I am an experienced stage actor, and have done everything from the West End and outdoor shows to several solo shows. But as far as screen work goes, two commercials are the full extent of my CV.
I am currently self-represented and champing at the bit to get back to work. Unfortunately, while there has been a small increase in the number of castings hitting my inbox, they have almost all been screen-orientated. News reports about the slim chances of theatre bouncing back any time soon suggest that this situation will be the norm for a long time yet.
I have begun submitting for screen jobs, but have had no ‘bites’ so far. My fear is that, being so obviously a theatre actor, my chances up against those with more screen credits are not great.
I had thought about approaching an agent to get more film and TV work, but I doubt I would be top of their wish lists at the moment. I am willing to invest in screen training if you think it is useful, but maybe I am so steeped in theatre that it is too late?
When marketing ourselves in any new area, the descriptions we use can make all the difference, not just to potential clients but to our own confidence and self-image.
Rather than mentally boxing yourself in as a ‘theatre actor’, I would remind you that you are simply ‘an actor’ who may so far have done mostly stage work, but who, by nature, has the ability to adapt to new characters, scenarios and performing environments.
You mention that you have successfully moved between West End, outdoor work and one-person shows. That already involves a lot of learning and developing, and those are the same tools you will need for this next leap. You are right that there are different techniques for stage and screen. This seems obvious, but doesn’t prevent a high number of actors from stage backgrounds approaching screen-orientated agencies because they would like more film and TV work, even though they haven’t even done a basic screen acting course to prepare.
If you can do some training and pre-empt that objection, it is a definite advantage.
However, choose your courses carefully. Be very wary of the type of highly promoted crash courses which, although purporting to including screen acting, mainly involve basic theatre games, well-worn scenes from existing films and TV shows rehearsed and performed as stage pieces, and very little time spent in front of an actual camera.
As with any purchase you are considering, seek recommendations. One small advantage of training for screen in the current climate is that whatever course you choose is likely to be online, so at least you will get to practise on camera. Your smartphone is also your friend – capture as many performances as you can and then search for good self-tapes by experienced screen actors to compare them.
Give some thought to technology as well as to acting technique – with remote working likely to be a much more common production scenario for the foreseeable future, a wider understanding of the whole production process is more important than it has ever been.
Actors are likely to find themselves carrying out tasks like setting up cameras or lights at home, which might previously have been done by other members of the film crew. Hopefully such tasks will still be supervised remotely by people qualified in those fields, but the better an actor’s understanding is of how each tech element enhances their performance, the better placed they will be to deliver a result.