Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Now put your clothes back on

As you'll already know if you read the last entry (If you haven't, now's your chance: As the Actress Said to the Bishop...; "Now take your clothes off". No one will ever know that you missed it first time round. Except for me of course.) I was called in to re-audition in my bathing suit last Friday. Lucky me. My agent who is nothing if not thorough reissued the casting breakdown. After briefly toying with the idea of saying Non! I thought better of it (I could do with the money) and re-read the breakdown - just in case they'd decided to ditch the swimwear. This time it specified: "dress smart casual" but sadly, it still requested that I wear a bathing suit under my clothes.

The sort-of diet is going well thank you... but having to fit a 30's style bathing suit underneath anything that doesn't resemble a tent remains a limiting factor. So I plumped for a pair of custom made pinstripe blue Thai style trousers (you know the kind that are open on the side but wrap around the front and back - handy for flinging off burlesque style when I revealed my bathing suit underneath) and some rubber soled high heeled red patent leather shoes so I wouldn't trip.

As a rule, I try and conserve energy before an audition. It's amazing how much you need once the adrenaline gets pumping. But not on Friday. First I went to Zumba and did the rumba, the salsa, the cumbia and some chachacha for a whole hour before power walking into Soho in my heels. I figured lunch could wait. (I find it so much easier to suck in my tummy when I'm starving. Don't you?)

Given the casting director's time keeping record, I arrived on the dot for my appointment at one o'clock. There was a new girl on reception: efficient, unflappable and friendly (although it turned out she wasn't even working there, she was just temping for the morning.) "Hi, I'm Isabelle Gregson." "Hi, just fill out this form." (What? Again? I used my madwoman flowing handwriting... that will show them.)


Me to the unflappable temp, with a light tone: "How much of a wait is there?"
Unflappable temp: "They're pretty much on time but it's first come first seen basis, we're not going by call time." She gave a little shrug as if to say: "That's not how I would do it either but what can you do?"

There were 4 other actors waiting. Older on average than the group from Wednesday. I didn't have anything else to do (other than get some lunch) so I stayed put and settled in for a long wait.

Older brash blonde woman stepping into reception to other blonde looking rather washed out in a pale summer dress: "Oh hi! I haven't seen you in ages..."
Pale dress wishing she'd worn more make up and a red dress: "I know. It's been so long..."

And I (we all had) to endure yet another mind numbing conversation between two ageing and painfully middle class actresses (I have nothing against the middle classes, I mean I'm middle class but there's regular middle class and then there's painful middle class  - like those two.) This time it was weddings.

Brash Blonde: "I 'd like to know who she (Kate) worked with to make sure her face didn't set in a nervous grimace, you could tell she was so nervous."
Pale Dress: "I wonder how she managed not to cry. I bet she wore waterproof mascara just in case."
Oh do shut up already.
Brash Blonde's re her own upcoming nuptial (make a break for it you poor man whilst you still can): "I'm worried I'll cry and ruin my make-up on the day."
Pale Dress : "You have to treat it as a performance. You're an actress."
Brash Blonde: "But I cry watching pet food commercials!"
Die both of you. Die now.

Then Brash Blonde got called in and it all went blissfully quiet. One by one they all went in. Then the temp left. I was bored so I got to chatting with the owner of the casting studio, as you do. Poor woman. Poor woman? Poor me!  I bet she'd never had a captive audience before. That's how I found about the temp being a temp. And found out the name of the gloomy guts who'd been manning reception on Wednesday. I found out lots of things about the ins and out of the casting studio industry (not much money in it but lots of work) and its evolution over the last 20 years (email has gone and ruined the notion of lead times).

Then it was my turn to audition. After the usual 'look into the camera, name, agent, right profile, left profile, show us your hands, show us the other side, any commercials in the last year?' the casting director announced: "This is definitely about less is more. I just want you to take your shoes off and lie there on the couch and relax." So I did. "Wiggle your toes a bit." So I did. "Not so much." I obliged. "Have a look around as you relax." I did. "Have a stretch. Good. Now wiggle your toes again." It went on like this for a good 5 or 10 minutes. I've never worked so hard at doing nothing and relaxing on a couch.

Then it was thank you and goodbye. I don't think I'll get it. On account of my toe wiggle probably being too continental. But the best bit? After all that angst and trouble I went to, no one asked to see my bathing suit!

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Now take your clothes off

Another week, another audition.

The call from my agent came in late on Tuesday evening. These late calls are never a good sign. It usually means the job is being rushed through and that somebody or possibly several individuals are not being given enough time to do things properly. None of this ever bodes well for the actors involved being as they are at the bottom of the proverbial food chain, one down from lowly plankton. (This goes for big stars like Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie too except they get paid pots of money to compensate.) "Can you do 1:30 tomorrow? It's in Soho. I've sent you the details. Just bring a bathing suit..."

