Green Screens and Four Hooves!

Adding new skills and,…. Learning Satanic Verses?!

Exciting times!

I’ve just completed filming a,… devilish role for a short film. Two wonderful new experiences in this – my first time being filmed specifically in black and white (some lovely lighting work to excentuate my features) and my first time filming against a green screen. I’m amazed that I’ve not filmed against a green screen before now!

It’s a role that I’ve wanted to sink my teeth into for a while, and I look forward to sharing more details very soon, including, perhaps,…. some footage?

In other “new experience” news, I’m deep into riding lessons. Yup: me on horseback!

It’s always a good idea to add to your skill set, as an actor. The more skills you have, the easier it becomes to meet a niche. As casting directories can be filtered by skills, having plenty of them puts you in a better position.

In my case, with my voice – a voice that’s ideal for period drama – having the ability to ride a horse is a no-brainer, and something I’ve wanted to do for YEARS. Now I can.

There’s plenty of other news, and some more career thoughts, coming soon – so click that subscribe button and keep in touch.

Until next time: stay frosty!

Tim

Tim is currently seeking representation and casting opportunities. If you like what you see on his showreel and gallery, he welcomes approaches from casting professionals.

Overcoming the Anxiety of Getting Seen.

Being a working actor can be terrifying. It is, without a shadow of a doubt, the most fickle and over-subscribed industry on Earth, with hundreds, if not thousands, of actors applying for every single role that you apply for.

To make matters worse, if you don’t have an agent you’re probably only seeing 10% of the roles that are being passed about by those most terrifying, and wonderful, of gate-keeping humans: Casting Directors* (pay attention to the asterisk – it’s coming back later!)

I’m reminded, now that I’m back pounding pavements, just how difficult it is to be seen by the right people to make any progress in this business. The level of anxiety that can produce is very real. But how can we overcome it?

I’ve been reading up on advice given by Casting Directors and one phrase really jumped out at me:

Stay Positive.

Christ alone knows how difficult that can be when you’ve sent off your 10th pitch of the day and recieve crickets for your reward. The sheer force of silence on the other side of the casting divide is both deafening and deeply disheartening. But I understand what they mean when they say Stay Positive. I get it.

Because if you have the tenacity – if you get out there and be positive about yourself, your ability, your look and your aims, the right casting director will eventually see you at the right time for the right audition. You just need to trust the process.

Here’s the thing about that: *Casting Directors are lovely people – I know a couple of wonderful CDs (hello you!) and I can say this with complete conviction. Casting Directors want to find great actors and put them forward because they love TALENT.

They love finding a great actor as much as an actor loves finding a great role. If you are confident in your ability to deliver a performance that will win the part why should you be afraid to reach out and ask to be seen? I mean, don’t do it constantly – god no! They’re busy and don’t want to be bombarded – but a very occasional hello to remind them you’re active is fine. Encouraged, even.

Belief in your ability is what will hold you together. Not to a concieted or egotistical level (no no no no) but with a confident conviction that, actually, you are good at what you do. That you can demonstrate this. So long as you have this belief, you’ll be able to keep on punching through. Keep on fighting. Keep on reaching out to the people who need to see you.

Sometimes that belief will falter so go out and talk to other actors, directors and producers. Get out there and become part of a supportive network who will keep you fresh, keep your talent sharp and help to remind you that you deserve your part in the mix.

I was very humbled to recieve some beautiful feedback on an audition the other day. I was so nervous heading in for it – I hadn’t gone in for a face to face audition since long before Covid, but I had a monolgue that I knew I could deliver really well (rehearse, people!) and an idea of the character I was casting for that I knew would show thought and consideration.

Indeed, I used the nerves I felt outside that room to enhance my monologue – a character filled with an internal rage and self loathing. I turned that nervous energy inward, just as I’d learned to do over the decades I’ve been at this.

I came out of the audition knowing that a) I’d done my very best and the applause I’d recieved meant I hadn’t fucked it up (phew!) And b) that, actually, I probably wasn’t a perfect physical fit for the role, compared with other actors there.

