Saturday, 25 May 2013

A Nude Sensation

Ladies who dont mind doing nude scenes, not a requirement for all but it does pay more.

Something excellent happened this week. After a lot of hard work from lots of people, including the brilliant Karina Cornell, Equity have now decided to investigate the worrying trend that is seeing an increase in acting jobs requiring nudity.

To avoid time-wasting, the director’s requested full frontal nudity in the audition.

Those that follow me on Twitter and see the casting calls I post on my Tumblr, Casting Call Woe, will know that the constant calls for actors to get their kit off is something of a scantily-clad bugbear of mine. There is not a day that goes by when I don't see at least one casting call that requires actors to get naked to play the roles of strippers, escorts, prostitutes or 'the love interest.' And yes, while it's mainly the women that are asked to get naked so they can keep their CV up to date, I'm seeing an increase in calls for male nudity too.

Nudity isn’t essential to get the part but it is encouraged.

So why is it happening? It's easy to say that the problem is mainly in the short film and student film sector where you tend to get a lot of inexperienced filmmakers just having a go at putting something on camera. Maybe they want to make their work to be more edgy and seem like they're doing something different and they decide that the way to do that is to get all the cast to go through excruciating simulated sex scenes in a bedroom donated by the director's best mate's cousin (who just so happens to be there to 'keep an eye on what's happening.') And these jobs often don't pay. All you're offered is your return train fare, a slice of Asda Value quiche and a constant reminder on DVD of that day you found yourself getting naked in front of a crew you'd only met for the first time 5 minutes ago.

It would be ideal if actresses are willing to go topless.

But I think the problem is coming from higher up. As bloody brilliant as shows such as Game of Thrones are, it's almost impossible to watch an episode where the Boob Count hasn't reached double figures by the closing credits. And while shows such as these set a precedent for well made, intelligent programming, they also suggest that all actors are totally fine with getting what their mother gave them out for all the world to see.

Must be willing to show/flash your breasts. 

And what if you're not happy about getting naked? Just because you're an actor then that shouldn't mean that you're willing to do anything for your art. When I first started out the temptation is there to show those dishing out roles that you're happy to do whatever they tell you so that you look employable. Showing willing is what you think will keep the roles coming in. Now, thankfully, I was never put in that situation but I can't say for definite that I wouldn't have if I was asked. There will be actors out there who think that this is acceptable (and I'm sure there are plenty of actors out there who are absolutely fine with it and good luck to them, there's certainly plenty of work out there for them at the moment) and that is a worry. No one should ever feel pressured into getting undressed just because they're worried their showreel hasn't been updated for a year now.

Girl wanted for naked role.

I was recently sent a script by a student filmmaker asking if I would be interested in being in a film he was making. The script contained excruciating lines such as 'he buries his face deep between her thighs' and 'he digs his face into her bosom' and that's when I knew I was definitely out. Now my CV is in seriously desperate need of new work on it but there is a line and this job was nowhere near it. The thought of desperately clawing through a sex scene with a group of 2nd year film students fills me with a dread normally reserved for sitting down and doing my tax return. Yes, maybe they're a wonderfully talented bunch and one of them might go on to win an Oscar but that's not a risk I'm willing to take.

Lying on bed naked and she is thrown across the room.

I know the point has also been raised that this investigation by Equity could lead to censorship and the loss of artistic freedom for writers and filmmakers. I don't think anyone wants that to happen and I don't think anyone in the industry is saying that there needs to be a ban on nudity entirely. However, I do hope that if nothing else, it encourages writers and filmmakers, when sitting down and coming up with their next idea, they spare a thought for the actor approaching their new creation and consider what it requires of them too.  

(For anyone wondering, the lines between each paragraph are genuine sentences taken from genuine casting calls. I wish I'd made them up just for this blog but they are sadly very real and what actors face every day when looking for work.)

