Thursday, 14 May 2009

Full frontal or profile?

In case you're wondering what being an actor is about, it's mostly about going to lots of auditions (if you're lucky) and (most of the time) never hearing from them again. No two auditions are the same - ever - even if the same casting director is involved.

Sometimes they make you stand in a leotard (rare - unless you're a dancer).

Sometimes you have to improvise with another actor, or mime complicated scenes with no props or reference points.

And most of the time you have to do this to camera which is very unnatural.

As soon as I'm scheduled for an audition, I always assume that I've got the job. I know, it's weird. So it always comes as a surprise when I don't...The thing is, you only hear back if you do get the job. If you didn't, you're left to figure it out for yourself. I usually accept that I didn't get it when I see the ad on telly or the film being advertised. Then I discover who got the part I'd auditioned for and they usually look COMPLETELY different to me. And the cycle repeats itself.

Which brings me to the rummiest of auditions which I had yesterday. (Sorry, you've caught me in a Jeeves and Wooster moment.)

This was for a VERY BIG telecoms brand.

It was around the corner from where I live but I'd given myself plenty of time to find it (I'm a pro, me! Never be late, always arrive cool and collected and EARLY.)

This was a good thing because I must have stood outside the building for a good 5 minutes trying to find a way into it. (This included rattling locked doors and an aborted call to my agent.) Then I spotted the tiny doorbell.

Went in, was ushered through a large storage space (which 2 people were treating as an office), and down some industrial stairs into another storage space cum photo studio. It was very dimly lit. But there was a well appointed kitchen in a corner.

A young guy professing to know nothing about the project (but who presumably had been sent by the casting company) wrote my name on a piece of paper before handing it to me so I could fill out the form on the back of it. For some unknown reason (unknown to him as well as the rest of the universe) he had used a white board felt pen. It's 24 hours later and I'm still high from the fumes.

Anyway, I filled out the form and then after watching two very mumsy actresses having their pictures taken, it was my turn.

I had to face a light box, pretend I was sitting at a computer whilst the photographer took pictures of me in profile with various facial expressions (it was me making the faces, not him - in case you wondered.)

He took 4 shots. Maybe 5. And then that was it.

I raced back up the stairs, whilst another mumsy actress was ushered in, and then had to be let out because I couldn't figure out the childproof lock on the door.

This time, I really don't think I made the shortlist.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Is that a bolt cutter?

I wreaked havoc in the Virgin Active at Moorgate on Sunday.

I use a padlock for my locker and wear the key on my shoelace. Well, that's the theory. After many close calls (almost lost the key down the drain in the shower once) it finally happened. At the start of a 7K run on the treadmill.

My shoe lace came undone (in spite of a double knot) and the key went flying into the inner workings of the machine. I stopped, and on the off chance that it had slid under the treadmill, I prostrated myself several times, all around it, to peer underneath (it mostly looked like dust, but was hard to tell without my glasses...)

I didn't find the key. Undeterred, I remounted my treadmill, finished the 7K, and for good measure performed another round of prostrations.

No key.

The duty manager was a jolly South African. He found the whole incident rather funny. He too did a round of prostrations (to the concern of the member who was now using the treadmill).

No key.

So he went to get the bolt cutters.

Today I have an audition for some advertising posters for a big telecom company. The breakdown reads "mother, can be quirky but not too much (there's that word again), should have reasonable length hair as we will be using a wind machine..."

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Eat my Caviar Baby!!!

I think that eating nothing but chocolate and gorging on wraps and pitta bread and all things carby and beige is particularly reasonable and well within the rules. As is drinking myself to death. Sleeping with 5 men at a time (it helps if they are used to playing a team contact sport - well apparently.) And not paying my taxes. I think that the rules clearly state that what is yours in mine and what is mine is mine as well. And the tax office can suck my proverbial big fat one. I'm gonna claim for every fart and belch and claim double during bank holidays.

I also think that it is perfectly reasonable to be living at the tax-payer's expense. As is swinging from a claimed-for crystal chandelier like something out of Eyes Wide Shut, or rolling around in (fresh) horse manure - naked.

And poor people who can't afford these things should stop whingeing and can earn some dough by coming around to clean my swimming pool, or my moat. Their choice.

The serial revelations courtesy of The Telegraph would be hilarious if they weren't so horrifically predictable and bang on stereotype. The subtle irony of the revelations is inspired: who would have thought that expense claims could be bi-partisan and reflect social background so accurately? Based on The Telegraph's report, Labour MP's are big on middleclass pre-occupations: buying and selling property. Tory MP's on the other hand - presumably because they already live in the family mansion - are more likely to claim for crystal chandeliers, moat cleaning, tennis courts, swimming pools and horse manure (the latter presumably to fling at would-be trespassing ramblers).

Of course, if you're the Queen, you're happy to eat out of tupperware containers. But that's breeding for you. Not something money can buy. (Not to be confused with Honours... just look at the House of Lords.)

Friday, 8 May 2009

The Billy Connolly Complex

Just got back from a lovely pub lunch with a delicious Glaswegian called Doug. He sounded like a very posh and softly spoken Billy Connolly. I bet he sings a hell of a lot better than Billy too. I got fantastic career advice and a free meal so didn't think it was appropriate to ask him to sing for me.

Maybe next time...

Earlier that day. Old Street Tube, southbound Northern Line platform:

"I work for a research company. Here's my ID. Would you mind answering a short questionnaire whilst you wait for your train?" The round cheeked bespectacled African man looked at me expectantly.

