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.

Equality.

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.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

The Future of The Actress

It’s 2033. For the past 18 years, the film industry has hired a secret taskforce to simplify the art of filmmaking forever. Since 2015, a crack team of middle-aged men have been working tirelessly to eradicate the most hated part of a filmmaker’s life…the creation and casting of female characters.

Today, we unveil the new age of The Actress. Each injected with YouMustNeverLookADayOver21 Serum, no Actress will ever age over 18 years and 1 day again. With perfectly formed breasts that she has no qualms about exposing, and a body free of imperfections, no filmmaker need worry again about a speck of cellulite or less than ample boobs ruining their movie again.

She is here to give your film that believable sex scene that you've always wished for.

She is your guardian angel in a push-up bra.

She will use her nipples to silently detract from your poorly written script.

To save confusion, each Actress now looks exactly the same so you can order your film’s eye candy safe in the knowledge that you will get exactly the woman you haven’t paid for.

Oh yes, you don’t even have to pay. Every single Actress has been programmed to have no knowledge of finances so she’ll be completely oblivious to the fact that your ageing male lead actor is earning millions. Due to advanced LivingOfAirTechnology, all Actresses need to live are the vague promise of an IMDb credit, a limp sandwich and the reassurance that their naked body will be seen in every single shot of your film.

And don’t worry, Actresses have also had all their career expectations removed so you can now write as many dead, naked female bodies into your films without feeling an ounce of guilt. There’s not even any need to waste precious minutes on giving your female characters a personality trait. Instead, all Actresses now come with fully programmable personalities:

The Wife 


Will constantly follow your male lead around any house-setting, fully naked, while speaking up to five programmable nagging phrases. Great for dramas, comedies or whenever you need to make your male lead more sympathetic.

The Girlfriend


A 2 for 1 deal. Order one and get another identical actress to play her equally naked best friend. Perfect for any comedy film.

The Stripper 


A must for any scenes where your lead male character needs to meet other male characters outside of the home. Will appear fully naked in the background.

The Prostitute 


Great for night-time street scenes and to highlight any male character’s inner-turmoil.

The Dead Body


Perfect for any scene. Each actress is capable of not breathing for up to 2 hours at a time. Also perfect for quickly establishing that your well-written older male character is either a murderer or an investigator.

And guess what? They don’t even have a name. If you order The Stripper, then that’s what you call her. No more faffing around trying to think up interesting names for your female characters. ‘Emma’  has ideas above her station and thinks she has an integral role within your film whereas ‘The Stripper’ knows she’s just there to make Stephen, your leading male character, look like the interesting flawed character you’ve written him to be.

All this means that you can now instead start negotiating more airtime, clothes and money for your male actors. Because, hey, we all know that a film is nothing without over-exposed, over paid and over clothed men.

Oh, and these actresses don’t eat. Of course.

So, that’s….

Wardrobe budget: slashed.
Time spent writing female characters: slashed.
Time spent persuading actresses to get their kit off: slashed.
Catering budget: slashed.
Time spent making your male actors feel better: up by 2000%
Budget to spend on securing male actors: up by 3000%
Time to spend on writing male roles with personality and depth: up by 6000%
The chance of your film being taken seriously: up by 10000%


So don’t delay. Order your actress today. And watch those award nominations come flooding in…

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Creating Diversions

Today, Channel 4 announced that they are issuing strict diversity guidelines to ensure there is greater diversity and representation in shows being commissioned. This means that commissioned dramas and comedies must have at least one lead role played by a BAME, LGBT or disabled performer and 50% of lead roles are to be played by women, if there are no other minorities featured.

So far, so bloody brilliant. But unfortunately these guidelines have been brought in with a threat to cut Channel 4 executives' bonuses if they fail to meet diversity targets.

Oh.

Because there’s nothing like seeing diversity on TV and knowing it’s there because an exec has been bribed with money. That’s a definite victory for female, disabled, LGBT and BAME performers everywhere. Getting to be on telly because someone’s been threatened with having their pocket money cut is what we all dream of.

What we actually need is encouragement for dramas and comedies to be created with these under-represented groups because it’s more interesting watching something that isn’t just a bunch of white men dicking about. What we don’t want are so-called “minority” performers being crowbarred into programmes, especially given the way that these characters can be sometimes written...


Women can be fully dressed for the duration of their screen time. They can be over 18. They don’t have to be but they can. They can also be over a size 6. Again, they don’t have to be but they can. They can also have a role that isn't defined by their relationship with the leading white male.


Not all BAME males are criminals. Or shop owners. Or wise-quipping mates. They can also have a role that isn't just a bit part in furthering the lead white male's story.


Not all BAME females are oppressed, a sassy best friend or over-sexualised. They can also have a role that isn't just a bit part in the lead female's life, the female who is in a relationship with the lead white male.