I was very happy to hear, afterwards, that my instincts were right: the Director and Casting Director loved what I’d done. They loved my audition and my monologue to a point where it made them reconsider the character.

I’d come so very close to the lead role I’d gone for,… but my physical look meant there was another choice who – rightly – got that part instead.

(NB: I never feel bad about loosing a role if the right person gets it. Never. I love film. I love theatre and TV and drama and creating great work: why would I be upset that the film I wanted to be in is now cast perfectly? Makes no sense.)

But what it gave me was reassurance: I’d proven to myself that I was needed in that room. That I was worth their time. That I can deliver a performance that can make Casting Directors, Directors and audiences sit up and pay attention.

And for that I was so grateful.

It gave me my Positivity.

What else do you need? Well I’ll be going into that in some depth over the upcoming weeks – how to plan, who to connect with, what to create yourself (and why) and more. Hit subscribe and keep up to date to learn more about my process and my progress.

Tim x

See you next time!

Tim is currently seeking representation and casting opportunities. If you like what you see on his showreel and gallery, he welcomes approaches from casting professionals.

Photo by Tonik on Unsplash

Some Notes on Self-Taping (oh, and some new headshots!)

I find myself rediscovering the joys of Self-Taping. Well, I say “rediscovering” – it wasn’t as much of a thing before Covid. But I enjoy it.

That seems to make me a bit of an oddity.

Reading through the interweb’s numerous actor messaging boards, I can see that Self-Taping is generally more tolerated than enjoyed. Most actors hate seeing their work back and self-taping forces you to do just that. Over and over again until you’re happy enough with a take that you’ll send it off.

It also take time to set up a shot, learn the lines, record a few takes, watch them back, make some changes, go for a few more takes and watch them back. All of that before you edit them down, produce a take and send it. That’s if you’ve got the right kit to tape at quality in the first place.

That’s a lot of work to just put your face up in front of a director or a CD, without any guarantee that you’ll get anywhere near a face to face audition.

But I enjoy the process. I suppose it comes from a history of directing as well as acting. It also helps that I like to watch my work back because, uncomfortable as it can be if I see something to improve on, I WANT to see where I can improve. I WANT to get better with every performance. So working through a character in front of a camera and being able to watch for the beats and tics is so interesting to me.

Why didn’t that work? Did that come over as stagey? Why? What’s going on behind those eyes? Would thinking about something else bring an interesting subconcious flitter of emotion here?

I find Self-Taping to be invaluable. It also means that you can ALWAYS be at your best for you CD because you get to choose the shot they see, rather than hitting it up once in a studio and hoping you nailed it.

As for the time it takes and the effort needed: this is an industry and acting must be treated as a business.

I am a commodity and my job is a) to be the very, very best product I can be (IE – a brilliant actor) and b) able to demonstate this effectively. I’ll do anything I need to do to hit those two briefs. Self-Taping actually helps out with both, as it keeps me practiced, improving and gives me the ability to display my work.

So embrace Self-Taping! Show it some love. Use it to learn, grow and, most importantly, to show what you can do, however scary it is.

Headshots!

In my last post I mentioned having new headshots taken – and here they are! So many thanks to the brilliant Ania Pankiewicz for doing such a wonderful job and being such a complete pro throughout. You can book her for your own headshots at https://www.aniapank.co.uk/

What have I been up to?

Apart from applying, and auditioning, for roles that suit me, I’ve been back playing The Mad Hatter for the final performance of Alice in Wonderland for Rough Magic Theatre, which took place just over a week ago. While we think the show could technically continue, it’s time to ring the changes. It’s bitter sweet when you reach the end of a run.

The show itself was wonderful! What an audience! So much noise, so much joy, so much energy! High octane doesn’t touch it.

I haven’t just been auditioning: I’ve been knocking on doors and saying hi to CDs and producers. Creatives appreciate talking to creatives, though you should never become a nuisance – know when to say hi and when not to, folks!

To be honest, returning to the industry after a short family break has been faster and more rewarding than I’d ever expected. I hope to have more news about where you can see me next very soon.

