London Pilot Season

It’s here again. It may surprise you to discover that American primetime TV pilots are cast not only in LA and New York, but also from London. Producers are usually looking for genuine Americans over here or Brits with American accents. Why? Most likely it’s a money issue – London actors are cheaper than American ones. This is also why American advertising companies cast so many big commercials in Europe – so they don’t have to pay SAG rates and residuals.

But money is not the subject of this entry. London Pilot Season is full of delectable opportunities - IF you can manage to get casting directors to see you. According to, there are nearly 30 pilots in development in 2007. If a pilot is ordered to series, the job comes with 5-7 year options! Not to mention you’ll be acting on primetime US television and hobnobbing with Hollywood bigwigs! As with all auditions it’s a crap shoot, but the potential for a breakthrough is huge. That is why you must prepare, prepare, prepare.

This is only my second pilot season, so my experience is somewhat limited. However I can offer the knowledge I have so far:

When is pilot season?
Casting happens roughly in January – March, with most pilots shooting in LA throughout March. February is peak time for pilot auditions in London, so if you wanna work in TV and film make sure you’re in town during this time! Try to keep your days flexible to fit in last minute castings. Also, as Americans are obsessed with physical appearance, this is a good excuse to get to the gym and work off those holiday pounds so you can look your best.

Who's casting?
In my experience Julie Harkin, Suzanne Smith, Kate Dowd and Gary Davy do a lot of casting work for US pilots. Their details are in Contacts 2007. Of course there may be more, but you can start writing to these four.

How do I get auditions?
If you have an agent, make sure he or she knows 1) You want to go up for US pilots, 2) You are able to work legally in America, and 3) You can do a believable American accent if you’re not American. Then get them to submit you! If you don’t have an agent yet, start by writing to the four casting directors above during the first week of January and mention the previous 3 points.

I've got castings! Now what?
1) The Need for Speed
The casting process moves quickly, and often at the last minute. It’s been 3pm on a Monday when my agent calls to say I’ve got a casting on Tuesday at 12pm. I then need to read the script, create the character, and attempt to learn the sides in less than 24 hours! This is normal, so be ready to work at top speed.
2) Practice Technique
If you’ve got a camcorder and you have time, practice your scenes in front of the camera. Watch playback, analyze your performance, and see if you can improve it. Most importantly – keep your head up and out of the page so the camera can see you! John Melainey teaches a great class at the Actors Centre called ‘Practice Makes Perfect.’ It’s a weekly on-camera workshop to learn, practice, and review your TV & film auditioning and sightreading skills. If you’re new to TV work, I’d brush up on these skills before pilot season so you’re ready to go.
3) Wardrobe & Makeup
Generally casting directors will put you on tape, upload your audition onto the internet, then send the file to LA for review. This means that the film quality will be fairly low, and as a result you need to ‘pop’ as much as possible. Wear strong, solid colors that highlight your face, and avoid stripes, heavy patterns, and black. On the makeup front, you’ll probably need more foundation than usual – but check yourself on camera (still or camcorder) beforehand if possible. If you go up for a lot of on-camera auditions, you may consider taking a makeup lessons to maximize your look.

If you can make it as far as an audition, you’re making great strides. The rest is down to other people’s opinions, so all you can do is prepare and do your best. Good luck!


Rachel said…
Thanks a mil for this Kosha.
I've just moved to LA and want to prepare for pilot season, found your article. Brilliant. All the best to you for 2010!

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