slick of your own sweat.

I’ve been here a little over a month.  In a previous sojourn south, made for the purpose, I was fortunate to get the services of a very good agent.  Already I have had two auditions for a major TV series.  They were very different animals to the auditions I had in Brisbane.  Being in Melbourne, of course, means you’re nearer the source.  In practice this means reading for better parts, with better information and talking to the actual directors.  Casting agents do their best, but it is another level away from the person who will make the decision, another degree of separation.

Both my audition scripts were at least four pages of dialogue, involving two scenes.  The last audition I did in Brisbane was eight words.  This gave me a little more to work with.  It also meant I could give the character a journey, and the audition actually felt like acting.  Also I was able to go to the studio beforehand and read the entire episode to give the scenes context.  I felt so much better informed, and better armed going into the audition.

The audition itself was different as well.  It’s still you, a reader and a camera in a room but working with the director, giving you feedback and direction.  I was suddenly aware of a weight of expectation from the director that I have not felt before.  Many times we are told that the directors are hoping you are the person they are going to cast.   For the first time in a film/TV audition I had that sense.  I wasn’t there to fill a quota to satisfy requirements from the State Government for money, I was there because they thought I might be the one they want.

In short I felt in making the move to Melbourne I had taken a big step up in getting worthwhile, well-paid roles on TV.

In short, I felt in making the move to Melbourne I had taken a big step up in getting worthwhile, well-paid roles on TV. Kudos and more power to series such as Sea Patrol which genuinely audition and actually cast Queensland actors in good roles, but they still remain the exception.

I am slowly getting out and about and seeing theatre and meeting theatre makers.  I have an audition coming up for a role in a major production.  Of course, we miss more auditions than we get, but you’ve got to be in it to win.  I’ll let you know more, as more happens.

Love and mercy to you and your friends.

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7 thoughts on “Letters from a voluntary exile: Melbourne”

  1. Dear Rachel

    Sorry I took a little while to get back to you, but I’ve been on holiday over the last two weeks.

    Thanks for your interest in my article and welcome to Melbourne – and Australia! I hope you enjoy yourself.

    Websites that offer auditions include StarNow (but be careful – a lot of unpaid and unprofessional gigs also advertise here) or ArtsHub, which is a very useful source of news and job advertisements as well as auditions.

    As ever, the best way to find the auditions is through a good agent. Email seems to be the best way to approach them, with a phone call follow up.

    I don’t know if this is helpful. Please feel free to get in contact with me again and hopefully I can be of use. Or we could even meet and talk. Odd in this electronic age, I know, but let’s be daring!

    Yours

    Nick

  2. Hi Nick,

    Loved the article. Thanks!
    I’m an American actress recently moved to Melbourne, and would like to know if you have any suggestions for websites where I can find auditions.

    I acted in a lot of independent movies and television shows in Chicago, and really just want to get on screen and play while learning the industry here. I’m aware of StarNow, but are there any other sites you recommend? We mostly use Craigslist in the USA, but Gumtree doesn’t seem to be as popular for casting notices.
    Thanks!

  3. Hello Fredrika

    Generally speaking, you need to approach the agent yourself. They say a three-pronged attack is best: email, phone, and a snail mail. I used email and that worked for me. I send a covering letter, my CV and my showreel (or a link thereto). Most of my emails went unanswered for some time, and when they did reply it was a ‘thanks but no thanks’. Two agents replied, I had meetings with both, they both made an offer and I chose one.

    It is also good if you can get into a show with a good role so you can invite agents and casting agents to see you in action. Be prepared to pay for few tickets if necessary!

    As to open casting calls, there I’m afraid I cannot help you.

    Good luck with your career!

    Nick

  4. Hi. How did you manage to get the service of an agent?
    Did you go looking for them or did they find you?
    I am interested in having an agent as I want to pursue
    acting as a career, however I am not sure how to contact
    them, or if they find clients themselves.
    Do you know of any promising open casting calls for a 15-18
    year old girl?
    All the best and good luck with your production.

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