Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Virtual Reality

"Must be friends in real life."

This is the second time I've seen this sentence in a casting call in the last week or so. Apparently, us actors are so unreliable and so useless that we're now not even to be trusted to act out the supposedly simple process of 'friendship.' Because, y'know, none of us actors actually have friends. So, instead, casting directors are asking for 'real people' (the argument that actors aren't real people is reserved for another day) because it seems the process of acting is no longer to be trusted.

Like with prettty much everything, I blame reality TV. People have become so used to hateful, gag reflex-inducing shows such as TOWIE and Made In Chelsea that we're no longer able to cope with the idea of actors pretending on screen. Despite the fact that these shows are more fake than a 1970s Doctor Who set, the idea seems to be that unless it's real, audiences won't believe it anymore. And this is a properly worrying development. It used to be entirely acceptable for an actor to don their standard office-wear uniform and could convincingly play the role of a bored admin worker (heck, enough actors have done this in real life anyway.) Audiences bought that. Because they're actors and they can ACT like they're a bored admin worker. But now that's not enough. Now the whole bloody office needs to get in on the action. That receptionist who insists on having pilchards on toast every lunch-time? Get her in. The IT manager who has an unhealthy obsession with Post-It notes? Yeah, he'll do. And the marketing executive who insists on organising a bloody cake bake-off every single Friday? She'll be in it too.

And then, on top of this, these feckless, stapler-wielding fools will be getting paid. Now, of course, I can't get annoyed at anyone getting paid for work. That would be so utterly hypocritical that it would make even a politician blush. But, these people who are on a decent monthly wage anyway, are then getting our money on top of that. That's our Christmas bonus. So while they're off on their skiing trip, we'll be the fools who've been brought in by our temping agency to cover for them. So yes, I suppose in a way they're helping us get paid work but directors frown at the decision to put 'Post Room Assistant' on your CV. Of course, if you say that you were covering for Jimmy "y'know, that guy who you put in your eye-wateringly high-profile Christmas campaign" then I suppose it'll at least help you get a foot in the door. That's if they ever let us actors into an audition room ever again.

Interestingly, because of a lack of acting work (presumably because Lisa from accounts is taking all the jobs) I'm now having to look for office work so that I can afford to eat. Maybe this will be the best career choice I've ever made. Get down your local temping agency and your face could be the next one we seen on our screens.


  1. And the other thing, which you diplomatically neglect to mention, is that often these people can't even be themselves naturally on camera, so it just looks like bad acting. I've used one non-performer in my film, and although it works in context, she still stands out.

  2. Right on, although I have now done so many different temping jobs, that there isn't much I'm not 'real' at (except mud-wrestling or pole-dancing, for which the entire male population of this country is currently breathing a sigh of relief), so should be able to get cast in one of these, easy peasy, right?

    I do believe, and I am happy to be proved wrong, that the reason most companies use their own staff ("I'll be There") is because they are already paying them, and so effectively get them for free!

  3. "Being real" reminds me of the old story about Dustin Hoffman when Marathon Man was being made. In one scene, he was supposed to have just run a long distance. Being a method actor he went out, jogged round the studios a couple of times, and came back in panting and dripping with sweat. Olivier lent over and said "Dear boy, have you thought of trying acting?"

  4. I 'auditioned' for the voice of the automated message customers were sent from our company. Didn't get it as 'alienatingly posh!' :)