Sunday, 24 March 2013

A Real Acting CV


Here is a photo of me
from 2 years ago after spending
week barely eating. I also spent over 3 hours
making myself look like this. 
Beautiful, aren't I? I'll never
look like this ever again. 

These are my contact details because I naively think that
you might bother to get in touch with me.

Boring stats:
Height: Do you really care?
Eyes: Green with envy at all the other actors you've hired in the past.
Hair colour: Look at my photo you lazy fool.
Playing age: This depends on what I'm applying for but let's presume 1-100.
Weight: At least 2 stone less than what it really is.

Training: No, I didn't go to RADA. Hey, don't go!

Parts Played:

This first role is the biggest one I've ever played. Despite the fact it was over 5 years ago, I'm still putting it first so that you definitely notice it.
Second is the best thing I was in but I didn't have a named part. I've made up a name so I look more important. 
Here are some things I did when I first left drama school or, as they're otherwise known, 'CV Filler Roles.'
The next few roles are one that I've made up or wish that I'd been in.
These jobs at the bottom are ones I'm pretending I didn't do in drama school.

Special Skills:

I could tell you about all the accents that I'm a master at in my head and how good a singer I am although my voice is regularly likened to a cat on speed. However, if I'm being honest, these are the only things that I'm really skilled at:
  • Being able to avoid drama school classmates while in Soho.
  • Thinking up wonderful excuses for not bothering to print off my CV for an audition.
  • Reusing monologues time and time again because I can't be bothered to learn new ones .
  • Hiding the fact I've a full driving license until I'm sure you won't be using me as an unpaid chauffeur for your profit-share schools' tour of 'The Drugs Don't Work.' 
  • Listing a language on my CV that I'm 'currently learning.' The fact that the last time I studied it was back in 1999 while doing my GCSEs is utterly irrelevant.  
 Upcoming Work:

I've left this free because casting calls always state that actors need to be available for work. By leaving this blank I should be the most employable actor out there. Please hire me. Thanks.  


Thursday, 21 March 2013

When Resting Jobs Bite

I regularly write about the ridiculous things actors put up with and this post by actress Cristina Lark illustrates this so incredibly perfectly. Cristina wrote today on a casting website forum about the ridiculous 'audition' process she was put through yesterday to get a job with a promo agency. I feel this needs to be seen by everyone, not just actors on the site, so Cristina has very kindly allowed me to share her experience with you all. So, here's the post, brought to you by Cristina (and get following the lovely lady on Twitter too - @CrisLark.)

Nationwide, especially in a time when crisis haunts mostly every industry, TV survives on old cliché formulas, and the cuts in arts funding go deeper and deeper, many actors see themselves in the need of looking for a non-acting part-time job in order to keep going until the next paid acting gig.

They are generally cult and highly trained, with refined body language, charisma to speak in public, bubbly personality, great skills for improvisation, and have many other assets which would allow them to easily perform jobs such as waiting tables, handing out flyers or product samples, or hosting stands in trade shows. It should be a matter of knocking on a promotional staffing agency's door and joining theirs books. And that is why, even directory books as Contacts, by British leading actors' database website Spotlight, has a “non-acting jobs” section.

So that's what happens: an actor opens this book and applies to every agency from A to Z, in the hope of getting any flexible part-time work unrelated to their passion.

However, some promotional agencies (ehm, agency), whose managing personnel is probably made out of frustrated drop out actors, in order to seek attention and feel better about themselves, is deluded into thinking (or just thrives to make it look like) whoever applies to their “team” is desperate to join their books just because it's everyone's ultimate dream to hand out flyers for them, and has created the most outrageous and offensive “audition” to “select” people to be part of their staff.

I didn't know that. And that is why I walked into a venue in Camden yesterday for what I thought would be a serious job interview.

Arriving there, I found a little less than one hundred people waiting. Don't be mistaken by these figures: this “audition” happens only once every six months or so, I found out, so what they try to make look like an eager crowd is actually the eventual CVs they received along half a year.

