Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Finding it tough going in Hollywood



I have described a lot about life in LA, the differences with regards castings and work, but haven't necessarily talked about how I'm personally getting on. I believe the time is now for that and to explain why I have returned to the UK.

In LA I was doing some football coaching to keep me busy and to get some money to simply enough be able to live out there. I was greatly appreciated to be able to do this as it kept me busy, kept me motivated, but more importantly enabled me to be able to put food on my table. Sound dramatic? Well its not. Having the responsibility of being in an adult relationship and living with someone requires you to be committed and sensible with everything. The coaching wasn't earning me a lot of money, but it was a necessity. With modeling work and presenting work not really happening over there, I needed to ensure I was earning enough to survive.

This was very different to how I was living my life previously and how I have lived my life in the past. It was a wake up call and a huge amount of realisation crept in. I had to do what I could and what was necessary, which included making a lot of sacrifices in my life and enabled me to find fun in different ways, which myself and my gf certainly achieved. It makes you realsie how important your own company is and that laughing, joking and ultimately smiling and being happy were the most important things in our lives.

Everybody says the same thing about Hollywood that it takes time and money to be successful there. They also say this great quote, "Its not what you know, its who you know thats important"
Its all about networking there and building your contacts and consistently keeping up to date with them, by regularly emailing, phoning them, but of course doing it in the right way. I've found how important it is to ensure you are an asset to people and that to prove to them how much you have to offer. It has opened my eyes up so much and although its been incredibly tough, I know it will stand me in good stead in the future.

BUT as with our luck this past 7 months, my life took another twist.

I have been playing a lot of football in LA, which has been fantastic, but unfortunately I played 1 too many games and this game I injured my knee. I got my studs caught in the turf as I turned and my left knee (the opposite to previous knee problems I've had) popped. Furtehr investigation thanks to an MRI scan confirmed I have torn my Cruciate Ligament and 2 other medial ligaments on either side of my knee! Just add's to the problems and limits my ability to work too.
Now back in the UK I require an operation and without private health cover I need to wait until the NHS is ready for me to have it done. Joy. So, when will I be going back? When I have the operation and am fully able to do everything I could do before that is the answer.

Hope that helps everyone get up to speed with where I'm at and how everythings been going

JAmes

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Castings in LA



This section is to let you know what castings are like in LA and how they differ to anywhere I've been in the world.
The main difference is the fact that you very rarely get an opportunity to meet the clients for the jobs you cast for. There are a lot of casting directors and casting agencies in this town that are employed by companies to cast potential talent for jobs. What this also means is that it add's an extra stage to the casting process, which for the client it makes it easier to cast someone. For the talent however, it is a completely different story and one I have become increasingly frustrated by since arriving in LA. It means that for practically every single job available, whether a modeling job or an acting job, there are a minimum of 2 stages of castings. That means 2 trips to the casting studios on two different days, a lot of time commitment and more money spent on travel. Now you can imagine that if your casting every single day and if you get fortunate enough for a call back, this will involve a lot more money being spent.



This is not the only difference with the castings. The volume in people casting is so much higher than that in London. We're talking very often numbers over 500 for certain jobs. Competition is fierce here in Tinseltown, with so many hopes and dreams of wannabe actors and models trying to come to fruition. It makes it very very difficult to make it and is definitely a part of the reason why I have found the first 6 months pretty tough.

On a personal level, I believe that when I get a chance to meet a client and to show them my personality, I have a lot higher chance of getting the job. I always believe that you need to make the impression on the clients so that you stick in their mind and that they don't forget you. This is extremely difficult to do when your being asked maybe 2 questions from a casting director (what is your name? what is your agency?). So ultimately 99% of roles are down to your look and if you fit the criteria set by the clients. You can kiss as much ass of the casting directors as you can, and so many do, but they are not the ones making the ultimate decision.



Now, a company that I am not obliged to mention, (due to contractual obligations) requested me for a commercial casting audition. First step of the casting was to have a phone interview. I was asked various questions about myself, my past and some about my personality. I had to ensure that when I received the phone call I was available to talk which meant moving work around that I had arranged.
After the phone interview I was fortunate to get a callback. I was extremely happy about this, as I knew the project was a large one and worth a lot of money too. (this is always something which is tough for models and actors, as it gets your hopes up when you see high figures flashed in front of your eyes) 2ND casting was at a specific casting building and I went in, waited the usual about 30 - 45 minutes as is the case in LA and went in. I was interviewed in front of a camera and asked the exact same questions as my phone interview. You can imagine how frustrated I was, as it felt like a complete waste of time going in, spending money and using my time again.

BUT my phone rang again and I got my 2ND callback, 3rd casting of all, again I was very happy about. This time I finally got to meet the client (well I thought all of them) and was happy to finally present myself to them and to get them to meet me and to speak to them. Now this casting went great and I got told by the Director of the project himself that I was his favourite for it! Such elation to hear that.

BUT it didn't end there! I was called up yet again to go in for a 3rd callback, a 4Th casting of all the following day! I was happy, but couldn't believe that I had to see them again and spend so much time trying to impress the client, doing very similar things to the previous days casting. I put my feelings to the back of my mind and gave it my all. I left this casting feeling absolutely drained and exhausted by the whole process but still very positive about the outcome. I was also told that I would hear back from them very soon to know if I had booked the project at all.

I never heard one thing back from them. Ruthless casting, no care or worry about how the people casting for the roles feel. They could not give a s**t about how much time, effort, energy, money and commitment went in for this casting alone. 4 castings! And worse was to follow when they did not pick anyone from the castings for the project and chose 2 very different people.

