Friday, 31 January 2014

Poor Misguided Fool

The joy of writing about casting calls is that it gets me thinking about my own experiences and, occasionally, I allow my mind to go back to my very first audition. It's a memory that my brain is so desperate to bury among with the time I accidentally called Holborn Police Station about vine leaves. But before it gets suppressed, here it is... 

My first audition was one of sheer excitement. I’d only left drama school a few days before so I was on Cloud Nine Hundred and Nintey Nine. Getting that call had me dancing around the flat on my own for a good three hours later. It was only for an advert for a train company which is owned by a certain hot air ballooning trazillionaire and the role I was up for was so insignificant that it was merely known as ‘an It Girl who's been shopping.' Now I'm no It Girl. Girl who works in IT? Yes. Girl who is related to Cousin It? Most definitely. But It Girl? Nope. The brief was that she was a woman who was loaded down with designer shopping bags and my agent told me that it was therefore necessary that I took as many fancy looking carrier bags as possible for the casting. As it was my first one, I presumed that this was the done thing. No one had told me otherwise and I trusted my agent in the same way that I trust my mum, my dog and David Attenborough so off I went in search for as many bags as I could possibly find. 

The casting was the next day so I headed off nearly two hours earlier than I needed to in fear that a natural disaster would start a bomb scare which would then trigger the whole of the UK’s transport system to go into meltdown. Of course, as the casting was only half an hour away, I found myself with 90 minutes to suddenly kill. I went to Starbucks and two coffees later, my brain was spinning, my heart was providing the beats for a whole night of drum n bass and my feet were practically doing the quick step to my audition. I turned up at the audition covered in sweat, my meticulously straightened hair now a frizzy disaster and enough shopping bags to make Bond Street blush. And I was stuck. I had so many bags that I couldn’t get through the door.  This door was my entrance to the acting world and I was wedged in it.

I was faced with an army of women who all looked a little like me but, lo and behold, none of them had stupid agents who had told them to turn up to the casting looking like a upmarket bag lady.  I imagine I painted quite the picture to these other hopefuls. There they were all calm and composed while I was there like The Littlest Hobo on speed with my wild eyes and empty shopping bags. 

I was finally called in and I decided that seeing as I’d been dealt this horrible hand, I might as well go for it. I could have left the bags in the waiting room but I’d brought them this far so I thought the best thing would be to lug them in with me. But, of course, I got stuck again. The casting director glared at me, a pitiful ball of sweaty frizz that was clearly brought here just to ruin her day,

“Leave the bags at the door please.”

Prop-free but still soaring high on caffeine, I buzzed into the room. Name given to camera, profiles shown, jittery hands involuntarily waved in front of the camera and we’re ready.

“So, you’re on the train home and, as you glance out of the window, you realise that the train is being chased down by Red Indians.”

I bite my tongue, partly due to political correctness but mostly due to the fact that the caffeine flying through my veins has made me lose control of nearly all my bodily functions.

“Now, obviously, you can’t move. So, you need to show the fear just in your face. Ok.”

I give what I think is a wonderfully subtle performance. Like something Olivia Colman might do.

“No, we need more than that. You’re being chased by Red Indians. You need to be terrified.”

So I go for it. Like something Lee Evans might do.

“That’s better but now give us that without moving a muscle. Show us that fear through your eyes.”

My caffeine kick now at its peak, my eyes go for it. I open my eyes so wide that I’m pretty sure I can feel my eyelashes brushing my forehead. Like something Nicholas Cage might do.

“Right, well, thank you. You can leave now.”

And that’s it. My first ever audition is over. I pick up my depressingly empty bags and head back out into the world. My eyeballs actually ache. I didn't get the job. 

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

An Invitation

Dear all,

To celebrate the 1st birthday of Casting Call Woe, I'd like to invite you all to a very special party.

You will all be picked up at 7pm sharp...

No pay unfortunately but you will get to ride in a white stretch limo with a midget and the band.

Please note that there is a very strict dress code...


Skirt so short you feel raped just walking past her

if u want wear your sexy bikini

Those wishing to come in fancy dress are more than welcome to do so but please note there are just a few rules...

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

We need some girls to be psychotic nuns. You need to be willing to be topless too

She wears an unpractically sexy knight's outfit

Clothes size is important as the Grim Reaper robes are only available in SMALL

All guests are welcome to bring a partner. However, if you are, there are further strict dress codes...

