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Spotlight Blog

Making it in America: My USA trip for Pilot Season 2013

Victoria Atkin, 7th January 2013 Spotlight.com

Ever wanted to work in US TV? With many actors busy putting themselves on tape for pilot season in the States, we'll be hearing from one Spotlight member's experiences of LA.

Victoria Atkin will be blogging regularly for us from America as she heads to the States for pilot season. In her first column, she tells us why she decided to aim for the American dream. 

"Vic have you thought about working in America? There are these network weeks that take people over there for meetings." The world often throws me these lines. This came from a friend of a friend, a passing comment which I'm sure wouldn't materialise, but it stuck. Niggled and would not budge. 

I had never thought about America before. I knew I wanted a successful acting career but the thought of leaving England hadn't occurred to me so soon after graduating from The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in 2009.

At the time when the comment was made I was playing a series regular on Channel 4 having plenty of success doing what I love - dressing up and living another person's life, this time as a transgendered teenage boy on 'Hollyoaks' - but like any artist my soul yearned for bigger and better.

Using my earnings, I began to research the companies in the UK that offered this networking trip to satisfy my curiosity.

After it had felt like I had heard every story and opinion under the sun, the successes and the scams, I decided I wanted to find out for myself, what it was all about.

A friend pointed me towards a company they knew and going by their recommendation I went and listened to a seminar with Industry Hollywood about living and working in LA. After 15 minutes I knew this was for me - Richard and Rachel who run it were so encouraging and helpful.

This was July, and by November I was there. I would like to add that this was after much deliberating of putting down the money for the trip, which my ego swore would be a scam. It wasn't at all. It proved to be the best week of my life so far. This was November 2011.

I spent the week driven to meetings including one at Universal Studios with Casting Director Paul Weber, taking classes with my group with the likes of Lesley Kahn and Amy Lyndon, while making new friends for life who joined me on the journey.

Throughout 2012 I was submitted for US projects and have been very fortunate to have used the fantastic self-taping service Spotlight offer.

As much as I love seeing Kittie and Sara welcoming me at the Spotlight check-in desk, my feet continued to itch. I decided to use my knowledge and experience of my first trip to plan, with the help of my fantastic agent, my very own pre-pilot season trip in order to expand my contacts and knowledge of the industry over there.

Embarking on my second trip I began to experience the reality of an English actor's life in Hollywood, which in turn, contributed to a recent article I wrote for The Stage Newspaper on the differences between auditioning in London and Los Angeles.

Having spent 2012 gaining my visa and laying foundations in US, meeting with Casting Directors such as April Webster and Jon Levey, the time has come...Pilot Season 2013.

Over the next couple of months I will be documenting my adventure by keeping Spotlight members up to date with my very own personal experience from LA LA Land. I fly on the 8th of January 2013... 

 

Making it in America: 11 days in...

