Friday, 30 September 2011

To Know or Not To Know

I've just received an email from an employer regarding a role in a short film that I applied for. The email basically said 'thanks or no thanks.' To be honest, it's an email that I'm never really fond of getting but on a gorgeously sunny Friday like today, I could really have done without it. I've never been a fan of the 'your CV, headshot and covering letter are so abhorrent to us that we can't even bear the thought of giving you a few minutes of our day to prove yourself to us' message. It's demoralising and even though you know that there's nothing more you could've done, it still feels a bit like slap in the face.

I'd much rather not be told. I'd be far happier being blissfully ignorant and thinking that they looked at my CV and thought I was far too qualified for their project. Maybe they saw my headshot and thought it would be unfair on the rest of the cast making them work with such a beaut. Or it might just be possible that they were so enchanted by my dulcet tones on my voicereel that they were worried they'd never get any work done should them employ me. Of course, I know that this isn't the case. I know that something in my CV just didn't seem right for them and that's fair enough. But can I not just be left to float around in my little bubble with my fingers placed firmly in my ears? Apparently not.

The messages I've received regarding applications have ranged from the uncomfortably complimentary 'I loved your physical acting and the tension that you gave through your eyes' to the baffling 'I'm sorry to inform you that after after a discussion with the production team we cannot consider you for the role.' I hadn't even applied for this role. Receiving a knockback message regarding a project you didn't even know about is an all-time low, believe me.

However, the worst was regarding a feature film I had applied for. The email started with...

"Thanks for your application. You have been shortlisted to audition for the role of Gemma. We will contact you in due course if we are able to audition you."

I have no idea what could possibly happen that would mean that I was no longer able to audition for them. I'm yet to perfect the art of sprouting a second head and I had almost no plans to have any of them killed. This was all fine though compared to the rest of the message which basically went on to describe, in quite some detail, a sex scene that my character would be involved in. I was then told that there had been much discussion about this scene and they had decided that it was entirely necessary but that they would like my thoughts on the matter and whether I had any feedback for them. By now, I was unsure as to whether they were interested in seeing me for the role, if I'd accidentally applied for the poorest erotic fiction known to man or if I'd somehow been hired as their new script editor. I replied saying that I wouldn't mind seeing the rest of the script as I wanted to make sure that the role I was applying for actually got to spend at least some screen time fully-clothed. However, this request was flatly ignored so I can only presume that whichever poor soul ended up playing Gemma spent much of their time on their back with their legs akimbo. Some girls get all the luck....

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Funny Colour

What's your USP? What makes you stand out from the rest? Why should someone employ you over everyone else? Why won't you stop hassling me? All of these apart from maybe one are questions that actors are asked on an almost daily basis (yep, thankfully I don't know anyone who uses the term 'USP.') I remember one fateful day at drama school when we had to go round our whole year and be told what we are likely to be cast as. Apparently our acting talent alone couldn't carry us into the big bad world and get us the jobs we wanted, it was the way we looked that would determine our casting and nothing could ever possibly get in the way of that. I'm part Middle-Eastern (Iraqi and Iranian before you ask) and when it got to me, I was told that I most likely find myself playing a suicide bomber, the wife of a suicide bomber, the daughter of a suicide bomber, the best friend of the second cousin of a suicide bomber or a doctor. Great. As someone who was desperate to get my gnashing little teeth into the profession I'd spent years wanting to get into, this was not good news. I wanted to play everything. I didn't want to be held back by the fact that my parents decided that they loved each other very much and wanted a little mini version of their best and worst points. (Incidentally, about two weeks after this talk, I was cast in my final drama school play as a white, upper class 78 year old. Casting, schmasting.)

Looking back now I realise that everyone is held back by something and I'm actually very lucky to have a distinct 'selling point.' The sad truth is that especially when you're starting out, you have to cling on to that one little thing you have and not let it go. Thankfully there are quite a few Middle Eastern type roles out there to be had and not that many actors who fit that casting type so when I apply for a role, I can usually be guaranteed at least an audition. My heart skips a little beat when I see the words Middle and East mentioned in the description and I can often be found doing a little dance if there's a character called Farah or Layla.

