This Top Vancouver Agent Got Real About How Much Money You Can Make As A First-Time Actor
Here's how you could get $10K for a day's work.
There are so many movies and TV shows filming in Canada — especially in Vancouver. While there are no guarantees for actors in Vancouver, Narcity spoke to a top Canadian agent about the realities of the industry and if acting's a worthwhile side hustle.
Nigel Mikoski, a Toronto transplant and owner of Connekt Creative Inc., has an impressive list of clients, including Yael Yurman from Netflix's Firefly Lane and Kevin Alves from the Emmy-nominated Showtime series, Yellowjackets (among many other familiar faces).
The agency's office in Gastown is at the centre of Hollywood North action, so Mikoski's in a prime position to offer up some expert advice.
How do I start acting in Canada?
When it comes to earning some extra cash as an actor, the order of operations usually goes something like this: getting your skills up, getting headshots and seeking representation.
Applying to open casting calls can be exciting, but Mikoski warns against reaching out to non-union calls outside of the regular agent-casting director channels.
"There are some shady productions out there and also producers that are just not experienced," he said. "When you are on a union set, you are protected by insurance and the union regulations with regards to treatment."
Acting unions (like ACTRA / UBCP) make sure that you're safe and protected on set.
"My recommendation is to find a reputable, and hopefully TAMAC (Talent Agents and Managers Association of Canada) member agency to represent you," Mikoski noted.
How do I get into acting with no experience?
"My first piece of advice would be to train with reputable acting coaches or at known acting programs or schools," Mikoski told Narcity. "They will usually have a good understanding of when you will be ready to approach the more reputable agencies, which is where you want to be."
That's when it's time to get professional headshots with a known photographer. Those will likely cost a chunk of change, so it's definitely an investment but 100% worth it if you want to get into the industry.
Once you have those ducks in a row, send over a sample of your work (that can even be a recording of a scene or monologue) to some agencies. Mikoski advises taking a personal approach.
"Do not copy every agent in town and do a blanket submission, he said. "Those emails are commonly ignored. Write sincerely and prepare a cover letter with relevant info."
How much do actors make in Canada?
There's no one-size-fits-all rate for actors. The rates for non-union commercials, for example, depend on the commercial's distribution.
"It can pay as little as $500… or as high as $10,000 if you are in the final edit," the Vancouver agent said. "Some union commercials can pay much more, based on how many markets they are bought in, in addition to how long they are shown and the frequency at which they air."
A role with five lines or less on a union TV series will usually pay around $1,000 for the day, according to Mikoski — and that's after the per-payment or buyout is accounted for.
The perks of these kinds of shoots are that they usually only film for a few days, so you can probably get the time off work. Pretty perfect for a side gig.
Some sets pay $5,000 a day while others stick to ACTRA rates — it can vary greatly, but it usually ain't bad for a day's work.
What are agents and casting directors looking for?
"Ability + Marketability is the magic equation for me," Mikoski revealed.
"I visualize potential clients playing roles on the shows that we work on, and if the answer to the question 'Would I cast them?' is yes… then I will traditionally request a demo or have them audition prior to an invitation for representation."
There are a few things Mikoski mentions that casting directors usually look for, like, connection to the material, an understanding of the tone and style of the show, professionalism and a high-quality self-tape if you're auditioning remotely.
Is Vancouver or Toronto better for actors?
"Each city comes with a very specific personality and different talent pools," Mikoski says.
Each comes with its pros and cons: Toronto's the metropolitan media centre of Canada "and where the decisions are made for our Canadian content. It’s the largest city in Canada, which makes it the largest talent pool."
"Having said that," he continued. "The competition is fierce. There is an amazingly vibrant theatre scene, with some of the most talented performers in the country."
Vancouver, on the other hand, offers "less competition and more opportunity," according to Mikoski.
But no matter what city you're in, the owner of Connekt Creative Inc. believes that perseverance is key.
"Lightning can strike at any time, and in an instant you can be on a hit show, playing a popular role with success knocking at your door," he said. "Be ready and treat every audition like Steven Spielberg is watching."