#TheSeoulBrotha: An American Actor in South Korea

by Kahlid Elijah Tapia

Building My Foundation In The Land Of The Morning Calm

Eight and a half years ago, I was taking acting classes and working for the University of Phoenix as a recruiter in Tampa, Florida (USA).  During my orientation, they sat us all down and asked us to introduce ourselves with our names and something unique about us.  One of the young recruiters said her name and that she had taught English in Turkey.  I thought to myself, “how interesting that would be to teach English overseas.” (I know this is an actor’s blog but bear with me.) After about a year at Phoenix (and realizing I wasn’t great at sales), I started looking at other options.

I was home one day reading a book called Think & Grow Rich.  In this book was a poem and it went like this:

“I bargained with Life for a penny,
And Life would pay no more
However I begged at evening
When I counted my scanty store;

For Life is just an employer,
He gives you what you ask,
But once you have set the wages,
Why, you must bear the task.

I worked for a menial's hire,
Only to learn, dismayed,
That any wage I had asked of Life,
Life would have willingly paid.”

I busted into tears and asked myself, “Kahlid, what do you want?”  I answered, “I want to be an actor.” “Do you want anything else?”  I said, “I want to live abroad.”

Immediately, I called that recruiter and started asking questions about Turkey. I realized that country had options, but not the best.  I went online and began inquiring about teaching English overseas, and South Korea, with its great contracts, excellent benefits and low cost of living, rose to the top. So there I was looking out the window of Atlanta International Airport at the biggest flying tank I had ever seen.  I was carrying my jacket, a small bag, and stomach full of the most active butterflies.  Before that moment, the only other country I had been to was the British Virgin Islands.  It hit me like a ton of bricks that I was going to be in a whole new world within the next 16 hours.

Once I landed in Korea, I used my passport for the second time in my life, found my group of fellow English teachers, went through teacher orientation, and was assigned to my first Korean Elementary School. I figured I was set.  "I’ll do one year of living abroad, and that will be it", I thought.  Fate had other plans.  I went out partying one night and met a young lady who is now one of my closest friends.  I let her know I was an actor and found out that she was too.  It was this young lady who recommended I put my headshot and resume on Craigslist to see what happens.  I looked at her in disbelief but made the post anyway, not expecting anything at all.

A young British film director and his girlfriend saw my post and asked me to be in my first short film.  I WAS ECSTATIC!  I emailed my four sisters, posted on Facebook and told every person I knew that I was going to be doing my first film.  A terrific experience, a wonderful director, a great short film, and the beginning of what is now my acting career.   I left my headshot and resume on Craigslist and phone calls started coming in.  It was literally a snowball effect.  However, I still had major issues back then, as I didn’t have the proper visa or the best flexibility in my schedule (I was a full time English teacher after all).  Regretfully, I didn’t get any paid roles because of this.  That same director asked me to come back and do another short film, but apart from that, I thought very little of what Korea could do for me.

A month before I was to leave Korea, a friend called and asked if I would be interested in being in a Korean feature film.  The production company was seeking foreigners for a scene which involved a political round table of global politicians.  Once again, I was on cloud nine.  Not only did I get to be in the film but I received lines and I got paid. (Hey, I was a month from leaving Korea what did I care of visa or schedules, I was going to be in a movie!) I played the American Representative in the movie Super Monkey Returns.  Before leaving, I had three credits to my name, not including everything I did at university in the U.S., and felt ready to tackle the world of acting as a career.  It was February 2010, my year in Korea was up, and I had a mission.