A quick glance at my CV shows that most of the parts I've played have been helped by the colour of the skin ("funny-coloured" as one person in my year once worryingly described me...) so I really shouldn't complain. But the thing that makes me sad is the generalisation that takes place. This was spurred on by the fact that I saw a casting this morning asking for actors who could speak 'Middle Eastern.' Eh? Since when is that a language? I don't like getting up on my high horse (it costs me a fortune in stable fees) about race and prejudice but things like this properly bug me. Would it really have hurt putting down a few languages rather than just chucking us all in the same brightly coloured, 'foreign' box? However, it's the characters and stories that really upset me. Apparently, for a Middle Eastern character to be in something, they need to either be a suicide bomber, in an arranged marriage or about to be killed for trying to get out of said organised nuptual. It's an unfair asumption that because of you're of a certain descent, you're exclusively affected by only a handful of stereotyped issues. Not once has my dad tried to kill me (although I'm sure he was tempted the night I came home drunk at 2am and repeatedly rang the doorbell to be let in as I thought I'd lost my keys - I hadn't. I'd dropped them two feet away.) I've never been forced into an arranged marriage (although I'm sure my mum has had her moments where she has worried that I'd be an eternal spinster.) And I wouldn't even know where to start when trying to create a suicide bomb due to too much larking about and not enough listening during chemistry classes.

I understand that this isn't just biting the hand that feeds me but gnawing repeatedly on the delicate palm that offers me the most wonderful foods but I'm hungry and feeling a bit gnashy so please excuse me while I take another bite....

Tuesday, 27 September 2011


Improvisation. Get it right and there's a high chance they'll put you in line for the throne but get it wrong and you deserve to be sent straight to Hell. Don't bother stopping by 'Go' and collecting your £200, you won't be needing that where you're going.

I've spoken before about improvising for castings but the difficulty there lied in the fact that I really had no idea what I was talking about. Blagging can only get so far and once you add the fact that you're spouting utter nonsense to the awful realisation that you're making up names of haircuts to try and earn a living, you might as well give up the game there and then. But for today's casting I really had no excuse. Today I found myself desperately grappling for the role of an office worker in an advert for a certain tinned goods company. This should've been a breeze - I spent the last two years almost exclusively being an office slave and I bloody love food that has previously been encased in metal. To be honest, I'm pretty upset they felt the need to audition me. My canned food eating skills are second to none. During a Shakespeare festival, I became so poor that my diet for a whole week was almost entirely made up of Sainsburys value tomato soup and Tesco value gin (please note the two different supermarkets - I like to keep a varied diet.)

So the job should've been mine. Or it should've been if the casting just consisted of them feeding me soup. But it didn't. Instead someone with too much time and too little imagination thought it would be fun to make some poor unsuspecting actors enter into a long form improvised scene.

'You're just colleagues at work talking about daily office life. Just make sure you drop in how tasty and nourishing the metallic imprisoned food is too.'

Cue the most unnatural chat that has ever graced an underground casting studio. I should be good at office chat. I spent almost 24 months chatting inanely in an office. But never at work was I chatting to two people who also wanted my job while we a sipped at thin air in front of a camera. Add these into the equation and casual chat becomes stilted mumblings and awkward utterances. Not once while at work did I ever mention the need to get figures together quickly due to a tight deadline set by 'Michael.' Why is one actor, desperate for real-sounding words, telling me I should be so proud of the expert team I've created while another is berating me for pulling the new ginger guy in Accounts at last night's office party? Because we all panicked and realised that it's impossible to not run, head-first, into every stereotype that was ever created. Then, amidst this cacophony of made-up drivel, we then had to crowbar even more cringe-filled lines about how good the oxygen we're currently sipping is.

Sadly the only thing I left with was an incredible craving for the product that was being sold. Have I just been part of the most elaborate and soul-destroying marketing campaign of the modern age? Or maybe I'm just a hungry, starving actress? Cliched answers on a make believe postcard please.

Friday, 23 September 2011

An apology

It has been brought to my attention that yesterday's entry was uncharacteristically cheerful. In just a handful of posts, I've somehow managed to portray myself as the Eyeore of the acting world. The little fog of gloom that permeates all spaces that I dare to enter. So, to rectify this (and because I don't really have much else that I'd like to blog about) here are the downsides to my bloody amazing day yesterday...,

1. False eyelashes are uncomfortable for about 5 minutes.

2. Red lipstick makes an open mouth look terrifying on camera.

3. Cheese and onion crisps are not a good idea on set.

4. One toilet between 12 people is inconvenient.

5. I look like a fool in stripy tights.

6. It was really sunny yesterday and I was trapped indoors for 8 hours.

7. Although I love James Blake, trying to be an excitable elf with him playing in the background is really hard work and makes me call on acting skills I'm not sure I possess.

