31 Jan 2014

Meet the Talent Agent

Theresa Peters is Head of Talent and a partner at United Talent in the US, having joined the agency in 2008 after 13 years at William Morris. In her early years as an agent, she was assigned the task of “covering” the UK market, keeping track of productions emanating from that territory, and establishing relationships with casting directors and producers. Consequently, her personal client list includes many British actors – notably James McAvoy, Ewan McGregor and Aaron Taylor-Johnson – and now an increasing number of Scandinavians. Theresa represents two of this year’s Shooting Stars – the UK’s George MacKay and Norway’s Jakob Oftebro – and she is coming to the Berlinale to join them for the Shooting Stars activities. On the way, she stops off in London to see George Mackay perform on stage in a new production of The Cement Garden .
Here are her words of wisdom about the increasing international scope of the film business, and new opportunities for European actors seeking to work in the US.

The new connectivity
“Ten years ago when actors were trying to break out over here, to put yourself on tape, you had to get your audition put on VHS [in the correct US format], spend $25 to get it on FedEx. It was a costly and cumbersome process. They would also once in a while come over here for a couple of weeks, and that was a big investment. The internet has allowed everyone to access anyone at any time. The director can Skype with the actor, just as if they are having a meeting down the street. It doesn’t matter where you live any more.”

The new financing
“When some of these movies are being made, it’s no longer so much the traditional studio financing, they are getting financing from all over. Sometimes they require an actor out of the UK, or with an EU passport. That’s an opportunity for an actor who isn’t based in the States or isn’t American to get a break in an American film. And the value of these films, the box-office is two thirds international and one third domestic. Casting directors are casting their net wide. Everyone’s looking at who’s coming out of RADA, who’s coming out of NIDA in Australia. Everyone’s open to just the best actor for the role. It doesn’t matter if you’re from the UK, Missouri or Denmark.”

Don’t jump on a plane!
“Any actor who stays in their community and gets access to the best stuff there, usually gets the best pop in the US. James McAvoy in The Last King Of Scotland, Michael Fassbender in Hunger, Tom Hardy in Bronson: these are the movies that gave them the pedigree and the clout over here, even though the films didn’t necessarily make any money. George MacKay, Tom Hughes, I have a handful of British actors that I think there’s no rush for them to come over here, live here for two months, do the whole rigmarole. Because I can get them access to material that’s going on here. It’s really important for these actors to establish their craft, and be respected in their communities first and foremost. Because it will translate ten times more than just coming over here and [maybe] getting lucky.”

What it takes
“To me, [a prospective new foreign client] has to be someone who is ambitious, and who’s in it for the right reasons, which is the art of it. The bigger picture is to grow, and work with some of the best people in the business. Then the rest follows. Similarly, if I sign people for the right reasons, I always have more success than just saying,, ‘Oh, I’m signing someone who’s cute and they have a shot at a pilot.’”

Agenting is a partnership
“Some US agents take on [foreign] clients, and they don’t really respect the home agent.. For me, the home agent is everything. They know their territory, they know the business in their land just as I know the business in the US. Some people would have no patience with someone who wants to grow slowly, they just want to put them in a big movie and make a lot of money. I know the right things will come at the right time. It’s important the choices that an actor makes because it lives with them forever and it definitely sets the tone.”


30 Jan 2014

Edda Magnason is overwhelmed, she just won the 50th anniversary Guldbagge Award for Best Actress! The next big stage and shiny award is already waiting for Edda. Berlin calling!
© Patrik Österberg/Mediebild.nu

22 Jan 2014

Generation next

Shooting Stars jury member and film critic Charles Gant reckons he’ll never get jaded – as long as fresh acting talent keeps lighting up our cinema screens

