Domenique Fragale: LHR To LAX

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Actress Domenique Fragale trained at Arts Educational and now works both on UK shores and also in the USA. I recently spoke to her about what the differences are between London and LA and here is what she had to say; 

'Living in two incredible cities I always get asked ‘which city do you prefer?” or hardest of all questions, “which is better?” This is impossible to answer. Both are incredible with positive and negative points in their own glorious ways. 

The biggest difference is the TV / Film and theatre scene. It’s a world known fact that London is one of the best and leading theatre scenes, where as LA, it’s near non-existent. There are the odd casting calls for a theatre job however they’re usually unpaid with very few seating more than 99 people. TV and film on the other hand is a completely different story. There are casting calls for commercial, film and television every day on LA Casting and Actors Access (the American and Canadian version of Spotlight) that you can submit yourself for. That also leads me onto being seen more often here in Los Angeles. In the UK as there are a smaller population, the casting calls are usually very exclusive or tight knit, leaving you in the dark until you ask your agent what you were submitted for that month. In LA there is more of a ‘free reign’ on putting yourself up for more roles – all you have to do it pay an annual subscription and you’re good to go to submit your headshot, showreel (or demo reel as it’s called in the US) and be on the casting director’s computer screen in a matter or minutes. The only downside to that however is that you’re also going up against the other thousands upon thousands of people who are self submitting.

Another huge difference I discovered as soon as I moved out to LA was the lack of public transport. Without a car or willing to use Uber / Lyft, you might as well quit while you’re ahead. I currently do not have a car in LA, so use Uber to get my way around and there’s good and bad points to that too. Yes I never have to worry about finding a parking spot or having to move my car at ungodly hours of the day to avoid getting that parking ticket as well as not having to pay out for car insurance, but as every location in LA is so far a part, it’s impossible to walk to the auditions you need to get to. As an avid walker in London, that was a hard pill to swallow.  Los Angelians are shocked when I say that to me walking thirty minutes is nothing – walking 3 minutes can be a chore to them. So for travel convenience London’s a winner on this one.

In my first meeting with my agent, he immediately told me to get used to being a ‘branded product – that the business side of this Industry are only interested in.’ We wanted to become actors because we have a passion for creativity and story telling that it can be easy for us at times to have our blinkers on and only see what the next job will be that we book or create but we agents and managers see the other side; how can we make money, so they make money and that’s the business side coming in. We’re products that they want to sell and the easier we are for them to brand, the easier it is for us to be sold. In London, I found that whenever I went to an audition, there would be a plethora of look usually for the casting director to see, in LA, that’s extremely rare. You all have something in common – be it your nationality, your accent or most typically your look. Why? Because the audition is a box that needs to be filled and those behind that table want it done easily; they know what they’re looking for and that’s what they want to see. Why do you think agents have to turn down potential new clients? Because they most usually have someone they already represent that looks just like said agent-searching actor.

In LA having improvisational skills is a secret killer point on your resume. Casting directors and agents love to see them on your set of skills, especially if it clearly states that you trained on one of the courses at UCB (The Upright Citizens Brigade) – notable alumni include Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Aubrey Plaza and / or The Groundlings – where comedic greats such as Melissa Mc Carthy, Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig began their journey. An actor being able to improvise, but improvise well under ‘The Rules’ is vital and being able to at the drop of a hat lets the casting team know that you’re a.) Dedicated and wanting to learn if you attended a course in the first place and b.) Able to truly listen to your scene partner and be that rock that they can trust and rely on when you’re together.

I love both cities incredibly. Not to sound corny but they’ve both taught me a lot about myself and made me grow into the person I want to be. Before moving out to London to attend Arts Ed I was a pushover and a little shy but being thrust into two massive cities that won’t stop for anyone, especially in our line of work, you learn to take on challenges, learn from any mistakes that may come up and keep moving towards that success, whatever it may be to you because trust me if you don’t, there are ten more people behind you who will. Comparing yourself to anyone else is also not only time consuming, but also dulling to you as a person. It’s natural for us to take note of people who have raised the bar a little higher but for us to start to become jealous, envy them and then become obsessed with our deficiencies and overlooking all the areas we excel in, it can become dangerous. Resist the urge to compare to others. You are on one journey and he/she is on a completely different ride. We can’t guarantee that we’ll all reach the stage of ‘success’ that we dream of straight away but with more time spent on comparison or worrying about it, less time has been spent on achieving said goals so concentrate on your own path of accomplishment, each day you do, you’ll get closer and remember to not worry as much. You wanted to be an actor because it made you happy, find that joy again.'

I hope this is helpful to anyone wanting to pursue a career both sides of the pond (I mean who isn't). I would like to say a huge thank you to Domenique and check back later this month for more.

For regular updates from Domenique follow her on Twitter and Instagram

Until Thursday,

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