Until then: stay frosty.

Tim x

Tim is currently seeking representation and casting opportunities. If you like what you see on his showreel and gallery, he welcomes approaches from casting professionals.

Back In The Game: Why Now Is The Time I’m Returning to Acting and Writing.

You could argue – with some success – that I hadn’t actually left acting in the first place, but it’s true to say that I stopped actively chasing work after the birth of my son in 2017.

Anthony was born very premature and required a lot of time and care in the early months of his life. I needed to be available and I needed to secure a steady, reliable income to be so. As such, I became a permanent member of staff at my local GP surgery (where I’d been temping for many years).

I settled my finances and secured my immediate future but lost my ability to audition.

It needed to be done.

Some work still came my way even without chasing it. I find this a constant, though very welcome, surprise when it happens. A publisher in New York approached me to narrate an audiobook for a NY Times bestselling author (through ACX) in 2018. Working around my surgery hours, I completed the project in early 2019. I’ve also had consistent work from a medical roleplay company that has kept my acting tools sharp throughout, with 2 or 3 one-day gigs a month.

I also gained very strong interest in providing the continuity voiceover for a medical fly-on-the-wall documentary series that was pitched to BBC2. Sadly, the pilot didn’t result in a series comission and Covid meant that the project fell by the wayside.

See what I mean about not actually leaving acting work? It’s probably more accurate to say that it never really left me.

So why am I going back now?

To answer that I have to go back to 2012 when I started a one-person Copywriting and Public Speaking Agency to support my acting and writing ambitions. Having worked as an award-winning copywriter for BT for many years, this seemed like an ideal opportunity to provide income and freedom – and it was immediately successful.

Sadly, in 2015 I suffered a bout of depression. This was compounded by the passing of my mother and grandmother in 2016. My agency work was placed on hold while I got myself back into shape and returned to a lesser degree when I worked at the surgery.

I’d always promised myself that I would move back into performing if the agency started to take up slack from the surgery. In late 2019 this seemed to be happening, with a run of success that closed off the year with a bang.

And 2020,…. we all know what happened.

2021, however, has seen the agency take off once again, with enough work to support myself and my family, and the freedom to choose when I do it. It’s my “side hustle” once more.

You HAVE to have a side hustle as an actor and performer. Unless you’re already independently wealthy, you won’t survive the infrequency of the work you get as an actor until you “make it” – and 99% of us never hit the dizzying heights of “main stars” like David Tennant or Idris Elba, though we must fight to.

My good friend and colleague Catherine Balavage (http://www.frostmagazine.com) once put it best: you have to be an Actorpreneur. Give yourself the income to support yourself and the freedom to chase the work. She wrote a fantastic book on the subject that you can read here.

Which is why, now both of my children are more independent and my side-hustle is secured, now is the time to pound on doors and chase the work once more.

I am intensely proud of my work at the GP surgery and forever grateful for them for providing me the stability I needed when I needed it most. It was with a heavy heart that I handed in my notice in August and left for the final time in September.

So I’m back. Properly back – applying for castings, dialling up old contacts and hitting the streets once more to fight for my place in the great market of creatives. I have already secured a new showing of Alice in Wonderland with my long-term collaborators at Rough Magic Theatre and am waiting to hear on a few other potential opportunities that have drifted my way.

I had my first new headshot photoshoot in many, many years last week with the BRILLIANT Ania Pankiewicz (https://www.aniapank.co.uk/) and will be sharing the results very soon.

And let’s not forget The Secret Keeper, which continues to bubble away as we re-submit funding for the pilot, which will be back in the hands of Arts Council England some time next week.

This is where I’ll be updating you on my progress and sharing my insights as I move forward – it’s very exciting to me and I hope that you’ll find it equally interesting.

Subscribe to the blog, follow me on the ol’ tweets and I’ll see you all again soon.

Stay frosty!

Tim

https://www.spotlight.com/8218-3497-0502

https://www.mandy.com/uk/actor/timothy-austin-1

https://www.thetalentmanager.com/talent/157692/tim-austin

Tim is currently seeking representation and casting opportunities. If you like what you see on his showreel and gallery, he welcomes approaches from casting professionals.