8. The term 'no flash' becomes tedious after 30 minutes.

9. There are a frustrating lack of elf puns.

10. Grapes are addictive to the point if being socially unacceptable.

I do hope this goes some way to readdressing the balance. Apologies to all offended and please check back soon for more doom, gloom and general dismay.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

S-elfish Behaviour

Today's entry comes live from a photo shoot. And this isn't just any photo shoot (that may or not be a massive decide...)

Today Christmas has come early as I'm spending today dressed as an elf for a certain store's certain Christmas campaign. As I write this I'm sat in felt, bell-tipped boots, stripy tights, a felt tunic and the most amazing hat (complete with ears) this side of Jesus' supposed big day. We've all been given elfish characters like cheeky, cute, geeky. Well, all except me. I appear to be porn star elf. I have eyelashes that are more fake than plastic surgery and longer than Lost on repeat and my lips are redder than Little's riding hood. 'Sultry' isn't a look I get to entertain very often so I'm rather enjoying this erotic, if a little festive, experience.

My entrance into the studio started in true Miss L fashion where managed to somehow knock one of the perfectly set lights with my stupid clumsy head. I've also ruined my immaculately painted lips on various occasions due to the frightening amount of sweets and biscuits on offer and I was seconds away from cascading down a step ladder after losing my point shoe while trying to gracefully disembark a 7 foot tall box. Someone teach me the art of not disgracing myself on a daily basis. Please.

But what a damn good day it has been. The four other actors I'm working with are the loveliest I think I've ever worked with and the crew have been incredible. A lot of laughs have been had, much tea has been drunk and I think we've exhausted every 'elf' pun that could ever be. We've been ridiculously well looked after and we've received more thanks than the average Oscar speech.

So big thanks to the job Gods. This wasn't just any day's work....

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Indoor Activities

Today's very much an indoors day. While I look for more auditions and also a job that might pay me to skulk about someone's office/shop/home, I'm stuck indoors so I can be as productive as possible and desperately try to live off the rapidly decaying contents of my kitchen cupboards. And on a miserable looking day like today, I couldn't be happier. Sorry to you all who traipsed out of the house while I was still blissfully asleep. The annoying thing is that although I'm indulging myself today on this grey day, I'm spending it doing stuff that will potentially mean that I can't enjoy these days quite so much in the future. All I've done today is apply for things that will take me away from my cosy little bed and means that I can't spend the day convincing myself that because I've got my laptop with me while I'm watching This Morning, that I'm actually working.

But don't worry readers, this poor little soul has been subjected to the elements in the name of actressy pursuits. A couple of years ago I did a Shakespeare festival which meant performing outside every evening for the whole of summer. Now if I lived almost anywhere other than England, this would be a glorious prospect. Instead I was there for one of the wettest summers on record and therefore spent many evenings desperately dragging myself across a university garden in a sodden, mud-trimmed velvet dress. We became fabulously adept at performing during thunderstorms, ensuring our lightning-proof audience members could hear us from behind their rainy evening paraphernalia. I'm not exagerrating when I say that everyone in our cast slipped over at least once while performing (although I'm sure my tally of tumbles took the average number to one that is higher than normal) and by the end we were masters on staying upright while the rain bounced higher than our soaking, corsetted, shivering bodies.

Performing while it's raining cats, dogs, mice, frogs, cows and donkeys is one thing but rehearsing is even harder. At least when you're performing you've got the adrenaline to keep you going but rehearsals can be tedious at best. When you're the focus of the day, rehearsals are joyously hard work but on the days when you're not really needed, it's tortuous. As we were performing outside, we had to rehearse outside and on the few rare days that we had sunshine, it was the bestest thing since sliced baked goods. But watching someone struggle with the intricacies of the Bard while you're trying to avoid drowning in the shadow of one of the world's greatest universities ain't much fun.

