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Breaking into the Australian TV Industry – A Complete Guide

How to land your big break on Aussie TV

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As any aspiring actor knows, there’s something about the Australian TV industry and success. It’s been described by some as a training ground for the Hollywood stars of the future and with good reason. Some of the most famous Australian actors and actresses all got their starts in TV-land. In fact, a cursory glance at Hollywood’s top stars right now reads a little like a who’s who of Aussie soaps!

So for any would-be actor with dreams of hitting the big time, breaking into the Australian TV industry is a great first step in their career. But as you can imagine, saying you’re going to work in Aussie TV and actually doing it are two completely different things. The competition in the TV industry right now is fierce to say the least and you will find yourself up against some of the most talented young (and mature) actors in the industry.

Luckily for you, the team here at Hunter Talent has quite a lot of experience helping both aspiring and accomplished actors land roles on Australian TV. And to help you out, we’ve decided to create this ultimate guide to working in the Australian TV industry.

From working on building up your experience to acing those auditions, here’s everything you need to know to launch a successful career in Aussie TV.

Start with the basics

And by basics we mean acting lessons or to be more precise, TV and film acting lessons. No matter how great you may have been in your high school musical career, acting on TV and film is a very different ball game to acting on stage. In TV acting, the camera captures every subtle movement and expression, and actors need to adjust their performance to suit the camera angles and shots. Close-ups, medium shots, and wide shots are used to convey emotions and tell a story, and actors need to be aware of the camera’s position and movement at all times. On top of all that, TV acting often involves multiple takes and filming out of sequence, requiring actors to maintain consistency in their performances regardless of when they film.

So with this in mind, you really should be thinking about starting some acting lessons.

Ideally, you’ll want to work with an acting coach who has experience with actors working on TV or better yet, a coach who has done some acting of their own on TV. It might not be quite so easy finding the latter, but the former should be no problem at all.

If you’re interested in TV work, then the chances are that you’re looking to land a role on one of Australia’s many successful soaps especially if you want to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Chris Hemsworth. There are some acting schools and coaches that will specialise in acting for soaps and it might be a good idea to start honing your skills in one of those classes.

Aside from the obvious acting lessons have more benefits than you might think:

  • Improve Communication Skills: Acting lessons teach you how to use your voice and body language effectively to convey emotions and communicate with others. This skill can be a serious benefit in many areas of life, not just acting!
  • Unlock Creativity: Acting requires imagination and creativity, and acting lessons help you tap into your creative side, allowing you to think outside the box and approach problems in new ways.
  • Confidence Building: Acting lessons can help you build confidence and self-esteem, as you learn to express yourself more freely and overcome stage fright and performance anxiety.
  • Better Memory and Focus: Acting involves memorising lines, blocking, and stage movements, which can improve your memory and focus skills.
  • Networking Opportunities: Acting classes and workshops provide opportunities to connect with other actors, directors, and industry professionals. This could lead to future career opportunities. You never know when a connection might come in handy, right?

Aim to have at least a few months worth of acting lessons under your belt before you go for your first audition. Of course, this isn’t essential, but it’s highly unlikely that an actor with no experience or acting lessons will receive a callback after their first audition. So give yourself the best chance possible and get on those acting lessons as soon as possible. 

And speaking of experience…

Build your experience

‘But how do I get experience in acting when I have no experience?’ — This is a question that we’re often asked when we advise aspiring actors to go out there and get some experience for their portfolio. And to be honest, it’s a very good question because who will give you a role if you’ve never even stood in front of a camera before? 

The truth is that there are tons of people out there who will do just that. There are so many legit opportunities to help you hone your acting skills and pad out that portfolio and all it takes is a little extra effort on your part. 

For example you could: 

Join a drama club – Amateur drama clubs are the perfect environment for learning how to work with others, memorise scripts, pick up some skills from experienced amateur actors. 

Act on the stage – Local theatre groups are always on the lookout for people to star in their shows. Sure, it’s different to on-camera work, but it is still good experience to stick on your resume. 

Work on student films – Your nearest film school or university campus will have an endless supply of unpaid acting opportunities where you can help students with their film projects. The great thing about this type of work is that you will have at least one or two clips from the project that you can drop in your acting portfolio. 

