Words: Phil Matthews
In September 2009 a call came into the office. A calm, yet bright voice began to ‘pitch’. It was the fourth or fifth ‘pitch’ I’d received that day, none of them very interesting I should add. Yet there was a steadiness in this girl’s tone, Felicity Jackson I think she said her name was, that had me intrigued. She was creating an event for working and resting actors to help them survive in what we all know is a typically tough profession. Surviving Actors, I instantly believed, had an angle. It had legs but before it could run, Jackson needed the backing of the industry. After our first meeting later that week, we committed as the official sponsor and gave our unwavering support. Jackson not only implemented her own superb ideas, she listened to our advice, and the first event was a huge success.
Surviving Actors has since gone from strength-to-strength, hosting events in London, Manchester and Edinburgh. It was an achievement that saw Jackson catapulted to our TV screens in The Apprentice the following year. “The Apprentice was an incredible and surreal experience, it has certainly changed me as a person,” explains Jackson when catching up with her at the trendy Hospital Club in Covent Garden. “It’s changed Surviving Actors. It was incredibly inspiring.”
Jackson was only 23 when she auditioned and appeared on the BBC show that sees Lord Alan Sugar in search of his next ‘apprentice’, or in the reworked version, a business partner. “I was networking with people who were 10 years older than me and not only that, their business was 10 years older than me,” she says. “I learned about new ways to market, I learnt about what I should be doing for my own business, I learnt so much that I’ve implemented that into everything I do, and of course it was an amazing platform for me. Surviving Actors is now much more of a household name, a lot of people know of the event because of that TV show.”
Jackson is now joined by Lianne Robertson who has undertaken the day-to-day running of the company, with their registered office based in Glasgow, but Jackson is still heavily involved in the vision of the event.
Casting Directors and agents really respond well to our event because they know that we’re not taking advantage of actors
Surviving Actors returns to London, this time over 2 days, with a room full of exhibitors and two rooms of seminars. Jackson understood from her previous events that it’s “completely impossible” for actors to get round and do everything the event offers in just one day. “We’ve got different things happening on each day, so it gives people a reason to come for both, it takes the pressure off actors running around so much and it gives them the opportunity to meet the exhibitors we’ve brought in, to go to as many seminars as they can, and to really digest it,” she says.
The event this year will see a number of casting directors attending, a support Jackson believes is due to the company’s ethos of not making money out of actors. “We charge the minimum that we can for the event seminars just to cover our costs for the venue, but it’s completely free to attend,” she confirms.
“Casting directors and agents really respond well to that, because they know that we’re not taking advantage of actors, and also it gives the casting directors and agents an opportunity to pass on their knowledge which they wish they could do in auditions.” This year, for the first time, the event has created a brand new element to promote actors getting involved. “A CV drop box,” explains Jackson, ” which gives the opportunity for all of the actors who attend to put their CV in the casting directors drop box. Casting Directors can look at the CV’s later.”
Surviving Actors is renowned for their exciting seminars and workshops, and this year the actor, writer and director Steven Berkoff has been booked to run a seminar. “We’re all thrilled about that,” says Jackson.
Spotlight are back with a seminar on getting the most out of online CV’s, there’s a Commercial Audition Technique workshop, a stage combat workshop, Yvonne I’ Anson from the Associated Studios returns with her popular one-on-one advice sessions, as well as the biggest American Casting website, Actor Access, who are due to run a Breakdown Services seminar. A full programme list can be found at the Surviving Actors website. Jackson is confident the schedule is “without doubt, the best we’ve ever had.”
Surviving Actors will he held at the Raddison Blue Hotel in London’s Portman Square. “No more nightclubs for us!” laughs Jackson. “It has a beautiful big ballroom, we’ve got fantastic seminar rooms and we feel very privileged.”
As we close the interview and head for the elevator, I ask Jackson what attracts actors to her event and what keeps them coming back for more? “The event has changed in many positive lights, every year we ensure we take feedback from our actors, exhibitors and our seminar speakers,” she explains. “We really move the event in the right direction. It’s certainly changed since the first ever one, as I’m sure all do, but I think the ethos of the company is still exactly the same, we’re a convention set up by actors for actors. We ensure that all exhibitors, seminars, workshops and one-to-one sessions are with the actors’ best interests at heart. We do not exploit actors and we care a lot because we are ourselves, so that’s really the most important thing about the event. It’s the same as it was for the first one.
“Actors come to meet other actors, they meet other likeminded people who are proactive, that are looking to push their career in the right direction,” she adds. “Actors bring their headshot along, get advice, they meet other photographers face-to-face, an accountant, a showreel producer, casting directors, agents, they attend seminars and really use it as an opportunity to be inspired, and to take as much as they can from it.
“Surviving Actors is not only a two day event, afterwards you should have at least a week of work to go through, really thinking about your personal brand, what do you need to be pushing it forward in 2013, and get obligation free information.”
Surviving Actors – Friday 8th & Saturday 9th February 2013 – (9am-4pm)
22 Portman Square,
London, W1H 7BG.
Register for your FREE e-ticket now at www.survivingactors.com