Photo by Nikola Johnny Mirkovic on Unsplash

Happy New Year…..Happy New “Hero Face” Puppets

I have not been posting on the blog regularly for a while because I only have a limited amount of time each week to work on our Rough Magic Theatre projects. We decided the time would be best spent actually making the puppets, as they are very time consuming. Trying to make the puppets and […]

Happy New Year…..Happy New “Hero Face” Puppets

Writing The Secret Keeper (Part 2)

The trouble with starting again is that you get very attached to scenes and dialogue that you’ve already put together. Something said by your main character gets a giggle or sounds profound,… is there a way to keep it?

Simply put: No. You can’t be precious or sentimental when writing fiction. You’ve got to be brutal and ruthless or you’ll end up going in circles.

I wrote three chapters of a disaster story many years ago and I could not, for the life of me, figure out why chapter four wasn’t working and why I couldn’t get beyond it. Eventually I realised that I’d made some psychological errors back in Chapter 2 that meant the main character’s headspace was wrong by the time it came to concluding that act. Two chapters had to go. And they did.

Because the beauty of starting again is that sometimes the new stuff that you write is better than you wrote before. You’re working with new ideas and new challenges and that takes you in different and interesting directions.

Sometimes you can recycle a line or two, sometimes not. The trick is to not get attached.

I’ve now worked out a new plot to run through the series. It’s more intimate, more detailed and more interesting than the original. Starting from scratch allowed me to look at the format again and concentrate more on individual motivations. Maybe it’ll make the crafting and shooting process a bit more complex but it’ll also make the finished series better.

And that’s the aim.

The Secret Keeper will be as rich and fully-formed as any HBO or BBC drama. It’s a full-fat sci-fi thriller,….. just animated with shadows. A Film Noir mystery in light and dark.

The pilot version of episode One is in Pre-production, with puppets now being drawn and cut. Audio for this rough-cut (to be used to gather funding for the series) will be recorded in the next two weeks. Filming is likely to start in November.

For more information visit Rough Magic Theatre’s blog puppetlady.wordpress.com. See you soon!

Writing The Secret Keeper (Part 1)

Full steam ahead on The Secret Keeper, the shadow-puppet web/TV series I’m writing for Rough Magic Theatre. Episode One – IE “The Pilot” – is written and has been signed off.

We’ve begun to storyboard the episode and settle on the different puppet types and effects we’re going to employ to bring it to life – it’s extremely exciting and is going to look so distinct and unique. For more information on the creation of the puppets and the production itself visit puppetlady.wordpress.com.

But what about that writing process?

Originally the show was going to be a continuation of characters and ideas I’d used in “The Santa Beneath the Ice”, a short novella I wrote many years ago based in 1900 New York. I was keen to re-visit and expand on the world I’d created for that story and I did draft a basic treatment with a mystery set in a slum hospital.

It was decided, however, that the amount of research and the work needed to accurately re-create the accents (RMT being a British outfit) would be too much.

Collette Knowles (AD of Rough Magic) and I sat down and hashed out a basic scenario based on genres we both enjoyed and ideas that we both agreed hadn’t really been tried before. The basic premise became: “What would the world be like many years after civilisation ceased to exist? And what would that world be like if nobody knew how things worked any more but were faced with a threat that needed people to know this stuff?”

This morphed into the idea that the most important (or feared) people left on the planet would be the ones who still knew things – people who still collected and read books (the internet being long, long gone),… Librarians.

The threat then became a murder mystery and our protagonist became the last person on earth to read detective fiction and criminology books.

That was where it began,…. then came the process of forming that notion into an actual script. And the biggest hurdle?

Whodunnit.

A huge array of colourful and exciting characters span into life during early spit-balling sessions but a murder mystery stands or falls on,… well, the mystery. I knew who died very early on. I knew why it mattered. What I didn’t know was why he had to die and who would really benefit from him snuffing it.

