Pilot Season in America

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Victoria is an actress, freelance journalist and author
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Pilot Season - two words readily associated with actors and America.

Like many things in life, in order to really know what something means, sometimes you have to abandon the books and experience it.

I wanted to give readers an honest overview on the pros and cons of Pilot Season for a British actor.

If you are daring enough to take the chance, strap yourself firmly into your seat on the roller coster, because you are in for a white knuckle ride.

Leaving on a one-way flight with Air NewZealand I gaily stepped up to the check-in desk with my guitar (which I am still learning, so I didn’t have the option to busk if things got tough) a large suitcase (which was definitely overweight) my laptop (my international actors office) and one bag of hand luggage with my golden ticket - my passport and US visa.

I departed into the unknown on January 8, 2013 and I was nervous. I had sold my car. Changed up my savings and the items I had with me, formed a survival kit, until, I decided, that a production company would fly me home.

[pullquote]Pilot Season is not for the faint hearted[/pullquote]

One major thing I learned is that Pilot Season is not for the faint hearted. The first leap is the hardest and it will test your strength, challenge your talent and really question your faith.

Having spent four months across the pond I can reassure you that if you have a good agent and a great work ethic, including a positive and motivated mindset you can rest assure you will have little sleep, little food and little time to socialise.

If, like me, you know that there is nothing else you would rather be doing than acting then the deprivations of this are worth the effort. I would love to know if your experiences of Pilot Season have been similar?

Going in to meetings with the vice presidents of casting at major networks, stepping foot in the big studios and meeting producers in Hollywood, regularly auditioning and being in class doing what you love every day, makes every ounce of hard work worth it.

From my experience of treading the path I would offer this; If you are not quite ready. Be ready. Get in shape, Have your visa, be honest with yourself about whether your American accent is good enough to compete against those that having been speaking it for as long as you have been alive and then ... jump and don’t look back.

1 Comment

  1. As Victoria states, being prepared and ready is some good advice. As is having a visa… many of us hear a story or know someone personally that got cast in something big, and their visa was obtained by the production company… but this is an anomaly – a visa can set you up with more access to opportunities. Also, as an actor who has been here 6 years, been in major network pilots, produced some for consideration too, staying power and contacts is also important. Turning up for pilot season may work for some, but even with a good agent, manager and work ethic, I didn’t get seen for a pilot well into my 2nd year, after I got my SAG card, and had established connections and credibility. A casting director once explained… many actors show up for pilot season because it’s when they are open to using unknown actors. But these actors whilst unknown or little known to the public, are very known to the casting directors. They are risking their reputation with the studios, so they want to know that you can deliver. So turn up ahead of pilot season, establish yourself, and relationships prior. Also, don’t underestimate the value of having a good social life / friends / enjoying the surroundings. Not only will you need these things on the low points, but it is what will create your trusted network going forward, and help you to enjoy the life you are leading. The casting director I used for my recent film http://www.stefanoformaggio.com I met in a bar in my 2nd week here, she also happened to cast for Spelling Entertainment…. Be prepared, have fun, stick it out, prosper! :)

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