Y ou’re adored, even revered. You go to cool parties, holiday at George Clooney’s Lake Como villa, wear great clothes and get to do a really fun job – and get paid heaps for it. Being a top actor certainly looks the business, and the bright lights of fame draw in many hopefuls. But the reality is hard graft, lots of rejection and very few success stories. However, all the sobering stories in the world aren’t a deterrent if you are compelled to the craft. And that’s where having a great agent can make the world of difference.
Heath Ledger, Isla Fisher and Lisa McCune are some of the great talents to come out of Frog Management, a casting agency that doesn’t just represent its actors, it nurtures, educates and promotes them. At the helm of Frog is Viv Poulton, an industry dynamo whose passion for her work and her people has seen Frog through from its early days in 1980, when she had just two clients – one of whom soon tragically died – to now, with around 100 actors on their books. The likelihood of any Australian business surviving to its 10th birthday is around 10 per cent. To get to 35 years, you need a special kind of magic.
Throughout that time, Viv has had to weather many storms, getting through them by “taking the bank manager to a long lunch” and knowing what to do when things don’t go to plan. “When Heath (Ledger) was cast in his first television commercial, he turned up at our office with purple hair,” says Viv. “He had been in a Rock Eisteddfod the night before, and he was due to shoot early the next morning. I raced him off to my hairdresser for a quick dye job,” she says.
Change has been inevitable, both good (“Instead of faxing scripts, which is so time consuming, we can now send a screen test of a client who could be anywhere in the world via a self test on a smart phone”) and bad (tighter budgets, more actors and less work). The skill of an agent such as Viv lies not just in spotting talent, but in finding the perfect person for a role. Being able to find the right talent for a brief centres on passion, experience and also intuitive ability to know when someone has something special.
“It’s hard to define a star,” says Viv, “but, in my opinion, exceptional talent, a certain look, timing and luck can create one.” Frog has cast actors in shows such as Neighbours, Home & Away and Underbelly, as well as feature films, US television shows (Adelaide Kane is currently the lead in hit US series Reign), commercials, theatrical productions and more. The agency currently represents award-winning actors such as Ethan Tomas, Adam T Perkins and Nichola Renton; LA-bound Troy Coward; and Acacia Daken, who has just been offered one of just 14 places from around the world to study an International Masters degree in Professional Acting at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School – one of the top drama schools in the world. Frog’s agency alliances are spread around the world, including Singapore, Los Angeles and Sydney, and it has exciting projects in the pipeline for 2016 that are based in Asia and Europe.
“We work very hard for our actors,” says Nat Simpson, Senior Talent Agent
at Frog. “We go to extra lengths – we edit show reels, do screen tests, organise screen shots, we really take on managerial duties and PR duties.” Offering more to their clients than just a regular booking agency has helped Frog withstand the rigours of industry changes. Its acting classes, which are held at WAAPA, are taught by ex-WAAPA and NIDA students, and take pupils from seven years of age.
Training is central to the Frog philosophy. “We try to nurture and guide our talent to keep up their training, and identify what areas they should work on,” says Nat. “You meet some kids and you can definitely pick the ones with that ‘it’ factor,” she says. “Others might be terrific and will make great working actors, but might not hit the big time. It’s hard to have a full-time career but you can make a healthy living.”
As with all industries, there can be people out there selling big dreams, which only yield small results. “Anyone that charges someone to audition is a big red flag,” says Nat. “Actors shouldn’t have to pay to go through an agent. Some companies will come over to WA and hold auditions – actors will spend thousands on photos and show reels, and there aren’t even any jobs.
“You don’t always need to move to Sydney or Melbourne for it to happen for you. It doesn’t matter where you are, you can get a national voiceover job or a US pilot show from Perth if you’ve got what it takes, and if your agent believes in you. And I think this agency is proof of that.”
Frog Management (08) 9328 6555, frogmanagement.com.au.