And then you realise their cute name to call their staff, “Idols”, is due to them really trying to reproduce… an X-FACTOR ENVIRONMENT. Yes. We are all sent to the main room where the “talent scout manager” (again, they call talent the people who hand out flyers) “greets us”: “I'm Gemma, and you're all competing against each other”. So much for team building, team work, or whatever other nice and ethical work environment that anyone desires in a company. She carries on: “Is anyone following us on Twitter? Grab your phones now, this is your opportunity. Whoever doesn't do it is already out.” We are also told to tweet something (obviously with a mention and a hash tag to their account) saying why we shouldn't get eliminated, and that tweets would be monitored throughout the morning. Then she shows a video explaining (something else that whoever attended their “job interview” didn't know in advance to have the choice of deciding if they would like to submit to this or not) that “not everyone will make it today”, followed by a PowerPoint slide showing a neck being cut by an ax, and a terror movie sound effect. Attendants start to exchange what-the-hell glances.

The first round consists of a little circus setup where candidates are the jester entertaining that group of “manager” girls. Like an X-factor-slash-Britain's Got Talent unnecessary procedure to “get to know a bit more about the candidates personality”. Seriously, because making knots out of candy with your tongue or doing the Kate Winslet ballet balance on your big toes Titanic style will certainly be vital in your sampling job, and is also a very good way of measuring a person's skills and personality. After this round, the first cut: out with all the ugly and older-looking people.

In the second round, we were set in groups and had to develop an ad for a fictional product with a random name they gave us, then stating why this product is different, how we would attract people to our stand, and other ideas they should be having, back in their office. Ideas that won't be asked to the people hired to hand out the flyers. But ideas they get for free from every person they may or may not hire and never get in touch with again. Again, a “coordinator” comes to us and says “remember, you are set up in a group, but you are COMPETING AGAINST EACH OTHER.” So this is not team work. Nice.

The presentations go fairly well. No one stands out, absolutely no one, for the good or for the bad. Every one of the remaining 60 or so people could perfectly do anything from that task. Then a quick individual interview, where after they seem impressed with your experience, they ask “how old are you?”, and after a quick “why is this important now?” look you give, they say “sorry, but I have to ask”. No, you don't have to ask. You don't get away with veiled ageism just because you don't publicly and officially write on your website “we won't be taking people over 23, or 25, or 30 or whatever, so if you're older, don't bother applying”. Also, you don't insist asking over 5 times if the candidate has a car or can drive in the UK, if this was not a pre-requisite from the moment they fill in your application form.

Everyone is reunited back again in the main room, where they go through the 2nd and last cut of the day: everyone's name is called to join their books, everyone but FIVE PEOPLE. Five good looking, charismatic, completely blended in people, just as capable, for sure, to hand out flyers, host a stand, or demonstrate how to use expresso machines in supermarkets.

Their website states “London which saw 200 people sign up to try and get on our book”. Again, there were less than 100. And we were not “trying to get on their books”, we were applying for a job, like we did the day before and will do the morning after, to any other of the hundreds of agencies out there, regardless of who the agency is. Because we are not dreaming to be part of their team, we just happen to need a paying job. They also say “We have the reputation of being the toughest agency to get in”. It's not really tough when you dismiss publicly the profile of people other agencies dismiss in the first headshot screening, and then take everyone but five people selected randomly to make an example out of them and feel important and desired in your petty self-absorption.

In any case, all this agency showcased yesterday was an utter lack of elegance, people skills, respect, demographics understanding (as again, pretentiousness about the reason why people look for jobs with you only denote hysteria and self-absorbed amateurism), and one of the most valued assets any company should have: team spirit.

Unreality TV

Being contacted by a TV company should be exciting. I should feel a little flutter in my stomach that once I’ve checked on the internet isn’t an incurable disease, gets me wonderfully excited. However, you only need to spend a few weeks in the acting industry to know that 9 times out of 10, disappointment is usually lurking around the corner. 