Audition for commercials – TV commercials aren’t as taxing as TV show work but they represent possibly the best opportunity you will have to get your face out there and build a reputation for yourself. Experience working on a TV commercial shoot is worth its weight in gold as the casting director will know that, at the very least, you know how to take direction and act on camera.

 

Act-on-the-stage

Get professional headshots

Basic industry knowledge 101 here but we’ll go ahead and point it out anyway — your headshots are a hugely important aspect of your portfolio as they are your chance to make that all important first impression. That’s why they have to be taken by a professional photographer. No home-taken photos or edited smartphone selfies. Your headshots must be shot in a professionally lighted studio and retouched by someone who knows what they are doing. 

Casting directors want to see what you look like in studio conditions and that’s what they’ll expect from your headshots. So don’t disappoint them. 

Your photographer should have headshot experience so they can give you advice on which angles work best for your features and what shots are essential for your portfolio. It may cost you a little more to get them done properly, but trust us, this is an investment in your career that you don’t want to scrimp on. Remember, a first impression can never be repeated so make yours a good one.

 

Hunter Talent Evelyn

Sign with the right acting agency

So it’s at this point that we tell you that there is no other acting agency in Australia that remotely compares to Hunter Talent, right? Well, not quite. As much as we’d like to tell that, the truth is that every actor is different and each has their own specific needs and goals. This means that not every acting agency is suited to every actor. 

What we actually recommend is that you do a little research and check out a few options that are local to you. If that means checking out five or six acting agencies in Melbourne, then so be it. Trust us, this is one of the most important decisions you can make at this stage of your career so it’s super important to take your time and make the choice that is right for you. 

Speak with any agencies you are interested in joining and tell them about your goals. Ask what they can do to help you achieve your goals and you’ll get a feeling from the way they answer. This gut feeling is not to be ignored because remember, this agency is going to represent you for quite some time. 

It’s also a good idea to see what kind of experience the agency has and their success stories. You should be able to find this on their website or social media profiles. If not, then just go ahead and ask.  

The agency must have a solid network of industry contacts and experience working with some well-known production companies or casting directors. This is extremely important as many casting directors will come straight to any agency they have a relationship with when in search of new talent. This means that many of the best roles are already cast before any casting calls go public. So in this respect, who you know really does matter. 

Remember that any agency that is willing to sign you up without at least talking to you about your career goals is probably not a good fit for you. Those types of acting agencies are only interested in collecting fees and having as many actors on their books as possible. Their goal is to make as much money as possible with the minimum amount of effort. Not ideal in the slightest! 

It’s preferable to sign with an agency that is selective about the actors that they work with. This way you know that the agency is going to work hard to promote you and help manage your acting career in the right way

 

Take on ALL the TV auditions

Yes, even those ‘I’m never getting that’ type auditions. The idea here is to get yourself as much experience as possible auditioning for TV roles so that you can really perfect your auditioning skills. The other main advantage to doing this is that the more auditions you do, the more confident and at ease you are in front of the camera and casting directors. Even if you try out for 20 roles and don’t get a single one, that’s perfectly fine. It’s all experience and long before you get to audition number 20, you’ll have learned to manage your nerves. 

Attending lots of auditions is also another great way to get your name out there. Even if you don’t get offered a role, casting directors will start to remember you once they see you a few times. And once you are capable and relaxed in your audition, they’ll remember you for the right reasons. Bear in mind that the reason you may not land a role could be because you’re not quite the right fit, but if a casting director likes you, they may remember your name and consider you for a more suitable role at some point in the future.

tv auditions

Create a TV-specific showreel

This is a bit of an out-there tip that not all actors will actually do. But, depending on your skills level, you might want to consider creating a self tape or showreel of you acting out a monologue from a well-known soap or a compilation reel of you acting out several scenes from TV. This is a great way to showcase your skills before you even get near an audition room. 

The great thing about creating a showreel or self tape is that you can record it as many times as you want until it is absolutely perfect. This way, the casting director or anyone that watches it will see you at your best and not when you may be a bag of nerves at an audition. 

Your self tape will go into your portfolio on your profile on talent portals and in your agency profile. If a casting director likes the look of your headshots, they just might watch it and give you a chance to impress in person at an audition.

Just remember that a showreel or self tape needs to be faultless, otherwise it will do more harm than good. So spend as much time as is necessary to make it 100% perfect in every possible way. 

