Saturday, 20 July 2013

Acting & Loneliness

There's been a lot of sad news surrounding the acting industry this week with the tragic loss of three actors in the space of 7 days. Sadly, these losses are experienced by people every day and, of course, aren't exclusive to the acting industry, but with three occurring in such a short space of time, it does make the industry look inwards.

I don't know what had happened to any of these actors, or in fact any others who we've lost far too early, so I can't comment on what must've been going through their minds or look at individual cases. But what I can talk about is just how lonely acting can be sometimes. As an actor, although I still maintain that a group of actors should be called a 'whinge', you feel foolish for ever complaining about your job. Other people are out there saving lives (I presume that anyone who isn't an actor is saving lives) while we're sat at home wondering why we didn't get the role of a tortoise (true story.)

From the outside, acting looks like a wonderfully fun and social career and it is, when you're in work. When you're working, you've got a lovely cast and crew to spend, usually, far too much time with and you build up a little community. You get a wonderful feeling of solidarity and like you can take on the world. But as soon as the project is over, you all wander off full of promises that you'll all keep in touch. And maybe you do. For a while. But then others will move on to new jobs and become part of another temporary family and soon you're lucky to get a 'happy birthday' on Facebook from someone you previously spent a good 80% of your life with.

The problem with acting is that you often can't win. You're either constantly in work and find yourself spending far too much time away from treasured loved ones or you're hardly in work and spend a lot of time padding around the house wondering where you've gone wrong. If you're in work then you feel like you're not allowed to complain, even if you find yourself playing a role you hate or working with a cast you just don't get on with. You feel like you can't whinge about it because, hey, at least you're working. But being in work brings its own stresses as well. There are often very long, unsociable hours involved and if you're doing unpaid work then you often find yourself trying to juggle a day job alongside it meaning you're often exhausted and have no time for anything else.

Acting is an incredibly singular job and constantly forces you to look at yourself. If you're not getting work (or not getting the work that you want) you can blame the current state of the industry for as long as you like but you will find yourself staring in the mirror and blaming yourself. Maybe we're just not talented enough or we're not attractive enough or we need to lose weight or maybe we're just not that likeable? All these thoughts stick with you and it's therefore no wonder that actors start to feel down. And often, unless you're friends with other actors who are in the same boat, it can feel like you have no one to talk to who might understand.

I think social networking does a lot to help. Yes, it can be annoying when you've got one of those 'friends' who insists on posting every single career success when your CV is as barren as a garden during a hosepipe ban but it also helps to know that you're not alone. Speaking to other actors on Twitter has taught me that it's never just me constantly despairing at this often ridiculous job and that there are coping mechanisms. I know that a lot of actors have found great solace from joining groups such as the British Actors' Network on Facebook and setting up regular socials to make sure that a real network of support is out there.

As well as their wonderful legacy of work, I hope that Richard Gent, Paul Bhattacharjee and Cory Monteith, along with all the other actors that have departed too soon, have left us with the courage to reach out more and make sure that no actor ever feels like they're alone.

Friday, 12 July 2013

The Easiest Job In The World

"Wow. Being an actor must be really hard."

I hear this a lot. I think most people say it upon hearing that someone's an actor and I hope it's not just reserved for me when they look at my pitiful CV and can't think of anything else to say. I usually mumble something incoherently that demeans the hard work I've put in over the last 8 years to being a fully-fledged rester. They then think wistfully about their boring job and healthy bank balance and wander off to book another holiday while I'm left wondering if the free bar is still running.

But being an actor is hard. It's bloody hard in fact. What other job forces you, on a daily basis, to consider whether you're more suited to playing:

A cautious orange male hippo


Nude ghost

But, of course, all that hard work is worth it because when we do get work we're extremely well looked after. In fact, when looking at casting calls, I feel bit embarrassed about just how much we get in return for our work. The uneasy feeling of privilege sweeps across you when you realise you could be working with diamonds such as these:

Payment: Free food & entry to a raffle.

You'll preferably make a nice cup of coffee when we're all a little hungover at rehearsals.

No pay but the actor with the best outfit will win a prize.

It's not the levels of cheap alcohol we consume that leaves actors red-faced, it's the sheer embarrassment at just how well we're treated. And then there's all the people that we get to work with. When we're looking for work, we're constantly being reassured that being an actor is the safest job in the world:

We'd be delighted to take a clipping of your hair just for effect.

You'll be able to stay with the Director and DOP in his parent's house.

I'm seeking an impersonator who can act as my mum when me and my mum cannot meet up.

How can a job be difficult when we get to associate with such folk? And you can never complain about a career choice that lets you maintain constantly maintain such high levels of pride. Jobs such as these act as a wonderful reminder that we chose the right path:

Must be willing to have a condom full of condensed milk thrown at her face.

She is painted silver (nude), wears an elephant mask and is coated in gravy.

Please be prepared to muck in with the crew on the day as your role won't be significant. 

The director hopes to highlight George's distance from Jane by never having her in focus.

See? It's super easy. And you know what's even easier? Getting the job. In fact, it's madness that we're not working every single day of our jazz-hands filled lives:

Actress: You could prepare a monologue. Actors: You don't have to prepare anything.

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

And when we're not working, it's so lovely to know that a filmmaker's main priority is bettering all the actors out there. Our well-being is at the forefront of their minds meaning that our reassurance levels are being constantly topped up:

We can pay for any cosmetic surgery she may require for the movie. 

