Where do actors live in London

An interview with Branko Tomovic: his life as an actor in London

Motif: Branko Tomovic | Credit: Phoebe Ling

On the occasion of the BAFTA Award (the English Oscar), which will be awarded on February 21, 2010 in London, this time we are talking to the German actor Branko Tomovic, who lives in London. Based on the personal experience of German actors, we would like to shed more light on the topic of casting in this country and in other countries in order to highlight differences, similarities and, last but not least, opportunities and new paths.

Branko Tomovic was born on June 17, 1977 to Serbian parents in Münster. He grew up between Germany and Serbia. After school he studied acting at the Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute in New York. Several film acting courses followed at the IFS and the KHM, as well as workshops in Cologne and London. Today he lives and works in London, but also shoots for German productions such as "Bella Block" or "Ein Fall für Zwei".
Because of his dark, brooding appearance, he is often cast for Eastern European roles in this country. He turned among other things Ken Loach, Sönke Wortmann and Paul Greengrass. In "The Bourne Ultimatum" (Casting UK: John and Daniel Hubbard | Casting USA:Avy Kaufmann) he embodied a Russian policeman. Most recently he played in "The Popess" (Casting: Anja Dihrberg) by Sönke Wortmann.

You studied acting at the Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute in New York. How did it come about that you traveled halfway around the world for your apprenticeship?
I had just graduated from high school and was faced with the big question: What now? The specific trigger to become an actor in the USA was an article in the Cinema about the aforementioned theater institute, which fascinated me very much. From then on, everything went pretty quickly. With this goal in mind, I first had to work for a year to scrape together the money for the school.
We then crossed the pond with two suitcases. I had exactly two weeks to find an apartment before school started. I spent the first two weeks in a rather shabby hotel with other students, hookers and Japanese tourists (laughs). Then school started and it was really a full-time job. After a year I received an offer from Los Angeles, on location in the Yugoslav war film "Remote Control" directed by Ivan Zivkovic to play along.

You currently live and work in London. How do you cast there?

The invitation to a casting, or rather an "audition", is usually given twenty-four hours before the actual audition. Before that, you get the script and are usually asked to prepare three scenes for a "cold reading" from it. However, I have the impression that more and more casters expect you to have a perfect command of your text. Obviously, learning three complete scenes by heart in twenty-four hours is hard work. On the other hand, I really like the fact that you have such constant eye contact with your playing partner instead of being constantly fixated on the paper.
At such an audition you often meet the director and production team in addition to the caster and his assistants. I was initially very unfamiliar with this situation, because in Germany you are mainly selected by your demo tape.
Standing in front of a "wall" of people and being told: "Now show what you can do!" Is a different experience.
I like that because you're not as stuck as on the demo tape, but really have the chance to show more of yourself. The roles you played before are not relevant at this moment.
London is a perfect location for actors. The city is THE hub between America and Europe. Regardless of whether it is later shot in Germany, Spain, France or even in the Eastern Bloc, the so-called "meetings" take place in London: the meetings with the decision-makers.

Why do you think there are so few live auditions in Germany? "The four media locations" is often given here as an argument ...
I do think that's the whole point. In England, London is the main work location from which casting is exclusively done. In France it is Paris, in Italy: Rome, in the USA: L.A. and New York. In Germany, besides Berlin, there are also Munich, NRW (Cologne), Hamburg and maybe Frankfurt. Both actors and casters are spread out across all of these cities and can't even get from A to B that fast. As I already mentioned, it usually only takes twenty-four hours from the invitation to the actual casting in London. Something like that would be unthinkable in Germany. On the other hand, it would make perfect sense to offer such live castings in the respective German media locations, because film funding often means that you are looking for actors for specific federal states.

How do you find out about a casting in London?
From my English agent, who previously "pitched" me to the caster, as they like to call it here. Just like in Germany, the agent is the hub between the caster and the actor.
In addition to personal contacts, my agent primarily gets his information from Spotlight and its online service. The platform is not only THE English actor database, but also offers casting offers. Similar to America, there is a "breakdown service" here, where casters can advertise role profiles for certain projects - whether theater, film, advertising or television. Agents see these breakdowns on the Internet, or as they are sent daily in your mailbox. They then suggest suitable actors to the caster, which also all works with a click: the agents can forward their actor's vita and photo vita directly.
Casters also have the option to determine their addressee field via Spotlight: Do you only pass the breakdown on to certain agencies, or to all of them? That is why it is so important which agency you are with, as there are hierarchical levels of quality.
Unlike in Germany, where there are some databases, Spotlight is truly THE database and clearly has the monopoly. Almost all actors are represented here with their résumés, characteristics, languages ​​and photos. And who also likes with demo tape.

Do you also have a demo tape on Spotlight?
Yes. But that's just to skip the first hurdle when a caster wants to get to know you before introducing you to the directors. A demo tape is only used to give a first impression or to gain a clue. In this respect, casters like to invite newcomers "face-to-face" on their own before they introduce them to the director and / or producer.

Was it easier for you to get your foot in the door in the English-speaking area because you had already studied in the USA?

