Pursuit of the pilot

By John Weekes

Kiwi actors head to Los Angeles for pilot season.

Anna Hutchison. Photo / Supplied
Anna Hutchison. Photo / Supplied

Kiwi actors are setting their sights on the big-time this summer and jetting off to the United States for pilot season.

Johnson Laird agent Imogen Johnson said Rose McIver, Ari Boyland and Anna Hutchison were in the US for potential roles.

Johnson said the pilot season ran from late-January to April, and was basically a time all major networks cast for new half-hour and one-hour shows.

"In those three months, agents and managers are working 24/7 on getting their clients into the room with various casting directors."

Jessica Grace Smith - who plays a slave girl in Spartacus - is also heading to California from her Sydney base.

EMS Actor Management agency director Cindy McBain said the success of Australian actors in Hollywood had led some Americans to see New Zealand as a source of talent.

"Because of the big in-roads [Australians] have been making into the acting industry in LA, there are now other managers and talent agencies who are looking to perhaps tap the New Zealand market a little bit more," she said.

"There certainly is an interest in our actors over there ... but how many will go over there and make a living, I have no idea."

She said some aspiring actors jetted to the US with just a backpack and big dreams, but more planning was advisable. "You've got to have a pedigree behind you to convince these people, even if it's just being in a programme or film with other actors they could recognise."

Local actor John Aukusitino said he'd be staying in hostels but would prepare by getting a "kick-ass showreel" and mastering a neutral American accent. Aukusitino said $5000 should cover living expenses, and he aimed to be in Los Angeles in mid-February.

"My first trip will be to pretty much just explore the city for two weeks. Maybe if I'm lucky, get to a meet with a good casting agent and return with a constant contact who I can update with my progress back here in New Zealand and represent me over in LA."

Auckland Actors agent Graham Dunster said a lack of local opportunities, combined with big dreams, led actors to try their luck in Los Angeles.

"It's a good time to go over in one respect, but it's also easy to get lost in the mix."

Dunster said that ultimately more Kiwis would audition with American casting directors via Skype and the proliferation of new TV channels meant pilots were shot year-round.

- Herald on Sunday

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