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Starting from Scratch as an Actress in Amsterdam

Melissa making an audition tape. Sian Melton

Casting directors, agencies, production companies and theatres. You name it, I researched it.

Though at times it feels like a very small world, the acting community in Toronto is very large. Across the city, there are numerous opportunities, both paid and volunteer, from amateur to professional. There are acting classes, agents, workshops and open mic nights littered throughout the city.

In Amsterdam, there are much fewer theatres, seldom few movie sets, and minimal agencies and workshops. To make it worse for expats, many do not cater to non-Dutch English speakers. (If you speak Dutch the opportunities here are endless.) However if you are an expat like me, intense research is required to thrive in the acting community.

Where to start

Upon arrival, I started my Google search right away for casting directors, agencies, production companies and theatres. You name it, I researched it.

Sadly, I discovered there is only a small theatre community here, which is hard to break into. The great thing is that everyone comes from different walks of life, all with a passion for the art. Essentially, the rehearsal process is the same, so it felt like home instantaneously.

If film and TV is more your scene, there are agencies to assist in finding your big break-out scene (for free, of course). However I find the best way to keep tabs on upcoming opportunities is to frequent their Facebook pages or websites for the latest casting updates.

On set

The vibe on set in Amsterdam is way more relaxed and very friendly, even though I really don’t understand 90 per cent of what is said (okay, 99 per cent).

I’ve been quite lucky that someone will often translate for myself and the director. This isn't always required as sometimes the directors spoke English as well, though I would get the Cole's notes version. I do feel bad at times when everyone is waiting on me for a second set of directions, but I guess that’s part of it. Most shoots have been pretty quick and stick to the assigned timings, with the odd long day here and there.

And the craft table? Delicious! I’ve had massive bowls of soup, vegetarian risotto and vegan cake. Yum!

New opportunities

Another new opportunity for me was the chance to share what I know with fellow theatre peers. I taught my first acting workshop, and although a big learning curve, it was a great experience. It allowed me to dig up all my old notes, and revisit material that I definitely needed a refresher on. I found that not only was I the teacher, but also the student. Opening up the workshop to have a conversational feel allowed us all to connect and be entirely open to any discoveries that may arise.

I don’t know what’s next on my acting journey here, but I love how every new day on set is a new challenge filled with new lessons and opportunities.

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Published in Work Abroad Blogs
Melissa Verwey

Melissa Verwey is a Canadian performer who has been residing in Amsterdam for the last year. Her career has included acting in over 20 plays, coupled with over a decade of working behind the scenes in TV and Theatre Production.

Website: www.melissaverwey.actor

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