Even worse were rehearsals for a children's show that I was part of. Everything was organised very late which meant that the only rehearsal venue we had available to us was the great outdoors. Again, people's trust in the Great British summer totally baffles me. A discovery was made that the roof of the National Theatre could make a useful rehearsal space. The conclusion soon became that it was excellent when sunny but bloody awful when raining. It's nice to know that while a shivering cast were battling through Thumbelina in the pouring rain and howling wind, some of the best theatre in the world was being performed inches below us. We may have failed in the world of rehearsing but the juxtaposition crown remains firmly upon our dampened heads.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Mind Readers

Actors are mind readers. This is apparently a universal fact that is widely known throughout the acting community. It's just a shame that no one bothered to tell us. Of course, no one thought they needed to because we should've picked it up from someone else's thoughts already. Stupid us.

Sorry. You're probably all a bit worried by my pessimistic opening when my blogs are usually so upbeat and cheery (quiet you.) But today was a day of 'Bad Audition.' These come round every so often and are as inevitable as chuggers on a high street. But today's audition wasn't awful because I messed up my lines. I wasn't running late and I didn't fall over when entering the audition room (you know the drill by now...all of these things have happened before.) No. It was bad because I wasn't the mind reader that they thought I was. Apparently I was supposed to know the whole script, the complete breakdown of the character that I was up for and also the full rehearsal schedule. I mean, they only sent me four very vague sentences to learn so really I have no excuse. Slap my wrists and call me useless.

To be honest, I didn't really get off to the best start. Despite the waiting room being run by maybe the loveliest man alive, I was instantly annoyed by someone using the word 'champion' upon finding that there was a jug of tap water. I was then called up to the audition where the director and I both recognised each other from a previous audition years ago. I attempted polite conversation about this (despite remembering that I wasn't a fan the first time round) but I was completely ignored. I performed my speech, was given feedback which came from a voice balanaced precariously upon a knife edge of annoyance about my lack of knowledge of the play. I did it again. I asked questions about the rehearsals and was basically told to leave and bother someone else with my pointless queries. Never has my stock exit line of  'It was really lovely to meet you' been so insincere.

The lack of psychic ability has been an issue in the past. I had one audition where I found myself in the horrible, almost pitch-black, basement of a director. There was never any mention of the character needing to be able to speak another language and although my CV held no mention of another language on there (believe me, I'd love to have something to put alongside lonely 'English') he got annoyed when I didn't have a song prepared in a foreign tongue. My punishment was that I then had to hum the whole of 'Happy Birthday' while sat 2 inches away from the camera lens. The lesson from that audition? When someone asks you for a song, ignore the stupid voice in the back of your head screaming 'Happy Birthday!'

The worst though was for a very well paid feature film and I was somehow up for the lead role. The casting director had contacted me directly and provided no information about the film or what it entailed. When I arrived for the audition, they gave me a scene to look at for ten minutes which was of two women discussing their hopes and dreams for the future. All pretty simple you'd think. But no. Just as I was about to perform the scene for the audition panel, and I mean just as I opened my mouth to say the first word, the director mentions that I should be aware that the two characters have just escaped from a mental asylum. I don't know if this was some cruel trick to test my acting ability or if they had genuinely forgotten to tell me but it threw me. It threw me out of the window, over the rooftops and into the Thames. My brain made the snap decision not to go for a stereotypical 'madwoman' and played it in the way I felt was right. Oh how wrong I was. Never did I think that I'd actually be told off in an audition. The director proceeded to tell me that I could never hope to have a career if I continued to play safe and that they'd wanted me to go 'mental' in the scene. I then had a two minute lecture on my attitude towards acting, was made to read it again and I left feeling about as low as I could get. If only my psychic powers had been working, then I'd have known not to go to the damn audition in the first place.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Basic Needs

Another day, another blog about actors rarely getting paid to work. I didn't plan on writing another entry, whining on about how hard done by we are but I saw an advert for an acting job yesterday and it brought a few poorly funded memories back.

The advert was for a film. Unless you are ridiculously lucky, films publicly advertising roles will never come with a pay packet. They're usually made by students, a new film company or just a group of people with time on their hands and hope that there are others out there happy to go along with their whimsical ways. This particular film fits very firmly in the last category. Normally I wouldn't have a problem with these sorts of casting calls, everyone has to start somewhere and while people are happy to work for nothing, why not put it out there. But what really annoyed me was that in the 'salary' section they had put:

'We will keep you warm and fed.'