That is a true experience that I received whilst casting in LA. It is a tough, ruthless place to be and to try and make it. These previous hurdles and challenges will all stand me in good stead for the future, that I can be sure of.

Landing in Hollywood on a 3 year working visa



Tinseltown was upon me and I arrived in January on a 3 year working visa ready to take on Hollywood and all that it had in store for me. I was extremely fortunate and lucky to have the amazing support of my girlfriend who has been living in this city for 4 years.

It was tough at first, as LA is a city where you have no choice but to have access to transport, a car to be precise. The metro system is not great and the buses aren't the best either. I quickly learnt that castings were all over the city, and LA is one big big city too! From Hollywood to Santa Monica, to Downtown LA to Studio City, you name it and the traffic around the city is insanely bad. But hey that's part of my new life in a new city across the other side of the world.

It was time to get out and about as much as possible, to start exploring my new home. I was straight into my agency, Wilhelmina and it felt great to start cracking the modeling industry out in LA. Castings were happening straight away, and I was also back coaching soccer to, just to keep myself a bit busier.

The one thing I loved about LA in January is that the weather is so so so good! It felt like a British Summer and it was winter time! Such an amazing feeling to experience these weather conditions, and I have to admit was great to be away from the freezing cold English winter.

JAmes

Saturday, 9 July 2011

How did I get a visa to work in the US

Hi everybody,

A question that has been asked to me so much since I made the decision to come over to the states. "how did you get a visa?"
This is where I became very very fortunate, just.

When I arrived at the end of August, I got my modeling portfolio sent out to me. The reason I did this was because I first arrived on a tourist visa, which literally anyone can get, lasting 90 days. So, if my bags were searched, which does happen in the US, and they found my portfolio, they would think I am here to work illegally. I couldn't take this risk as I was moving here for someone and to follow my heart. Through my agency back in the UK, they helped set up some open call's with agencies in LA. This simply means anyone who wants to model here goes to an open call in hope of becoming a model.

I went round to LA Models first, they said no. I then went to a smaller agency called Q Models. They showed a lot of enthusiasm for me and said they would give me an answer very soon (something you hear a lot in LA). No word back at all.

Third on the list was well renowned agency Wilhelmina Models. This was the busiest of all open calls. A room full of people - certainly not models! It was amazing! One of the strangest experiences of my life. The hopes, the dreams, the aspirations of so many in the room who believed this was their destiny. There was desperation from so many too, you could see it in their eyes. I wish I had a picture of everybody in the room. One (I kid you not) looked like she was a man! One was a scrawny boy who was about 5ft 3. Another was a man who looked about 40 odd, beer gut the lot! One was a cocky, arrogant, young "douchbag" who thought he was gods gift. He turned up with his "manager" and got bombed so bad! Was so so so funny!
Anyways, everybody had to put their portfolios or pictures on the table and they were collected in. If your portfolio was returned, then you were not successful. Fortunately for me, mine never came back, and was the only one that did not come back. (whether that was a huge compliment considering some of the people in the room, I'm not so sure)
I got called into the room and met Paul Nelson, the head of the men's division in LA. A very nice guy who was straight to the point, that he liked me, liked my look and would help me get a visa! All would be done through their lawyers so I wouldn't have to do hardly anything! Simple!

I was over the moon! It was just the help I needed and I knew now that I could relax a bit more and enjoy getting used to life in the city and to getting to know my lovely new girlfriend some more.

Next step involved waiting, and waiting, and waiting for more news on the development. Originally they applied for a an O visa, a popular visa for models, actors and entertainers, that allows not just a specific job role. This was the ideal visa for me that could free me up to start looking into other adventures and potential work placements. A few weeks later though, disaster struck! The American government announced no more O visa's will be given out to models. (Great!) Fortunately, Wilhelmina were straight on the case and applied for a H1B visa for me. This visa is similar, but only entitles you to work for the company that sponsored you. At the time I had no care in the world about this and was very keen to just get whatever visa I could to ensure I could stay here.

After finding and attaching as many articles of my previous work that I could, getting references from around the world with agencies I've represented and filling out detailed forms regarding my work and what companies I've worked for etc, he application was in! A month or so later, success!!!!!!!! I had been granted the work visa and was on my way!

I hope this answers questions for anyone who was interested in how I managed to get my working visa. Feel free to post a comment if not.

Keep well

JAmes

Friday, 8 July 2011

Back Blogging!!!!!


Hi Everyone,

Apologies for going very quiet on the blog front! It's been a strange, crazy 10 months I have to admit. I wish I was blogging all the way through because so much has happened since my last update. I hope you enjoy.

What a year its been! From South Africa to LA, back to London and back to LA! I have so many friends who have been and done the whole LA thing as a holiday, but theres me in love and moving to the other side of the world.



That is her in the picture with me outside the famous Staples Center in LA, home of my new team the LA Lakers. Yes I am now a huge basketball fan, one of many changes in my life whilst I've been living in LA, Hollywood to be precise, tinseltown as they say!!!

My year has been so crazy including celebrating in the craziest parade ever for Halloween! I have never seen anything like it in my life! The costumes were absolutely crazy! (check out my facebook for more pictures) - http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=505970401
House parties galore including many in the plush area of Beverly Hills in some of the most incredible houses ever! This town really has got it all for entertainment every single day of the week there is an event, a birthday, a party, a film premiere, you name it!!!

I have countless stories, which I will start updating along the way, as well as telling you all about how my work situation is going and what life's like for me living, surviving and tackling this town.

Hope all of you are well

JAmes