I don’t know how my name popped up as a possible jury member for this year’s edition of Shooting Stars, but I certainly didn’t hesitate in agreeing to participate. A month watching the work of young actors across Europe, and then debating my discoveries with peers in various branches of the film industry: what’s not to like?
Of course, in my professional role as a film critic, I understand the primary creative role of the director, and the key contributions made by the screenwriter and the crew department heads. But when it comes to what excites me as a film viewer, what sustains my passion as I watch up to 300 features a year, I know in my heart that it’s actors that play the really crucial role.
It’s not hard for a film critic to become jaded: simply overwhelmed by the industrial scale of their viewing. And I know quite a few who seem to arrive at the screening room primarily preoccupied by two topics: what hospitality will be offered by the studio publicist; and at what time will the film be over?
But as I head towards my screening every weekday evening, I always do so buoyed by a sense of optimism. In every film, even if less than fully achieved, there will almost certainly be an actor to discover, or one I’m already familiar with but who I now see in a fresh light. There are literally hundreds of actors whose work I’m tracking with passionate interest. It’s a crazy obsession but I wouldn’t want to miss one of their performances.
Take George Mackay, for example, the 2014 Shooting Star who happens to come from my own country. I vividly remember watching him as Clive Owen’s angry teenage son in 2009 Australia-set drama The Boys Are Back, and looking out for his name. I quickly realised I’d seen him earlier that year with Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber and Jamie Bell in Defiance, and before that in PJ Hogan’s 2003 version of Peter Pan. I looked out for – and was again impressed by – him in the work that followed: teen ensemble Hunky Dory, TV miniseries Birdsong, Private Peaceful with Jack O’Connell, and then the trio of 2013 titles that helped snag him the Shooting Star status: How I Live Now, Sunshine on Leith and For Those In Peril. I’d never met him (I subsequently have), but already I felt invested in his career.

Fellow Shooting Star Mateusz Kosciukiewicz, from Poland, is a name that hit my radar more recently. It was back in August last year that I saw his astonishing contribution to In The Name Of, and was immediately Facebook messaging a Polish-based filmmaker friend to find out more about him. Maybe it’s because of the emotional connection you make with the character portrayed on screen, but it’s not hard to feel a rooting interest in the actor creating the portrait.

When the Shooting Stars organisers sent me the jury invitation, I had one particular reason for my ready assent. I’m interested in the cinema of every country, but the UK is understandably dominated by English language films, and my engagement with young acting talent is skewed towards the US and Great Britain. Here was a great chance to broaden my knowledge, sampling films from 24 countries across Europe. Some I already knew, of course – Cosmina Stratan shared the Best Actress prize in Cannes for Beyond the Hills – but many were fresh to me. When the package of DVDS arrived from the Shooting Stars Hamburg office, I was not disappointed.

Thanks to my participation in Shooting Stars I now have a whole new set of actors whose upcoming work I’m eagerly anticipating, to add to the long list that already includes past Shooting Stars such as Belgium’s Matthias Schoenaerts (a late discovery for me thanks to Rust and Bone), Germany’s Saskia Rosendahl (so brilliant last year in Lore) and Ireland’s Domnhall Gleeson (who is wonderful, and wonderfully different, in everything he does). So if I’m heading off to my evening screenings these days with an extra spring in my step, nobody should be at all surprised.

The SHOOTING STARS jury 2014 includes film critic and editor Charles Gant from the UK, Croatian casting director Oriana Kunčić, Norwegian actor and former SHOOTING STAR Anders Baasmo Christiansen , German film director Hermine Huntgeburth and film producer Jani Thiltges  from Luxembourg.

Charles Gant is chief film critic for the UK’s Heat magazine and a freelance contributor to Variety, Sight & Sound and The Guardian. This blog will appear at occasional intervals leading up to the Berlinale, and then more regularly during the Shooting Stars activity Feb 7-11.

16 Jan 2014

Jakob Oftebro in KRAFTIDIOTEN check the Berlin International Film Festival competition programme and don't miss Jakob on the red carpet!

15 Jan 2014

13 Jan 2014

award season just started, now it's about time to have a closer look at europes best young actors 2014