Weeks rolled by with me dwelling on this single issue! I have a new admiration for people who write detective fiction for a living – how do you keep all those plates spinning?

Because every descision creates ripples in your script and those ripples bounce off the shorelines of your story in unexpected and chaotic ways. Being a mystery, you’ve got to make sure that the killer isn’t so obvious that your audience catches on immediately (I’m looking at you, film version of “From Hell”) but not so left-field that your audience feels cheated. It all has to make logical sense when you look back at it.

This is a major headache.

The moment you say X does this you have to justify Y’s reaction or Z’s deduction. You have to think “well if X did this then how did they get that thing there?”

My initial decisions worked out perfectly,… right up to a casual remark. “X’s motivations don’t really fit him very well.” And they were right – I needed to re-write X’s motivations.

That single character re-alignment impacted the entire mystery. Suddenly I needed to write in new characters and new scenes. Suddenly I needed new antagonists and new reasoning. Suddenly the Whodunnit was just too damn complicated.

So I did what writers frequently do,… I started again,…

To be continued – see you next week!

More Behind the Scenes with “The Secret Keeper”

Hello lovely peeps! Here’s the latest installment of behind the scenes footage with story-boarding and experiments in shadow puppetry techniques from Collette Knowles and Tim Austin of Rough Magic Theatre: We intend to film the series in our house and we happen to have an underground store room with no windows which we use for […]

More Behind the Scenes with “The Secret Keeper”

Behind the Scenes with “The Secret Keeper”!

Behind the Scenes with “The Secret Keeper”!

Returning to Blogging and the Maddest Project EVER!!

Lordy,… is that the date?!

Okay, it’s been a long while since I last posted – more than three years, in fact. But that’s about to change. Considerably.

That’s not to say that I’ve been quiet and not doing anything in the last three years – far from it. Let’s see (in no particular order),…

  • Had a bout of depression. Worked my way out of this over time. Not easy – people who live with depression long-term have my utter admiration for fighting through every day. Keep your chins high and never be afraid to talk or ask your GP for help.
  • Had a baby boy with my wife. He’s now 3 and utterly delightful.
  • Recorded an Audiobook for a New York Times Best Seller.
  • Continued to work in medical roleplay.
  • Was in early discussions about a major TV voiceover gig. Then came Covid 19. Shittles. Hopefully those chats can resume soon.
  • Had a baby girl with my wife. She’s now 1 and a proper trouble,… and utterly delightful.
  • Used my performing and marketing knowhow to run a successful Public Speaking Mentorship business.
  • Worked on a pitch to create a puppetry, choral and storytold stage show of Beowulf. Sadly, these discussions haven’t yielded a show. Yet.

And now,…

The Secret Keeper.

With Covid basically shutting down the theatre industry, many producers are turning to online options to create new theatre content. My running mates at Rough Magic Theatre are joining them.

And so am I.

The Secret Keeper is a new, original 12-part online shadow-puppet murder mystery series set in a dystopian, broken-cyberpunk future UK. Filmed entirely in cinema-wide 21:9 4K HDR, the aim is,… not simple: To create a shadow puppet online series designed to work on film – edited like an animation, written with the twists and turns of an HBO epic and crafted to thrill.

And I’m the fella they’ve asked to write and co-perform it.

No pressure, then.

World-building, plotting and early design work is already under-way, with RMT’s Collette Knowles knee-deep in research and drawing to establish the look and feel of our world. Over the next few weeks I’ll be firming up the storyline of the series and storyboarding the full serial, episode by episode – looking at what can be done with the medium, how to streamline the show to make filming and performing efficient, and how to keep the twists coming.

So much to do. I’ll be posting about it here, weekly. You can also learn about it over at http://puppetlady.wordpress.com, where the show will premiere (along with YouTube), later in the year.

As an example of what can be done as shadow puppetry on screen, here’s a fantastic short called Baku by John Atterbury – Enjoy!

There is a LOT to do to get this show off the ground! So keep your eyes peeled and subscribe to the blog and share it around.

We’re nuts!! But the good kind of nuts,…..

Stay frosty.

Tim.