Actor: full suit of armour. Actress: full nudity.

Male - fully clothed. Female - dressed in thong, semi-naked at times, has to do casting in underwear.

Men bring suits, women bring sexy gangster outfits and lingerie. 

Also, please note:

There will be a prize for best dressed

There will be a drinks reception on arrival...

The first 10 actors to turn up get a free drink from me. It's the least I can do.

A few notes regarding catering:

Main roles in a music video available. The band will do the catering. 

I can't afford payment but I can bring as much juice and biscuits as humanly possible. Biscuits are wicked. 

This will be unpaid & voluntary. However there is a place that does beautiful falafels around there

And for any of those with special dietary requirements...

We require you to be able to bring a packed lunch if we have a full day shooting.

There will be dancing...

Please note the frog doesn't need contemporary dance skills.

Willing to barn dance on camera.

And there will be entertainment...

Fagin on stilts.

And there will be goody bags for all...

Unpaid but you'll get to take home a small bag of coffee.

Carriages at midnight...

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

Please note, I can't be held responsible for any guests that are remaining after midnight...

You will be turned to mince at the hands of the pitman.

Please RSVP at your earliest convenience...

Girls welcome, boys preferred.

Your esteemed host,

Miss L
(Her once striking good looks have simmered down to a kind of smutty mess.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

The Crow Must Go On

In today’s Guardian, Carey Mulligan revealed how she started to get acting work after Julian Fellowes visited her school. She wrote to him, he invited her to a meeting at a fancy restaurant and then she finds herself in Pride and Prejudice.

Julian Fellowes never came to my school. In fact, very few people came to our school. Probably because our school, although lovely on the outside, was filled with a fair few wronguns. Y’see, Carey Mulligan went to a private school and I went to a state school. The debate on education and schooling is very much for another day. Nor is this a comment on Carey Mulligan. I happen to think she’s a damn good actor so, Fellowes or not, she’d probably have done good anyway. Instead, I want to imagine what’d happen if the one of the very few visitors we had to our school had helped me with my career…

Dear Mr Crow Man (sorry I don’t know your real name)

Thank you for coming in to school today to show us your pet crow. I had no idea people could keep pets as crows. But then I also didn’t think a student would be as stupid to attempt to take ninja stars on a school trip. Seems you can be wrong about many things.

Anyway, the reason I’m writing is that I want to be an actor when I’m older and I thought maybe you could help me?


Miss L

Dear Miss L

Do you want to see my crow?

The Crow Man

Dear The Crow Man

Miss L

Dear The Crow Man

Remember me? I'm the one who contacted you about 20 years ago asking if you could possibly help me with my acting career. Of course, if I'd known back then that your crow was a direct descendant of one of the crows in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds then maybe I might have been a bit more open to your offer. But I was young and naive then and didn't realise that putting yourself in personal danger was fine if it helps further your career.

Anyway, I thought I'd let you know that you did actually help me with my dreams to become an actress. Y'see, after you replied to me, I realised that no one was going to hand me my career on a plate. So I saved up and worked really hard and got myself into a drama school. 

Also, you made me realise that anything's possible. If a man can make a career out of showing his pet crow in a school then I could definitely have a go at being an actor. It's been really difficult and I'm broke most of the time. But I'm really happy and I hope you and your feathered friend are too. 

Thanks for all your help. Apparently our school nearly booked some guy called Julian Fellowes instead of you but they didn't believe anyone could possibly make a career out of writing so they presumed he was a hoax. I'm glad they chose you.

Many thanks

Miss L

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Paying the Price

The first Monday back after the No Man’s Land of Christmas and New Year is an exciting time for actors. Pantos are grinding to a halt and Santa’s Grottos are shutting up for another year so it’s time to start thinking about finding some good ol’ acting work.

As 9am…Ok, 9:30am…fine, 10am…oh for heck’s sake, MIDDAY hits, we all sit in our clean pair of pyjamas, logging into the casting sites that we’ve given our hard-earned cash to, in the hope that we’ll find that one job that will mean 2014 is our year.

