“The Traveling Player”
Expat Thespian – Sean James Sutton
With 16 countries under his performance-belt and a passion for acting that started at the age of 10, Sean James Sutton is the film & television actor making his mark as an expat thespian in his host country where The Land Is Shaped Like A Boot.
Where are you from?
I’m originally from England, born in Redruth, the same very small town as Kristen Scott Thomas.
Why did you choose Italy of all the European countries?
Good question! The thing is that I’ve lived all over the world. I left England after I graduated and have lived abroad since then. It was Greece then Germany, then back to Greece, then Italy, then Spain, then back to Greece some more, then Australia for a few years then back to Greece and then Switzerland. And then I thought I’d like somewhere hot for a while with a respected film industry, so I chose Italy. And it seems to be working out fine!
When did you get bit by the acting bug?
I guess it was at school, aged about 10. I was in a play about oppression and revolution; and I played… an ant!
Europe has a strong acting industry, specifically in London Theater, so what is it that keeps you in Italy?
When it comes to acting I’m only involved in cinema. In Italy, although the industry has changed a lot in the past 20 years or so, there are still many home- grown productions happening as well as a great number of international films.
It’s an incredible place not only to live, but also to film in: stunning locations, relatively cheap production costs, and of course it has a strong tradition of exceptional film making backing it all up which equates to some very good opportunities for international actors like me.
Could you see yourself staying in Italy for the rest of your life?
Who knows? I’ve been here six years now which is a very long time for me to stay anywhere. There’s only one cure for itchy feet, after all!
What does being an expat actor mean to you?
One of the differences about being an actor abroad versus being an actor in one’s home country is that as an expat actor we’re more open to the idea of working in different countries. I guess that it’s a matter of one’s mindset. A lot of actors, for example, won’t even think of going for jobs abroad.
Expat actors, on the other hand, are prepared to travel across the globe at the drop of a hat if the right job comes along. I look for – and find – work in many different countries. For example, in the past few years I’ve filmed in Austria, India, America, Greece and Switzerland as well as Italy so perhaps to be an expat actor you need that spark of wanderlust.
What do you see are the advantages of being an expat actor?
Curiously one of the major advantages of being an expat actor is also tied with one of the major disadvantages. When a production is looking for a foreign actor, there are less of us going for the role. So, in England I might apply to 10 castings a week, but each casting will have 50 or more applicants. Here I might only apply to 2 castings a week, but each casting will have just a dozen or less actors applying.
Could you tell the readers about a time that was most difficult on your journey as an expat thespian?
Honestly? I can’t think of a difficult time! I’ve enjoyed it immensely and hope it will continue like this for a long time – Brexit notwithstanding!
You’ve acted in many different countries, what are some of the similarities and differences that other countries offer compared to Italy or England?
Each country really has been different and eye opening! I wouldn’t like to contribute to national stereotypes, but I did find in Switzerland that the sets are very well organised, very quiet and very methodical. It was the opposite in India where it was loud, noisy and crowded. I’d never seen so many people working together before. The curious thing is that the resulting films were excellent in both cases!
Meanwhile, the American sets were very professional and when the budget was big enough I’d never seen anything like it. We had personal assistants, great trailers, chauffeurs and yes, I would definitely go back to a multi-million dollar project any day of the week for the catering alone!
What advice can you give to expat actors that want to branch out from their host country?
If you can afford to visit another country for a few months to make contacts that’s ideal, but unfortunately it’s also very expensive and not always feasible. What I have done is use the internet to find work in other countries. Facebook groups are good and enCAST is an excellent resource in Europe. And They Work! Use the internet to meet directors, other actors, filmmakers and so on.
A lot of the work I get has either been through someone I met online or a friend-of- a-friend. I suppose in the end it’s about being professional and being open to new opportunities and new ways of working.
What are your funniest and not so funny moments on set?
I was waiting for my scene once in India; we were filming outside and they’d given me a chair to sit on. After ten minutes this old man comes up to me and, because he didn’t speak English, gestured wildly for me to get up. He then moved my chair a meter to the left and gestured to me to sit down again. I was puzzled but did so. Ten minutes later the exact same thing happened again. I hadn’t got a clue what was going on!
This happened twice more and then the AD walked past and I asked him what was going on. It turned out the old bloke was an assistant who had been charged with keeping my chair out of the sun and in the shadow of a large tree. The AD thought this was hilarious; I actually thought it was very sweet of the old man so I bought the him a cup of tea from a pop-up kiosk which made him happy.
Being an expat actor can be lonely, living away from family and friends, what do you do to compensate?
Well I’m lucky that for the last 25 years I’ve had someone very special who was willing to follow me around the world! Plus, now we have a couple of dogs and a cat. But to be honest I don’t find it lonely at all, especially now with the internet and Skype helping me keep in touch with people. I guess I’ve been away from home for so long that it doesn’t affect me.
If there was one marketing strategy that you would give an expat actor what would it be?
That’s simple. Be nice to people. Everyone hates a pushy actor so don’t hustle. Don’t ask a director for work the moment you meet them. Don’t spend your time angling for the main chance. Instead build relationships with people. It’s more fun that way and you meet some great people.
What are you main goals and aspirations for your career?
More films, of course! I love acting and I’m never happier than when I’m on set. So, I just want to carry on with what I’m doing: preparing the character, the experience of travelling to the new location, the enjoyment of meeting new people and the climax of actually giving that performance when the director calls action!
That’s what it’s all about for me and I’m not bothered whether it’s a blockbuster or a small indie film; whether it’s filming in my local town or across the other side of the world. There’s something like 200 countries in the world and I’ve worked in just 16 of them so there are plenty of places left for me to work in and plenty of films out there still left to film!
I know from experience how work can come and go. What does the horizon have in store for you?
I’ll be working solidly for the next few months on a couple of films here in Italy and I’m very busy preparing for those right now, learning lines, rehearsing, sorting out the character and so on. There are only 24 hours in the day and right now that’s not enough!
The IMDb page of Sean James Sutton is proof of the powerhouse actor and strategist that is Mr. Sutton. His hard work and dedication are a testament to those that seek to be better at the business & craft of acting. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanJamesSutton or keep a look out on your film or tv screen because, no matter the country, he’ll be the actor showing up and showing off!
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Till next time thespians,