Victoria Atkin, 24th January 2013 Spotlight.com

Victoria Atkin is blogging regularly for us from America as she heads to the States for pilot season. Here is the latest chapter of her adventures in LA.
Wow, where to begin! Having arrived on the 8th of January 2013 in LAX, grateful to be leaving behind the cold weather, I touched down in Los Angeles later that evening brimming with enthusiasm, hope and excitement, having sat randomly on the same row of the plane, as boy band, The Wanted. 
Zombiefied with jet lag the first step was to take a bus from the airport to pick up the hire car and trusty companion for the first two weeks from car hire firm Alamo, whilst I weigh up whether it’s better to buy, lease or rent a car for a longer period... still deciding...it runs out Tuesday, but somehow I have already acquired the laid back Los Angeles faith, that it will all work out with perfect timing. 
Thankfully driving on the opposite side of the road in an automatic on monster highways this time, wasn’t as daunting as my first time, last October, which was a comedy sketch in itself. I often reached for the non-existent gear stick, waited patiently at every red light (when you’re allowed to turn right on a red) contributing to the blasting of numerous horns. Driving on the wrong side of the road around the supermarket (“grocery store”) car parks got the most beeps. 
The majority of the first week has been made up of laying foundations; gaining my social security card (very similar to NI card) and opening a US bank account. My agent and I are beginning to reconnect with contacts I met in October letting them know I am back so that I am considered for the pilots that they have coming up. 
Being back in class is fantastic and has allowed me to put the American accent I have been perfecting in the car in England into practice by cold reading current US feature film and TV scripts with US actors. It's great that the actors here train continuously, developing, refining and remoulding their craft, so that they are at their very best, at all times, for the endless opportunities, that this land of opportunity presents. 
A generous friend has been kind enough to let me base myself at her house whilst I look for a more permanent place to stay, however they don’t have Wi-Fi so in order to access emails and speak to friends and family back home it’s trips to Starbucks. 
Making calls and texts has been fun from my pay as you go retro flip phone. Texting on something other than an iPhone has made me truly grateful. There is an unlimited no annual contract T-mobile deal which sounds perfect, so as soon as my iPhone has been unlocked from my current network provider at home, I will be able to go on Twitter everywhere! 
Last night a friend was performing in a final year play, of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons. Having trained in Meisner with Ben Naylor at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and with Kate Maravan and Scott Williams at The Actors Centre as well as workshops with Mark Wakeling at The Actors Temple, I was intrigued to see a full cast using the technique in a classic play. Watching this in the small theatre, brought home the power of "practice makes perfect". The performances of students of The Ruskin School were phenomenal and every member of the audience was fully transported to the world that was truthfully created. 
I am so excited to document my next steps to you all. My greatest hope is that this is giving anyone in England wanting to test out the other side of the pond a taste of what it might be like. Wishing everyone that reads this continued success in the UK. Speak to you in a fortnight...
Wow, where to begin! Having arrived on the 8th of January 2013 in LAX, grateful to be leaving behind the cold weather, I touched down in Los Angeles later that evening brimming with enthusiasm, hope and excitement, having sat randomly on the same row of the plane, as boy band, The Wanted.
 
Zombiefied with jet lag the first step was to take a bus from the airport to pick up the hire car and trusty companion for the first two weeks from car hire firm Alamo, whilst I weigh up whether it's better to buy, lease or rent a car for a longer period...still deciding...it runs out on Tuesday, but somehow I have already acquired the laid back Los Angeles faith, that it will all work out with perfect timing.
 
Thankfully driving on the opposite side of the road in an automatic on monster highways, this time, wasn't as daunting as my first time, last October, which was a comedy sketch in itself. I often reached for the non-existent gear stick, waited patiently at every red light (when you are allowed to turn right on a red) contributing to the blasting of numerous horns. Driving on the wrong side of the road around the supermarket ("grocery store") car parks got the most beeps.
 
The majority of the first week has been made up of laying foundations; gaining my social security card (very similar to NI card) and opening a US bank account. My agent and I are beginning to reconnect with contacts I met in October letting them know I am back so that I am considered for the pilots that they have coming up.
 
Being back in class is fantastic and has allowed me to put the American accent I have been perfecting in the car in England into practice by cold reading current US feature film and TV scripts with US actors. It's great that the actors here train continuously, developing, refining and remoulding their craft, so they are at their very best, at all times, for the endless opportunities, that this land of opportunity presents.
 
A generous friend has been kind enough to let me base myself at her house whilst I look for a more permanent place to stay, however they don't have Wi-Fi so in order to access e-mails and speak to friends and family back home it's trips to Starbucks.
 
Making calls and texts has been fun from my pay as you go retro flip phone. Texting on something other than an iphone has made me truly grateful. There is an unlimited no annual contract T-mobile deal which sounds perfect, so as soon as my iphone has been unlocked from my current network provider at home, I will be able to go on Twitter everywhere!
 
