MCTV’s head booking agent Paul Bland tells us what’s needed to get work on a film set in Sydney.
Head Booking Agent for MCTV
Q. Is it expensive to get started?
A. Not at all. There are even ways to get started for free doing unpaid work. There are a bunch of bulletin board services that list the open audition calls. Just search for “open auditions sydney” in your favourite search engine.
Q. What kind of work can I expect on the open audition directories?
A. There is a wide range of productions including student films and even lead roles for some productions. If you have plenty of time and don’t mind doing unpaid work, it’s a great way to get some experience.
Q. Why do Talent Agents get more paid work?
A. It’s all about the productions themselves. Production companies are on strict budgets and tight deadlines. They usually can’t afford the time to interview thousands of people for each role. Instead, they work with talent agents to identify a shorter list of suitable people for each role.
Also, for any of the major movies and television series, there are usually confidentiality requirements that prevent any details of the production from being listed publicly.
Q. Do you need experience to get paid work?
A. Not at all. We have plenty of background roles every week that require no experience at all. After landing a few background roles, many of our extras move on to featured roles and commercials where the pay is better.
Q. What are the pay rates like?
A. Starting out as an extra, you will be paid a minimum of $95.48 for working four hours on a film. Usually, the productions go for much longer so you may end up with 8 hours of work and possible overtime.
The pay rates go up from there. If you are featured, you will end up with a 40% raise. You can get paid up to $10K per day for a main role in a TV commercial.
Q. How do you get the big dollars working on TV Commercials?
A. Usually you need some experience in both working on productions and attending castings. Extras work is great for this. Getting picked for a high paying TV Commercial is really about being right for the role. We’ve had people land roles as Wrestlers, Accountants, Hipsters and tons of others. If you can look and act like the character they are after, then you have a chance.
Q. Is there much work available?
A. There are loads of productions happening in Sydney. The local government has invested a bunch of money in attracting major film productions to Australia. Already this year we have had the next Alien movie, A Jackie Chan movie and a huge blockbuster sequel that I am not allowed to mention. On top of that there are a bunch of TV series regularly produced in Sydney and a never-ending flow of commercials and online productions.
Q. What are the chances of getting picked?
A. The majority of people get work in their first year, for those who don’t we offer an additional year of membership for free.
Q. Is it really open to all ages, looks, sizes and ethnicities?
A. It really is. Particularly for background work, the productions are often looking for a cross section of Australian culture. In fact, being in a minority group can be an advantage. We get productions filming in Sydney where some scenes are set in another country. When that happens, all of a sudden we need as many people we can get from that country.
Q. What commission do you take?
A. Commission depends upon the type of job, but for the majority of productions we take only 10%. For some productions, where the pay rates are much higher, we take 20%. There is also a fee of just $20 per month that covers the costs of photo updates, and the online talent profiles required to get our talent work.