Germany is an increasingly attractive location for international film and television productions. But for those English-speaking actors based there, this does not mean life has suddenly become a bed of roses.
Many actors have to do other jobs as they pursue fame and fortune
When Andy Warhol said that everyone would be famous for 15 minutes, he didn't specify whether this time in the spotlight would all come at once or whether it would be made up of smaller increments of celebrity. If he meant that, when totaled up, everyone would have a quarter hour of fame within their lifetime then he could well have been talking about the career of the jobbing actor.
Acting as a career in any country is a struggle. Competition is as fierce as in any industry; the amount of work being disproportionate to the amount of people qualified -- or talented enough -- to do it. But when you find yourself competing in the field as a foreigner then making your way in the world becomes increasingly difficult.
"It's really, really tough for English-speaking actors in Germany," said Isabelle Münch, the proprietor of Friends Connection, an acting agency in Berlin which caters solely to foreign actors. "They may be very well educated, professional and talented actors but essentially they are offered very cliched roles, such as British or US servicemen in World War II dramas or spies in Cold War-era productions."
Even classically trained theatrical actors can be reduced to playing clichéd roles in war dramas
Münch added that even foreign actors who speak fluent German find it difficult, even if they are better for the role than native speakers.
"German production companies are very wary of actors with English accents in German roles," she said. "It is very rare that they are given dramatic roles and for talented professionals this is very frustrating."
According to Münch, even in international co-productions, English-speaking actors based in Germany will be overlooked for larger roles in favor of actors from the United States or Britain.
"The production companies prefer to fly in their actors rather than hire them in Germany," she said.
A case in point is Moira Fitzgerald.
"I would regard myself as fluent in German after living here for almost 12 years," said the Frankfurt-based Scottish actor. "I have had a few minor German speaking roles but I have found that, in general, the German roles go to native speakers regardless of the fluency or accent of the foreign actor."
Actors' destinies in their own hands
While there are individual theatrical agents and agencies such as Friends Connection which cater to English and American actors in Germany, many actors find that the impetus to find work in their adopted country has to come from themselves. While the German employment service provides an agency for professional actors seeking work, it is mostly for German-speaking productions.
Actors have to rely as much on their research skills as their acting skills
Mike McAlpine is an English actor based in Cologne who has been making a living through various acting jobs in Germany for over ten years.
"In many respects an actor is left to fend for his or herself," he said. "Having an agent does not, by any means, mean you are guaranteed work. I spend many hours scouring the Internet for news of casting breakdowns while some jobs come about via word of mouth."
Jesse Inman from Berlin agreed.
"You have to do it yourself -- really, find the work, and half of it you come across by accident," he said.
Inman believes there is a certain amount of luck involved in getting acting work in Germany.
"The first theater job I had here was with a German language theater," he said. "They just happened to be looking for an English actor, I knew nothing about it but someone I'd previously auditioned for happened to mention my name. It was a case of right place, right time."
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