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Next Nicole wannabes
'Next Nicole' wannabes

Award-winning Australian writer-director Tony Ayres has witnessed first-hand how hard it is to crack America's infamous film and TV industry.

Having ventured to Tinseltown himself to do the "meet and greet" with big-name TV executives and movie producers over the years, he too has experienced his fair share of knockbacks and run-ins with hard-to-penetrate agencies.

Ayres recalled a 2007 trip to Los Angeles, where he was due to meet a renowned talent agency.

"I was supposed to be delivering my CV and show reel to one of the agents at CAA (Creative Arts Agency)," he explains over the phone with a laugh. "I went in to just give it to her and they wouldn't let me in. I said, 'She's expecting me,' but I couldn't get through. In the end I had to go down to the basement to give it to someone. I'm not sure where it ended up."

The same situation unfolds for comedic actor Craig Anderson, who is one of six Aussie actors featured in Ayres' six-part documentary series, Next Stop Hollywood, which captures the career rollercoaster many wannabe stars endure while attempting to break into Hollywood.

In one scene Anderson tries to deliver his promo material to a prominent LA agency but instead faces an angry security guard who threatens to have the FBI involved.

"It's a pretty tough business," Ayres admits. "It's paradoxical but it's a really tough business . At the same time, they love talent . . . and if they think you're talented, if they think you're good, then the doors suddenly open."

"It's such a rollercoaster and the actors put so much at stake, they really put a lot of their personal resources into it, and it's about having to deal with rejection and that's a hard enough thing to deal with once, let alone recurringly."

Ayres, the Perth-raised director of the acclaimed film, The Home Song Stories, said the idea of the six-part series, which takes place over six weeks during the frenzied "pilot season" when dozens of TV roles are up for grabs, was not one that got off the ground at first thought.

In fact, it was conceived several years ago during a trip to Los Angeles where Ayres became intrigued by the number of successful Australian actors, such as Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts, Hugh Jackman and Rachel Griffiths, who had ventured to the US and subsequently cemented their place in the film and TV scene.

Funnily enough, it was also initially titled The Next Nicole, which Ayres said summed up the inspiration behind the series.

"Australian actors were really starting to break in in Los Angeles, it just seemed to be one wave after another of Australians doing really well," he said.

"It took a long time to come together, I guess, because it's a tricky project.

"It's also a dangerous project because you never know whether anything is going to happen and it's so cast-dependent.

"It took a long time for the show to actually get realised."

The job of casting six diverse, budding actors (including WA-born, Sydney-based Luke Pegler) was left in the hands of series director Gary Doust, who hand-picked the six actors for the series with the help of casting agent Kirsty McGregor.

"We met about 50 actors and from this we cast five of the six actors in the series," Doust said, adding that Anderson was cast separately.

"While almost every actor we approached said 'Wow, I'd really love to see that show,' far less were brave enough to put themselves forward to be featured in it.

"It was important that each of our six actors had different experiences and perspectives as they navigated pilot season. Collectively, through the actors' journeys we were able to paint a broad and more realistic picture of what it was really like during pilot season for Australian actors attempting to break into Hollywood."

With another potentially successful series under his belt, Ayres is also in talks about a US production of his critically acclaimed miniseries, The Slap.

"At the moment it's being developed by the NBC and the producers are Parkes/MacDonald, who are major feature film producers, and the writer is a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Jon Robin Baitz, so the pedigree is pretty exceptional," he said.

"But it's kind of early days . . . I think the important thing is it has to be very specific to time and place as the Australian series was, but, of course, it needs to be different to the Australian series.

"It is a very exciting time. Hopefully, it will do well and get made."