Friday, 28 June 2013

Moral Dilemma

It's been a long time since I got an audition. In fact, it's been so long that when I was offered one this week, I instantly presumed it was a trick. Some poor filmmaker who I'd mocked on Twitter had found out who I was and was now seeking revenge. I'd be lured to a church hall and would be slowly diced up with copies of The Stage. But finally, reminding myself that going to auditions is supposed to be a massive part of my job, I reluctantly convinced myself that it was genuine.

I got there this morning, so embarrassingly early that if I'd turned up in a pony and trap while wearing a ruff and tossing tuppence to a street urchin, I wouldn't have looked at all out of place. I got to the venue and, as usual, the instructions were ridiculous. Getting into an audition venue has always been a problem of mine. Maybe it's the universe trying to save me from the inevitable humiliation that's about to take place but doors are not my strong point. If it says 'push' then I 'pull' and if it says 'no entry' then I walk in anyway. And, to top it off, when people organise auditions, they put the most confusing instructions possible to get actors to the right place. I've seen ones with hastily scrawled maps, ones written in the faintest pencil possible and I've even had one tell me that the venue is no longer in use to actors should make their way to the local McDonalds round the corner where they'll be auditioning instead.

Today's instructions decided to go for the written explanation. About five different directions were written on a piece of paper that Commander Hadfield could've photographed from space. After first attempting to get into a shed, I finally realised I was surrounded by younger, prettier versions of myself and knew I was in the right place. My name was ticked off the list and I was handed a script to look over.

Now, I only vaguely knew what I was going up for. I hadn't actually applied for this job so when they invited me, they told me a little bit about what it was for without any real specifics. So, I started to read the script and I soon realised that this was promoting something that I really don't agree with. You don't need to know what it is but I suppose it's similar to a vegan finding themselves auditioning bacon grease slicked roast chickens. And, to top it all off, the script was horrible. There was spelling mistakes, unnecessary abbreviations and instead of stage directions, they'd used emoticons. It was horrible. And then an actress walked in demanding to be seen next. And then more actors came in, all through the wrong door despite the biggest sign the world has ever seen and I started to wonder whether I need anger management assistance.

Pushy actress was seen next and after the entire world's schedule was turned upside down just because she can't organise her diary properly, I was finally seen. I was greeted by a panel including a man who I'm sure isn't a stranger to wicker pants and stirring his dandelion tea with incense sticks. After a little chat, we went over the script a couple of times and that was great. I was then asked to try out some accents and I'm sure I managed to offend maybe half the world's population in record-breaking time. I was then filmed on their phones and probably put up on Instagram and it was all over. I was thrown back out into the world knowing I'd done a decent audition and having to battle the odd sensation of not wanting to get the job.

It's typical. I've waited months for an audition and now, after finally bloody getting one, it's for something that I don't agree with. Of course, they might've thought I was awful and my fretting is all for nothing. The phrase "I'll cross that bridge when I come to it" has been used a lot today. But still, however :-( it made me, I should be :-) to have been seen at all.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

A Plea For Actors

Something is happening. Something you might not be aware of. Something you might even support without even knowing. Every year, hundreds of unsuspecting actors are fooled. They are tricked by devious directors and deceived by festival organisers. Every year, during our so-called summer, actors, somehow, find themselves involved in outdoor theatre.

These poor actors think that this year will be the year. This will be the record breaking year where it's warm and it doesn't rain. These misguided thespians believe they'll be the lucky ones but every year they get it wrong. And did you realise, that by attending Shakespeare plays in the park or musicals in fancy gardens, you're supporting this pitiful practice? Well-meaning actors are constantly being let down by unforgiving weather, finding themselves performing prose in thunderstorms and torrential rain. And British audiences, being the hardy twits that they are, put up with it, preferring to whip on a kagoul and huddle under a golf umbrella (so huge they can barely see anything outside it) rather than put these actors out of their misery.

So, what can we do to help? What can you do to ensure that hundreds of actors every year spend their summer wondering what on earth they're doing with their lives?

