International View: Hollywood and the O1 Visa for performers

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Have you ever been tempted by Hollywood or Broadway, but were born outside of the USA and weren’t quite sure how to get an O1 visa?

Let me introduce you to Shanice Kamminga, a Dutch actress, whose hard work and perseverance has led her to landing an agent in L.A. and who is in the process of getting an O1 visa. She’s been sharing her inspirational journey on her blog and was happy to share some of her tips with AYT readers. Enjoy!

Of all places, why did you choose Los Angeles? Have you ever considered other places as well?

Aside from the fact that the system is very different in Holland and the industry much smaller, Hollywood is and has always been the big dream. So since I was eighteen I saved up money every year and then visited L.A. on holidays, and I just felt a sense of belonging. I just can’t leave the Hollywood idea behind until I’ve really tried it there. Plus the weather is so nice.

How did you learn English? Is there any difference acting in English and in Dutch?

We don’t dub movies here, so I learned nearly all my English from the movies! My parents are big movie fans, and I watched English movies with subtitles before I even went to school. Also, we had Cartoon Network in our part of the country, and all those cartoons were in English too, with subtitles. I clearly recall learning the words “audience” and “eggplant” from Courage the Cowardly Dog Show. And then I went to university where all the books and research journals were in English, so that finished it off.

How did the meetings with the agents go? How did you manage to convince the agent to sponsor your visa?

 The theatrical agent meetings went really well. It’s always so exciting to enter those big, big marble buildings in such a far away city – it really gives you the little girl in a big world feeling. I’ve been to about seven theatrical meetings, and always had really nice, easy going conversations for at least 25 minutes. I feel like I fit more with theatrical agencies, they just seemed to get me better. Commercial meetings were more sparse for me, and those were usually less exciting.

I didn’t really have to convince my agent. It’s true that most of them actually have very strong, negative preconceived notions about signing immigration papers, and it’s usually because they have no idea what it entails and perceive it as risky. But my agent already had experience with signing O visa’s I think – either that or was just very relaxed about it – and basically said: “I’ll sign your papers. Just make it easy for me.” And so I did! It’s really only five minutes of work for the sponsoring agent; most of the workload is on you.

How did you prepare and how much research was necessary to start the visa process?

Oh my God, so much. Like I said I started visiting L.A. at 18 and went back and forth for a few years, meeting with agents etc. But I just never knew how to go about the visa process – I didn’t know what the options were, it’s such a maze and was so foreign to me. It’s just been meeting people in L.A. and endless hours of Googling and calling lawyers that helped it all start to make sense. And I’ve of course worked years and years to pay for all my L.A. visits. That definitely should be part of everyone’s preparation, it’s no cheap city.

It’s actually the reason I started my blog. I thought: there must be other foreign actors like me out there, with no idea where to start or what to do. So I decided to share my knowledge and experiences and met lovely people along the way.

Your blog, where you share all your experiences, has thousands of visits each month, how do you feel about that? Do you feel that blogging and putting yourself out there has helped you in your career so far? 

It has, and it’s been a really educational experience for me because of that. I initially didn’t want to start the blog because I had no fleshed-out business plan nor clear daydreams of where it could take me, and I’m all about daydreams. I also thought blogging was a dirty word, I envisioned it as old housewives sharing every detail of the lives of their cats. I love cats, but you get the idea. However, one of my friends encouraged me to just start anyway and it’s kind of taken off from there.

It’s a lot of work to write an article every week but I’ve met people from around the world through it, and have even met up with some of them in London and L.A. and had the most magical times. It’s also gotten me into writing more seriously, and I’ve recently finished my first feature length screenplay.

Do you intend to work both in the Netherlands and in L.A. or are you going to focus on just one market?

I just want to work – preferably all over the world as I love travelling  So wherever I get an opportunity, I’ll jump on it. But depending on where I end up living that market will be my main focus of course. I’ve lived out of a suitcase on various couches and in different houses, rooms and countries for the last two years, so I have to say that I’m kind of looking forward to settling down somewhere, at least for a year – to putting my pictures up and giving my pink clutter a place to shine. Right now it looks like it might be in L.A., but if that doesn’t work out I’d love to come to London!