Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Small is Beautiful and the Playboy Audition

Catapult is the word that comes to mind to describe this morning's start to the day. With it being Spring and all, we've been using the rising sun as our natural alarm clock because it's so much nicer waking up on your own terms at 7am. But this morning it failed to wake us up. I was having a delicious cat like ooh-look-
-it's-morning-I'm-looking-forward-to-breakfast stir when I glanced down at the clock.

This morning I had an audition scheduled for 10:15 at Spotlight in Soho (that's the London's West End where many of the theatres and production companies are based and therefore a popular neighbourhood for castings) and I usually allow a good 45 minutes to get myself there cool calm and collected. The clock read: 8:44.

I vaulted out of bed, into the shower, applied make-up, had a quick breakfast, tried to speed air-dry my hair and threw myself out of the house with my Financial Regulation study guide in one hand and my dance shoes for Zumba in the other.  It goes without saying that I got to the audition a wee bit early.

To be precise, I got there with 30 minutes to spare... So I took the opportunity to purchase the latest copy of Contacts which is the Industry bible for actors here in the UK. It's time for the yearly update of my casting director mailing list ahead of this week's big but personalised mailout highlighting my new showreel :

"Hello ICP (important casting person). Have a look. Go on you lazy git. You know you want to. It's just at the click of a mouse button. Come on! Yes! That's ME opposite Jim Broadbent. THE Jim Broadbent. He's a legend in the UK and getting pretty big in the US too. He did Harry Potter. And now he's going to play Mr. Thatcher opposite Meryl Streep. So me and Meryl were now like 1 degree of separation. I'm moving up in the acting world so be a dear give me a part any part and make me FAMOUS!."

I won't write it quite like that you understand because I want them to think that I am professional and not desperate, or mad, or both, but I do want to get across that I'm keen. We'll see.

With some 15 minutes left to spare (I'm going to skip over the bit about my credit card being denied. Twice. Turns out the nice people at my bank had put a hold on it because my credit card bill was apparently sent back to them with "no longer at this address." Good thing I wasn't trying to book myself on a flight out of Tripoli.) I walked upstairs to await my turn for the audition.

At any one time, Spotlight holds about 10 or so castings. So you have to make sure you read the digital board and get yourself to the right floor and wait by the right room. I checked the board.

Two of the casting rooms were booked by casting directors with whom I've auditioned before. I resisted the urge to curse them for not inviting me to today's castings. I told myself that probably - most likely - it was because there were no roles fitting my description. A likely story. Well, what other reason could there be? I shook off  the fear that:
  1. I might have slipped their minds (casting directors remember everybody)
  2. They had remembered me but thought I was crap. (Because everyone you see on TVor in the movies is a great actor, right? As if.)
  3. They were English and were blackballing me for being a foreigner. (As my agent always likes to remind me: "We're English, we hate foreigners. Get over it.")
A third casting room was taken up by the Playboy audition. Unfortunately, it was on a different floor to the one I was going to so I wouldn't have the chance to perve at all the bootilicious models (I imagine!) who would be attending the casting call. I swear, sometimes I think I must be channelling a precocious 7 year old boy.

The Playboy Audition. That's the title. Not My Playboy Audition. What could they have possibly invited me for: comic relief? I'm a brunette! I have short hair. Not a bob. Short hair. Like a pixie. (I say like a pixie, my 5 year old niece would probably say like a boy.) I'm a 34B. I'm 5'5" - on a good day. When I worked, briefly, as a peep show dancer, my short descriptor on the cover sheet (cover as in people who might cover for you if you couldn't make it to the show, as opposed to blanket) was "semi-busty". 'nough said.

So no, I was not invited to the Playboy casting. I was headed to the "Colliding Lives" casting, which is a documentary commissioned by British television about the survivors of 9/11 ten years on. And I was auditioning to play one of the survivors in a reconstruction scene. My initial reaction when my agent told me about it was that it was somehow in poor taste to impersonate someone who'd experienced such a tragedy. But that's how it is with acting jobs, you have to go with it, sometimes you play funny things, sometimes scary things, and sometimes you play depressing things. Sometimes it's fiction, and sometimes it's based on a real person. The thing is, you never know how a character is going to make you feel. I have been cast in comedies where shooting was incredibly draining and depressing. And some tragic roles have been incredibly comforting on a spiritual level. The trick is to find a way to embrace the character and do it justice. Agent: "Also they want you to do an American accent but with traces of a Swiss accent." Me: "What the hell is a Swiss accent?"

This audition turned out to be very pleasant. The director was lovely (ie intelligent). We talked about the scene, and about the accent. Casting Assistant: "The thing is we need you to do a bit of a Swiss accent mixed in with the American." Me: "It says on the script that she's from Basel, that's German speaking Switzerland, the Germans hardly have any accent when they speak American English (except in old British comedies about WWII)." Director: "That's right." (Told you he was smart!)

They asked me to improvise the scene. First time around she came out all wrong. Me: "Sorry about that. She came out kindda of wingey..." Director: Yeah..." Casting assistant: "Yeah, if I were him (the husband in the scene), I would have left her behind." Director: "Let's try it again. With higher stakes..." Second time around, I nailed it: I cried! Real tears. It always throws them. It's my party trick. Director: "Good." Casting assistant: "That was great!!!"

I left with a spring in my step. It's was Spring out there in London. In every sense. The light, the birds, the trees, the blossoms, the smells, the lightness of the wind, and I felt my mood soaring up and up into the clear blue sky.


Cathy Kozak said...

LOL! Your voice is delicious, vampish with a wee bit of trepidation. Feel like I've spent the morning in your actress-shoes!

Looking4Words said...

Let us know if you get the part!

Claire said...

I empathize with your 9/11 sensibilities. I write a lot for charities and some days I wonder how I get to walk in other people's shoes, people who have sometimes unimaginable things to deal with. Perhaps in walking in their shoes, I am walking alongside them for a while.

I think actors, like writers get to be mirrors on the world. The best thing is when people are moved or even changed by what we do. Or we get to make the laug on an otherwise grey day.

You audition schedule sounds a bit like a writer's except way more immediate!! As Mike Myers says (!) never give up, or was that Churchill?? Anyway sending you encouragement today. You go girl!

C x

Anonymous said...

I love your blog and will keep an eye on it. By the way, the fish on the main page are very cool

Marilyn F

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

Oh, wow! Loved this post! FASCINATING. Thanks for letting us take a glimpse of your life. Fingers (and toes!) crossed that you get the part! :)

Elizabeth Young said...

Yes, it was nice to visit your blog! Such a fascinating insight into 'a day in the life of Isabelle!' Like the others who commented, I'm anxious to know if you get a part - something tells me you will....

MuMuGB said...

My day was a lot more boring...thanks for sharing this!
You deserve the part.