Friday, 19 April 2013

Spare Any Change, Mate?

Today, a casting call arrived on my laptop screen offering the actress it was looking for the princely sum of £3 an hour. Yep. £3 an hour. Sometimes there are jobs where I think I'd prefer they just paid nothing rather than price-matching the first job I had at the age of 14 where I found myself holding the head of a dead pig while an autopsy was carried out. In 1997, that's what £3 an hour bought you. A teenager holding a dead pig's head. Now, £3 an hour buys you an actress. Apparently.

It was only when I read through the rest of the casting that I saw the film also required the actress to get naked. Of course. If the world of casting calls are to believe then all films need at least one lady to get her bits out. And fair enough. I mean, that's totally why we got into this job. We like to watch the male actor folk do what they love while we wander around in the background wondering if our nipples are in shot.

The thought of getting £3 an hour for bringing your boobs to the yard is pretty grim. Unless the filmmaker is paying by BACS then there are very few positive outcomes:

1 hour of filming: the filmmaker sheepishly drops three pound coins into your hand and you slope off into the night without even having your bus fare covered. You later find that no machines will accept one of the pound coins.

2 hours of filming: you get a grubby pound coin wrapped in a tattered £5 note. You use the money to buy a KFC Hot Wings Box to cry in on the way home.

3 hours of filming: the filmmaker asks if you have change for a £10 note. You've now become the shopkeeper of your nudity.

4 hours of filming: you get a £10 note, one £1 coin and two 50p coins. While you depressingly funnel the change into your purse, you wonder whether this was really worth it.

5 hours of filming: this doesn't include change! You rejoice...until you're left waiting in the filmmakers living room while he spends 15 minutes searching his flat trying to find a £5 note.

6 hours of filming: you're cold now. The crew bought two pizzas an hour ago but ate them all while you were crying in the bathroom. You're given a £10 note and a load of change gathered up from the rest of the crew. You can't even be bothered to count it to check.

7 hours of filming: you've forgotten that you're even naked now. You get given a £20 note and somehow you're made the feel the awkward one when receiving the additional pound coin.

8 hours of filming: the filmmaker asks if you have a pound. You don't. You spent it on crisps. Although he could just give you £25, he instead spends the next 10 minutes nervously asking the rest of the crew if they have £4 in change to give you.

9 hours of filming: you don't really care what happens any more. You just want to go home. You're given an envelope with your £27 in as a lot of it is made up of coppers and 5p coins.

10 hours of filming: £30! YES! You skip home with the newly acclaimed knowledge that pride is apparently worth 10 hours of sitting around nervously with your boobs out.

So, when you think it can't get any worse, just imagine receiving change for getting naked.

Monday, 15 April 2013

The Not-So-Secret Actor

The Guardian has started a new blog called The Secret Actor. You can read it here: As an anonymous actor blogger myself, it made me bloody angry. In fact, I've barely stopped thinking about it all day. The thought that people might even consider that this accurately represents all actors has stuck with me for hours. So here is my response, the result of nearly 8 hours of festering musings. Enjoy (I hope)...

I'm not a well known actor. In fact, you'll never have heard of me. Yes, I'm anonymous but that's because I'm one of thousands. Even if I told you my name it would mean very little because there are so many others like me. Y'see, I'm part of The Great 98%. I'm in an exclusive club made up of a collective of actors who are lucky if they earn 35p a year and a lifetime's supply of sweaty sandwiches. Yes. I'm one of those 'unsuccessful' actors.

The Lucky 2% may have had some depressing, hilarious and outrageous encounters along the way. They've had tortuous auditions where they've had to hold up a bit of paper where their name has been misspelt. I know, makes your heart bleed doesn't it? But don't worry, that's in their past now. It's an amusing little anecdote they can tell while they remain safe in the knowledge that they can pay their rent without having to sign half their life away to a soulless call centre. The Lucky 2% may have some funny tales to tell but it's The Great 98% who are living it. Our lives are one long depressing, hilarious and outrageous encounter.

Oh to be humiliated by a piece of paper. Those of us in The Great 98% can only dream of auditions where the worst that can possibly happen is someone spelling our name wrong. If we're lucky enough to even get an audition we face far more degrading ordeals than the 'mugshot experience.' I've crawled around on the floor for three hours pretending to be a neanderthal while a production company threw chunks of stale bread at us to fight over. I've had to nervously hum 'Happy Birthday' in a dingy cellar, lit only by an angle-poise lamp and my own shame. I've had to pretend that I'm reading the news while aliens try to contact Earth via my teeth. I've run up and down a church hall for a solid 10 minutes in a swimming costume. I've been told that I should be ashamed of a reasonable character choice that I made. I've wandered around a building site for nearly 2 hours because the director didn't show up. I've fallen over more times than I dare to remember and I've fluffed my lines in front of some of the biggest casting directors in the world. I've misunderstood directions to the point where I've essentially made a fort out of every object in the room and I've worn the tightest jeans in the world to a movement audition. So, when all someone asks me to do is hold a piece of paper with my name spelt a bit wrong, you can see why it takes all my willpower to not hug them forever.