Since when did two of the most basic human needs count as a 'salary.' Does this mean that I can now pay my bills with a blanket and a bowl of soup? Sadly not. And I'm guessing I can't get the bayliffs to go away with a fleece and a macaroni cheese either? As I said, I have no real problem with unpaid work. In an ideal world it wouldn't exist and I do sometimes wonder if the full funding can't be found to ensure that all cast and crew are paid fairly whether the project should still go ahead. It's a debate that could go on for days and I don't have the time or inclination to start that up on a Saturday afternoon when I should really be concentrating more on how I'm going to fund myself and my crisp addiction.

I've done some excellent projects which were unpaid. I think you have to weight up the pros and cons and as long as you're not going to make yourself bankrupt over it then they're often worth doing. I've been in some lovely films and have been ridiculously well looked after. One shoot I did, the producer had been up since 4.30am cooking and baking to ensure that all involved had the most incredible food to munch on throughout the day. On another shoot, the make up girl snuck out when she saw everyone was getting a bit tired and stressed and returned with a bag full of beer and a towering pile of pizzas. Add these lovely little touches to the fact that these shoots can provide you with excellent experience and it can all seem a bit more worthwhile.

On the flip side (there's always a flip side) I've also experienced some bloody poor treatment. I did a shoot not long after I'd graduated for a group of students wanting to make a film for their film society during the summer holidays. It was an interesting script (although my character was mute) and it was filmed near where my parents lived so I was happy to do it. The shoot was a complete shambles with filming usually starting around 4 or 5 hours later than we had been called. One evening especially stands out in my mind where we had to do a night shoot by a canal. Although it was during the summer, it had been raining nearly all day and by 2am, it was damn cold down there. I had to look like I'd been beaten to death so was covered in make up which meant I wasn't allowed to wear a jacket. Apparently smudged bruises just don't cut it. I also had to be barefoot so, couple this with me being in a vest and skirt and I was quite the shivering actress. The director's girlfriend had packed us off with a whole load of sandwiches and after myself and one of the other actors in the scene had finished our run through the first shot, we went to grab a sandwich while the crew finished setting up. As we got to the bag we found the sound guy happily devouring the last remaining sandwich on set. Bye bye dinner. Not one word of apology was ever offered us as we survived on a bag of dried apricots that one of the other actors found at the bottom of his bag.

Looking back now, I wish I'd just walked and told them to stuff their poxy job but I was new to the scene and I thought that this kind of treatment was normal. But we live and learn (that we actually do like dried apricots.)

Friday, 16 September 2011

Money Talks

The most frustrating thing about acting (apart from always auditioning with the same group of actresses who look annoyingly like you but happen to be a fraction taller, slimmer or more attractive than you) is that being paid to do the job you trained to do is bloody difficult. For most professions, the issue of being paid in return for you work isn't an issue. However, add in the fact that you fancy prancing around on stage pretending to be a horse/10 year old child/mouse/gay man (I have played all of these) and suddenly the purses are snapped shut and you're left wondering whether you could legitimately live off only products available in the 99p store.

So, the only option is to get a job that can somehow work alongside suddenly getting auditions, roles and also the need to spend the odd day moping around in your pyjamas. What to do then? Most places are fairly unsympathetic when you call up and tell them that you'd much rather spend the day creating 1950s/electro playlists so, unless you're willing to give up this part of your genetic make-up, the options become limited. OK, so I realise that if I want to spend my life pretending to be someone else then some sacrifices will be made and I have to come to terms with the fact that living like a student the rest of my life isn't going to get me far. But in all seriousness, it can be tough to get the balance right between paying the bills and making sure that your main focus is doing the job you love.

Out there somewhere is a magical job where your boss really believes that your acting career is far more important than the task they're paying you to do. When you're contacted regarding a job or audition, they rejoice in your excellent news, pay you for all the time you need off and welcome you back with open arms and a payrise when you come crawling back with empty pockets and a distraught bank balance. Of course, because the world isn't run by flying pigs, this job doesn't exist. Instead you're forced to take on the type of work that the career's advisor never mentioned. These jobs were kept well hidden in a dusty, locked box and was only ever brought out and used to whack someone round the head when they dared utter that they wanted to work in 'entertainment.'

