Thursday, 21 February 2013

Miss L: "I Hadn't Left The House For 3 Days."

You may remember a couple of weeks ago we interviewed Miss L on her life as an actor. Well, since then, questions have come flooding in (we think someone asked us in the pub the other night anyway) about how she is such a successful rester. So, we’re meeting Miss L again in the hope that she can pass on some pearls of wisdom without passing on the persistent cough she’s picked up from her damp-ridden house…

We ask if we can meet Miss L at 9am. She goes silent for a few minutes. We check if she’s ok. “I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean,” she admits. “Is 9am a bar?” We tell her not to worry and that we’ll come to her again. “Bring crisps,” she orders us. Again.

So we’re back in Miss L’s abode, so humble it does actually smell of pie. “They were on offer,” she explains, “Two pies for a pound. I bought ten.” Today, Miss L is resplendent in her dressing gown. She spots that we’ve noticed. “Tammy Girl,” she announces, proudly.

We settle down on her sofa. A few out-dated copies of The Stage litter her coffee table. So, how did Miss L get started in the world of resting? “Well it began when I realised I hadn’t left the house for 3 days yet I was still OK. That’s when I really knew. I’d managed to put together a meal from broken bits of pasta, a tin of olives and an orange I found behind the microwave. I thought, if I can do this then why don’t I try doing this professionally?”

Did she experience any difficulty when she was first starting out in the world of resting? “Oh definitely. There’s a lot of competition out there, especially from university students. So I had to work really hard at first to really make sure I was at the top of my game.” She takes a gulp of cold tea from a cracked Doctor Who mug, “I lost a lot of friends in the first year because I was dedicating so much time to it. Of course they understood but it was a really tough. I made myself go for a week just living off onions, chickpeas and value vodka and only read the stage section of The Guardian. That’s the closest I came to giving up.”

But now at the top of her game, does Miss L still struggle to remain professional at all times? “You have no idea,” she laughs, changing her slippers from formal to novelty. “There are times when I get to say 1 or 2pm and I’ll get an urge to do some work. That can be really difficult. I usually try and distract myself by watching Man vs Food or, if it’s really bad, then I’ll go up to the shop and get a Kit Kat Chunky. Usually by 3pm, the need to be productive has gone. I’m very lucky that I’ve learnt how to deal with it. I know others who still have real problems with this and have applied for up to three jobs in one single day. I feel for them. I really do.”

And what of Miss L’s hopes for the future? “If I can maintain the level I’m at now then I’m happy. There are still a lot of issues I have to deal with on a daily basis and unfortunately the need to leave the house will always be there. I try to make sure the only times I go outside are to go to a soul-destroying job or to go and watch other actors be far more successful than I am. Those things really help me focus on my goals and encourage me to strive for resting perfection.” She pauses for a moment and smiles fondly, “The postman told me the other day how impressed he was that I’m always in during the day. That was such a proud moment as I realised my resting is having a positive impact on other people’s lives. That’s all I could really ask for.”

Miss L’s top tips on how to be a perfect rester:

1.  Comfy pyjamas. You’ll never be a true rester without them. Being comfortable on the sofa means you’re comfortable with who you are.

2. Be open-minded about what you consider a meal. If you won’t accept frozen peas and banana as a suitable breakfast then you need to seriously consider whether the world of resting is really for you.

3. Tea. You will never be able to rest without it. If you don’t like tea then diet Coke or coffee are the only other acceptable substitutes.

4. If you must earn money then make sure it’s at the worst place possible. You need to go somewhere that makes you want to tear your soul into tiny pieces so that you can truly appreciate the joy of resting. Call centres and promo work are particularly good for this.

5. Let others know what you’re doing. Not everyone understands how resting works so make sure you explain to everyone around you why you’re doing this. This will help stop them from trying to ruin things for you by attempting to find you acting work.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The Actor

Actor   noun 
Pronounced  ˈak-təəəəəəər
Synonyms: thesp, pest, lazy pyjama clad tea drinker
Antonyms: employed

The common actor (Whingius Restium) is a sub-species of the employed worker. They are widely known for the desperate look in their eyes and are recognisable by their well-known call which details what they’ve been working on recently. Although similar in build to other workers, the actor is often identified by its high-pitched whine and need for affirmation at all times. 

Considered a pest in areas such as Soho and other pockets of London where they can afford to live, the actor can often be found in shared housing where they tend to dwell with other members of their species. They tend to furnish their homes with untouched copies of The Complete Works of Shakespeare and poorly produced DVDs of student films they’ve appeared in. 