I may require you to eat less that what you normally eat to perform well for the role.

But, of course, maybe I'm just being picky:

There's something unnerving about her. Maybe she's just read too many books.

All casting calls are taken from my Casting Call Woe Tumblr. A terrifying look at really horrible and horribly real casting calls.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Casting Out

Have you ever found yourself in one of those auditions where you start to question what on earth you're doing with your life? Have you entered a room full of hope for your career and left with the sting of disappointment embedded in your soul? Well, I'd love to hear about them.

Maybe you've been asked to do something at an audition so ridiculous that you can actually feel your pride leave your body and you watch it walk out the door? Or have you been put in situation that's made you want to call the police instead of your agent?

I'm looking to put together a piece on the worst that castings have thrown at us and, as I'm sure the world is sick of hearing about my tales, I'd love to hear about yours. Also, as I write about the subject so much, it'd be lovely to have some real horrors to back me up when I say that castings can be some of the most terrifying and gut-wrenching things an actor can put themselves through. So, if you've got one that you'd like to tell me about then please email me on

Of course, I completely understand the importance of anonymity so if you'd prefer your story remained anonymous then please just let me know.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Casting Call Woe - Recent Highlights

As I'm sure you're all very well aware, as well as this blog and my incessant Twittering, I also run the Tumblr site Casting Call Woe. The world of castings has become soul-itchingly horrible that I felt the very worst should be put up for all the world to see and have a good ol' cry/laugh at. However, some of the delights tend to get a bit lost so here's a selection of some of my favourites from the last month... (and yes, if you're new to this, these are all real.)

She gets a couple of lines, a light-hearted orgy scene and then gets kicked through a window.

Please eat before coming on set.

This has the potential to be the next Buffy/Angel/True Blood, except it's about an elf living in London.

The budget for this film doesn't exist.

The director hopes to highlight George's distance from Jane by never having her in focus.

The harnessed kids are used as slaves to work for the aliens.

No nudity but actresses confident in bikinis and hotpants will be a plus for water and pillow fights. 

Skirt so short you feel raped just walking past her.

Nudity is not required but may be encouraged.

We're looking for individuals to dress up in an oversized female genitalia costume.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Happy Firstday

If you're lucky, you're making your way to somewhere suitable. However, more often than not, you're heading to someone's house, someone's office or, as I genuinely have, an abandoned roof top. If it's sunny, maybe you're heading to the park, your pollen-filled eyes raging and wondering why you're putting yourself through this. But wherever you're going, you're probably a bit nervous. As you check GoogleMaps on your phone for the millionth time, convinced that no one would hold a first rehearsal down this road, you become convinced that you're going to hate everyone and whether you'd be better just to turn back.

I arrive at things so early that even Doctor Who is jealous of me. So, I normally arrive in time to walk around the block a few times to then arrive at the venue 15 minutes before the director turns up. The director, thinking they've arrived a good 15 minutes early will give me a quizzical look and wonder just how keen I am. However, I believe the experience for most people is to arrive when the room is actually open.

So, you get there. Maybe some other members of the cast are there too. You recognise someone from your audition.

"Hey, we you at-"

"Yeah, we were in the same group. Wonder if that guy got in to?"

You laugh. You don't which guy they're talking about. You soon realise that they don't recognise you and think you're someone else. As more cast members arrive, two will be surprised to see each other. They worked together on a previous show or they trained together. However it is that they know each other, they'll make sure that's everyone's aware of this incredible coincidence within seconds. It's around this time that someone starts getting changed in the middle of the room.

Once you've all arrived, you're asked to sit in a circle. Scripts, pencils and bottles of water are gathered and everyone sits on the floor. You think you're still fine sitting on the floor. 30 minutes later you realise you're not but someone's already been told off for lying down on your front so you put up with the pins, needles, daggers and fire in your bum cheeks. You all get to know each other. If you're lucky then you'll just go around the circle and everything will say a bit about themselves. Someone will insist on talking about the AMAZING show they've just finished in and you'll realise you have nothing interesting to say about yourself but it will all be fairly painless. If you're unlucky then you'll be made to play a game. A game involving names where everyone's just a little bit too eager to prove they're willing to throw themselves into anything.

Maybe you'll then read through the script. It's usually around this point that someone will ask if you've got a spare pen or pencil. Everyone takes a huge gulp of their drink. You learn who everyone's playing because they cough before their first line. You start hearing other people's lines and start wishing you had their roles instead. Everyone else seems to have the funny lines or dramatic scenes. You start to realise that your part is a lot smaller than you originally realised. As you realise this, the director tells you that you're going to be the non-speaking village person in this scene, the talking owl with one line in this other scene and the tree in the final scene.

Once you've stumbled through the play, you might be shown a stage plan. Or, if you're really lucky, you'll be shown costume designs. Everyone else seems to have had elaborate drawings done of them with lots of thoughts and theories behind what they're wearing. When it comes to your character, you're little more than a stick character in a Primark scarf. You try to look enthusiastic while wondering whether you can kill someone with a highlighter.

You start packing up your things, delighted to be working but looking forward to going home. They all seem like nice enough people but are they people you want to spend the next two months working with? Just when you think you're not that keen you hear the words:

"Anyone fancy going for a quick drink?"

Ah yes. It's going to be fine after all.