When establishing an LGBT character, their first scene doesn’t HAVE to be about confirming their sexual orientation with the audience. They can also have a role that doesn't require them to deal with an unrequited love for or from the lead white male. 


Disability doesn’t necessarily mean being in a chair. Or being a pitiful character. But, likewise, they don’t have to be the villain either. That’s not the way to show you’re TOTALLY RELAXED ABOUT WRITING A CHARACTER WITH A DISABILITY. They can also have a role that doesn't involve them being called upon to give advice to the lead white male.


Basically, don’t base the character’s character on their minority status. You don’t have to ignore it completely but female, BAME, LGBT and disabled characters can have depth too.  If our streets were full of such stereotypes it would be bloody weird, and it’s no different on our screens too. 

Hopefully these new guidelines will be a celebration of the UK's diversity without a crowbar in sight. Hopefully they'll allow previously unseen performers have a chance. Hopefully it'll make television even more brilliant than it already is and be the shake-up that this industry needs. Hopefully I'll finally get a telly credit on my CV... 




OH, AND DON’T THINK I’VE IGNORED THE FACT THAT WOMEN ARE STILL BEING CLASSED AS A MINORITY. THAT IS FOR ANOTHER BLOG WHEN I'VE RUN OUT OF THINGS TO SMASH.


Many thanks to @margojmilne, @daisymartey, @hayleynovember & @ShamirDawood who all helped with this blog. 

Saturday, 3 January 2015

2015 - The Year Of Brill

“So when are we going to be seeing you in Coronation Street then?”

“Why don’t you just get yourself a better agent?”

“You know, you could always just do acting as a hobby and get a proper job instead?”

Chances are, especially if you’re a relatively new actor or seeing family or friends who haven’t quite learnt the etiquette yet, you’ve fielded at least one of those questions over the last week or so. In an ideal world, we’ll have all had a wonderful year and will have responses that will stop the asker in their tracks and cause them to retreat back into their eye-watering helping of Aunt Judy’s ‘Boozier Than Oliver Reed’ trifle. However, chances are, you’ll mumble something about the industry being really tough at the moment and try not to get too upset over the fact that your niece’s role in the nativity is a bigger role than you’ve had in years.

But it’s fine, right? You can just sign off 2014 as ‘one of those years.’ Sure, you didn’t land that TV role you were hoping for and it’s been yet another year that the National failed to acknowledge your existence, but, hey, your pyjama draw has never looked so neat and you can now say with confidence that you’ve tried every single flavour of Walkers crisps. Bet Cumberbatch can’t boast such things.

The problem with the cheesy, porty No Man’s Land of Christmas and New Year is that while the rest of the world is marvelling at the novelty of getting up at 10am and being able to start on the gin at lunch, you’re waiting for everything to get back to normal again. Don’t tell anyone but, when you’re self-employed, lie-ins and gin can happen pretty much any day of the year PLUS you’ve got a chance of getting work. But add the festive period into the mix and all you get is an empty diary, people wondering what day it is and constantly being asked “Why don’t you just do panto?”

Basically, the rest of the world becomes self-employed. And if there wasn’t endless cheese, booze and every food stuff now wrapped in pastry, it’d be horrible.

So, let’s look to 2015. Everyone is heading back to work now and although you can’t get up watch an animated film on BBC1 with your breakfast every morning, you can start looking at your career again.

Maybe you’ve made resolutions. Maybe you’ve decided enough is enough when it comes to unpaid work. Maybe you’re finally going to get new headshots. Maybe you’re going to stop lying on your CV.

Whatever your resolution is, or even if you don’t like making them, I do hope that this year you promise not to be too hard on yourself. Obviously, don’t be so easy on yourself that you manage to blitz all 6 series of RuPaul’s Drag Race in 2 days but, also, don’t be so hard on yourself that you beat yourself up daily for not being Tom Hardy.

This job is appalling at times and it’s easy to beat yourself up over the fact that you’re not getting any work. It will feel like that one person you went to drama school with is practically everywhere while the only person who recognises you is the postman who knows you’ll be in everyday to sign for your neighbours’ deliveries. Yes, you’re more acquainted with your pyjamas than you are your agent and the only lines you’ve learnt recently are the ones you recite when someone asks whether you’re working on anything at the moment, but you’re still brill. Really brill in fact. Because if you can keep working hard and keeping hold of that dream that got you through school and still puts a little skip in your step despite constant rejection then you are definitely brill.


So go forth, my actors. Wear your pyjamas with pride, keep that dream alive and don’t let anyone make you feel bad about anything; not even drinking wine at 2pm a Wednesday for no other reason than there was a bottle in the house and you want to congratulate yourself for finally changing that lightbulb in the hallway. And if you do end up blitzing RuPaul’s Drag Race so hard that you end up saying “Halleloo” to everything, you’re still brill.