If you donate just £2 a month, we can afford to send fresh towels to all the actors who find themselves in a desperate endless cycle of washing. These actors are living in conditions where there may be up to twenty of them sharing one washing machine, meaning they can't keep up and find themselves drying their poor sodden feet with drenched towels, full of an entire summer of rain. Just one extra towel could mean the difference between crying into a wet rag and the joy of having dry feet for once.

Or maybe you could spare £5 a month. This would allow us to send a weekly bottle of cheap brandy to our actors to help them forget the season of woe they've signed up to. While we don't support the misuse of alcohol, our actors are professionals who know what they're doing and are dealing with the realisation that they haven't felt warm or dry for over two months. A weekly drunken stupor is just what they need to get them to the other side.

If we're really lucky, you might donate £10 a month. This would allow us to purchase new costumes for our actors who currently find themselves in old outfits filled with the sweat of ten other actors. Ill-fitting, rain drenched garments are one of the top causes of loss of morale in actors and considering they not only have to perform in them but also flyer in them every bloody day, some new clothes could make all the difference.

So please, give what you can to this worthy cause. No amount too small due to our actors being constantly underpaid so even 50p a month is more than they're currently earning. Your help could literally change an actor's literal interpretation of literature. The smallest donation could help shake up Shakespeare and make our actors feel some self-respect again.

Thank you.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Butter Freckles

This is a real casting call. I repeat, this is a real casting call.

Dear Man/Woman/Stranger,

Sorry I can't call you by your real name but you've unfortunately left it out of your masterful casting call. However, as you've called your character 'Girl' I'm going to presume that you don't mind being known by a similar name. Also, I'm going BUTTER to presume you're a man. I don't know what it is but I can already picture you despite having no idea who you are. You have blond streaks in your side-parted hair, you wear leather sandals, spectacles and I bet you're kind, courteous and dependable. Am I right? I bet I am.

Anyway, oh, hang on, let me just get out of this oversized gingham fisherman's jumper. I do love it so but the extra-long sleeves make it FRECKLES incredibly hard to type and the constant smell of fish mean that all the neighbourhood's black cats won't leave me alone. Good job I love black cats, eh? Anyway, where was I? Yes, I'd like to apply for the role of 'Girl.' I really do BUTTER think that I'm the girl for you. And how lucky I was to spot your advert. I'd just got home from my daily walk around the local cemetery, sat down with some pastry with lots of jam (strawberry, of course) and a coffee. I sat down at my computer to have a chat with my friends. None of my friends speak in real life so the only way we can converse is online. I'm not sure why none of us talk. Maybe it's because we're constantly turned on and the continuous biting of our bottom lip makes it difficult to speak. Also, the biting has given us all some quite nasty wounds and the resulting infection means that we can no longer form words properly. It does make our regular sleepovers very quiet but at least my house has got plenty of windows for us to look out of. If you need any non-speaking extras for your film then please do let me know. They're cute, smiley and seem happy just receiving oaty, syrupy squares as payment.

I would FRECKLES love to apply for the job you're advertising for, mainly because I identify with the character so much. I thought it was just me that giggled with just three fingers over my mouth so I was delighted to see you'd created a character who does the same. I find, when I hear a joke, the best way to show my appreciation is to take some time and choose which three fingers to stifle my laughter with (my preferred choice is actually my thumb, middle finger and little finger) rather than just letting rip. BUTTER. And the belt thing! I totally do that! When wearing my dungarees, fisherman's jumper, three quarter length skirt and high-heeled, open-toed sandlas (they're like sandals but the heel is at the front instead - walking across dewy grass is a nightmare) I find my outfit isn't complete without my brown soft leather belt around my waist, the excess looped down.

I'll bring this to a close soon as I need to pop the local cafe. I go there every day. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's just me keeping it in business. But I must say that I've just looked out the window to see a man with blond streaks in his side parted hair, spectacles and leather sandals stroking my Pashley bike. He's put 100 pencils in the basket (handy, as I've just run out) and he's scratched BUTTER FRECKLES on the side of my Fiat 500. It's funny, if I didn't know better than I'd say that's you out there. Just the thought of it being you made me laugh so much that my shoulders hurt now. I do wish they didn't shake so.