Yeah, being an actor is tough but a lot of people are struggling right now. I know actors can sometimes come across as selfish and self-obsessed but those traits aren't exclusive to actors. We chose this job and yes, we may complain about it but no one's making us do it. The 'poor me' routine won't work while there are around 2.5 million people unemployed in the UK at the moment and the majority of people are having a far worse time than we are. The nature of our work means we have to keep a close eye on ourselves most of the time but many of us are pretty good at keeping that other eye trained on the rest of the world. It makes us better actors and better people.

People think the acting industry is hugely sociable but I'm sure I speak for many actors when I say that it's very easy to feel rather lonely in this career. The reason I started writing this blog is because I wanted others to realise that it wasn't just them. We all, whatever job you may do, have those moments where we wonder what the heck we're doing and can't imagine anyone else is going through the same thing. So thank you, Secret Actor. Thank you for bringing solidarity to The Great 98%.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Inside The Mind Of A Student Filmmaker

He's excited. He's been given a new brief. He's mid-way through his degree course at a university that he often has to convince people actually exists. He sits at his computer and starts to write. Ideas come flooding out of him like a leaky tap in the middle of the night. This has never happened before. He's suddenly got ideas for characters that he's never thought of before. He types long into the night, eager to make sure that this incredible idea isn't lost.

He wakes the next morning, his head squished into the keys of his laptop. He looks at what's on the screen and finds a script he's fairly sure he hasn't written. It's crafted beautifully, it has interesting characters and a story arc that he can't quite believe he has created. As he scrolls through thrilling action and delicate conversation, he begins to get worried. He must've stolen this. This gorgeous creation can't possibly be his. As the script comes to the most stunning end, a mash of words start to appear on the screen. It's what his sleepy forehead has brought into the world as it crashed down in exhausted slumber. He starts to breath a sigh of relief as his work becomes familiar again. The characters wave at him like he's a lifelong friend. The gangster and the woman that's naked throughout both smile at him knowingly. The female character has her knickers round her ankles and an awkward sex scene plays out. This is the work he recognises. This is the film he has written.

He hastily deletes the mystery script, hoping no one ever discovers his act of accidental plagiary. Now it's time to get this film made. As he's student, he doesn't have to worry about budgets or paying actors so he sets about finding himself a cast. He's described the actress as being in her 40s so he needs to find an actress, preferably in her 20s, that he can insult as much as possible by offering her the role. And that's when he finds her: Miss L. There's her face, all happy while she desperately clings on to the final dying months of being 29. He scowls at her as she endlessly smiles at him through the screen. She knows nothing of what is coming her way and is blissfully unaware of the 20 years that are currently being added to her. While she sits there in her all her comfortable clothes like a normal human being, he's planning to humiliate her as possible with unnecessary sex scenes and gratuitous nudity.

He looks back over the dialogue between the two characters to check that it's as unrealistic as possible. "They'll struggle with this," he thinks to himself, barely able to contain his utter glee. He giggles as he imagines how much they'll agonise over his poorly written lines, misspelt words and baffling construction. He pictures their constant awkwardness on set while they trip up over the clunkiness of it all and he wishes he could high-five himself. He realises that high-fiving himself is the same as a clap and he applauds his masterfulness for the next hour.

Once his hands have cooled down from 60 minutes of self-congratulation, he emails her, adopting a friendly tone in hope of fooling her. If he's polite in his cover letter then she might just fall for it. In just a couple of months she could have nearly 30 minutes of material that makes her cringe so hard that she has to work in a call centre for the next 6 months to afford enough Botox to correct it. He'll become a legend for creating the first film that's so excruciating that she can't even bring herself to put it on her showreel. Her experience on set will be so horrific that she talks about him for years. People will think she's lying but she'll know. Her nightmares will remind her.

He fires off the email, sits back and waits. Waits for her cries to echo across the internet.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

A Real Actor's Tax Return


Sandwiches: all unidentifiable except 1 tuna sandwich that had been left out in the sun for 3 hours. Food poisoning. 

DVD copies: 1 that doesn't play, 1 that's supposedly been in the post for the past 4 months, 1 so awful that even my mum can't sit through it.

IMDb credits: spelt incorrectly.

Experience: therapy still being received for resulting rage, nightmares and irreparable damage done to my CV.

Money: huh?


Travel: most costs are for my desperate attempts to build a time machine so I can go back to the moment that I decided to become an actor.

Clothes: none. As all female roles require full nudity, clothes are no longer needed.

Casting website fees: see a penny, pick it up, spend all day getting angry over it hasn't come anywhere close to covering the amount of money you've chucked at casting websites.

Headshots: if photos of you gurning with your eyes closed paid the bills then you'd be a bloody millionaire.

Showreel: because spending money on an eternal reminder of all the terrible student films you appeared in is the key to happiness.

Voicereel: ah yes, that was a great day. Spending a week's earnings on a new voicereel only for people to constantly remind you that "getting into voiceovers is the hardest thing in the world." They weren't wrong.

Tickets: stupid non-comp giving 'friends.'

Entertaining: yes, Mr Accountant, all those drinks I bought were while I was out networking. I sat in the corner with my large glass of red and complained on Twitter about actors. 

Compensation: for all the people I've injured after they've asked me when I'm going to be in EastEnders, why I don't just do acting as a hobby and whether I've been in something they might have seen.