When not at home, actors are usually found at their resting job that they like to refer to as their ‘stop-gap.’ This term allows the actor to believe that despite having been in this job for over 6 months, they will eventually land an acting job again. Resting jobs are taken on by actors due to the belief that most acting work will be done for free. When not acting or moping around in their pyjamas, actors are usually found within the depressing walls of a call centre, hassling people in the street or teaching bright young things to go and get the career that they never managed to achieve.

During the rare occasions that actors are employed to prance around on stage or drift about on set desperately waiting for their few seconds on camera, they are known to be a terrible bore. Despite the fact that this is supposedly their job, this is when they complain the most and will often be found bemoaning a lack of sleep or whinging about how the show hasn’t been advertised well enough. They like to blame everyone but themselves and their most popular targets tend to be their agent, the director, most often, their fellow cast members.

Despite being solitary hunters, actors are irritatingly social creatures and are at their most annoying when they travel in packs. They use a variety of vocalisations and when in a group, they are often identified by their louder than average voice and tendency to name-drop. There have also been recent sightings of actors performing the entire Les Miserables score on the District Line and playing the warm-up game ‘Zip Zap Boing’ in local parks. This behaviour has been identified as ‘attention seeking’ and is employed by actors to ensure others know what they do for a living.  

When alone, actors will often mutter lines to themselves in the hope that onlookers will think they’re currently working on an exciting new role. They will also fake phone calls with pretend agents and like to highlight scripts to feel that they’re more important than they are. 

They are experts at sniffing out free bars and the alarming amounts of cheap red wine they consume means that they are often quite placid creatures. However, actors have been known to display extremely violent behaviour when asked whether they have appeared in EastEnders or when they’re going to get themselves a real job. Although their violent outbursts are outwardly frightening, their stage combat training means that their actions are usually harmless. 

Actors are notorious liars and they use this most effectively when trying to attract a potential employer. If an actor has even heard of a trombone then they will claim that they can play it to a high level in an attempt to get work. Masters of exaggeration, they will usually upgrade a small part in a student film to featured role in an award-winning movie to make their CV appear more attractive.
A lot of mythology surrounds actors, the most popular being that actors are happy to work for sandwiches, an IMDb credit and a DVD copy that tends to arrive in the post a year after filming has been completed. Many employers believe that actors are huge fans of the art of ‘chasing’ and will often withhold DVD copies and payments to allow actors to indulge in this favourite pastime. 

In recent years, the fate of the actor has become increasingly precarious as employers are now replacing them with what they like to call ‘normal’ or ‘real’ people. This technique has become a real threat to actors and means that many of them are now desperately trying to become ‘real people’ themselves, often with tragic consequences. This has driven actors to an underworld known as ‘Creating Their Own Work’ which although seemingly exciting, will eventually lead them to the desperate and terrifying world of the Edinburgh Fringe where they will be found selling their soul to sell tickets and destroying any final scraps of dignity on The Royal Mile. The increasingly desperate behaviour of the common actor means that most people now prefer to ignore them to avoid any further upset, the hope being that if you ignore them long enough then they will eventually go away. This unfortunately has only increased the tenacity of the actor and, to date, their numbers are doubling year on year.

Friday, 15 February 2013

For The Record

I've never auditioned at home before. Actually, that's a lie. While thinking about what I was going to blog about today, a horrible memory crept out of the depths of my brain. This morning I've had to deal with the excruciating memory of sitting on my bed and leaving a voicemail for a director who asked me to leave him a recording of part of the script. I hate leaving voicemails at the best of times so reading someone's poorly worded script while I imagine their bored face listening to it later wasn't much fun. I remember getting to the end of the message and then not quite knowing how to finish. When doing a speech at an actual audition, I usually do some odd head movement to indicate that I'm done. And then the director groans, sighs and looks around the room awkwardly to let me know that I'm done too. But you can't do that on the phone. So a very timid "That's it. Thanks," came ouf of my mouth and then I'd hung up. About 2 hours later, I received a text message to say he'd received my application. And I never heard from him again.

But anyway, back to this week. I'm in my weekday default position (sofa, pyjamas, cup of tea) and an email comes through asking if I'm free for a Skype audition later on. Panic sets in instantly. I still have pillow creases embedded in my face. My hair is an unwashed mess. There's cold pizza in the kitchen that I want to eat. But of course, because we actors are incapable of saying no, I say yes and then let the panic really take hold. I jump in the shower, make my face look respectable and put on the only clothes I currently have that don't need a wash. It's then that I realise I can stay in my slippers the whole time and I do a little dance before emailing the director to let them know that I'm ready.