I do hope this application finds you well. I've also popped a flapjack in the post for you. If you would like any more then please do let me know but please be aware that I only make one a day.


Zooey Deschanel

PS On a side note, do you think I'd look good with a topknot?

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Wishing & Waiting

Yesterday, the Secret Actor (for those unaware of my relationship with The Guardian's columnist, should read here first) wrote about getting acting roles out of the blue when you haven't even auditioned for them. The SA makes my blood boil at the best of times, but on a morning when I've been planing a blog about my current inability to even get an audition, it erupted in a way that even Eyjafjallajokull would admire.

Y'see, getting auditions lately has been tough. Whether it's a lack of decent work out there or just because I'm not that employable at the moment, for some reason I'm just not getting much acting work right now. I've been well aware that as the months have gone by that, so far, 2013 is not the year I'm going to find myself in a 'Ones To Watch' style article but the realisation really whacked me round the face a couple of weeks ago.

I applied for an acting job that I was PERFECT for. Every single aspect of it described me. It wasn't even a particularly lucrative or exciting job but I matched every single thing they asked for. In fact, I matched maybe three of the eight or so roles on offer. I matched all three perfectly. I fired off my CV almost certain that I was going to get an audition for this. I mean, I had to get one. I WAS PERFECT FOR NEARLY HALF THE ROLES THEY WERE CASTING FOR. I was so perfect for it that I was tempted to just put that in the cover letter and nothing else but, surely, when they saw my application they'd realise that? Of course not.

I'd made a note of when the casting was, already getting excited about what would be my first audition in bloody ages, and waited for the inevitable phone call. Nothing. The casting was on a Monday so I was sure I'd hear from the by Friday but, Friday evening came and still nothing. I convinced myself that they'd be organising castings over the weekend instead but every glance at my phone and inbox refresh was met with my increasingly disappointed face. Monday then arrived and, sadly, no last minute booking arrived. I'll admit, I was sad but I consoled myself with the fact that they'd, somehow, had plenty of other applicants who were equally suited to the role.

So, cradling my slightly dented ego, I tried to forget about it. And I was doing alright until I saw another advert from them still trying to get enough actors to audition for some of the roles. THE ROLES THAT I WAS PERFECT FOR. I watched my pride jump out on the floor and have a full-on tantrum. I could, if I hated my pride, re-apply. I'd done it before and that's why I couldn't do it again. The feeling of submitting yourself for a second round of rejection is too much. This job is exceptionally good at chipping away at your ego without additional help from me and a grovelling cover letter. So I've left it, my pride scowling and muttering in the corner while I desperately wait for a happy ending to this story.

I'm still waiting. But still, at least the precious 2% are getting work.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Doctor Who?

They wait. Statham, Cowell and Terry. Three men, both alike in dignity and the fact that it's often questioned. They wait, as they've been told to, in the waiting room. Statham's brought a gun, Terry a football and with Cowell are Zig and Zag. Statham has been here before. He's an actor, he knows the score. Cowell has seen more auditions than an actor's seen final demands and Terry, well other people have been to auditions so he's pretty sure that counts for something. They're here because William Hill is in charge of casting now. That's just how the world of casting works these days. If your odds are good, who cares if you've been to drama school or you father grew up with the director?

Time is tight. To satisfy the naysayers on Twitter, they had to audition women and ethnic actors who they had no intention of casting. Still, it was nice for the production company to have something to watch during their lunch break. They're sure Ann Widdicombe and Trevor Nelson didn't mind. So, because they all wanted to get home in time for Pointless, they decided to audition the three together. They're called in. Statham first, Cowell second and Terry, who was still busy writing other people's credits on his casting form, third.

They stand in a line. Statham's gun glints under the artificial lights. He explains that if he's to play The Doctor, his Sonic Screwdriver will be a Beretta M9. He's asked how he'd defeat the Daleks. He growls something and, within seconds, the camera is flying across the room, the casting assistant has been sent flying through a window and the receptionist is getting undressed. They're impressed. They ask to see his hands and he punches the producer.  He explains that if they're going to cast him, the show's title will have to be changed to simply, "WHO." They understand.