Last night a friend was performing in a final year play, of Arthur Miller's All My Sons. Having trained in Meisner with Ben Naylor at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and with Kate Maravan and Scott Williams at The Actors Centre as well as workshops with Mark Wakeling at The Actors Temple, I was intrigued to see a full cast using the technique in a classic play. Watching this in the small theatre, brought home the power of "practice makes perfect". The performances of students of The Ruskin School were phenomenal and every member of the audience was fully transported to the world that was truthfully created.
 
I'm so excited to document my next steps to you all. My greatest hope is that this is giving anyone in England wanting to test out the other side of the pond a taste of what it might be like. Wishing everyone that reads this continued success in the UK. Speak to you in a fortnight.... 

 

The journey is the destination: Pilot Season 4 weeks in...

Victoria Atkin, 12th February 2013 Spotlight.com

If I have learnt anything in acting, and in life, it is, to, "take leaps of faith with the trust that everything WILL be better than OK." Victoria Atkin 2013.

I have now been in LA for nearly 4 weeks, after wondering how it was going to happen, last year.

I reported in my last blog, that I had begun laying foundations, gaining my social security card and U.S Bank account and was currently in the process of sorting a phone, that didn't take me back in time, to text; A car, as the clock was ticking on my rental and; a more permanent place to live.

Apartment, well; I now live in a beautiful new place in Santa Monica on the infamous Montana Avenue. The perfect running distance to the beach, found using the Internet Bible of resources; Facebook group 'BRITS IN LA'. For anyone thinking of moving or living in LA, this group is a must. I only really use Facebook for this reason.

In the process of setting up camp, I landed my first voiceover job! Which I found out about through BRITS IN LA! This has been great fun to get stuck into, to fully realise the potential of the voice. Without question it is complimenting my acting work by building upon, and refining my talent for accents, which are now being put to great use. The British accent is definitely a bonus here too and I was requested to use my native accent for this job.

With regard to my first voiceover job, I am currently reading Charles Dickens Great Granddaughters book 'The Listeners' for the fantastic company Deyan Audio, adding to the wealth of my creative acting education from, Transgendered Teenagers, Foreign Accent Syndromed Soldiers. I'm also looking at the importance of the Samaritans and their work through the realms of fictional literature. This will be available to buy on Audible from March 2013.

This job also has another bonus, SAG (Screen Actors Guild) eligibility. For those of you who aren't familiar with SAG and AFTRA the easiest way to explain it is, they are like our fantastic union Equity. They were two separate unions, but have recently merged to form one mega union and work together with all the top studios and industry folk, to promote fair and equal pay, culminating in SAG/AFTRA contracts for actors, amongst all their other work. An important thing to note is that in the US, if you are a SAG/AFTRA union member you aren't allowed to take part in non-union work, so if you are looking to work on independent features or student films, this is good to bear in mind.

Continuing with the theme of SAG, on the 27th of January, LA hosted the 19th annual SAG Awards and I am currently in the process of watching all the winners in action. I have never watched so many films in such a short period of time #MovieMarathon! Check out all the nominees and recipients. Thrilled to see ITV's Downton Abbey flying the British flag as winners of the Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series. Congratulations to anyone reading this who contributed to the series.

After getting my mum on the case, as a personal assistant back at home, my iPhone was successfully unlocked and I skipped happily to T-Mobile to insert the Holy, US, micro-sim. I was back in touch with the world (and I could phone UK landlines unlimitedly if homesickness arose - I can't say it has, yet, the weather is too beautiful).

The car was sorted, kind of. I've opted for a longer term hire car. I will keep you posted on any more committed decisions at a later stage.

It is difficult to estimate how long I will be out here for, which is why it is a difficult decision to make when considering to buy, or alternatively lease a car, which, in most instances you have to sign up to 24 or 36 month contracts.

Having announced my arrival and chased up the casting directors I met with in October, my phenomenal agent, the lovely Michelle Sykes at Mondi Associates has also kept me busy. I have begun taping for pilots that are happening in the UK and the US. I feel so blessed to be working as an actor in this pioneering age of technology, it really does make life easier; once you've tackled the complexities of uploading it!