But life is truly stranger than fiction, because the American recession was now in full swing, and when I got back to America it was hard enough to find a job much less an acting job.  I found work at a photo factory and one day while packing the 1000th photo in its respected courier box I had an epiphany:  “Why stay in America working at a factory when I can go back to Korea and live the dream?” So I told my family I was moving back to Korea, got all my paperwork together again, signed a new contract with my old English teaching company, gave my two weeks’ notice, and I was gone.  Now here’s the best part: two days before teacher orientation was over, I got a phone call from another British director saying that he met me a year ago at the first "48Hour Film Project" in Korea, and would I be interested in auditioning for his film.  I knew that I had made the right choice to return, but that phone call solidified everything for me. I auditioned, didn’t get the role, but I got another role, and my acting career in Korea was off to a great start.
My first week back in Itaewon, just a few days before shooting with that British director, I learned that a Korean-American couple had started their own independent production company called Side Project Productions.  Through this production company I met two other American directors: one that had just wrapped his independent feature Fear Eats The Seoul, the other who started a monthly film-critique meet-up for up and coming filmmakers, called "The Seoul Filmmakers Workshop." My gift of the gab was in full swing.  I was networking my way into short films and independent features.
However, I began to realize some things very quickly. First, I didn’t understand the business of acting.  Second, there were no English speaking acting workshops available at that time. Third, I was in desperate need of stepping up my game if I wanted to get the attention of the Koreans. Fourth, being an actor in Korea was terrific, but if I couldn’t figure a way to incorporate my work overseas for the American industry, then it would pretty much be a moot point.

So I bought the book Acting: Make It Your Business by Paul Russel, and started learning the business of acting.  After having been recommended another great book, The Power of the Actor, I found out that the author, Ivanna Chubbuck, traveled overseas quite often and attended two of her workshops in the Philippines and Japan. I started learning Korean and although I wasn’t fluent (and still am not), I spoke enough to get the attention of my first talent agent.  Lastly, I paid to have a website built, and started paying very close attention to how strategies in America can be utilized overseas. I read books, lost weight, read more books, changed the way I dressed, received career consultations, applied for auditions daily on Craigslist and any other site I could find, networked at Korean film festivals, traveled for actor training and took a few online acting classes. In other words, the realization of what a working actor is started to sink in.  Taking action became crucial because as an expat actor you can’t sit and wait.  Now I know what you’re thinking, “What about the visa and schedule issue?”  “Were you still an English teacher?”   I’ve been an English teacher for the full 8 years I’ve been in Korea.  I found a legal loophole.  As long as I have a permission letter from my visa sponsor stating that I can do ANY & ALL additional work, I was good to go.  That letter opened doors.

However, my career took its most amazing turn when I realized that I had a niche, but needed a way to promote that niche, and #TheSeoulBrotha Blog was born!  (Yes, a typical play on words but catchy none the less).  In addition, I invested in "The Actor’s Business Blueprint" by Dallas Travers and began to understand the value of giving of myself and taking full control of my career.  As my creativity started to develop I realized that expat actors needed something to invest in and that’s when I created "The Actor’s Guide To Overseas Success":  A 15 page PDF of strategies I have used or wished I had used to propel myself forward in an overseas industry.

Today as I type this post, I’m eight and a half years as a working actor in South Korea. I’m down to my final month before I head to Thailand to train in Muay Thai.  I look back through my 35 IMDb credits, 3 awards, 2 years of blogging and my plethora memories in an overseas film industry and I think to myself, “I wouldn’t trade any of it”.  I wouldn’t trade being on set for 22 hours and only being in front of the camera for 2.  I wouldn’t trade freezing on a bus because there was no heater and no green room to do my first TV spot. I wouldn’t trade working 9 to 5 Mon-Fri as an English teacher and then 8a.m. to 10 p.m. on the weekends for my first independent film.  I wouldn’t trade being so busy with my career that sometimes I had to remind myself that I needed a life outside of acting.
I walk away from Korea with a solid foundation of film, television, and stage credits.  I walk away with ATL-wood and Hollywood in my sights. I walk away knowing that I did what I said I was going to do all those years ago in that photo factory.   I came to Korea and made mistakes and will make plenty more.  I came to Korea and I blossomed where I was planted. I came to Korea and I lived the dream.

