When to Go.
From January to around the end of April.
US studios cast many of their test television programs, in the hope networks will commission full seasons for the following fall’s schedule.
Most of the castings takes place in LA, and it’s this manic crazy period that is known as pilot season.
LA is abuzz with Actors during pilot season, with hundreds of roles up for grabs.
Trade publications announce new castings by the minute. While talent agents & managers fiercely pitch their clients, as thousands of actors line up daily outside casting Agents doors, hoping to score winning auditions.
Over 80 pilots are shot by the major US studios each pilot season. There is a lot of risk with Pilots costing approximately $4 million each. Securing a role in a pilot is a possible dream come true for any actor. But it is just the first step as relatively few pilots end up going to series.
It’s an emotional roller-coaster where opportunity meets luck for many actors.
He also has a word of warning: if you don’t have US representation, pilot season is just about the worst time of year to arrive. LA reps and casting directors will be too busy to meet new faces.
Under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), most Australians can travel to the US for 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. Travelling under the VWP should suffice if you’re making your first trip to the States to take meetings and secure representation. If you’d like to stay longer, consider applying for a B1/B2 Business/Tourist visa, valid for 12 months or five years. However you should be aware that neither the VWP nor the B1/B2 will allow you to take up paid employment of any kind in the US (consult canberra.usembassy.gov/consular/visas.html for more information).
If you’re lucky enough to be offered an acting gig, the production company will often arrange an ‘O-1 visa’ on your behalf. Best to give yourself a fighting chance by arriving with some of the documents your employer will need. These often include letters of endorsement from other (preferably famous) actors, ratings and box office reports, evidence of any awards or nominations you have received and copies of press clippings, along with materials like headshots, showreels and CVs, as they can set off alarm bells at customs if you’re entering on a non-working visa. You will also need to prove your temporary visitor status with a return ticket.
Production companies are increasingly reluctant to arrange O-1s for foreign actors, or in some cases even to audition them. If you’re serious about making a commitment to LA, she suggests getting a green card. However it’s a long and expensive process. A cheaper but less reliable avenue is the Diversity Lottery Program (or Green Card Lottery). It offers a total of 50,000 permanent resident visas annually to natives of countries with low rates of immigration to the US (including Australia).
However it’s not necessarily smooth sailing if you make it through the initial selection. It will still take six to 12 months to get organised.