So, you can imagine my overwhelming levels of doubt when I received a message from a production company that I’ve had absolutely no contact with before. Contacting a company is one thing but when they’re coming to you, it’s safe to say that you’re not going to be having contracts loaded with six-figure sums and years of work flung your way. And I wasn’t wrong. This particular production company was asking if I would like to take part in a new show for their channel. There was no mention of where this channel was shown but I’ve never heard of it so I’m guessing it’s buried in the depths of Sky channels where only those with a lot of patience or an eager index finger go. 

My interest had all but departed but they’d cleverly opened with a vaguely flattering line (“I bet you say that to all the actresses. Oh, you do? I see.”) so I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and read on. However, by the second paragraph it became apparent that this was not going to be the role that had Culture sections of newspapers queuing up to interview me. In fact, I doubt even my parents would bother pretending to be interested in thi- oh, hang on… they want my family to be involved in this too? Interesting. I mean, we’ve all had to deal with the sudden rise of casting calls asking for real families to be part of adverts but at least they’re being paid. It’s one thing asking your loved ones to be on TV for a bit of extra cash but it’s another thing entirely to ask them to give up their free time for, well, free.

I thought the fact that they wanted my family and I to work for nothing was the worst they could ask me but, of course, there was more. Not only did they want to subject my family to the expenses only rubbish that I put up with on a daily basis but they also wanted to use their home to film in. Again, for no money. Anyone who has ever filmed in someone’s home will know that at least one calamity will happen at some point during the shoot. I’ve been in people’s houses where doors have been broken, pictures have been knocked off walls and red food colouring has been splattered across a cream carpet. I’ve watched the ends of boom mics being dragged against walls, leaving distressing grey marks like inky slugs and I’ve seen crews use every single power point to charge every bit of equipment that has ever been invented. But hey, at least we’d get our faces on a channel that no one will ever watch, eh? 

Thanks, but no thanks, I told them. No reply. However, it seems that they spent the next few days in a state of disbelief that I turned down their wonderful offer. “She was clearly confused when we first contacted her as I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to be on our channel with a viewership of 4, especially when we’re not paying.” So they fired off message number two which was worded almost identically to the first. I like to imagine that they’re eagerly watching their inbox, waiting for my reply. However, the sad reality is that they’ve probably found someone to do it and some family somewhere is desperately cleaning their house and saying a fond farewell to all the precious items that they’ve safely kept in their home for generations. I wish them luck and decent insurance cover.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

How To Write The Perfect Casting Call

So you’ve got yourself a script. Or maybe you haven’t. Maybe you’ve just got a vague idea of wanting to put something on. You might just like the idea of making a film or putting something on a stage. Whatever it is you’re up to, it’s likely that unless you’re one of those who only ever puts their friends in things, you’ll be wanting some actors to be part of it too. But how do you got about getting these elusive creatures? Miss L tells you how…

'Currently casting for "Boobs Of The Dead."'

Firstly you need to make sure that you’re pitching the right idea to actors. Whether you’ve got a script or just half a thought, there’s a chance you may need to make a few modifications before you start procuring yourself a few thesps. The most important thing to do is to look at how many women are in this new project of yours. I can’t stress enough how important it is to make sure that they don’t outnumber the men. You may think just because you’ve seen Bridesmaids that you’re allowed to write more roles for women. Well, you’re not. Bridesmaids was made using many Hollywood tricks (mainly mirrors) so unless you’re working with a budget of more than £50 then you’re better off just going down the traditional route and doing away with the women completely. The simplest way is to just change the female roles into male ones. Believe me, actresses just don’t want the work and they’ll understand why you did it. Heck, they’ll probably respect you even more. 

'Must feel comfortable in a bikini on a pogo stick & participating in a sexy food fight.'