A bathing suit! I downloaded the casting breakdown: "multiple ages and looks, no overweight people please, must be comfortable auditioning in a bathing suit."
Several thoughts immediately came to mind, all of them negative: I already have a 2:30 appointment in the diary. I don't want to wear a bathing suit. I shouldn't have to disrobe unless I'm getting paid.Why a bathing suit? I don't like the idea of some appalling audition footage of me surfacing when I get my big break. I don't have time for a quick fake tan. I'm not sure I know where to find my bathing suit.

Now, my former drama school class mates and anyone who saw my one woman show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe will attest to my willingness and indeed enthusiasm to disrobe for art. Nudity on stage or in front of the camera, if it suits the role, does not phase me. Of course, I will starve myself for a few months before hand and exercise like a demon (who wouldn't?) but - seriously - I don't consider it a big deal.

What's the problem with auditioning in my bathing suit?
Honestly? I'm feeling a bit fat (not in absolute terms but certainly in that no-tan-just-coming-out-of-winter-skin kind of way) and I really don't want to have to undress in front of a bunch of strangers and have them film it.

Fair enough?

So I toyed with the idea of calling my agent to cancel.

But I have a rule: to try never to act based on Fear or Ego. Cancelling the casting felt pretty much like Fear and Ego were doing the talking. In the end - and I'm going to spare you the agonising and toing and froing - I settled for wearing my cute stripey 1930's bathing suit under my jeans. And I set off for Soho early (before I changed my mind). With luck, I would be seen quickly and then have plenty of time to get to the next appointment.

I must have known deep in my soul that there would be some sort of trouble ahead because on the way I stopped by WHSmith for the impulsive purchase of a book of crossword puzzles (I really had to look hard for it, it's all gone Sudoku in the puzzle section) and some sugar free gum.

I got to the casting studio at one on the dot. The lobby was heaving with people, some were sitting, most were standing. I pushed my way through to the pretty but bored brunette receptionist on duty. "Hi, I'm Isabelle Gregson." She crossed my name off the list: "Please fill out this form. Also, there's a bit of a wait so you may want to go and grab a coffee and come back later."

No one had warned me that Puff Adder would be making an appearance. (If you don't know Puff Adder, check the blog archive.) I think it must have been all the Fear that conjured it up.

Puff Adder: "How long a wait exactly."

Pretty receptionist now rather sullen, having taken an immediate dislike to Puff Adder: "Well, like half a hour maybe, or more. It depends."

It depends on what you sulking git?

Puff Adder: "I have another meeting to get to after so I'm not sure I'll be able to wait that long..."

And with that I sat down. Or rather Puff Adder stole the empty seat from the girl who'd just gone into the casting room. Let the rest of them stand. I pulled out the crossword and immediately struggled with it. You should have gone for Sudoku and now it's too late.

You know how sometimes, when you're somewhere really beautiful and you're in love and all relaxed you become hyper aware of everything around you: the colours, the sounds, the smells? Well, I was having one of those moments but in the nightmare version.

The tall Chinese model on my left was clicking her long fingernails and intermittently running them through her long hair so they made that almost but not quite blackboard sound. Then there were two actor friends chatting mindlessly.
Rihanna clone: "Yeah like I was in LA like and it was soooo cooool!"
Pretty boy: "Yeah? Like how? I'm off to Canada next week, I mean LA is quite far from Canada innit ? But I have my son with me so like you know I have responsibilities but like - LA? Definitely! So how was it?" Rihanna look-alike: "Oh my God, like, you know it was like really cool and stuff but like I had to learn like 4 scripts a day cos they're so much more professional over there."

Then the receptionist drone pulled out her sandwich and started to chew on it very loudly.

The crossword wasn't getting any easier, even with Puff Adder cheating and checking the answers at the back.

Pretty boy from before: "So like did you work a lot when you were out in LA like?"
Rihanna wannabe: "Like not really but I'm going back like in the Summer."

Und so veiter as they say in German.

After some 15 minutes the door to the casting room opened and everyone looked up in anticipation. Pick me! Pick me! The girl whose chair I was using came out and proceeded to crouch down to retrieve her various bags and coats from under me. Casting director: "The director's taking a break so we'll just be a while before we call the next person in." But of course.

And on and on in went and dragged. Every 15 minutes of so someone else would be called in. In between, the casting director would return a few calls or check email, or the director would take a loo break.

2 o'clock rolled around. There were only about 5 of us left. I couldn't tell if the witch on reception had decided to stick me to the back of the queue on account of Puff Adder.

2:10: still 5 of us left.

2:15: four of us left.

I'd calculated that I needed a good 15 minutes to get to my next appointment. I had now been waiting for an hour and a half - or only (only!) 45 minutes beyond my call time. I'd made it all the way to the audition, in my bathing suit. I had faced my Fear and Ego and won! So I got up, explained to the receptionist that I could no longer wait as I had another meeting and I left.

You don't end up 45 minutes late by accident. It's takes a lot of dedication. Some would even call it an art form. Puff Adder calls it just plain unprofessional. I couldn't possibly comment.

UPDATE! Guess what, yes, my agent just called... the bathing suit audition has been rescheduled for tomorrow so watch this space....