For more on Kahlid, visit http://kahlidelijahtapia.com/
Follow Kahlid on Twitter or Instagram

Christina’s 10 Favorite Things #LASTYLE

Julie Andrews sang in The Sound of Music

Raindrops on roses
And whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things

and I believe…

So I am here to share with you my top 10 favorite things in Los Angeles for the Actors out there

1.  Dallas Travers. https://thrivingartistcircle.com/  Dallas is the actor’s advocate, a creative career coach that helps you impact more people with your stories and go out into the world and tell people who you are.  She empowers actors to master the business side of your career and it is Show Business after all so you gotta understand the business side of it.  You can be an amazing actor but if you don’t know how to really share with the world who you are and that you are interested in working, how will they know you exist and what you are about?  Some of my favorite lessons are from her and through her teachings, I booked a ton of TV and movie roles and built long lasting relationships in this industry.  

2.  Wendy Braun http://actorinspiration.com/ Wendy taught me the number one key to booking more work as an actor…Through her guided meditation and visualization audios I have aligned my mind and learned to let go and be even more present in audition rooms and tame the critical voice within me that says, “I am not enough.”  Wendy is living proof that when we get inspired, feel confident and step into the spotlight of who we truly are, we can create success!

3.  Bill Coelius  http://www.theworkingactorsolution.com/ I adore Bill!  He is the kind of guy you want to have over for a plate of pasta and just lol.  No wonder he has booked over 50 national commercials.  Ever since I took his commercial class, I became a callback queen and a booking machine myself.  His simple classes are exactly what you need to book your next commercial.  He has taught me the power of tagging, u-turns and how to truly be in service at a casting opportunity.  My commercial agents and managers thank him for his classes!

4.       Crystal Carson http://www.crystalcarson.com/ I recently discovered Crystal and I am so grateful for that referral.  She has helped me tremendously coach for specific roles that had me stuck.  She helps actors find the heart and soul of the character and accept the circumstances as your own truth.  To me, she is magical and I am thankful she shares her gifts and talents with us actors.

5.       Taylor Loeb  http://miragetaping.com/ My high booking rate for self tape auditions is thanks to Taylor.  Not only does she provide an incredible professional studio to tape your audition, her love of story and imagination helps you create the perfect tape to send.  She will sit with you afterwards and decide the best take to send and since she is a professional actor and indie casting director, you are getting top level expertise from an actor who gets it.

6.       TV Academy  https://www.emmys.com/ For years, I thought you had to own an Emmy to be a member.  Not the case.  I have been an active voting member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for years now and it is such a blessing.  As a member, we are actually voting for the Emmys every year, invited to powerful networking events with fellow members and invited with a guest to all the Emmy nominated events by each specific network.  The relationships I have made through the Academy are incredible and I am so grateful someone told me about this, so that’s why I am telling you.

7.       Robert Campbell http://www.quicknickel.com/ For as long as I can remember Robert has been editing my reel.  He is affordable and easy to work with and he knows exactly how to have your reel, be about YOU!  Not the other actor, that we think is so famous.  Yes, keep them in the reel, but it’s still YOUR reel. 

8.       Darrin Van Gorder www.dvgphotography.com Darrin has been shooting my head shots for as long as I can remember and he has such an eye for detail.  He was a scientist for 7 years of his life and it shows in his incredible art. He uses only the best equipment as well as the best and latest software.  He will help you create a vision for your career.

9.       Lewis Smith  https://www.lewissmithacademy.com This is a rare experience for the working actor.  It is not your average scene study acting class but this class sets you up to be on set.  The environment is run like a set and the training is all on camera so you are learning situational training to become master story tellers.  You receive your footage after every class so you can constantly study your work on camera. 

10.   Face Forward https://www.faceforwardla.org I am on the board of a non-profit called FACE FORWARD.   Although this has nothing to do with acting, it has made me an even better person to support a cause that matters to me.  Face Froward provides reconstructive surgery to survivors of domestic violence pro bono.  Through my contacts, I have raised over $55,000 this year for the cause and that is by far one of my most important accomplishments of 2017.  If you don’t have a cause that matters to you, I feel it is as important as a great acting class!
I sure hope you found this list helpful and please drop me a line and let me know your top 10 list, or top 3, if you are in a rush….