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Women: Hardly Seen & Rarely Heard

Some worrying news emerged for actresses this week. No, it's not that the casting 'She's kind and hot. She's thin but she has big boobs' exists but it's news that female speaking roles in films are the lowest they've been in five years. A study of the top 100 grossing films in the US in 2012 showed that of the 4475 speaking roles, just 28.4% of those roles were female. If you're wondering what that looks like in graph form, wonder no more...

Pretty upsetting, right? But all joking aside (please, take time to appreciate it, it took far longer to make than you'd think...) it's a pretty serious statistic. If just over a quarter of speaking roles in films are being played by women then something has gone seriously wrong. And what's even more disturbing is that a third of those women lucky enough to be allowed to speak on screen were then put in clothes deemed sexually revealing. Those who read my website Casting Call Woe won't be surprised that this figure is so high, but still, it makes for pretty depressing reading. And it gets worse when you look at female teenage roles where just over half were considered to be dressed provocatively. That's bloody horrible and what's worse is that these figures are improving, they've been very steadily getting worse.

And it's not just actresses that are getting a rough deal, it's happening for all women in the industry. If you look again at the top 100 grossing films in the US last year (don't look too hard, Prometheus is in there...) then the lack of female writers, producers and directors is even worse. In that list there are just 9 female writers, 35 female directors and 164 female producers. Compare these to the 103 male directors, 223 male writers and 693 male producers and it all starts to get very disconcerting indeed.

So what's being done to redress the balance? Sadly 2013 doesn't look like it's going to help balance the scantily-clad figures. First up we have The World's End which I know a lot of us are excited about. But take a look at their trailer and it's a minute before a woman utters a line, and that's the only line said by a woman amidst shots of women dressed in school uniforms. And it's hardly surprising as when you look at the film's IMDb page there are just 2 women listed on the first page among 13 men. But that's just one film that focuses on male friendship so what about the other films coming up this year? Well there's The Hangover 3, Pacific Rim, the next in the tedious The Hobbit trilogy, the next Anchorman, This Is The End and The Wolverine. Yes, these films have women in but it's safe to say that men feature pretty damn heavily. Most of them are written by men, directed by men and feature a lot of men. "Where are the women?" I hear you cry. I honestly have no idea. There's a few in the new Hunger Games film and I think The Great Gatsby got a couple but, on the whole, there few and far between, much like their costumes.

The problem isn't the lack of women within the industry. There are women out there. Lots of them, all doing brilliant and wonderful things. The problem is that the industry seems to want to target a male audience and that seems to mean that men are top of the menu while the ladies are at the back in the 'sides' section that no one can seem to find.

Oh, and if anyone dares use Bridesmaids as an argument, that came out two years ago. It won't work any more.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Acting Chops

Casting: 'Must have acting chops.'

Times have been hard lately. The cost of living has gone up dramatically to the point where people can barely afford to eat. Consumers have little money but they have even less trust when it comes to what they eat. The horse meat scandal has left buyers wary about the meat they buy and the industry has had to come up with a cheap alternative to ensure shoppers don't ditch meat entirely and all become reluctant vegetarians.

The meat producers of the UK sat around a table and wondered what to do. Where could they find a cheap source of meat that wouldn't cause a scandal? The world had already shown that there were only so many animals they'd put up with on their menus so what could the possibly do? Suggestions flew around the table but they knew the public wouldn't put up with eating cushions, reformed sand or reconstituted feathers. Running short of ideas, they take a break and put on the TV. And that's when they realised there was a resource they'd completely forgotten about: actors.

They hurried back into the meeting room, revealed a crisp new piece of paper on the flip chart and after only a couple of minutes they realised this idea could work. They firstly looked at the population of actors and soon saw that if they marketed this as a humane cull then the government would have to go with it. The country was awash with actors, most of them hadn't even been nominated for a Soap Award so surely they wouldn't be missed.  One of the representatives had a quick flick through a TV guide and saw that actors were barely being used anymore. Most of the channels were full of reality shows and adverts only want 'real' people now so what use were actors anyway?