 

Let EVERYONE know your plans

And we really do mean everyone. Your neighbours, your aunt in Western Australia, your colleagues at work, your old school chums — everyone should know that you are looking to break into the Australian TV industry. 

This means being very active on social media about your work and your auditions. Of course, you need to be careful about what you share online as you don’t want to upset a casting director if you tell the whole world about the project they’re working on. But you do want to let your followers and connections know that you were auditioning today or that you have just completed an acting workshop. 

You will also want to share your wins when they come along and they will come along. 

However, as important as it is to be highly visible online, it’s also super important to remember that you must remain professional at all times. No complaining about a casting director or getting angry about not landing a role. Remain positive at all times as it’s this type of person that people want to work with. Treat your social media profiles like a public resume and you’ll do just fine. 

girl talking to each other holding a glass of champagne. Let EVERYONE know your plans

Network like never before

Some people will tell you that working in TV is all about who you know and while it’s not all there is to getting work, it certainly does help to have a good relationship with some industry professionals. Of course, you could go hardcore and cold call casting directors and inadvertently land yourself a role just like Margot Robbie did, but that’s not quite what we have in mind. 

Instead, we’re going to recommend that you attend any industry events where you may meet casting directors, directors, filmmakers, or perhaps even screenwriters and TV network bigwigs. Yep, you’re going to want to speak to them if given the chance. This could be at casting calls arranged by TV networks or even local TV and film festivals where industry professionals may be speaking on panels. 

If you get the chance to speak to anyone, introduce yourself, collect numbers if it’s polite to do so, and just let people know how awesomely friendly and enthusiastic you are. But there’s a fine line between being enthusiastic and being downright annoying, so be careful how you approach networking. For example, you may not want to start a conversation with a casting director in an audition but if you meet them at an industry event, then knock yourself out. LinkedIn is also an option for connecting with industry professionals so make use of it as people on the platform will expect you to connect with them. Yes, we are actually recommending LinkedIn for actors! Who’d have thought it? 

Like we said earlier, it’s all about getting your name out there and being recognised and remembered for all the right reasons.  

people having a workshop

Pay attention to the industry

As great as your agency may be and even if the agents there have an amazing relationship with casting directors, there’s always a chance that you might spot a potential casting opportunity before they do. This is particularly true with network TV where the network may decide to bypass agencies and put out an open casting call for new actors. 

These opportunities that bypass agencies don’t come along all that often, but when they do, you want to be there to take full advantage. So follow all the soaps and production companies on social media. Follow the networks, casting directors, and anyone else that is even remotely involved with the production of TV shows. This could give you the inside track on any announcements so you can throw your hat in the ring as soon as possible. 

But remember that any time you want to put yourself forward for an opportunity, you must speak with your agency as soon as possible. It’s not a good look if both your and your agency put you forward for the same role. It causes confusion and suggests that you’re not great at communication which isn’t a great look for you or the agency.

Keep working on your skills

This is an important one and it’s something that some actors tend to forget when they land a few roles. It’s crucial that you keep working on your skills at all times. Even the greatest actors on the planet will tell you that they are always learning and that there is always some area that they’d like to improve. This is because acting is such a diverse industry where no two roles are the same. So keep up the acting classes or attend regular workshops particularly if they focus on an area that you have yet to study. 

The added benefit here is that all those classes and workshops go on your profiles and resume. And any casting director loves to see an actor that is always working to improve their craft. This shows a certain level of dedication that suggests that you might be worth taking a chance on even if you’re not quite what they are looking for. 

We’re not going to tell you that landing work in the Australian TV industry is going to be easy. If anything, it’s going to be the exact opposite. It will take a lot of hard work and endless auditions before you land your big break. Sure, you might be lucky and get your first major role right off the bat, but this rarely happens and it’s more likely that you’ll need to plug away for quite some time before that golden opportunity comes along. But trust us, with the right attitude and work ethic, and a certain amount of patience, there’s no reason why you can’t launch a successful career in the Australian television industry. And from there who knows? 

If you’re an aspiring actor who would love nothing more than to work on Australian TV, then the most important step you need to take is finding the right representation. Luckily for you, we can help with that. Here at Hunter Talent we’ve got the industry contacts and knowhow to help you make those first steps the right steps. So get in touch with us today or apply to join the wonderfully talented actors here Hunter Talent. Who knows… maybe we can help you find your big break!

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