If you found this list helpful, please let me know, love to hear from you!

Here’s to forming your tribe and going out in the world and sharing who you are and all the people, places and things that make you thrive.

Trusting in Opportunity : When motherhood meets the career you’ve always wanted

Guest Blogger from New York: Pearl Thomas

Once upon a time I decided to quit a career I’d been working to build for 8 years. I’d just had a baby. My husband was supportive of my choice to be a stay-at-home-mom. And I thought I was ready. I thought it was the right time to take a big risk.

In someone else’s storyline, that would be the moment they became an actor. But the career I quit? Was acting.

In hindsight, quitting acting wasn’t the right option financially, but more importantly it wasn’t the right option for me as a person. Acting isn’t just something I do; it’s an important part of who I am. And I was disconnected from that part of myself right at the same time I was trying to navigate the role of new mom. It was hard!

Eventually I realized that I couldn’t just give up who I was. But there was me, less than a year post-partum, still carrying 20 pounds of baby weight and really disliking myself because of it. On top of all that, I was dealing with an autoimmune disease.

Now if at any point in all this I was thinking I’d be able to go right back to work like I hadn’t taken a break, the reality of the situation crushed that idea pretty quickly. I was cold calling people I’d worked with in the past, sending them my new headshots and letting them know I was available. I wasn’t making any money, and I was struggling with my self-image in a big way. The callbacks weren’t coming. I was just a little terrified!

But then I had a breakthrough. I realized that if I was going to meet my goals, I had to acknowledge how much I really wanted to be doing TV and film and then I had to be totally serious about it this time. It wasn’t a matter of waiting to land that perfect role; it was about putting in the work and trusting that opportunity would follow.

I started taking classes at Kimball Studio with Kelly Kimball and Janine DiTruillo and, not having any material that I felt showcased what I can do, was inspired to write, produce and star in my own short film, Carry On. Thanks to an introduction from a friend (stuntwoman and producer Nikki Tomlinson), I was able to start stunt training very seriously and it was a huge confidence builder.

There I was, a new mom doing these intricate fight sequences and knocking people down!

Behind the scenes of the film "Betrayal," with Stunt Coordinator, Chazz Menendez and Director of Photography, Mike Flanagan. 

I’d love to say that it all worked out in the end but there is no ‘end’. I’m still chasing success and at the same time, I’m living my success every day. I’m where I need to be and I’m connecting with the right people as I continue training, auditioning, networking, and building my brand. I’m prepared for any opportunity that comes my way.    

That said, I could easily give into the temptation to be angry at my younger self for wasting time. And it would be just as easy to put a smile on my face and pretend that I don’t have any regrets at all. I used to work so hard to make everyone around me think I was okay 100% of the time but I don’t do that anymore. Now I work hard to be honest with other people and with myself.

I know I’m leading a blessed life, but acknowledging my mistakes openly is allowing me to dive deeper into my craft. I can be present without fear because I’m working hard every day to accomplish my goals. This approach is so different from what I was doing in my 20s when I was coasting along on my talent. Being “a natural” only takes you so far - that’s when you have to step up and start putting in the work.

Fitness Portfolio, riding in the hills of Massachusetts

That’s what I’m doing now and I’m seeing the payoff. This week, I booked my first paying job (the lead in a short film) since coming back to acting and it’s a role that I believe will lead to bigger and better things. But more important than that is the fact that I have grown so much this past year - more than I did in my first eight years of acting.

I can honestly say I have never felt so comfortable in my own skin as I do right now, on and off camera. My ability to understand what a director is asking for and to deliver it is beyond what it ever was. I’m proud of myself because I know that it’s all because of the training I’ve been doing. I have learned to focus on what I can give to a project - to act with generosity. And I actively look for every chance to grow, whether I’m training or working, because I’m once again where I belong.

Is it easy? No, it’s actually one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I’ve been turned away by people saying I’m too green for my age. Finding representation has been a challenge. But if I’m truly dedicated to achieving success in this industry I can’t just wait around for something to happen to me. That’s what I was doing eight years ago and as a strategy, it just doesn’t pay off in the long term. I need to be the one making things happen.

