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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

Doesone even have a chance?

The biggest problem for me in the last few years was that I did not have a visa. Now I’m about to receive one, which means I can get an agent. Without a visa, and without a career in your home country to point to, few people are interested in working with you. I think this was the single most difficult aspect all my international colleagues here faced. You have to organize a thousand letters of recommendation and present press clippings. It almost turns into a second job in its own right. And on top of all that, you go to auditions all the time.

How do you live?

I live in East Village. My flat is a little shoebox, but the neighborhood is very pleasant. It has everything from second-hand shops to hip yoga and meditation centers.

Quote: The movie business is a cutthroat industry. If you have an accent, you won’t get a leading role. In auditions, you’re in line with millions of other actors who all look exactly like you.

Was it difficult for you to adjust to the New Yorker mentality?

I attended an acting school where our work consisted of extremely emotional acting training. We had to forget everything we had ever learned. You end up completely open and vulnerable. The metro is always packed, and your heart is wide open, but no one gives a shit. If you’re in Midtown and you try to head Uptown on the right side of the road, you’re like a fish trying to swim upstream. But you get used to the tempo at some point. You learn to switch off. My friends have become like my family here: a European, a Belgian, an Indian, an Australian, and two Americans.

What are your dreams, what would you like to achieve?

I’d like to make a living as an actress. There are directors I would love to work with, such as Maren Ade of Tom Tykwer, but there are also stage directors like Thomas Ostermeier. In the English-speaking world, Greta Gerwig comes to mind as well, and Sofia Coppola, and of course Wes Anderson, to name but a few. There are a number of TV series I really love, with characters that I like a lot. I enjoy period movies, because they often tell of strong women, and the conflicts tend to be weighty. The costumes are usually beautiful, too. I think I have a lot of power on stage and in front of the camera. Younger, more playful roles are more challenging for me.

Do you see yourself as more of a stage or movie actress?

I have had more stage roles so far, and it has always been my plan to be sure of myself on stage before moving into film to familiarize myself with the breadth of my repertoire. But I do love movies. Films show nuances that cannot be transported on stage. I would love to shift more into movies over the next few years.

Is it easier for someone who studied acting in the USA to land roles once they return to Austria?

I don’t think so. Our training as film students is certainly more intense here in New York than it is in Austria, but Austria has this long, incredible theater tradition. I admire women like Grischka Voss, who founded an ensemble with which she stages pop-up shows in abandoned buildings.

Is the #metoo movement still a big talking point in your circles?

Yes, definitely. I think it is an extremely important discussion.

Did you ever experience any kind of harassment during a casting, such as a situation that made you wonder whether you really had to put up with this?

I think I may have fallen out of favor with some people because I tend to speak my mind. If someone oversteps a line with me, I put them in their place. Often enough, that happens in a humorous, playful way, but if it really gets uncomfortable, I defend my boundaries.

Quote: I think it’s everyone’s personal decision to which extent they utilize their sexuality. Everyone should know what feels good and right to them.

10. Juli 2018