Before my acting sabbatical, I worked in the evenings at an organic takeaway. I had the pleasure of taking food orders from the oddly placed people of south-west London; too rich to demean themelves with ordinary takeaways but too poor to hire a live-in chef/slave. The embittered masses of suburban London are not a fun pack to chat to over the phone and I spent a year receiving a lot of abuse direct into my ear. Menu deliverer who walked straight through someone's newly cemented driveway? My fault. Not being the taxi company that they thought we were. Sorry, my error. The fact that someone had been murdered on their street so we couldn't deliver to them? Yep, I'll take that one too. Oh and there was the glorious time when I accidentally called Holborn Police Station to tell them that we had run out of vine leaves. I'm fairly sure I'm the only person who has wasted police time due to a lack of starter. I apologise to anyone who was in the Holborn area that evening and was in genuine need of their services. Or vine leaves.

So the hunt continues. If anyone out there needs to pay someone to laze around in their pyjamas while creating Spotify playlists and drinking an alarming amout of tea then please let me know before I waste this talent for procrastination and get one of these 'proper jobs.'

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Motivational Speaking

I firmly believe that when you're self-employed, there's always something you can be doing. In this silly thespy world there are always people to write to, jobs to apply for or monologues to be found. The naive Miss L likes to think that much of her spare time would be spent making invaluable connections with the big cheeses and top dogs in the world of film while reading a new classic play and honing the monologue that will change the world of theatre forever. Sadly the reality is very different. Days off, like today, is spent eating cheese, laughing at dogs in the park, reading pointless news stories in Funnily Enough/And Finally type sections while honing my knowledge of 90s indie.

I like to think that I'm a motivated individual and while I do keep myself busy, there's so much more I could be doing. Today I could've made myself known to directors, chatted up casting directors and flirted with filmmakers. But instead I received an education in drum & bass and then went to look at the deer in Alexandra Palace. If being easily distracted got the job offers coming in, I'd be in every new drama ITV desperately pins all it's hopes on. But it doesn't. It means that I get excited if someone asks to see me for an unpaid film where they will pay me in 'sand witches.' (that's a true quote. I still like to think that they actually meant what they said and if wasn't just a disappointing spelling mistake.)

As I'm agentless right now, I'm having to find the work myself and although I'm not doing too badly, I'm very dependent on the most malnourished of slim pickings that are offered to us lonely actors who have no one to care for them. And today the offerings were so few and far between that you could hear the struggling performers wailing in the gaps. Only if I were willing to undertake a sex change, age twenty years or go back and be brought up a different country could I have applied for something today. I've done many a silly thing for an audition (like buying a pair of skinny jeans) but there are limits. The desperation to show that you are willing to do anything for a role and to demonstrate that you take your profession seriously is strong but sadly factors inherited from the day you were born are very difficult to overcome. It should be a lesson to me that I should learn another skill during this free time to make myself more loveable to those who hold the casting wand. Maybe learn a language or how to juggle or how to convincingly be a male actor. But no, instead I chose to convince myself I'm being productive by writing a blog about the experience. Successful? No. Resourceful? Damn right I am.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Last Minute

I've spent a good while already in this blog wittering on about how great it is that you don't know what job or audition is around the corner. So I really can't complain that not long after my last entry, I got a call inviting me to an audition. It was for a job that would pay very well for me doing very little work. So no, I really shouldn't complain. But I will. Y'see, auditions are great but you can guarantee that they will often occur at the very few times that you could do without them. When I signed off my last entry, I was all set to start my long weekend by doing a tiny bit of packing, getting an early night, doing a bit more packing in the morning, enjoying my last proper shower for a few days and then slowly carry all my stuff across London before setting off to the Isle of Wight. Nice little plan I think we'll all agree. However, this lovely scheme was scuppered by the actor's inability to say no. If someone calls you up asking you to audition for something then you say yes. You rarely listen to dates, times or pay, you just say yes and then worry about the consequences later. And you never listen to the requirements of the part. Ability to play the trumpet? Of course. While tap dancing? Not a problem. On Christmas Day? I'm on my way.

