A few years ago, Canada was awash with work for actors. Toronto and Vancouver’s versatile cityscapes, coupled with tax breaks and our low dollar made it both alluring and lucrative for production companies. But with our dollar now on par with the United States’ greenback, it’s no longer as lucrative an option, and from an actor’s perspective, the once thriving acting hubs may as well be grounds for rolling bales of tumbleweed.
For up-and-coming Canadian actor Dan Abramovici, the situation couldn’t be more frustrating.
Abramovici has received rave reviews from acting teachers, casting agents, and peers in Toronto’s comedy scene, but still, all he ever gets to audition for are commercials. The film and TV roles, increasingly, seem to be found in Los Angeles.
Canadian actors are highly regarded abroad because of their talent and work ethic, but to get there, they must work even harder to push through all the red tape.
Sears & Switzer, renowned Canadian acting coaches who’ve taught the likes of Jim Carrey, have been in the entertainment industry for over 25 years. They’re so fond of Abramovici that they even invited him to take some of their classes for free. “He’s a strong talent, fresh and funny, but he can also do very dramatic scenes,” says David Sears.
Prolific acting and dialogue coach Bernadette Jones has also worked with Abramovici. “I don’t work with beginners,” says Bernadette. “He’s the kind of person I love in my class. Dan is very focused and enthusiastic, with extraordinary ability. He’s unique and he’s interesting, but he also has drive.”
But it requires more than drive and ability to get one’s talents recognized in this industry, and increasingly for Canadian actors, that involves having connections or living in L.A.
According to immigration lawyer Heather Segal, to apply for a 0-1 work visa (used most by entertainers), you’ll need to amass a whole lot of paper to prove that you are an individual of “extraordinary ability,” and it’s helpful if said letters are printed on reputable letterhead.
And, like most things, much of this process boils down to money. Lawyer fees can run upwards of $4000, with an additional $5000 just for the U.S. to look at your papers. Going this route can take months, and even then, acceptance is not guaranteed.
“When you’re already dealing with such ridiculous odds trying to make it as an actor, adding to the uncertainty by trying to get to L.A. doesn’t really deter me. I just want the opportunity to show what I can do,” says Abramovici.
“I want to be a good actor who does good work, and I don’t want my spirit broken for not having even tried.”