Getting An Acting Role in Hong Kong – by Nicky Cheung (IAFT HK student)
by Nicky Cheung
How does an actor get an acting job in Hong Kong? First of all, you’ll need a comp card, which is your business card. It is a 148 mm x 210 mm card that typically includes one headshot and four other active shots, showing the range of your personality and casting type. At least one of these shots should be a full-length body shot. All pictures must be quality, professional shots – not snapshots. If you present yourself as a professional, you will be seen as a professional and not some cowboy who fancies himself being in a film. I’ve been told by agents that I was picked over other actors simply because I had a professional-looking comp card. There’s a lot riding on a production, therefore the crew needs to know you are reliable and professional. The comp card should include your name, measurements and contact details. You can also make the cards yourself.
An actor should also have an acting CV and acting footage. It may not be essential to obtaining an acting job, but it is in your best interest to have those items to send if asked. Sometimes, you will be asked for footage or a monologue to send them. This can be done on your smart phone – just be aware of the deadline. You may also be asked for a selfie as your most recent photo. Try to always use natural light and a blank background for selfie and monologue submissions. If you are asked to send a monologue of your choice, make it something relevant to the role that you are going for.
Don’t be fooled! In this industry, at the early stage of your career, your look is more important than your talent. This is especially true for Hong Kong, because they favour good-looking people for commercials and music videos. But even more importantly, if you don’t look the part, you won’t be invited to audition. Your pictures will sell you, so you will need to have a viable look. If you look too unique – for instance, you have blue-coloured hair, face tattoos or piercings – you will not be seen as viable no matter your great acting skills. You need to look like a normal everyday person. You need to look believable and be castable. Commercials love people with great smiles, so get your teeth fixed if needed and practice great dental hygiene. It’s all about being photogenic.
You want to go for whatever role you can so long as you fit the brief’s requirements. If a job requests an authentic Chinese guy, then don’t apply saying, “Hey, my mom is Chinese. Can I apply?” (true story). I’m Chinese, but I won’t apply if the brief asks for a Korean guy, because in doing so, I would waste everyone’s time. You don’t want to look like a desperate person, trying his/her luck.
You need to get used to rejection, because there will be plenty of it. But even if you apply, and they don’t invite you to audition, they can still offer your something else in the future if they remember you. Competition is stiff so work on your strengths, build up your experience arsenal, and network like crazy. People in the industry talk to each other and recommend actors all the time. A lot of work in HK comes by word of mouth, so use Facebook and get contact details from anyone you work with or talk to. When you respond to ads on Facebook or email, send a short introductory message saying how you fit the brief, where you are based, and also attach your comp card, CV, website link and any media footage. Keep in mind that the better paying jobs generally come via an agent, and a listed job is usually unpaid unless an ad states otherwise.
If the agent or client likes you, they’ll invite you to a physical audition. They may even provide you sides to learn for the reading. Be aware they may only invite you the night before. Learn the lines as best as possible as it could be the difference between you getting the job or not. Carefully decide what you’ll wear to the audition, and really think about the character. Consider your movement in the scene, especially placement of your hands. Pretend casting directors have no imagination and you have to help them see you in the part.
Finally, don’t be late to the audition. If you’re running late, let the agent or the client know.