However, you might find yourself with a couple of characters who have to be female. Don’t panic. To make this acceptable and to ensure that a handful of actresses still apply, you must need to make sure that the characters are either involved in the sex industry or get their bits out in each scene. Actresses are notorious for refusing to play characters that don’t parade around in their underwear so unless you want an unrealised script on your hands then you’re better off giving the interesting characteristics to the men. Everyone knows men are more interesting anyway so your script will be instantly more believable.

'Due to the director & producer both being broke & a bunch of tight arses, you won’t be paid.'

Now, some people will probably tell you that you should make sure you’ve got a decent budget before you start hiring. Well those people are fools. One of the greatest myths about the world of acting is that performers need to be paid just like everyone else. Actors live off a heady mix of thin air and other people’s rubbish so you really don’t need to be worrying about offering them any money. 

‘This will be an unpaid & voluntary however there is a place that does beautiful falafels around there.’

If you’re one of those with a conscience and not giving anything truly bothers you then I suggest making a flimsy offer of a DVD copy or some food during the shoot. However, you’re best not to offer these things up straightaway. Recent studies have shown that an actor’s performance is improved by 50% if they’re not sure when they’re next going to eat. Their performance will then be further improved by a limp sandwich (slightly warmed prawn or tuna are best) and a wrinkled satsuma.  

'Sorry I can’t pay but I can pick you up and drop you home.'

If you really can’t cope with the idea of not chucking a few pennies at your actors then it is permissible to offer to pay their expenses. However, it’s advisable that you make this as awkward as possible for the actor and scrutinise each receipt in such depth that they soon choose to suck up the cost themselves. Either that or you set an limit on your expenses,  this is very popular among actors and make you seem like a firm but fair director that they will always respect. When setting a limit on expenses, it’s best to keep them as low as possible. £5 should do the trick. This will make your actors feel truly valued and will undoubtedly produce the best performance from them. 

‘MUST have a keen interest in carrots and a wide knowledge regarding their history, origin and taste.’

Now, let’s get to writing the damn thing. You have two choices when creating a casting call. Firstly, you can tell the reader everything. Put in huge chunks of the script, tell them what the character’s favourite colour is, give them a detailed history of everything you’ve ever read. Actors love this, especially if it makes little to no sense. Remember, a casting call may be the only thing they read all day so give them something interesting. They’re not just there to find some work; they’re there to be entertained. Actors have so much time on their hands that they love nothing more than sitting down and spending twenty minutes reading your words.


 But don’t worry if you’re adjectives ain’t your bag. You can also go for the minimalist approach where you give the most scant details possible. Doing this shows the actor that you’re so busy and so committed to your project that you simply don’t have time to waste on some poxy casting call. Also, the true tragedy of the actor is that they are all highly-skilled mind readers but they rarely get the chance to put their skills to their full use. However, by including as little detail as possible in your casting call, you allow actors to show off this rarely used talent. 


So, now you’ve written your casting call… hang on, what the heck are you doing? Step away from the spellchecker. That rubbish is for people who don’t have faith in their project, it’s for people who have time to burn. If you want people to realise just what a big shot you are then you leave any spelling mistakes you might have made. Looking like you don’t really care about your project makes you look dangerous and interesting, a combination that’s absolutely irresistible to actors.

'Please note that the frog does not need contemporary dance skills.'

And what of those little extras to make your casting call just that bit extra special? Well, an insider tip is to include the type of camera you’ll be using. If you don’t mention this, actors will presume that you’re recording the whole thing on a bit of slate and they’ll probably end up blacklisting you. Another great tip is to creep actors out. A shiver up the spine and a crawl of the skin is what makes an actor feel alive so do your worst and watch those applications come flooding in. The notorious Creepy McCreeperson used this line, ‘I’m seeking an impersonator who can perform as my mum when me & my mum cannot meet up’ which I’m sure you’ll all agree is guaranteed to get actors interested. 