Very good language skills are very important! You really don't get very far here with simple school English. In an audition or a meeting, the first ten to fifteen minutes are just small talk. You have to be able to talk, if it's just about the weather. Direction and production want to get to know you personally. And you can also find out yourself whether you want to work with the person. That is why there is usually always a conversation before the actual game.

Does your English agent communicate that you are originally German?
Partly (laughs). Agents must of course also be top-notch salespeople. They are looking for the "hook" they can use to accommodate their clients or to draw their attention to them. That means they would never pass on any information that stands in their way. If a German role is being sought, If you're German and maybe even speak English with a German accent, that's a great point of sale, of course, and that's exactly what is communicated.

Could it be that your agent can offer you this flexibility in England with a larger role repertoire than in Germany?
Absolutely! In Germany I am predominantly cast for Eastern European roles. I don't mind if the role is good. But in my opinion, an English casting gives you more options. That has to do with the fact that you have meetings in England in which both sides get a better feel for their counterparts from the start.

Are there differences in mentality when working as a film actor between Great Britain and Germany?
Huge! Even if I shoot my German colleagues in the foot with it: In Germany, every little serial actor XY thinks he's a superstar. I think it's unbelievable what kind of arrogance is displayed! In England the mentality of the actors is very different. In the many auditions and meetings you have to prove yourself again and again, not only artistically but also personally. That really keeps people down! Even the English weekly fees, because you are usually booked for a week, do not exactly make you soar. At first you get a much lower wage than in Germany.
The general expectations are completely different. If, for example, a casting takes place in Germany, the actors actually expect the travel expenses to be covered: “Of course I'll come, but you'll take my flight if you want to see me.” An English colleague would never do something like that! You have to be up in England Arriving at your own expense, there is no getting around it. But I think that if you really want something, then you should "get out of the pot" yourself and give and use everything! On the other hand, in England you are much more involved in the financial success of a project: buyouts are not common here. That also contributes a lot to the motivation to stand up for a project.

Is there an actors union in England?
Yes, namely the actors' union Equity. To come back to the contracts: English actors work with "royalties", ie repetition fees: If your film project is shown a second or third time somewhere or is shown abroad, you get a check for it. In the case of low-budget independent projects, you get a check Sometimes even a profit sharing, mostly around two percent. We are currently in negotiations about Internet evaluations, because many broadcasters are now putting their programs online for a week and there is also the possibility of downloading films. This is thanks to the involvement of Equity who work very hard to ensure that the actor shares in the income from these "evaluation cascades".

What are your current projects?
I've just finished the lead role in an English TV movie that will open in February 2010. "The Forgotten Few" is about a group of Eastern European pilots in World War II. And the cinema is currently showing "The Wolfman" - a remake of the old horror classic Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins, where I also played a small role. My German agent Inka Stelljes, but was also able to land some nice projects in Germany. For example the new "Polizeiruf" "Rostock", directed by Ed Bergercoming out in May 2010. I'm currently looking forward to the opportunity to take on a beautiful, dark role in "Coast Guard". And there are also many other exciting inquiries for me. Both nationally and internationally. Thanks to the good cooperation with my agents in Germany and England - and I don't want to miss either of them!

What tips can you give German actors who would like to work in England one day?
Just try it out: "Give it a shot!", As they like to say in England. First of all, you should try to find an agent on site as a professional representative. Then you have to be aware that, unlike in Germany, auditions take place on the The agenda is set and there is no getting around it. With a German residence, of course, there are also flight costs. Many actors shy away from a trip especially for an audition. But that's just a barrier in your head! Flights from Frankfurt to London are now cheaper take a train ride from Munich to Berlin, for example. You have to bear that in mind! Besides, it takes just an hour to fly to London. You just can't let yourself be put off.
For the first time I myself - with an agency in England and living in Cologne - had to constantly !!! to fly back and forth for the auditions. That was extremely exhausting and one of the reasons why I finally moved to London. I only made this decision when I realized that I felt at home in London and that I could gain a foothold there. Life here isn't exactly cheap.

Your parents are from Serbia. You grew up there and in Germany, studied in New York, and now you live in London. Where is your homeland?
Now this is really a difficult question; on the other hand not either!
My home is not tied to one place. I live in London, but I am often in Germany and Belgrade. In terms of feeling, there are simply no longer any limits.
I would call “Europe” and “European film” my “home”. With the EU, you can work anywhere. I always try to be in several places at the same time and it works quite well.

Thank you very much for the interview!

The website of Inka Stelljes, Berlin, agent of Branko Tomovic in Germany.

The website of Eamonn Bedford at MacFarlane Chard Associates, London, agent of Branko Tomovic in England.

Interview with Branko Tomovic about his role in the remake of the Hollywood classic "The Wolfman".

Information on and about the BAFTA Award.

in the attachment you will find PDF information and links to Equity and other English associations, Spotlight and other databases on site as well as things worth reading.

View / download attachment:

The interview was conducted by: Tina Thiele

Tina Thiele studied theater, film and television studies and cultural management in Cologne. She is the editor-in-chief of "casting-network. The industry portal". You can find out more about yourself in the section: About us.

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