They ask for my Skype details and I realise my Skype name currently contains a nickname my boyfriend gave me. I spend 15 minutes trying to work out how to add a more professional name with a photo that isn't me dicking about in our living room in a frog onesie. Once that's sorted, they send me a disclaimer form to sign, scan and send back to them. No problem. Printers and scanners are known for doing exactly what you want them to do when you're under pressure, right? Like a true performer, my printer instantly started complaining. "I don't have enough ink," it whinged. I suggested he go complain to his manufacturer and bring me back a proper explanation on why printer cartridges are more expensive than Faberge eggs filled with golden caviar. He shut up and printed. Scanner then pipes up. "You realise I'm not wirelessly connected to your laptop?" I glare. "But you're part of my printer, and my printer is conntected to my laptop." Apparently my scanner and printer are very much the modern couple and prefer to be dealt with separately. I call my boyfriend who has a far superior laptop to mine and and ask to use his instead. Due to the terrible reception in our flat, it takes nearly 10 minutes for him to talk me through how to access the scanner from his computer. Then his laptop freezes. As we get closer to me having to fork out for a new laptop for him, I admit defeat. It's now nearly 45 minutes since I told the director I'd have everything ready within 5 minutes. An email where every other word is an apology is fired off and I wait.

Half an hour later they get back to me and ask if I'll just record the scene instead. This is brilliant. This means I can film it over and over again until I can send one that I'm vaguely happy with. I also don't have to deal with seeing their disappointed faces as I stumble through their script while my neighbour shouts profanities through the wall. It also means that I can eat that cold pizza. They ask if I can get someone to read the other part off camera. Thankfully, my boyfriend is on his way home. Otherwise what was I meant to do? Is having to read in for someone's recorded audition like jury service? If I ask someone then do they have to do it?

Eventually the audition is recorded, sent and, after all that effort, it appears I haven't got the job. Still, I got to audition in my slippers...

Monday, 11 February 2013

Caught In The Website

When you’re paying to work, that’s when alarm bells should start ringing. That’s why, despite what your thoughts are on unpaid work. I’d urge everyone to avoid jobs that don’t even offer to pay your expenses. At the very worst, you don’t make any money out of a job. You should never find yourself paying out your own money to get experience.

So, why do casting websites charge actors to access paid work that they post on their site? Why are actors finding themselves paying up when productions don’t have to pay to post their casting calls? Surely this is madness? If this was happening in any other industry then people would’ve had something to say about it. Now, I realise casting websites have overheads. Despite how it may seem, I’m not that naïve. I realise that you can’t run a business on fresh air alone. But why is it falling to the actor to cover these costs?

Of course, the websites are there to serve actors and help us find work but surely these websites are also there for production companies too to help them find performers? Spotlight aside, I currently pay to use one casting site. I pay £20 a month to be able to access the paid work that they advertise and I used to justify this to myself because one paid job a year would usually pay this money back. I used to be confident of the fact that I’d at least get my £240 back if not more. And I did. This particular website used to earn me at least triple that every year so I felt that paying was OK. But now I don’t earn anything from it. In the last year, this website has earned me £120. That’s it. And it’s now that I’m starting to realise what little value for money that really is.

Obviously this is just me. I know other actors who’ve done far better from this site. But I also know a lot of actors who’ve got next to nothing from it. However, the fact remains that these websites make a heck of a lot of money out of actors with no promise of us getting a return from it. Now I realise this website isn’t in charge of the industry nor is it responsible for my career. However, this site today advertised 16 paying jobs and a whopping 76 unpaid jobs. If actors are paying to use a site then surely we should be able to expect some form of control over the work that is advertised? The more I think of it, the more unfair these websites seem. Not only do actors have to pay to use the site but they also have to prove themselves before they’re allowed to join. Often actors need to have a minimum amount of professional credits to their name before they’re allowed the privilege of paying to find work. But, again, the production companies have nothing asked from them. Those who follow me on Twitter and Tumblr will know that when it comes to castings, very little quality control is put in place. 

But of course, as usual, it’s actors who put up with this sort of treatment so it’s actors who continue to pay.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Miss L: "I'm Still In My Pyjamas."