So there you have it. How to write the perfect casting. Next time: How To Feed Your Actors In The Most Disappointing Way Possible…

Saturday, 2 March 2013

The Hand Biting Princess

After seeing this casting call: I want an actress who doesn't need paying,   Miss L responds...

Dear Director/Filmmaker/Bloody Chancer

I was incredibly excited to read about your upcoming film and just had to contact you to offer my services because I believe I am the hand biting princess you're looking for. You sound like such an understanding and generous director that I’d never forgive myself for missing the possibility to work with you.

Let me introduce myself; my name is Miss L and I’m the actress you need for this thrilling project. I LOVE a film with a dream sequence, I'm well good at pretending to talk in slow motion and I've heard of emotions before. I also studied drama at school and I'm a Sagittarius so archers are totally my thing.

You say that virtually everything has been sourced without cost well it's time to add ‘actress’ to that list because I cost nothing. I travel everywhere by the power of flight and I live off thin-air so have next to no expenses. I live in an imaginary house that’s heated by kind-spirited fairies and I wash in petals provided by voluntary pixies. I wear clothes that have been made by sparrows and I drink rain water straight from the sky.

I notice you said that there may be some money from your Kickstarter project but please don’t waste your parent’s money on me. You’ve said you only want to pay those who deserve it and there’s no way that I would deserve it. The time I’d be taking out to be in your film, the hours I’d spend working on your script, the other jobs I might turn down just to work with you, none of these would allow me to qualify for your hard-earned cash. The years I’ve spent working on my craft and the fact that this is my career really mean that I’m the least deserving actress you could possibly meet. It would make me much happier knowing that the money went straight to you, the most truly deserving of us all.

You’re right to seek actresses with the qualification of wanting to work on something whether they get paid or not. I spent three years at drama school and I was so pleased when I got a first in being able to work for free. I wish I could describe to you the pride my parents felt when I graduated with the possibility to just live off the passion of wanting to act. And that’s why I was also so pleased to see that you’re holding auditions so therefore don’t need someone with any experience. Thank god I’ve forgotten everything I’ve learnt from the past 7 years of working as an actress! You have no idea how much it pleases me to realise that all those lessons I learnt are utterly useless. 

I see you’ve yet to provide a schedule apart from 23 March and are very keen to not bother with timewasters. So that I can match your precious criteria, I have cancelled everything that I had planned for the next three months. You also say that you won’t consider anyone who can't make the casting so, as you haven’t provided an audition date, I will organise nothing until I hear from you. I trust this is acceptable and means that I’m the ‘right girl’ for you.

I’m so glad you said that your film will be like Game of Thrones but in Devon without the budget. For me, these are the things that ruin Game of Thrones. The fact that a production company has actually put some money into something, paid all the actors fairly and produced a high quality programme really ruins it for me. Knowing all those actors are being paid for their job and having to watch a series that has had time and money put into it makes me physically sick. And there’s not an episode of Game of Thrones that I watch where I don’t wish they’d feature Plymouth National Marine Aquarium or Crealy Great Adventure Park. Clearly you are a man of taste.
Now, I must admit that I am unable to ride a horse but the fact you can teach me is all I need to know. 

Of course, it’s 2nd March today and you’re hoping to start shooting on 23rd March. I imagine once you’ve got me in for a casting and given me the role, that should give us 2 weeks for you to teach me to ride a horse. I imagine that with all this time plus the fact I watched some of the dressage events during the Olympics last year mean that I’ll pick it up in no time. Not only will I be able to ride a horse but I’ll be able to ride a horse to such a level that I can also act while doing it and not injure either myself or anyone else.

I was going to tell you a bit more about myself but, quite frankly, as a great person once said, I literally can’t sell this enough so I’m not even going to try. Opportunities like this DO NOT come along often. If you’re not biting my hand off for the chance, you really shouldn’t be trying to make a film.

Oh, and I’m so pleased to hear about all the awards this film is already set to win despite the fact it hasn’t even been made yet. Due to your superior psychic abilities, I probably don't need to tell you this but I too have already won a string of BAFTAs and Oscars for films I’ve yet to appear in so I think we’ll work extremely well together. 