With baby Ellary - on the hottest day of this past summer, we still played outside! 

I like to remind myself that when you really commit to acting, it takes time. And for the first time in my life, I’m truly committed.

Florida fun in the sun

Hollywood Harveys: Familiar Stories & the Solutions

by Guest Blogger: Anonymous

"Everything is about sex, except sex-- sex is about power."
--Oscar Wilde

The Harvey Weinstein scandal and resulting media explosion these past few weeks has given me pause. So much of what I was reading and hearing about his predatory behaviour with young, hopeful women was chillingly similar to my own experiences with men in the business. Lupita Nyong’o resonated in her New York Times piece about how our job opens us up to public intimacy and how within that intimacy, lines can get blurred.

One of my stories starts with an acting coach from Los Angeles who teaches workshops in Europe. A complete nobody in Hollywood, he has been able to make a good living for decades pretending to be connected to Hollywood stars, name-dropping and posing with celebrities he follows around at parties. His European students, often with no previous industry experience, in turn follow him around, spending fortunes to be in his presence. I took his class when I was 21. Very quickly he singled me out, complimenting me and asking me to meet with him privately to discuss my career. In the living room of his penthouse hotel suite, he told me that everyone else in the class was hopeless and that I was the only one with real potential. It was, of course, exactly what I wanted to hear-- though it made me a little sick to think he was selling his own cheap version of the Law of Attraction to people he didn’t believe in at all. After some semi-emotional talk about our deceased parents, he asked me to recite a monologue-- any I knew by heart-- with the physical intention of getting him to come over and kiss me. He posed it as a challenge, as if to test how bold I was as an actor. During class that day, he had had most of the girls dance naked in front of the class as part of an ‘exercise’ and praised their fearlessness. It was the first time I had ever looked up another woman’s butthole. I did my monologue, knowing that he expected me to undress, but I only took my cardigan off, keeping on the T-shirt underneath and ending my monologue that way. He asked me if I thought that was enough to get me to kiss him. Here, I did answer boldly, and said that considering our age difference and how attractive I was, outside of a teacher/actor scenario, he would of course want to kiss me. He was taken slightly aback by my frankness but also impressed it seemed. I thought I had played the “game” right. Wasn’t the rule to always make them believe you might fuck them but never do it? How pathetic I seem to myself now.

A few months later I went to LA and started taking regular classes with him (and to my saving grace, also with real Hollywood legends like Ivana Chubbuck and Larry Moss, experiences that eventually gave me perspective). I took his intensive workshop at a cheap location in the valley,  to which he had invited a few industry people, pretending they were his friends. I eventually found out he either paid them or used the prospect of meeting young, European girls as bait to get them to come. He only ever gave the same feedback to the girls: be more sexy. After class, he pushed me to go and “charm” (code for flirt) this director, who had made many films I had seen. I thought I was playing the “game”, I chatted to the director, who was very polite and told me he had really liked the scene I had performed that day and to call his office the next day to set up a meeting. It felt like everything was falling into place. That little girl in me thought it was true: the right person just had to take a look at me and my career would be in motion - finally I was going to be discovered and play amazing roles in big movies. I was so naive.

The next day I called and when I got to the office, he was alone, surrounded by pictures of him on set with numerous superstars he had worked with. We started chatting about life. It was the afternoon, he offered me a glass of a really expensive wine, which he said he had received as a gift. We drank, it was all good, nothing inappropriate, just open talking - it felt like two artists getting to know each other. I met with this director regularly, and it felt like a budding mentorship that had proven the worth of the acting class to me. Before, the teacher had tried to force me, like all his other students, into regular private lessons (meaning talks where he tried to break us-- “a good actor would spring naked into the pool if I told him” kind of bullshit) by threatening to throw us out of the class if we didn’t attend these private sessions, for which he charged US$80. But now the teacher constantly wanted to know how it was going and asked me to ask the director to come back to class. It was a strange shift in dynamic-- after all, the teacher had introduced the director as “one of his best friends”. I later found out how little that director friend thought of him, calling him someone on the outskirts of the industry trying to crawl his way in without any real talent-- which is why he targeted Europeans as they are more easily blinded by the fake LA talk. Again I was taken aback and confused by the bad-mouthing and frankness of his judgement, but this shared truth not only created intimacy, he was also simply right and this helped me down the road.

One night the director took me out for dinner to one of the most expensive restaurants in Los Angeles. He had told me about many affairs he had had through the years with famous actresses, made me feel like we were friends, even as though he were a paternal, big brother figure. After all this man was twice my age, married, and so physically unattractive to me that I could not have imagined he’d ever consider me being attracted to him. I had obviously not been in Hollywood long enough. I felt so at ease that I ended up telling him about this beautiful boy I had started seeing. After dinner the director drove me home and called me twenty minutes later to tell me that he was never going to see me again, because he did not deserve to spend $600 to hear me talk about fucking some other guy, when he was clearly in love (!!!!!) with me. To say that I was shocked is an understatement. I immediately felt guilty, as if I had been leading him on and weak because I had failed at the “game”. A few days later I got an email from the teacher, telling me that his class was not the right place for me anymore and that he was sorry things did not work out with the director.

That was it. Thank God. My story with these men ends there. I know of numerous girls, who experienced the same and much worse than me. Some of them are rumours, some of them I know personally, but not one wants to go up against him publicly, because even one lost job would not be worth it. And yet, our silence keeps him going. I know.

In my humble experience, victimisation and victim blaming often go hand in hand, and I was scared of both. I didn’t want to be known as “that girl” and wanted to focus on my career because, as James van der Beek put it, there was a power dynamic that felt impossible to overcome. If Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow were only able to speak out once Weinstein had been accused on a grand scale, how can those with careers less stable and lucrative go up against men who seem to have influence?

For years I felt like I had missed out on some great opportunity, like if I had not told the director about this boy, he would have eventually helped me. I had already heard of the three A’s of Hollywood: Amiability, Availability and then Ability. In that order. Do not cause any waves, be likeable because there are so many incredibly talented people and in the end it is just personal preference. And mostly it is the personal preference of some old, white man. Especially if you are a woman and even more so a good looking woman, people will love to hate you, so be pleasant and pleasing. That is what we are being told constantly between the lines and oh, so often directly to our face. I told a male family member of mine all about it and he confirmed my fears, telling me I should have slept with the guy to benefit my career. Although I felt angry with him for saying this, I can’t say, years later, that I fully disagree with him. I have seen girls get ahead by sleeping with the right people and enduring unwanted sexual advances with more “game” than me. It is not just the untalented, sexy girls - the ones who succeeded that way have both: talent and the willingness to deal with the trauma.

So what is the solution?

For one, we need more diversity in positions of power. More women in positions with influence. There is this myth that women do not like women, or are reluctant to help each other. I have especially heard this being repeated by men for whome it conveniently helps their narrative. Yes, there have been women who treated me badly, but so, so many more have been wonderful. I have had female directors champion me for roles, female screenwriters write parts for me, female casting directors repeatedly invite me for auditions, female producers introduce me to people in the business, and so forth.  I helped a young female director I once met in Cannes, by introducing her to a producer I knew and they made a movie together, creating even more possibilities for women. If there are more women in power, the ones who are less supportive of other women are less likely to be so, as they won’t be so afraid of being replaced by a younger version.  Check out Naomi McDougall Jones' TedTalk and brilliant Four-Point Plan (17 mins) on how to change the industry and the world. I have also met an incredible amount of wonderful men, who have been supportive beyond their pay grade. As a byproduct of our nurture and possibly nature, women are not as sexually predatory as men, however power too often corrupts, and women in power will and have also found ways to misuse it.

Our narrative in society about masculinity and femininity has to change, and one by one, we can do this. No, it is not admirable to date a woman who could be your daughter. Frankly, in most cases, it’s a bit pathetic. Sexual attraction for women is also based on looks, and matter as much as inner qualities and the desire for security. In that way women are no different from men.

Don’t think that because there is harassment and bullying in the workplace, that there can’t also be genuine romance in the workplace. People often fall in love on the job, in all businesses (Bill Gates married an employee, and so forth). In an episode of the critically acclaimed show, “Jane, the Virgin”, one of the lead characters said “At this moment I would embrace you and kiss you, but I must ask first, because Donald Trump has ruined romance for all of us.” So yes, let’s pay attention to power dynamics, differentiate between the bullying and the genuine, and let’s not pretend men are the enemy.

Let’s practise saying “no”. Men, practise saying to your friends “no, not impressed” when they have banged some chick who had hoped for romance or support in some way when the dude just wanted to have sex. Women, say “no” more often. Don’t give in to fear of not getting work, create some for yourself, and support women around you to get jobs too. Since my story above, there have been more directors who rejected me professionally after I had rejected them physically, but I have also forged friendships and fruitful work relationships with men, who were sexually interested in me but dealt easily with a “no” and continued being supportive and straight up wonderful for many, many years. I have also dated a director I worked with, loved him deeply and we are still good friends. It is not black and white.

Last but not least, work your ass off, and be kind. For fuck’s sake, just be kind.

Paris vs Sydney: An Actor Compares

by Florence Florens

"Australia is not such a good place to be an actor… Why don’t you move back to France?"
As one of the few French actresses in Australia, this is the recurring comment I hear from fellow Australian actors.  Well, everything is a matter of perspective. Positives can turn into negatives depending on how you look at it...and negatives can turn into positives.
I would be lying if I said that France doesn’t offer more acting opportunities than Australia. The French government just announced that 1.1% of the State budget will be injected into Culture and the Arts next year. Because the French population is almost four times larger, and its residents pay more taxes than their Australian counterparts, far more projects get funded. Film makers can access a range of financial help, from tax credits to proper funding. The Centre National du Cinéma (the equivalent of Screen Australia), assists film makers and allocates funds to film projects. Each administrative region (the equivalent of a county) also has a budget dedicated to the Arts. Film makers can take advantage of reinvestment from production companies or develop international collaborations when the budget requires it (Belgium is a big co-producer).   As an actor, that means more auditions, but it also means more, and increasing, competition. The number of registered actors has more than doubled since 2009, reaching over 30,000 in 2014. These 30,000 people are the lucky winners:  they have worked enough days in the year to access the extremely advantageous status of Intermittant du Spectacle, entitling them to unemployment benefits when they are out of work (75% of them are theatre actors, 25% are screen actors). We're not counting the many struggling actors who are ineligible to register despite their excellent training at Lecoq or some other renowned school.  
Still from Between You and Me (UK)
France's other great-seeming advantage is that employers must pay a minimum syndicated salary. In reality however, many short films still offer unpaid work due to limited budgets and a system of deferred payment exists for many low budget features, just like in Australia.  Unfortunately, the Australian government doesn’t offer a similar "registered actor" status and safety net because the Arts are not considered a priority and the country is less socialist than France. The French people receive a lot of help and compensation from their government, but there is of course a cost for this: the highest tax rate in the European Union.
The French screen industry is largely concentrated in Paris, with all that this entails. I am very protective of my quality of life, as it is conducive to good mental and physical health, and because it feeds my creativity-- and it's the main reason I chose Sydney over Paris or London.  Yes, I am passionate about my craft and storytelling, but that is not enough to support my happiness and health if everything else fails me. In Australia, we have the luxury of choosing between sunny Sydney, and the slightly less sunny Melbourne, while Parisians have to put up with an almost constant blanket of clouds above their heads,  a high risk of terrorist attacks, a high crime rate, less green space and a very different mentality. Let’s be honest, we've all heard the bad reputation that French people have for being unfriendly-- well I won’t contradict you on this one! Most jobs in Paris are offered to the director’s/producer’s/decision maker's girlfriend, so if you are married or into gender equality like me, you will be disadvantaged. I find life in France much more stressful, and the people to be quite pessimistic and aggressive -there are always exceptions obviously.  Like Londoners, Parisians are very career driven, work long hours (except in the public system where going on strike seems to be a hobby) and suffer the typical Metro/Boulot/Dodo (Underground/Work/Sleep) routine . Let's not get into the endless traffic jams or the pushing and shoving on public transport. Australians have a “no worries” culture that I really like: I find them more friendly and easy to work with. On the downside, that also means the number of perfectionists per square kilometer is much lower than in France…which is good for me, because I’m one of them!

On Set, Chasing Comets, alongside
Footie legends Jason Stephens
(Producer, TV Host) and
Beau Ryan (Actor, TV Host)
Film genre and acting style are also quite different. France is well-known for its independent Cinéma d’Auteur (Art House/independant). As opposed to commercial films, these projects are innovative and possess a personal universe. Scripts tend to be more character-based, which requires a naturalistic acting style, and offers a higher number of strong female protagonists. Nudity is more often required however, so French actresses who are not comfortable being naked on camera are more limited than in Australia. Just like in Australia, many French directors must alternate between commercial projects and Art House films in order to survive and finance their next project.
AM?I at the Edinburg Festival (Amnesty Award Finalist)
From my point of view, the biggest negative in the Australian screen industry is the lack of diversity. Many actors from African and Arabic backgrounds have gained prominence on French screens in the last 10 years, and the industry has made a place for non-native speakers like the British actress Jane Birkin and the Italian icon Monica Belluci.  In the same way, Hollywood reinforces its openness to showcasing actors from various backgrounds and languages: Wonder Woman, Inception, Black Swan, Jurassic Park 3, and Casino Royale to name a few. Though things are slowly shifting in Australia, I still come across those who struggle to think outside of the box. I have to remind them that I can play the wife, the love interest, the professional, the friend, the step sister, the step daughter – anything except the (Australian) daughter or sister. One third of Australians are born overseas, which means that producers and TV channels have yet to reach more than 30% of the Australian market. The industry is starting to recognize this, and we are seeing more and more Asian, Aboriginal, Lebanese and non-Anglo-looking Australians on the screen.  One of Sydney’s well-known casting directors Faith Martin recently confirmed to me that “Diversity is everywhere at the moment”. The very successful and avant-garde production company MatchBox Pictures, known to adapt roles to an actor’s background, offered a recurring role to a native Italian speaker in their new series Pulse, and cast some Persian, Maltese and Arabic speakers in the heart-warming Ali’s Wedding (currently in cinemas, check it out!). Even if the industry is not as diverse as in France, things have started to shift positively.
On the set of a National Geographic shoot (NatGeo People Australia)
In conclusion, Australians tend to put Europe on a pedestal and don’t realize the potential of their own industry or the luck they have to live in such a safe, healthy and beautiful country. Although the screen industry is undeniably smaller than in France, there is also much less competition – there are not a lot of European actresses in Australia, especially with the same level of English as me! And let’s not forget that the French screen industry wasn’t built in a day. It resulted from the hard work and rebellion of thousands of artists and entrepreneurs who led the way and forged the path for their contemporaries. The French are advantaged because artists and crew members constantly fight for their rights and for better conditions by campaigning, going on strike and marching in the streets (although I am not recommending it, I've even witnessed some Intermittants du Spectacle taking over the set of a live show!).  Australia is such a young country, which means that everything is yet to be made. It is so exciting to think that we are the game-changers, that we are taking part in the youth of the country’s artistic industry, that we are witnessing the current shift in diversity and local content initiatives, such as MEAA's Make it Australian campaign. It is our responsibility to make things happen, to create content and to change mentalities. To write, to foster collaborations, to develop international co-productions, to campaign, to challenge gender inequality and the lack of diversity. And I am determined to be one of those people.  

Photo by Stephanie Saar

For more on Florence Florens, check out on IMDb or at www.florenceflorens.com