Admittedly, the consequences on Thursday were small. They just meant that I had a hurried morning and then had to trek into central London in a business suit whilst carrying most of my worldly possessions. Had I been going up for the role of a sweaty cart-horse then the part would've been mine the second I stumbled into their beautifully serene office. Sadly all the cart-horse parts were taken and I was up for the role of a businesswoman. Now I conduct very little business in my daily life but I'm fairly sure that they aren't known for looking like they've hiked throught the desert carrying their own body weight in waterproofs, wellies and toilet rolls. In heels. I try to avoid wearing heels wherever possible as they tend to make me look like some awful drag queen/newborn giraffe hybrid. As a look, it really isn't one that brings the casting directors to the yard. But I've seen those business-types around and they never seem to be flapping about in flip flops so 'The Heels' had to be fished out and crowbarred on. Add these to hardly warn pencil skirt and you've got yourself quite an awkward picture.

Thankfully the audition was wonderfully painless. Three years at drama school mean that I am well-equipped to stand still for 10 seconds, hold up a piece of paper with my name on and allow a photo of my profile to be taken. All those hours spent pretending to be a cow/tree/house/car/actor were well spent. After a minute of strenuous work, I was back to being probably the only person heading to Bestival in a suit. One day I will learn to say 'no.' Or business people will learn to work in pyjamas.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011


Auditions come in all shapes and sizes. Some are shorter than my attention span during the finance section of the news and some are longer than soap storylines. Some are easier than the choice between tea and gruel and some are harder than an East End gangster diamond.

Yesterday's audition was one of the most gloriously short, easy auditions I have attended. The producers decided that because the parts wouldn't require a great deal of acting (it's just a promotional film) that there was really no need for them to put the actors through the torture of playing out ridiculous scenarios. I wish all auditions were like this. I once went up for a part in an advert for a large chain store (hint: it wasn't just any chain store...) and was auditioning for the role of either the hairdresser or the PA. Both of these parts were set to be on screen for all of 2 seconds so no real acting skill was required. I'm sure as long as you didn't suddenly turn into some sort of ogre the second 'action' was called, anyone could play it. I was therefore expecting to walk in, look at the screen, say my name, maybe have a quick chat on camera and then I could leave and get on with the rest of my day. But oh no, instead I had to enter into a 5 minute improvised monologue for both roles. I'm a comfortable improviser but even I struggled a couple of minutes in when pretending to be a certain Sixties model's PA. Needless to say I didn't get the role but, imagine my surprise when I saw the advert air at Christmas and the only time the PA was seen was when their hand came into shot offering someone a mobile phone. The hairdresser, rather ironically, had been completely cut.

So yesterday's audition was an absolute joy. I got to chat to a lovely group of actresses who were all up for the same part, we were well looked after and only 20 minutes of our evening was taken up. But don't worry, it wasn't completely mishap free. You will soon learn that I'm physically unable to get through an audition without some calamity taking place. I like to think that this adds to my charm but I suspect it just adds to the theory that I really shouldn't be let out of the house alone. Previous mishaps have involved turning up to a very physical audition in the tightest jeans imaginable and cocking up my lines in spectacular fashion for a high profile advert. Yesterday's involved me being the last of the group to enter the room only to sit on an office chair and go flying backwards five feet through a very swanky looking editing suite. Grace. It ain't my middle name.

I appreciate that my bar for good auditions is not set particularly high. My worst experience comes in two parts. It was for a film about the last Neanderthals on Earth. I know, when it comes to glamorous roles, they come at me like a moth to a flame. Audition number one involved running from wall to wall in a church hall, hand in hand with another actor while only wearing a bikini. For 10 whole minutes. No, I don't know why either. Somehow the crew weren't put off by watching my wibbly bits on camera and they asked me back for a recall. This came in the form of a 2 hour workshop with about 15 other actors. The workshop consisted of us basically improvising being Neanderthals for 180 very long minutes. The low point being the directors throwing loaves of bread into the middle of the room and us all scrabbling around on our hands and knees to get a piece. If that's not a metaphor for the acting industry then I really don't know what is.

