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In the Spotlight

America is considered to be the land of opportunity. But how difficult is it for a young actor to break into the acting industry in the USA? Austrian actress Esther-Sophia Artner has lived in New York for the past four and a half years. She studied acting at Al Pacino’s renowned Actors Studio Drama School and is about to launch her acting and directing career. We spoke to the talented Viennese about auditions, discipline, tough competition, and why there are no leading parts for actors with accents.

Georg Kindel & Christina Zappella-Kindel10. Juli 2018 No Comments

You moved from Vienna to New York to become an actress. How difficult was this path?

I moved to New York four and a half years ago because it has always been my dream to study acting here. I share this dream with many others, so the competition is huge. I studied business before and was part of a start-up team in Berlin; we developed software called Strawberry for film and TV productions.

What was your first job?

Prior to that, I worked for (a private Austrian TV channel) Puls 4, where I did interviews and spent a lot of time in the editing room. A colleague of mine, Eddi Weinwurm, had developed this software, but he did not know how to market it. I had just graduated from university and asked him (only half-seriously), “Do you need a business person? I’ll help you out!” I had no idea what I was getting into. I moved to Berlin, and with Eddi and another partner, we founded FlavourSys. We became pretty successful relatively quickly and sold the software to National Geographic and Warner Bros. But I was very unhappy. On the one hand, I appreciated the success. On the other, I always knew that this was not my life. The last thing I want to do is to sit in post-production with tech people. It was a position in the entertainment industry that was on the other side of where I wanted to be.

Has acting always fascinated you?

I went to a Waldorf school in Vienna, and acting was a real point of focus there. We had monthly school plays and drama workshops. I am also interested in the business side of things. I joined an acting group in Vienna, and we worked on plays once a week, but many members eventually moved away from Berlin. When you’re really down in life, you start asking yourself what you really want. For me, the answer was clear: I want to move to New York and be an actress. So, I applied to the best schools. I thought, if they take me, I’ll go; if not, I’ll stay. And then I was accepted into Actors Studio Drama School.

Which is lead by Al Pacino and Harvey Keitel.

It was a great experience, and I learned a lot, but it was also very emotionally taxing.

For how long did you attend that school?

For three years, at the end of which I graduated with a Master’s of Fine Arts in acting. I developed a number of plays after that and acted in off-Broadway plays and several short movies. Then, I joined a collective of actors that focuses on roles portraying strong women. The collective includes three women: two Americans and myself. We have developed a number of plays over the past few years.

Competition in the USA is tough. Millions dream of acting as a profession, but only few manage to make that dream a reality. Did you imagine it would be this difficult?

Yes, but I had an extremely creative circle of friends in New York. Everyone is so hungry for work, everyone wants to make things happen, has a professional attitude, and is punctual. People use their free evenings to write and rehearse. It is wonderful to be part of that energy. The flip side is that the movie business is a cutthroat industry. If you have an accent, you automatically won’t be considered for a leading part. In auditions, you’re in line with a million people who look exactly like you, and you wonder how to stand out.