Sunday, 8 March 2015

All We Want

Actor. Actress. It does not matter. Whatever you want to call us. Thespian. Performer. Pain in the arse. Finder of free bars. Populator of call centres and front of houses. Pyjama wearer. Rester. You name it, we probably answer to it. In fact, that’s our job. To answer to your latest whim. You create the character, and we become it.

We’ll play heroes, villains, innocent bystanders who get caught in the crossfire. We play mothers, fathers, children and, heck, we’ll even play their pets if we’re desperate enough. We’ll play people who once existed and we’ll play imaginary beings who could never live. Whatever you ask of us, we’ll often do with very little question. You never know, if you’re lucky, we might not even ask if you’ll pay us.

But what we do ask, is that you allow us to be equal. Regardless of our gender, our race, our sexual orientation, our age and our ability, we just ask that you keep us equal. Please, kill your stereotypes. Women do not need to fulfil a teenage boy’s fantasy that, because it has remained unfulfilled into middle-aged manhood, has to be created on screen. Regardless of what you may think, we can wear clothes and we can speak and we can be older than 22.

That part you’ve just written. Does it need to be a white, able-bodied straight man? Does it really? Go outside for a few minutes. Yes, of course, those men are out there. But, thank Christ, there are a whole lot of other people out there too. People who deserve to be represented. People who watch things and want to see people like them on screen. People who don’t identify with men who went to Eton.  

We all want to play everything. Let us be your lead role. Give us a character that extends beyond our breasts. Allow us the chance to be remembered for something other than looking great in a bikini. We’re not here to eradicate men from the picture. The rest of us just want the same opportunities. The same chances to match the fact that we’re all doing the same job.

We’re not all the same. We’re gloriously different. Each one of us brings wonderfully different things along with us. We just want the chance to show the world what we can do.

We’ve been expected to play bit-part tokens for too long.


That’s all.

That’s fair.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Don't Believe The Skype

Technology is great. It means I can check the weather on my phone without having to even open the curtains, I can watch telly and not really take in what’s happening because I’m too busy tweeting about it on my laptop and I can judge the lifestyle choices of ex-schoolmates via Facebook while I sit around in my pyjamas on a Wednesday afternoon, wondering if I’ve already seen this episode of Escape To The Country.

Technology is bloody everywhere and, because actors are bloody everywhere too, it was only a matter of time before the two worlds collided. It’s hard to tell whether this has been a good thing or not. On one hand, I can now apply for acting roles that I’m never going to get at the click of a button but, on the other hand, I can’t check my phone without seeing I’ve been invited to like yet another actor’s Facebook fan page. NO I DO NOT NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE THREE AMAAAAAZZZZZIIIIIING AUDITIONS YOU’VE HAD TODAY #SOBLESSED #ACTORSLIFE

But the biggest impact the world of technology has had on casting (apart from, OBVIOUSLY, film, TV and the fact that we can now obviously be both seen and heard on screen too now like a particularly irritating Victorian child) is the introduction of Skype auditions. Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s something very lovely about not having to leave the house to get work. Anything where this is an even slight possibility of wearing slippers while auditioning is top banana. But, ultimately, Skype auditions are a proper pain.

Imagine, if you will, that you were called up one morning and they told you that instead of coming into the office for your interview, the panel had decided to come to your house instead. One, on a reasonably slow day, that would probably make the national news and, two, your house will never look as grubby as when you realise someone who doesn’t live there is going to be seeing it for the first time.

Just like you’re never more than 6 feet away from a rat or 2 feet away from an out of work actor, you’re never more than a camera pan away from a laden clothes horse, much-neglected plant or patch of damp wall in our flat. So, time that should be spent preparing is instead spent finding the one camera angle that is well-lit, doesn’t include your pants drying in the background and stops the director being distracted by the mold visibly creeping along the wall behind you.

And then there’s making yourself the living embodiment of ‘all dressed up with nowhere to go.’ There’s something rather heart-breaking about spending the best part of an hour doing your hair and make-up and picking the perfect outfit to just make the 3 second trip for your bedroom to the living room. 

Then, of course, there’s praying to the Internet Gods that your flaky broadband holds out, roping in the elderly lady from across the road to read in the other part and hoping the daily Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t come by in the next 7 minutes.

But all this is nothing compared to what you actually have to do...

That is a genuine list of requirements that I’ve seen for a Skype interview. Now, I know actors can be worse than piles when it comes to being pains in the arse but an actor has had to have done something seriously awful to you to make them go through that. And actors will have put themselves through it. Actors will have shamelessly paraded around their living room, finally putting their copy of The Complete Works of Shakespeare to good use by precariously balancing it on their heads while they wonder if they're now meant to show their best moves while it's still teetering up there.

Now, thankfully, I didn’t do this particular audition but I did put myself through something vaguely similar. I received an email last year asking if I’d do a self-tape to apply for a role in a music video. They wanted it done by the end of the day. Fine. I wasn’t doing much else that day and, thankfully, my boyfriend was on hand to film it for me. I opened up the instructions. They wanted me to be dressed in smart business attire, put money into a vending machine and pull out a branch. This was already too much effort for someone who had been holding a wee in for the last 30 minutes because they couldn't be bothered to get up. I read on. They then wanted me to move to a photocopier, switch it on and be amazed at all the weird photos coming out of it. And they wanted all of that in one 30 second video. If it went over, they said that they'd refuse to watch it. Oh for crying out loud…

I refused to actually find somewhere with a vending machine and photocopier to film the damn thing and was determined to do it all at home. The next two hours were then spent with me putting together an outfit that looked vaguely like what I’ve seen people on TV wear in offices and rearranging our study to basically hide everything in it. The photocopier was to be played by our knackered old printer. The vending machine - a wardrobe full of sheets and pillows. This was about as convincing as an actor saying they know the different between stage left and stage right without having to think about it first.

I already knew this wasn’t going to work.

First take – 30 seconds has gone by and I’ve only just established that I’m a bored office worker trying to get a drink out of my wardrobe vending machine.

Second take – I realise the ridiculousness of pretending to put a coin in a wardrobe.

Third take – I manage to get to the point where I quizzically look at the branch (played admirably by Thin Air) and then 30 seconds is up.

Fourth take – frustrated by this point, I race through it at such an angry speed that I’ve done the whole thing in 18 seconds.

Fifth take – like my last day of woodwork class in Year 9, I'm as close to nailing it as I'll ever be. The whole scene comes in at 31 seconds. I’ve already decided the email I'll be sending to Watchdog if they dare complain.

Then it’s back into pyjamas (I leave the make up on because I never do it this nicely and damn me if I’m wasting the time and effort spent on not looking like a clown) to then faff around with WeTransfer for the rest of my life. 4 hours. 4 bloody hours the whole debacle took.

I didn't get it.