By now, Cowell is yawning. "You," he drawls, "Are the worst act I've seen today." The production company all start to boo, a reaction that takes them by surprise, such is the power of Cowell. They ask to see his profile and, quick as a flash, a ghetto blaster is produced and Michelle McManus' voice fills the room. "I think that's all you need to know," he replies, smugly. They like Cowell. Smith had the bow tie, Tennant had the Converse, Cowell has the high trousers. It's the perfect gimmick. They ask him how he'd defeat the Cybermen. Like lightning, the track is changed on the ghetto blaster and the stomach-twisting tones of Mr Blobby bounce off the walls. No words are needed and Emeli Sande is bumped off the shortlist.

Now, to Terry. He cuts quite the figure in his old Chelsea kit. The 'E' and an 'R' had recently come off in the wash so it now simply said, 'TRY.' Patronising smiles are sent his way and they have a look over his CV. Being one of the greatest defenders out there, there's no doubting that he's qualified to protect the universe but what of all the criminal allegations made against him? He reminds them that Daddies Sauce named him Dad Of The Year in 2009 and, after performing keep-uppy for nearly 10 minutes (during which Statham found a bear to punch and Cowell signed up three boy bands) the production team were convinced.

Hartnell. Troughton. Pertwee. Baker. Davison. Baker. McCoy. McGann. Eccleston. Tennant. Smith. But who's the next Who?

Sunday, 2 June 2013

National Minimum Rage

As sure as night follows day, unpaid work will always hang around actors. It's part of the job. At drama school you're always taught to have a monologue ready and have a headshot that supposedly resembles you at any given moment despite the fact that you spent 3 weeks barely eating and 8 hours on hair and make up. However, what they don't teach you is how to not tear your soul on the walls after seeing yet another casting call that offers sandwiches, tea but no money.

So, seeing the news this week that five actors had won an employment tribunal to be paid national minimum wage should've had me dancing around in my practice skirt. But it didn't. I mean, for maybe one minute, I cheered quietly. Hearing that actors are being paid is always good news. The world likes to think that we live off thin air and slices of pizza so cheap and doughy, you could use them to plug the gaping holes in your tragic CV but we need money too. It may seem a tad unfair but the world works the same for actors as it does for everyone else and we have bills to pay and food to eat.

I want actors to be paid properly. I want to think that I can do a job I can actually make a living from rather than feeling that I'm trying to make a career out of a hobby. Saying you're an actor should make you feel as awesome as the kid who says they want to be a dinosaur when they grow up. But, most of the time, it makes you feel as ridiculous as the kid who says they're going to be a dinosaur when they grow up. But, because there's actually very little legislation in the world of acting (yes, there's some but it's sadly not as a far-reaching as I'd like it to be) anyone with a camera phone and a vague idea can cast a film and, because there are more actors than there are half used jars of oregano in my cupboard, there will always be actors happy to work for free.

I could waffle on for hours about whether actors should work for nothing but hey, we've all got damp-ridden homes to go to. But, what is important is to look at the implications of this ruling. Yes, it means that more actors might get paid in the future and that's a great thing but it could also mean that theatre companies will have to charge insane amounts for tickets to make sure they can pay everyone. Maybe productions shouldn't be put on if there isn't money to pay people but, if actors have a problem with working for free then they shouldn't apply for profit-share work. I've done profit-share before in the past and there's always the chance that you'll come away with nothing. Or, you put your heart and soul into a show for three months and come away with £30. It hurts but if you've agreed to it already then it's really up to you to deal with it.

If companies decide not to put on productions because they don't have the money then there will be even less work for actors than there is now. So, if they do put on shows they'll have to charge so much for tickets that audience figures will drop and actors, although finally able to pay their rent, will be playing to half-filled rooms that only contain the cast's parents. Every theatre company will then be forced to seek assistance from bigger companies a la Spacey and American Airlines and you won't be able to see anything without a corporate logo beaming down at you and you're director appearing in yet another TV advert.

But, on the other hand, maybe we'll live in a world where actors are guaranteed national minimum wage and we can have a shred of dignity back. It might make the few unscrupulous companies out there who think actors and crew don't need paying that maybe some of the money should be shared around a bit. And that'd be nice, wouldn't it?