My coach Amy Lyndon has enabled me to tape in her home studio, but I was also keen to find somewhere with light and white walls to reduce costs and tape at home. My new room has just that!

On a final note I'm noticing the benefits of training in the US already. In the last week of every month The Lyndon Technique students take part in COSTAR week. Every girl gets given the same script and the format is the same for the guys. We were given a scene from Vampire Diaries, and each had, one shot at auditioning in front of all the guys (acting as producers) and the guru (our coach) Amy Lyndon, who read in as the casting director for each girl as they took their turn.

After all 16 had read, they did call backs reducing it to 4 girls who had to read again. I made the call back round. We all performed it again, one by one and the decision was made by the rest of the group who would book the job. I booked it!

Can't wait to update you again very soon and in the meantime keep your eyes peeled for daily updates via Twitter @VictoriaAtkin

Love from LA

Victoria

 

LA LA LAND: February 2013 round-up

Victoria Atkin, 7th March 2013 Spotlight.com

Sitting in another Starbucks reflecting back on the busiest but BEST month so far, I am grateful to Spotlight for this opportunity to share my experiences of Pilot Season with fellow actors and industry professionals, so thank you Spotlight.

Now that the foundations have been cemented, things are flowing very well although it hasn't been without a great deal of hard work.

Getting up at 6am every weekday, running to the seafront and back begins a typical day. I rehydrate with a carton of coconut water, before training my voice, (a healthy instrument I am hugely grateful for) by continuing to practice my American Accent - 'if you don't use it, you lose it'. The morning regime continues with a bowl of porridge before opening emails of potential opportunities.

I have now successfully auditioned and self-taped for over 10 pilots this month for casting directors in the UK, New York and LA. I've read two audio books, (one being 11 hours in of finished audio which took over double the amount of time to record) and written two blogs. I've been updating my marketing with the help of my fantastic team including Michelle Sykes at Mondi Associates and Ben Horsley at Uttermedia, who built and manages my website www.victoriaatkin.com. I've spent over 20 hours in class refining my craft with my coach Amy Lyndon, spent numerous hours researching by studying the style and tone of American television shows and films as well as attending meetings with fellow industry professionals including directors, casting directors and fellow actors that are over for Pilot Season. The time in between this has been spent preparing scripts for auditions, talking to my agent, catching up with friends and family via Skype and Facetime, as well as fitting in some hours of sleep and rejuvenation, not to mention enjoying the Oscars, Pancake day and Valentine's day!

The discoveries I have made working on the scripts which I have been given during this period are endless. Each character and script takes me off on a new journey, which is continuing to solidify my craft and successfully strengthen all the skills I have already acquired.

One of my favourite parts of auditioning is the final stage of preparation; dressing for the part. And any casting director that has had me in the room or seen my tape will know I pride myself on doing this. This month has been like a fancy dress fitting room in my apartment. I have embraced an 1800's southern American farmer girl and preacher's daughter, an edgy computer rebel (I loved tattooing and piercing up for this, not literally, but very Girl with a Dragon Tattoo) as well as donning suit jackets for tough-cookie cop and lawyer roles. Putting myself in other people's shoes is what gets my blood pumping and it's even better when I get to layer it with an accent - these are the best!

Anyway, I am very blessed to be recalled for a couple of the projects I have been up for, so fingers firmly crossed the next blog will be full of fantastic news and more Pilot Season progress.

Love to Leicester Square from Los Angeles. Thank you for reading.

Victoria

 

Making it in America: I DID IT!

Victoria Atkin, 15th April 2013 Spotlight.com

Spotlight member Victoria Atkin has been blogging regularly for Spotlight from across the pond in LA, in the height of pilot season. For her final instalment, Victoria tells us whether it was all worthwhile…

Wowza I thought last time I blogged I was busy! I attracted more business and I got an acting job! Woop!

