How to transition from Musical Theatre work to Film and TV
This subject has haunted me for years now and it has alot to do with narrow mindedness in this business.
Here's my story and I can tell you the journey I've taken and then advice I can offer you.
After graduating on a 3 year musical Theatre course at drama school, I went straight into year long musical job- in a time of recession and unemployment a years work is brilliant! When I graduated I wanted to work on creative projects such Shakespeare at the RSC, Checkov for the National Theatre etc but couldn't get seen as I had no credits, so I carried on with Musical Theatre- (pLAYING A CORKSCREW IN THE ENSEMBLE!!).
I kept getting work in Musicals and then another and all the time telling my agent I want straight work butnot being able to get into castings I wanted.
Anyway, long story short here I am 5 years plus out of drama school with an ok C.V and a mixture of 3 top musical jobs and 4 or so fringe straight theatre jobs, plus 6 short films.
My advice to you is to try and not get pigeoned holed into musicals. If you are playing lead after lead, the jump to TV and straight theatre will be easier but no necessarily strightforward. And if you're in the ensemble, there is a time when you might want to turn down a job and keep going for the theatre work you want.
Try and get into fringe shows, but at reputable theatres (Look on C.V of actors and see who has made a good journey after working at certain theatres such as Finbourough, Old Red Lion, 503, White Bear.)
Now I know this is a hard thing to do as so many actors want these jobs although unpaid, but the directors will always be up and coming and may use you in their first big break!
If you're seriuos about TV, you must get a showreel together- how can a casting director for tele take a risk on you if there is no evidence of what you can do on screen?- short films on CCP are great and students films can be hit and miss but it's all good practice in the long run. How many soap actors have you seen that are terrible as they've shot stright into the job without any experience...me, I'd rather wait and be good!
After a while let's say you have 3 fringe straight credits and 2 musicals and a showreel...this will put you in good stead to show you can ACT aswell and sing and dance/move and you'll have experience and a better chance to be seen by casting directors.
A lot of actors first jobs on TV will be in the series 'Doctors' as they use alot of actors for guest roles, so keep your eyes open for anything that's right for you thats's coming up. Get contacts and find the casting director, I know who it is but I want you to do the work!!
If you keep doing MT non stop eventually you will find it near impossible to be seen for TV/Theatre as you're up against others who have lots of credits.
So to sum this article up-
Get a showreel. This is a must.
Look for fringe theatre work and be prepared to work for free and find a job that's flexible around that.
Change your C.V taking off old credits such as drama school work as you get new ones.
And take every opportunity you are given AND INVITE STRAIGHT CASTING DIRECTOR TO SEE YOU!