‘Geluid loopt. Camera loopt. Actie!’ When I first heard these words in 2010, I thought, ‘I’ve waited my whole life for this.’ Nowadays it’s a cry I hear regularly, because in between working as a freelance English copywriter and occasional translator, I also work as a professional actor in commercials, corporate videos, TV shows, theatre and short films.
In the last 18 months, I’ve been in commercials for Fox Sports, Hollandsnieuwe, Vakantie Veilingen and ANWB. I’ve also played an overbearing boss in a corporate video promoting the Netherlands as a business conference location, and I’ve had small guest roles in two children’s TV shows. Earlier this year, I acted in a fringe theatre production and I’m currently in rehearsals for another.
I love the work. It gets me out from behind my desk, I’ve made lots of new friends and it’s taken my life in a new and exciting direction. I’ve even got to travel a bit. Last year, I had a shoot in Paris for a promotional video (though I didn’t get to see the Eiffel Tower).
As a film lover, I’d always dreamed of being an actor but never did anything about it. Then one Saturday night in 2009, I was at a dinner party at the home of an artist friend and towards the end of the evening he said to everyone, ‘Come down to the studio and I’ll take your pictures.’ So we trooped downstairs and posed as he took photos of us individually and in groups. When my turn came, he took one particular shot and then showed it to my fellow guests. They all said, ‘Wow! You should try doing this professionally.’ A few of them had worked in theatre, advertising and fashion so I took them seriously. If they thought I had camera potential, so would other people. And since I was already a freelancer, I could easily combine modelling work (and later, acting work) with my copywriting business.
Over the years, I’ve taken many of the growing number of English-language acting courses and workshops available in Amsterdam. English-speaking theatre is also growing here too, so there are plenty of opportunities to practise the craft.
I generally get cast as a businessman, doctor, priest, scientist and even the occasional murderer. I’m often asked if I have an agent. The answer is: I have lots of them. Show business in the Netherlands is different than in the UK and the US. Most actors are registered with the many casting agents to whom producers and directors turn when they’re casting projects. Only leading Dutch actors like Carice van Houten and Waldemar Torenstra have an agent, who tends to work more as a manager, negotiating fees and strategically developing the client’s career rather than finding them work.
Having a successful copywriting business gives me a psychological advantage, I think. When I’m auditioning, I don’t have to worry about paying the mortgage. I can relax and focus on doing the best I can. If I don’t get the part (which is what happens most of the time) it’s not the end of the world, and if I do get the job, it’s wonderful.
My income from acting isn’t enough to pay the bills. It’s difficult to earn a living in any creative profession. But in the last eight years, I’ve developed my acting career and professional network to a point where I now get regular offers of work, both paid and unpaid. At my last TV commercial shoot, the director of photography and the make-up artist were both people I’d worked with before – I’m starting to feel like an industry insider!
If you are curious to see what Francis has been up to recently, check out the links below: