For Australia-based actor Isabel Macmaster, living and working in Los Angeles has always been the dream. Now, thanks to a submission on Casting Networks®, that chance may come sooner than anticipated.
In May, Macmaster — best known for her stint on the long-running Australian series Neighbors — came across a submission on Casting Networks for an international online talent contest. Titled Voices That Give, it was described as America’s Got Talent meets The X Factor meets Live Aid for orphans and children in foster care. Singer and Hallmark Channel star Jen Lilley was hosting it.
The contest was divided in to four categories: musicians, actors, dancers and special skills. Winners in each category would be chosen based on the number of votes, and winning prizes were tailored to each category. There was also an additional grand prize of $10,000 for the person who won the most overall votes. Each vote cost $1, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to charity, which included Project Orphans USA.
In an exclusive interview with Casting Networks, Macmaster says she has been using the website for many years, and often gets personalized casting suggestions via email based on her chosen criteria.
“One day, I got an email from Casting Networks suggesting I enter this competition,” recalls the actress. “It had some great prizes and an amazing cause, so I thought, I’m in!”
The prizes in the acting category were hard to resist, especially for someone who lived all the way in Australia. Among them was a walk-on role in one of Lilley’s Hallmark Channel movies and a meeting with Lilley’s talent manager.
“I’ve lived in Australia my whole life,” said Macmaster. “I’ve been to L.A. for three months at one point, and I loved it so much. To be living and acting there is my dream. So the opportunity to be on an American film set really grabbed me.”
For her contest submission piece, Macmaster chose to play out a scene from the first episode of the second season of the TV series Fleabag. In it, Macmaster, as the title character, is having a conversation with her off-camera father about how she was happy for him marrying her godmother-now-stepmother.
“Fleabag is a such a brilliant show and that scene had lot of realness, and a lot of heart,” said Macmaster. “It’s not often you get a competition where you submit a scene of your choice, as opposed to a specific one given to you. Choosing your own scene is a very free way of showing your best side.”
The acting part of the contest was easy, according to the actress. It was lobbying for votes that was more challenging. “I’ve never been someone to do that, and always found it uncomfortable,” Macmaster said. “But with this, it wasn’t so difficult because there was a charity behind it. So even if I didn’t win, it was a beautiful way to get people to vote and donate at the same time.” (In the end, some $50,000 was raised altogether for charity.)
Over five rounds of competition, which ended in July, Macmaster rose from the top 25 to first place not only in her acting category, but also in overall votes, making her the Grand Prize winner. All thanks to a self-submission.
Macmaster understands that for some actors, submitting regular self-tape auditions can be daunting. Unlike a physical casting session, there is no instant feedback or notes given. Sometimes, there is nothing. “Many times you put effort in to making a tape, send it off to the abyss and don’t hear anything at all. I see why it can be frustrating for actors.”
However, for herself, Macmaster chooses to see self-submissions on Casting Networks as an essential part of an actor’s toolkit.
“I look at it as one cog in the big machine,” she explains. “If you’ve got 10 things going on, and one of them is self-submission, you still have all these other things where you have immediate responses from human beings.”
In fact, Macmaster sees self-submissions on Casting Networks only as a positive, knowing that a tape sent from Australia has the potential of being seen by casting directors and filmmakers as far away as the U.S. or the U.K. And if an actor does not have representation in the form of an agent or manger, self-submission on Casting Networks becomes even more important.
“The moment I started taking charge was the moment I got so many more opportunities, and everything looked up from then on,” Macmaster said. “It’s so exciting to know that as I will be working on a film set with Jen Lilley, surrounded by all these wonderful creatives.”
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