I hate the interviews with actors that you find in Sunday supplements. They represent the lives of maybe 0.3% of performers out there. So, here's my version of what would happen if they interviewed one of us real actors...

We've been waiting in the lobby of a central London hotel for the last hour but it appears Miss L won't be meeting us there. “I’m still in my pyjamas, I’m afraid” she tells us down the phone. We suggest going to her instead. “Bring crisps,” she demands, hanging up the phone with the sound of the Countdown clock chiming in the background.

An hour later we’re at Miss L’s flat; countless pizza menus litter the doormat and a broken hat stand blocks our entrance. She’s still in her vintage C&A pyjamas ("I love vintage finds," she later explains, "I found these ones underneath the sink. I think the previous tennant left them there.") and she clearly hasn’t showered yet. She has a slice of toast in one hand and a cup of tea in the other. “I’d offer you some too,” she says, through a mouthful of Asda Value peanut butter, “but I don’t get paid for another week.” She invites us into her living room where damp crawls across the walls and in the corner, a sad pile of 3 DVDs in blank cases. She notices us looking at it, “I see you've spotted my acting career. That's it. Right there."

We want to know why Miss L got into acting. “Hang on,” she says, “I just need to check if there’s any work for me to apply for.” We wait while she types up a cover letter for a corporate job in Hitchin. It pays £200 which she says would help her out for the next couple of weeks. Job applied for, she’s back with us. “I got into acting because I really wanted to work for free. I get such a buzz out of ‘expenses only’ work.” She gazes at her StarNow profile wistfully, “It’s exciting not knowing which sandwiches you’re going to get.”

So how does she feel about being branded the next big thing by her mum? As an actress with the likes of her old landlord and three different temp agencies on speed-dial, does the pressure get too much sometime? “It’s really hard when you have to sit at home all day drinking tea and watching rolling news. Being able to go to the cinema at lunchtime is particularly difficult.”

After training at a drama school you probably haven’t heard of, Miss L was quickly snapped up by her local call centre. She appeared in several plays that toured schools in the south-east where she played alongside performers who were yet to leave school. "I learnt so much," she explains, while trying out different fonts on her CV, "It was a real gift being able to work with performers who were also studying for their Maths A-Level. Plus I got to eat schools dinners again. That more than made up for not being paid properly." However, it was in adverts that didn’t air that Miss L truly found her niche. “It’s such an honour to be asked to be in commercials that no one sees. That's when I really knew that I'd made the right decision.” With several student films under her belt and the most poorly attended Edinburgh play to date, it’s no wonder that Miss L spends most of her time working in a call centre for little above National Minimum Wage. “I’ve really landed on my feet there,” she says, while quickly checking an email alert for an unpaid job in Penge, “I get to make cold calls to people every day. That’s not something everyone can claim.”

Despite how old she looks, we're surprised to hear that Miss L is actually still in her late twenties. We ask how she's managed to fit in so many unpaid theatre jobs into so few years. "I've been exceedingly lucky. A string of unsupportive agents has really helped me get where I am today. If it weren't for their real lack of interest in my career then, well, who knows what I'd be doing now." Her phone rings constantly while we're there. "I do a lot of online competitions," she explains, "so my phone number has been sold on quite a bit."

With a career peppered with so many highlights, surely it’s hard to choose one favourite moment? “I have so many but auditioning for a feature film that had a vague chance of being exclusively shown in Israel was when I knew I’d truly made it.” She gets up to turn the heating off when she realises it’s been on for longer than half an hour, “Or maybe it was when a student asked me to audition for their film. I hadn’t even applied for it. That was pretty exciting. “

And what of Miss L’s plans for the future. “Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m not currently working on anything at the moment.” We ask if she’s due to appear in EastEnders any time soon. And with that, the interview was over.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Day 2 - Have You Found One Yet?

Agents contacted: 10
Responses: 0

Much to my surprise, my determination to write to 5 agents has a day has already lasted 48 hours. This, for me, is a record. Previous resolutions have been been left, discarded, sometime around midday on New Years Day so to make it through to the second day is pretty damn impressive. I'd pat myself on the back if I'd kept up my Alexander Technique classes.

The problem is now that people are starting to ask how I'm getting on in my hunt for an agent, even those who don't know about my blog. Upon entering work yesterday I was immediately faced with the question:

"Have you found yourself an agent yet?"

If I wasn't in such desperate need of this job at the moment all Hell would've broken loose and little Hell-Beings would still be scuttling around London. But, as usual with these things, a good strong case of tongue biting must be employed and I kindly explained that it's not as easy as just finding a new one.

