After working locally in the 2012 Australia and New Zealand tour of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, and the 2013 Melbourne season of The Graduate with Jerry Hall, Australian actress and 2011 ACA graduate Ramona Von Pusch made the move to pursue a career in London.
Ramona most recently won Best Actress at the One-Reeler, short film awards for her role in Marlene, directed by Olan Collardy and written by Nikola Trifunovic. We chat to Ramona about her career, her move to the UK and the adventure of a lifetime!
Firstly, congratulations on the Best Actress award!
Thank you very much. It was a nice surprise to receive the email from the director one morning, congratulating me. I had to re-read the email a few times, as I wasn’t aware it had been entered into a festival… so definitely a surprise!
Can you talk about your experience filming Marlene?
Nikola Trifunovic (actor, and writer of Marlene) and I met in a drama class here in London. Having admired each other’s work in the room, we stayed in contact and brainstormed ideas for stories/scripts. Nikola wrote this script one night, asked if I was free to film that coming weekend. I received the final copy at midnight before the day of filming, made clear decisions on my (the character’s) history, current situation, emotional arc, location, intentions and then learnt the lines in the morning.
I met the director/DOP Olan Collardy (a London based independent film-maker and friend of Nikola) and the crew of two (Ben Halford and Jason Bowdach, C.S.I) for the first time on set. As a group, we chose not to discuss the “who dunnit?” scenario of the script and the performance was organic from moment to moment. We shot my part in one and a half hours.
Olan has nicknamed me “the one take wonder”! I ran the script from beginning to end, directly to camera, for each shot set up by Olan and finished on cutaways. Then it was a set change and Nikola was up. A really smooth, open and supportive shoot. I was given freedom to explore nuances as they arose in the takes.
What made you choose to move to London?
The challenge and desire to grow my career intentionally was the main trigger, and the guidance from casting directors in Australia who pointed out that my dominant casting type was European or American, and encouraged me to try overseas with their support.
How was the transition from the Australian Industry to London? What did you find the most surprising.
I won’t lie, it has been tough. Coming from working pretty continuously in theatre, television and a feature film, since graduating from the Actors Centre Australia in 2011, to starting from scratch and only knowing two people in London has been a journey of ups and downs, frustrations and success. Writing and creating your own work when you are experiencing a quiet period, keeps your head in the game. We, actors/creatives/directors/artists, do this job because the passion continues to grow and glow within us. Take the knocks but get up again, work your butt off, and just keep your skills and yourself ready for the opportunities as they present themselves.
The industry is the same as back home, so no major surprises. There is ongoing talk over here of an elitism in the acting industry, with the likes of Dame Judi Dench and James McAvoy weighing in on the costs of study, classes and living, that the “working class” actor is struggling against “posh” actors for opportunities, and the castings are not representative of Britain (and may I say the world) as it is today.
Was it difficult finding representation?
I signed very quickly with an agent in Berlin (I am bilingual), but the hunt for an agent in London was a lot harder. You can network and represent yourself, though to get your foot in the door of the top casting directors is near to impossible. Once I had made some contacts in the industry through the Actors Guild, Equity and Spotlight (UK’s equivalent of Showcast) and have a great mentoring set up, the confidence grew and representation followed pretty quickly.
Knowing that [my Australian agent] Focus Talent Management are procuring opportunities for me back home whilst I continue my endeavours in Europe, is encouraging and strengthens my resolve to continue working on my goals. They may be a new agency in Australia but have a wealth of experience and drive between the agents, that one can only be excited by the partnership. I like having the opportunity to work in three countries, and the chance to come home to work (and of course see family and friends) is always welcomed with open arms.
What is next for you?
Currently I am entering Marlene into more Short Film festivals worldwide on behalf of the production team, and I am working on a new script idea for a feature film. Nikola and I are also having brainstorming/writing sessions for upcoming short films (not only for ourselves but for colleagues as well), and the audition circuits in London and Berlin never cease. There’s no rest for the wickedly driven. A good thing to remember is that opportunities also come from word of mouth, and from that I have been offered roles in two new Short Films, and had castings for TV and TVCs through my work with independent filmmakers and casting directors.
What advice do you have for Australian performers considering the move to London?
My focus is on theatre, TV and film, but the advice covers the move in general. Make sure your accents are up to scratch and also think of which other European nationalities you could be cast as, aside from English. I have had auditions for German/Russian/Scandinavian roles, plus a lot of American productions. I am here on a German Passport so I do not have a restriction on my stay in the UK (though after Brexit it is a waiting game to see what happens there), though if you are coming here on a two year visa be aware that opportunities may not happen straight away. Most expats I have spoken to have found that the first year is predominantly setting yourself up, knocking on doors, trying to sign with an agency, joining the casting sites (expensive by the way), finding a way to be seen by the prominent CDs – lots of ups and downs – so in a word… establishment. In Musical Theatre, a number of people have found that after establishing themselves in the first year and finally getting on to the audition circuit, they are then unable to accept the contracts as their visa’s are not valid for the entirety of the contract period and sponsorship is a rarity.
London is an expensive city to live in, so you do have to find a way to juggle making money outside of acting jobs, and have the flexibility to attend auditions and prepare for these auditions at short notice, but where there’s a will there’s a way. Take the knocks but get up again, work your butt off, have fun, and just keep your skills and yourself ready for the opportunities as they present themselves.
Also remember, that if you want to get married, take that trip and explore, or take time out to recharge the batteries, do it because life is there to be lived. Don’t hold off for a what if or wait for when you have “made it” because you will probably find that if that “made it” time does come, you’ll be too busy to do things you want(ed) to do.
I am loving the adventure, and you will always find another Aussie performer in London to be a guide and a friend.