I towered over him in my bee shoes (platform laced stillettos in black and yellow leather which Sally my voice teacher used to call my "Kill Bill" shoes). I was early for my lunch date so I said "Sure!" We moved down the platform to a quieter spot and he started asking me questions about my journey. I was fascinated: he was scrolling down and tapping the multiple-choice answers onto a screen with a stylus. Very cool. I wanted one.

It all started quite well and I found myself answering quite truthfully. Afterall, I've worked in research and planning and I know how difficult it can be to get respondents to complete a questionnaire. Then a train pulled into the station. We hadn't finished the survey but to his great surprise (and delight) I told him I was in no hurry and happy to finish the questionnaire and wait for the next train.

That's when it all went a bit pear shaped. In spite of my best intentions. I don't know whether it was ego, or madness, or what I call my Social Tourettes: this is when I start speaking out loud the running commentary in my head which is often completely inappropriate and usually embarrassing for all parties.

"Do you work full time, part time, or are you unemployed."

"Full time" (said the actress rather optimistically...)

"What postcode do you live in?"

A sudden whiff of paranoia made me give my old postcode rather than my current one. (Incidentally, why do Americans call it zip code?)

"Who is the primary income earner in your household and what is his/her occupation?"

This triggered total and utter fiction. "I am. I'm a manager." (What?)

For the first time the little man looked crestfallen as he scrolled down the menu of multiple choice answers - my answer did not conform. I couldn't bear to let him down.

"Do you need more detail?" I volunteered.

He lit up like a little Chinese lantern on Bastille Day. "Do many people report to you?"


"How many?"

"Twenty". (What?!!! Why twenty?)

This seemed to satisfy him as he tapped away on his little screen.

So now I was a full time manager with 20 people reporting in to me, and I'd gone from living in North London to South London (which either way, beats living in West London! This is no reverse snobbism: it's based on experience. I used to live in West London. In a rather posh part of Chiswick actually. Until one night, when the firebombing of our downstair's neighbours car by his drug dealer and the subsequent setting on fire of the horse chestnut outside our front door (and only exit) convinced me it was time to move. Forever. OK?)

Anyway, back to my little man and his questionnaire. He asked me another question but he had quite a strong accent and this time I simply couldn't make out the key words. I asked him to repeat it. Three times! And then - feeling too embarrassed to ask him to repeat it a fourth time - I just took a wild punt (I could see that the only possible answers on his screen were yes and no): "Yes."

He tapped the yes button. Then he pulled out some laminated forms.

"Would you please point at the best description of your ethnic type."

I looked down the list and pointed at "white: other". (The other choices under white were "English" and "Irish"). I heard myself comment out loud: "I guess there are several shades of white!" Luckily I caught my social Tourettes in time so I didn't add "you should add green to the list and see how many people tick that!"

"Would you please point at the best description of your religion." Under Christian it said "this includes Church of England, Protestant, Catholic." As opposed to? The bleeding obvious? But then I've heard that many English people who do not follow any form of organised religion lump themselves under CofE as some sort of administrative classification. So I pointed at "Christian" rather than saying "Other: I'm a Sufi".

Then he beamed: "That's it, we're done! Thank you very much for your time."

We parted. My train pulled in shortly after. As the doors closed and the train gathered speed, I saw that my little man was already interviewing another passenger. The thing is, he was really very good at it. He had a lovely manner. He was warm yet professional. He made you want to participate. He was fantastic. He had a real talent for what he was doing. I wish I'd had a chance to tell him that. It's not very often that you come across people who excel at what they do but remain somehow unaware of it. It put me in a lovely mood for my pub lunch - which as I mentioned earlier - was a big success.

My only regret is that instead of following my new Scottish friend's choice of ale and meat pie I plumped for the chick pea salad. Ah well, next time!

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Let's do the McDonalds.

No need to check your well-thumbed copy of the Kamasutra. Or worry about my waistline (leave that to me). I have an audition for a McDonald's TV commercial this afternoon.

"Quirky looking Mum. She MUST look like she would take her kids to McDonalds. So not too posh. Casual." reads the breakdown.

I should be able to pull it off. Especially the quirky looking bit.

Not sure how the fact I'm going to be in a Heinz advert at the same time will go down with them though...

Quarter pounder with cheese and some large fries. And an extra large full fat coke. With a straw. God, even the sense memory of their plastic trays makes me salivate!

Do I feel like I'm being left behind in the "breaking into acting" race? (I hadn't realised until now that it was a race...) One mate is auditioning with the producers of Star Trek, another is taking her new one woman show to the Ed Fringe, another is re-doing her one woman show from Ed in London for the 2nd time. What about me?

Well, what about me? I've written to tons of people. I've asked Mike Newell a question which made him think I was a lazy dickhead of an actress. I'm pen pals with Julian Fellowes. Charles Dance wrote back to me. I give good face in my photos. And I'm probably going on hols to San Francisco in a few months. So what about me?

I want MORE. And I want it NOW! What do I WANT? I don't know, but I know it's something DIFFERENT. From what? From what I have RIGHT NOW.

It's amazing how little ground gets covered when willfullness is at the wheel. It's more like, well, going in circles.

It's amazing how little happens when you THINK about it instead of DOING something about it.

So, off to my audition, off my bum, and let's ride into the sunset singing at the top of my lungs that dwarf work ditty from Snowwhite.