"I thought finding an agent would be really easy."

Not as bloody easy as drowning your colleague in a water cooler and destroying the evidence in the recycling bin. I bit my tongue again (I bite my tongue so much that my vocal quality on Spotlight is now described as 'The Elephant Man') and explained again that no, it's not that easy. She made a noise that suggested she wasn't convinced. I made a noise that suggested I'd colour in her spleen with a highlighter and the matter was left. For now. But I know the question will return. And my highlighter and I are ready...

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Day 1 - The Hunt for An Agent

Agents Contacted:5
Responses: 0

So it's Day 1 of my search proper to find myself a new agent. Don't worry, I don't intend to write every day about this rather dull search. I realise that would be boring for everyone involved (mainly me) but I will try and update you all as regularly as possible so you can share a tiny piece of my fruitless hunt.

My aim (at the moment) is to write to 5 agents a day. This means that I'm not just doing blanket submissions and actually thinking carefully about the agents I'm getting in touch with and making sure that they're agents I actually like the look of. Also, applying to agents isn't the most fun job in the world and it means I won't get bored, wonder what the heck I'm doing with my life and run down the road screaming with my character skirt pulled over my head. So, 5 agents have been contacted so far and that means, hopefully, by Friday, I'll have passed on my meagre details to 20 agents. If I carry on at this rate then I'll have written to 1650 agencies by the end of the year and will likely have lost the will to live. If I haven't had at least one favourable response by 31 December then you all have the right to tell me to give up and get a proper job. I promise. Or you can at least give me a gentle pat on the back while I weep uncontrollably through New Year's Eve celebrations.

When I was last looking for an agent, I had the idea of creating a spreadsheet so I could keep track of those I'd already contacted to make sure I wasn't just targetting the same poor fool every day. Creating Excel spreadsheets is the most glorious form of procrastination as it makes you feel like you're actually working and doing something positive when really you've just found another way to not do any real work. I decided that I should probably do the same again so opened up the old file to have a little look. I was quite lucky last time as in the midst of writing to agents (I was a bit slack with it last time and maybe writing to a couple a week) an agent actually approached me and, well, you all know how that story recently ended. However, it seems I wrote to 20 agents last time. Out of those I received 5 flat "No's" or, as they're known in the business, "Go away and leave us alone. We won't make a bean out of you." I had meetings with 2, one who turned me down and another that I turned down and then a lovely 13 who never got back to me. So, 10% meetings, 25% "NO!" and 65% "Lalalalalaalalala(is she still there? Damn, she is.)lalalalalalalalalala." It's no wonder my energies were not even half-baked.

So let's see what happens this time. I bet you can't bloody wait.

Monday, 4 February 2013

The Search Begins

As an actor, one of the first things you’re asked, after when you’re going to be in EastEnders and what kind of acting you like to do, will be whether you have an agent. Now, if you follow me on Twitter or read my blog regularly then you’ll know that I was recently made agentless. It’s a weird feeling that puts you somewhere in between elation and rejection; you’re delighted that you’ve finally shed  someone who mainly put you up for jobs that would get you out of the country for as long as possible but at the same time, you’ve just been dumped and feel a bit useless.

So, the hunt for a new agent begins. The thought of it already makes me feel tired. The searching for agents, looking through their client list, thinking they look perfect, the annoyance of seeing they already have someone who looks exactly like you, the frustration that they’ll only take on clients who are currently in something. All those things are waiting for me. All those things are waiting to frustrate me and make me wish I’d chosen a far easier job, like rocket science or plucking needles from haystacks.

I therefore thought it might be interesting to chronicle what it’s like hunting for a new agent. I mean, it’s highly likely that it’ll be utterly tedious but you never know, one tiny thing might come out of it that someone might possibly find useful. Also I need an excuse to procrastinate and while my career is more quiet than a pin dropping in a vacuum, I need to find something to write about other than daily rants about unpaid work. 

So today I started gently by sending my CV to a few agents that lovely kind people on Twitter had recommended. I have nothing to show them apart from my gurning face and a few grainy clips online so who knows what will happen. It’ll serve me right if they head to Twitter and mock me for all I’m worth but hopefully, if miracles really do happen, maybe just one of them will bite. So get ready my lovely readers for tales of woe, despair and general wonderings on what the heck a rester has to do round here to get a break. You better hope someone snaps me up quick.