They then looked at the best way to farm actors. It's well known that actors are able to live off very little, often not needing much more than a suspiciously wet egg sandwich and the promise of a Viscount biscuit later. This would keep their costs low and also ensure their meat was lean and healthy, just want consumers want. And, thanks to drama schools, there would be an endless supply of new meat entering the food chain.

But would buyers go for it? Although the general public aren't that fond of actors, even they would realise that this is cannibalism? That's when the marketing team got involved. They could put on the packs what the actor had starred in. A bit strapped for cash this week? Why not try the budget range where you can eat minced Johnny who appeared in a schools' tour of Little Red Riding Hood for 8 miserable months or maybe some diced Matilda who once worked on a short film where they forgot to take the cap off the lens. Had a pay rise? Then you'll be wanting the Premiere range where you feast on the finest cuts of Stella who starred in Doctors...twice!

The plan was put in motion and within weeks the world was feasting on the choicest cuts of prime actor. But of course, they soon ran into problems. As they dined on the best resters in the land, they noticed they couldn't go on holiday any more because there were no temps to cover them. Charities started making less money as there was no one making calls and harassing people in the streets. The perfume industry completely collapsed. But who cared? The tubes were quieter, the streets of Soho were empty and they no longer had to make polite conversation with out of work actors. They had entered a golden age that had the hue of roast thesp and it was glorious...

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

The Resters' Awards 2013

I'm sure we all watched the Oliviers on Sunday. We peered through the window and watched a world that we're supposedly part of but, if truth be told, we didn't entirely recognise it. Maybe we felt a little embarrassed by it or there was a small part of us that even wishes we were there too. However, it's likely that despite the constant calls for people to support the arts, it made us feel more kinship towards ET than it did the theatre. So, please welcome the Resters' Awards. An awards ceremony that's for The Great 98%...

The Resters' Awards, sponsored by Asda SmartPrice Range, celebrates the tenacity and the downright wonderfulness of the out of work actor. We want to recognise the hard work that actors put into a career that often gives very little in return and we can to reward an actors' unwavering loyalty to its often cruel master. So, before we begin, please make yourselves a cup of tea (1 teabag per row) and settle down for an evening of disappointment, fixed smiles and frequent napping.

Before the awards begin, the audience are upstanding for the Resters' National Anthem, a medley of daytime TV hits including such themes as This Morning, Cash In The Attic, Countdown and even BBC News 24. The audience hum along and high fives are exchanged when people guess each tune correctly.

The first award of the night is Best Alternative Career to Pay Your Bills. Do you regularly find yourself with a headache induced by an ill-fitting headset, loud ring tones and flickering strip lighting? Still getting over that illness brought upon by standing in the rain handing out flyers in High Wycombe for 9 hours? Got photocopiers arm or receptionists knee? Then this award is aimed at you, my temping friend. The prize is a year's supply of painkillers (that you'll end up giving to fellow co-workers as they seem incapable of buying their own.)

Next up we have the Worst Audition Award. Found yourself in a church hall in the middle of nowhere pretending to be a moth? Turned up to a casting only to find it's for porn? Or, even worse, have you had to endure a workshop audition? Well, my little survivor, this is the award for you. The prize is a marquee-sized hankie to cry into on the way home.

Our third award is Best Rester, the highlight of the evening. Have you managed to spend all day in your pyjamas? Do you your Cash In The Attic from your Homes Under The Hammer? Have you been able to survive on 1 chewy satsuma and a sheet of lasagne because you couldn't be bothered to go to the shops? If you said yes to just one of these then this is your award. The winner of this prize will receive a pair of vintage C&A slippers.

Unfortunately. it's at this point that we all realise that you're all eligible for these awards. How can we possibly pick out one winner when you've all done these things? There's no way we could possibly call anyone a loser when you're clearly all winners. For every dodgy casting call and soul-destroying job you've ever taken on, you've made yourself into a champion. For each question about your career that you've dodged and for every excuse you've given for it being quiet at the moment, you've proved you deserve to call yourself an actor. So please, raise a glass of tap water, and join me in a toast to the glorious resters...