So you can imagine my dismay when, fired up with the expectation of getting work that will definitely put me in all the ‘Ones to Watch in 2015’ articles, I find that there’s an awful amount of unpaid jobs. And when I say awful, I mean ‘actors first role out of drama school’ awful. So awful in fact that, by the end of the day, just one casting site had listed a meagre 37 paid roles and a rather staggering 293 unpaid roles. And that was just the jobs that had been listed that day.

It’s a terrifying statistic. It means that for every 1 actor that can maybe breathe a little easier for a month, there are another 8 actors desperately panicking and hounding their temp agency for more work just so they can afford to live in the damp-ridden, mouse-invaded shack that they call ‘home.’

Since I’ve started blogging, I’ve been very passionate about making sure people see the other side of the industry. I want people to see the side that isn’t represented in Sunday supplements where actors are interviewed in quaint little cafes during a few snatched moments between that 5-star run at the National and that feature film that the director demanded that they were in. For most actors, this industry is that friend who only gets in touch after they’ve contacted everyone else they’ve ever met. At its best it’s fickle and at its worst you wish you’d never met it.

So to see such a staggering amount of unpaid work is a worry. It means that acting work is the work you do in between your other job when really you wish it could be the other way round. I’ve written so many blogs on unpaid work that to write about it again would be pointless. It’s the sad fact of this industry that sits in a musty box along with sexism, racism, ageism and people who think it’s OK to not provide lunch on a shoot.

There’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to make a living from what you want to do with your life. And it’s something a lot of actors will be coming to terms with at the moment while they sit, filing their last minute tax returns and realising just how little they’ve earned from such a wonderful job. Last year I earned £510 from acting work. That’s not even a month’s rent.

So why do we still do it? Why do we insist on supporting an industry that really doesn’t seem that bothered about us? Well it’s that little skip it puts in our step when we know we nailed that audition. It’s that little dance we do around the room when we get the call to say we got the job and we realise there’s no one else in the house to celebrate with. It’s that glow you get when you’re walking home after opening night, cheeks flushed with pride and three too many glasses of wine. It’s knowing that even though you dread being asked what you do for a living, you’re pleased you don’t have to answer them with any other job in the world.

It’s being able to sit at home in your pyjamas at 11am on a Wednesday and calling it work.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Happy New Year

The new year. A time when we’re all supposed to crawl out of the comfort of cheesy leftovers and cosy pyjamas and start thinking about how this is going to be our year, the year that we truly make it. As January hits, actors across the land (whether emerging from the gruel of panto or the pain of experiencing the grinding halt that December comes to every year) start thinking about how they’re going to take this year and make sure it's their name stamped all over it.

The problem is that the world hasn’t quite caught up yet. Everyone’s still working out whether those last few slices of turkey are still safe and trying to convince themselves that their entire wardrobe must’ve shrunk in the wash. No one knows when they’re supposed to put the rubbish out and everyone’s enjoying that joy usually held exclusively by the self-employed where it could genuinely be any day of the week.

So, while I wait for the rest of the world to reluctantly prize itself out of its slippers, I’ve thought about how 2014 can be a good year. I make no secret of the fact that, acting-wise, 2013 was a bloody shocker. My worst year since I graduated 7 years ago, I barely worked. In fact, I earned more in a week at my day job than I did from acting in the whole of 2013. It was horrible. At first. Until I realised that everything else in my life was brilliant. I have a lovely life, a wonderful boyfriend, a truly brilliant family, an excellent day job, somewhere to live and Adventure Time Monopoly. And when I realised all that, things started to happen. I started getting to nerve-wrackingly perform Casting Call Woe and deal with the shock of people asking me to write things for them. And I’ve already had one acting job this month with another have another coming up in a couple of weeks.

That’s 2014. Not letting this silly industry get the better of me. If acting wants to ignore me then fine. Yes I’ll keep applying for work, yes I’ll update my headshots, yes I’ll finally get my new showreel sorted. But I will not let acting get me down. I’m not one for resolutions because I’m the crumble to the good intention’s custard but I do vow this year to stop measuring myself in terms of how much acting work I’ve done recently. Because it doesn’t matter. If I haven't had an acting job for 6 months then that doesn't make me a bad actor, it just makes me a bloody awesome rester.

So here’s to 2014. Good luck to all you actors determined to make it your year. I hope you all succeed. Unless you’re in my casting bracket, of course…