Five hours of intense solid focus from 14.30 (my appointment time) until - 19.17, I was asked to read for a better role than I originally audition for. This was my 4th and final round of an audition which I self-taped for when I arrived.

On top of this intense audition day with the producers, I went home to read a feature film script and prepare an audition that came in whilst I was auditioning. This was for the next day at 11.45am. I love it.

The best part is, I also get to fly home and see my family and friends in England and audition for UK projects before I start back in LA, as we have negotiated a week long UK stop over.

So pilot season has now come to a close in Los Angeles and the hard work starts. Now that I have booked my next acting job, it is about gaining US representation and expanding my team so that we can continue to grow and build upon my momentum. This week before I fly to London I have been in to a handful of carefully selected meetings with the top talent agencies and management companies here. Once I have decided on which US representatives to sign with, the more people will be positively promoting my name and work in the industry: VICTORIA ATKIN

On my return to LA, after filming I will also be advancing my training once more by regularly working with my phenomenal new acting coach Howard Fine, something I am hugely excited about.

So I did it. I set a goal to land a US Series regular role in the first 3 months of my first pilot season. And I did.

Thank you for reading my first pilot season journey. I hope to keep you posted throughout the rest of the year with my thoughts from being on set, living and working in America and London, and most importantly the positive progression of my acting career.

I am enormously looking forward to having London auditions and meetings in my brief trip home before I begin filming. Please do say hello if you have read this blog and see me in and around Spotlight. I will be also of course popping into The Actors Centre too to get my favourite soya mocha made by the fantastic cafe owner Filomena.

Wishing everyone who takes the time out of their busy schedules to read this, huge success in their careers in our fantastic industry.

See you all in Blighty very soon.

Victoria

 

LA LA Land: An Update from America

Victoria Atkin, 3rd June 2013 Spotlight.com 

2013 has been an adventure for me. If you read my blogs from my experience of this year’s pilot season from January - April 2013 in Los Angeles, you will be already know that the hard work of my agent and I paid off. If you missed them and are curious about the industry on the other side of the pond during Pilot Season, click here and let the navigating I did, inform your journey.

Filming my first U.S. role was magical. I arrived in Bucharest after travelling back to England from Los Angeles. I was fortunate enough to arrive home with the most immaculate timing, just as the bacon rolls were being exquisitely prepared by my father complete with still warm, crusty bread, and a table laid with the trophy of the Heinz tomato ketchup. A welcome home feast, fit for a queen.

They don't understand the concept of bacon rolls in America. "You want a roll with bacon and ketchup? Just that? For breakfast?" Yes. Ok, I’ll go with the waffles and pancakes with extra syrup. (This, I might like to add, is on a Sunday, in between my agonizingly strict healthy eating during the week.)

After the general excitement of being back, my smaller suitcase was packed for Bucharest. The car arrived and I was whisked off to Heathrow airport to work in Romania, which was somewhat different to the landscape I had pictured in my mind. It was unexpectedly rather green and very beautiful. I was driven straight to set to meet the director, begin my costume fittings, and the filming of my role began the next day.

Filming was fantastic. It was a sexy role and, after playing a boy for two years, I couldn't have been happier. I finally got some male attention on set without them questioning whether they might be gay by flirting with a woman dressed as a boy. The things we do for art. My character's office was artistically designed, I was dressed in the finest clothes, complete with sharp heels and feminine jewellery. The crew were great fun and the banter was marvellous. I beat myself up for the things I didn't do and smashed my scenes, allowing the fire in my soul to finally enjoy its release. Before I knew it, I was hanging my clothes back up in my dressing room, kicking off my heels, waving goodbye to the luxuries of the hotel, and being chauffeured back to the airport to get thrown back onto the audition merry-go-round, until the next time.

Every project seems to have its own music, and the people and placement of the project in that very moment are precious. It can often not be articulated to another who was experiencing their moments, in a lifestyle far from the realms of the blessed fantasy world we all work in.

With Love to London from Los Angeles,

Victoria 

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