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Finding the next acting stars

For many young Swiss actors, landing that first film role is very difficult. But help is on hand through the Young Talents.ch scheme.

Set up by casting directors Corinna Glaus and Susan Müller, the project selects a few upcoming talents and helps promote them. The actors were showcased at the Zurich Film Festival's Industry Day.

Some Swiss actors have already made it - Ursula Andress shot to fame as a Bond girl, Anatole Taubman was the baddie's sidekick in the latest Bond film and Bruno Ganz gained international fame as Hitler in a controversial German film.

For those who have just graduated from film school, however, such roles remain a dream. Most have theatre training and have little experience of how to prepare for film castings. Getting a foot in the door is not easy.

"Our job is discovering young talent and we try to propose them to the directors and productions we are working on, but there is always a certain reticence," Glaus told swissinfo.ch on the sidelines of the Industry Day earlier this week.

But after the two started the project, the young actors were given more roles. "If we said they were really good and are personalities, the directors and productions started to believe us," Müller said.

Now in its third year, the Industry Day can boast previous graduates including Martin Schick, who was in Switzerland's first Bollywood-inspired film Tandoori Love, and Marie Leuenberger, who has had principle parts in two movies.

There was also much talk at the Industry Day of Miriam Stein, who has just been signed up by a major German agency.

Professional filming

Young Talents.ch, for which the casting directors work for nothing, shoots short scenes with a pair of actors to showcase their abilities. All are made by well-known directors and a professional crew.

"The directors are really demanding, they want something of them, which is the aim," said Glaus. "Then the actors also have to learn to present and promote themselves."

This year's eight young people were whittled down from around 60 hopefuls, after Müller and Glaus scoured acting schools, theatres and auditions in Switzerland, Germany and Austria.

"It was a very great chance to get a step into the film business because we all come from a theatre background. Film is so different from theatre," said Matthias Britschgi, who is doing a masters at the Zurich University of the Arts.

A real high point was working with professionals. Camille Mermet's director was Lionel Baier whose Un autre homme (Another Man) was selected for the main competition at the 2008 Locarno Film Festival.

Camille's scene, in which her film partner was obliged to wear a rather fetching pair of white and red underpants, involved the breakdown of an affair, conducted clandestinely in an office on Sundays and holidays.

"Lioner Baier is very important for French-speaking Switzerland," she said.

Challenges ahead

The young actors are very much aware of the challenges that lie ahead. "There are great movies which come out in the Swiss film industry but there are not many of them. To get into one is not so easy," said Andreas Daniel Müller, who is studying in Hanover.

Because of this many Swiss actors try their luck abroad, but in neighbouring Germany or France the competition is great.

Another challenge within Switzerland is the language. The country has four official languages – German, French, Italian and Romansh. Swiss German dialect is widely spoken and this differs from region to region.

"Films are made in different dialects and you have to be able to change either your dialect or your language, so actors really have to work hard and be good in several languages," Glaus said.

In addition, there are no film agents in Switzerland, so actors have to turn abroad for representation.

Eye for talent

Glaus, whose CV includes the Oscar-nominated Vitus, and Müller, who has a cinema and TV portfolio, certainly have an eye for talent.

They always look for a person with a certain sparkle. "It is also a matter of personality, of self confidence and some humour," explained Müller.

The young actors, all in the early to mid 20s, say that their dream is to be able to act and to make a living from it. But the casting directors are always mindful that they might find a star.

"They have to be lucky and get the right role," Glaus said. "Marie Leuenberger is a very special type of actor and many directors were interested but they were not sure. But now she has been able to show her charm and she might be a future star."

Isobel Leybold-Johnson in Zurich, swissinfo.ch

Zurich Film Festival

The festival, in its fifth year, is taking place from September 24-October 4. It is showing more than 50 Swiss, international and world film premieres in various competitions.

This year's guests of honour were the actor Morgan Freeman, with director Roman Polanski also set to appear. However, Polanski was arrested on his arrival in Switzerland over a 1978 warrant issued by the United States after he skipped bail in a rape trial.

The Industry Day, on September 29, was the festival's first and was aimed at allowing professionals to exchange information and knowledge. It focused on how young talent was discovered and how these actors could manage their careers.

Young Talent
This year's actors: Matthias Britschgi, Camille Mermet, Andreas Daniel Müller, Baptiste Gilliéron, Christoph Keller, Marie Jung, Judith Koch, Nina Moser.

A DVD has been produced of all the scenes, plus they can be seen on the young talent (Junge Talente.ch) website.

The scheme is sponsored by, among others, the retailer Migros' cultural arm and the Federal Culture Office.

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