I realise that you don’t currently have much time, so much so that you felt the need to mention it in your casting call which must mean you’re extremely busy indeed. I therefore hope that this application of mine hasn’t taken up what precious little free time you have. 

Oh, and you also mentioned in your casting call that you're talking horses. THAT IS AMAZING.

Yours bitingly,

Miss L

Friday, 1 March 2013

Miss L: Nailing The Audition

There will be people out there who will tell you that it’s hard to land an audition. With so many actors out there and so few jobs, ‘nailing the audition’ has become a phrase that’s bandied about more than acting advice from those who aren’t actors. So how do you land that all important audition? Miss L tells you how…

1. The most important lesson in how to snatch that role from actors who may be more suited to the part than you are is to prepare. But don’t read the script for what you’re actually applying for because that’s what they want you to do. They want you to waste days reading their flimsy bit of writing in the hope that you’ll become a fan and then buy tickets for the show when they don’t cast you. Don’t give in to their scandalous ways. Instead, read anything other than their script. Read Shakespare. Read Hare. Heck, read the local newspaper if you must. Just make sure you don’t read whatever waste of stage or screen time that you’re auditioning for. This then means that you can talk at ear-ripping volumes in the waiting room about what you’ve just read and terrify your fellow actors into thinking they’ve been studying the wrong text. This will worry them so much that they’ll fluff their audition and the role will be yours. 

2. It’s also exceedingly important to make a good impression. As we know, good impressions are as important as free bars and they don’t matter more than in the audition room. If you can, fall over as you walk through the door. This instantly brings the panel down to your level and this feeling of pitiful empathy should then ensure that they give you the part. If they’re not the type to be swayed by such clumsy antics then don’t worry, you’ve still put yourself way ahead of the competition. The feeling of superiority your idiotic stumbling has given them will make them feel so wonderful that there’s no way they’ll deny you the role. 

3. The quote that ‘practice makes perfect’ may make you want to rip your own nails off but it certainly applies to the life of an actor. I can’t stress how important it is for actors to have a Shakespeare and a modern speech that they practice regularly. If you don’t practice your pieces loudly at least once a week then there’s no possible way your neighbours will know what you do for a living. You may think that wandering around the garden in your pyjamas is a huge giveaway but until they’ve heard you barking your best Lady M through the living room wall, they’ll probably just think you’re a student. If your neighbours don’t realise you’re an actor then who will? Once they’ve got the hint, you can then move on to muttering your way through your speech on the tube. It’s only a matter of time before you find yourself wedged under Trevor Nunn’s armpit on the Jubilee Line… 

4. If you find you’re not actually that good at acting but still fancy trying to make a career out of it then the only thing for it is to make friends with those who think they’re in power. Find out where they live and hang out in their local every night in the hope that you can buy them the cheapest drink on the menu. Too shy to approach them? Don’t worry, just be the mysterious loner choking on pork scratchings in the corner. Whatever your approach, you can guarantee you’ll be firm friends soon enough and it won’t be long before they’re casting you in everything. If it worked for Tim Burton and Johnny Depp then it can work for you. And don’t worry if you’re too lazy for such endeavours.  Instead, why not try stalking the director on Facebook instead? Learn the names of their friends, find out where they went to school and work out from their photos whether they’re a dog or cat person. Armed with this information, you have two options: you can either try to convince the director that you already know each other or you can terrify them with your superior knowledge of their life. Either way, that role is yours. 

5. And finally, if you’re tired of others deciding you’re not good enough to hire, why not put on your own show instead? If your parents are rich enough then you can just hire out the National Theatre for a few months. Not only will it allow people to come and see you perform, it will also show the world how much money you have. This makes you an excellent casting prospect for the future as although you might not be very good at the whole acting thing, you can fund the damn thing and you definitely won’t want paying.