I'm off to Bestival tomorrow for the weekend so there will be a few days of silence. Don't weep. Just think about me having a bloody great time and rejoice in the fact that I'll be back on Monday with more happy thespy tales.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

First Draft

Yesterday was my first day of being a resting actress proper. My Edinburgh jobs finished last Monday and it has taken a week of zoo visits, Lord of the Rings viewings and vegetable consumings before I can safely say that I have re-entered the real world. Haggis has been replaced with broccoli, cider has been replaced with juice and ice-cream has been replaced with...nothing (who is stupid enough to replace ice-cream with anything? And no, I won't be accepting your frozen yoghurt.) Instead of spending the day watching the best theatre and comedy the world has to offer, I'm back to watching Cash in the Attic and This Morning. And I couldn't be happier. Being in Edinburgh is bloody brilliant but it's relentless. You're tied to the job you're up contracted to do and you have a month of knowing all too well what each day will bring. But now I'm back and I really don't know what's coming up next. This morning I've already applied to play a businesswoman, a gang member's girlfriend and a budding actress and I haven't even emerged from my pyjamas yet.

Starting out again is an interesting thing. Last time I did it I was emerging from the comfort-blanket lined womb of drama school where your hand was being held at all times and you were lovingly passed from institution to agent with your jazz-shoed feet barely touching the ground. Of course it wasn't easy and it took me months to land my first job (cruel twists of fate meant that the first two jobs I was offered never happened) but I could bask in the glow of being a 'graduate.' And then, once you actually get that first job, you find yourself in a pleasing cycle of jobs leading to more auditions leading to even more jobs. But now, like the silly hamster I am, I've jumped off the wheel and now I have to work out how to get it back up and spinning again.

So my life is currently dedicated to contacting agents and applying for jobs while ignoring the little niggling voice in my brain wondering when money is going to start coming in again. Now I find myself in a different type of cycle: I need more credits on my CV to get agents interested but getting those roles without an agent is damn hard. So I'm currently applying for every acting role under the sun that I could legitimately play and sadly, while agentless, this means I'm mainly going up for unpaid work. The Great Unpaid Work Debate is an entry for another day but the fact remains that there will always be projects out there that offer no money and while you're trying to reignite your CV and boost your showreel, you will find yourself applying for them. Move along Morals and pack your bags Pride, there ain't no place for you here right now.

Tonight sees my first audition since getting back from Edinburgh. Check back tomorrow for another entry of woe...

Monday, 5 September 2011

Opening Credits

Acting. Supposedly one of the toughest professions to be in. When you tell people you're an actor they get over the initial excitement when they realise you've never been in EastEnders/Casualty/Hollyoaks and then go on to sympatheticaly say how they understand that it's one of the trickiest careers to be in. It's not. Not really. There are far tougher jobs out there. Acting has its pitfalls but it will never be as challenging as working with abused children, as mentally draining as trying to come up with a cure for cancer or as unforgiving as whatever the correct term is for people who clean up after crime scenes.

When growing up I wanted to be either a pathologist or a vet (there was also a brief period where I wanted to be a highflying lawyer but this had more to do with Ally McBeal than wanting to bring Boston based crims to justice.) However, it soon ocurred to me that although you got to appear in the spotlight of the operating theatre, neither job would allow me to be the centre of attention. So the decision to thrust myself into the world of thespianism was hardly a difficult one to make. While the rest of the world is out there saving lives/designing things to save lives/making things to save lives (I tend to think everyone else bar me is saving lives) I get to indulge in glorious lie-ins, days off and then bask in the glory of congratulations when I land an expenses-only paid job.

So here I am, battling my way through one of the most over-subscribed professions in the land. I've recently taken out two years to earn some money and, with hindsight, my decision to take a break was oddly ill-timed. I was just starting to earn a decent amount of money from acting but I was offered the chance to earn more money working in an office and I grabbed the opportunity with my grubby, greedy  hands. So I'm now the twit who is at the front of the supermarket queue and foolishly leaves to get pesto (forgetting that I have enough pesto squirrelled away in the fridge already.) And after a long debate over whether to go for the fresh version or the one in the jar, I've returned to join a much longer queue and now there are less tills open. Or something like that.

This blog should now be the beginning of a long and painful tale of endless auditions as I desperately try to claw my way back. But that's not the case. I'm sorry to disappoint but geting back into it was all rather simple. In the space of a few weeks I had landed myself a couple of roles in Edinburgh shows, I'd handed my notice in and was getting ready to appear in two kids' shows for a whole month. I'll save the rehearsal process for a quieter day but for now just sit back and wait for me to remember to add to this damn thing again...