The Long Road to Stardom

Article published on Feb. 11, 2008
Article published on Feb. 11, 2008
These days, it's film frenzy in Berlin again. Berlinale, the city's famous film festival is under way. This is the second part of a special series on's Berlin blog, in which three Babel reporters will cover a not so well-known aspect of the festival.
It's called "Berlinale Talent Campus", a forum for 350 young filmmakers from all over the world to present their works, meet each other and improve their skills during various workshops.

by Sandra Wickert

It was a big day yesterday for Campus participants that are actors or actresses. On top of the Love International panel featuring the stars of Indian, Nigerian and German cinema, Talent actors also received expert advice in the casting workshop Don't Call Us, We'll Call You.

"Develop a thick skin for rejection“ – this was the final advice that Ilene Kahn-Power, founder and head of Hollywood-based Kahn Power Pictures, gave to the talents participating in the casting workshop Don’t call us – we’ll call you. Together with Derek Power and casting director Nancy Bishop, she provided an interesting insight into the shark basin known as "auditions".

The workshop's goal was to shed light on the obscure procedure of castings, self-representation, finding an agent, finding autions and landing a role in the international market. Nancy Bishop got down to business and made it clear what casting directors do and do not want. This included advice on CVs: "In English if you want to work in the U.S.”; how the head shots should look: “Choose a photo that portrays what you really look like and not one that overly flatters you”; and, above all, how to act at a shooting: “Keep your shots simple. Don’t annoucne your age!”

The Power couple then came up with some examples to turn theory into practice, starting with the amazing story of how they casted the then 'unknown to the US market' Irish actor Jonathan-Rhys Myers as Elvis in a CBS-miniseries. “Johnny”, as Ilene affectionately calls him, ardently followed their instructions, because his tape had all the ingredients for success: a simple background with just the actor and real entertainment that leaves you wanting more. It was the first step in his path to a Golden Globe for best actor in a miniseries.

Together you are stronger

The overall reaction to the workshop among Talent participants was positive. Senad Alihodzic from Bosnia-Herzegovina was interested in the actor-agent-relationship: “We do not know about that in my country. I was interested in the concrete information, like how to make show reels. And I learned a lot from that”.

Young actress Erifili Stefanidou from Greece chose this workshop because it was one of the few events that was actor-oriented. She absolutely wants to work abroad and maybe has a job prospective in Sarajevo soon: “In Greece we do not have this system, it is still a long way. I wanted to know how I could promote myself as an actress and how to apply for international jobs."

Consodyne Buzabe from Uganda was enthusiastic: “Film is just beginning in Uganda and we need as much information as possible about film and actors. We don’t even know the basic process of this. We need to gain insight in what to do to get ourselves out there or what we can do to become actors that eventually will be hired for international movies.” For countries like Uganda, where neither agents, film schools nor casting agencies exist, Nancy Bishop’s advice is to create actors unions: “Together you can represent yourselves as a group. Together you are stronger”.

For a Croatian actress, the workshop was successful in a very concrete way. After complaining about not having received answers from casting agencies several times after having sent in her demo reel, Nancy Bishops nose for talents must have smelled something: “I would like to see your demo reel, if you want to give it to me”. From theory to practice, the best lesson of this workshop.