Saturday, 6 June 2015

Lesson The Pain

I realised this morning that, give or take a couple of weeks, I graduated from drama school exactly 9 years ago. Bloody hell. Gnarls Barkley was at number one with Crazy. We’d only seen 2 series of The Apprentice. The best mix up on TV had just happened when Guy Coma ended up accidently on BBC News. And, like it knew there were a whole new bunch of actors in need of procrastination, Twitter arrived…

But, after a few hours of dicking about on Twitter, it got me to thinking about the lessons I’ve learnt in those 9 years. There are fair few supposedly wise words that I’ve kicked to the curb; chiefly that a pair of character shoes and a character skirt are a wise investment. I can only assume drama schools suggest buying these so you can own something that gathers more dust than your acting career.

However, a fair few have stuck and, because I’ve got a spare hour and blogging time is scarce these days, I thought I’d share them with you.

Lesson 1: KKK


Now, when we were told at drama school that we should consider the KKK when looking at potential jobs, I was shocked to say the least. I know the industry is rather in favour of white actors but, really? They went on to explain that when you’re faced with a job offer (it took a while longer to learn what one of those was, sadly) you should consider the 3 Ks:

Kicks
Kudos
Kash (hey, we weren’t at drama school for our excellent spelling anyway…)

I must say, I dismissed this at first. When you graduate and you stare into the awful void that you thought would be your glittering career, you, sometimes foolishly, take on whatever job you can get your hands on. But it’s wonderful for those jobs you’re just not sure about. So, when in doubt, see if you can get at least 2 of the 3 Ks covered. And it kinda works. Of course, you can never be entirely sure and we’ve all had those jobs that we thought would be fun but ended up being an utter nightmare (hello eating dried apricots on a riverbank at 2am…) but it’s a handy little technique for those of us who are a little less decisive than we’d like to be.

Lesson 2: We all have our own career path


This was a tough one to learn. You spend your 3rd year determinedly planning your career. You’ll do a spot of TiE first because, y’know, that’s totally the done thing. Then you’ll do a bit of fringe theatre, a few short independent films…and oh, that’s what I did do. However, that’s when it all starts to fall apart. I thought I’d then do some TV, maybe a major advert and then, obviously, Hollywood would be ready for me and I’d be sorted.

Hahahahahahahahaha.

Now, that totally happened for some people in my year. Others got the massive film job instantly and haven’t stopped working since. Others got a TV job immediately and then never worked again. Others gave up the second they graduated and I now get to log into Facebook and look at the houses they own and the holidays they go on. But the majority of us just toddle along our own little road. Sometimes we’re striding along looking fabulous, sometimes we’re stumbling around drunkenly and other times we’re sleeping at the side of the road while surrounded by biscuit crumbs and cups of tea. At some points our paths will cross and at other times it’ll take us out somewhere horribly remote. But I now find having my own path rather comforting. Yeah, maybe I don’t look after mine as well as I should. I’m sure others get more money for the upkeep and others are more resourceful but I like mine just the way it is, potholes and all. Which takes me on to my next lesson…

Lesson 3: Don’t compare yourself to others


This has been the toughest one of all to learn. It seems straightforward but, believe me, it’s bloody hard to not compare yourself to others when you’re sat on the sofa, you’re wearing your oldest pyjamas, you’re picking crisp crumbs out of your hair and you look up to see one of your drama school mates looking a bazillion dollars on TV.

If we didn’t compare ourselves to others then we wouldn’t be human. I don’t care how sorted you say you are, if you say you don’t sometimes look at someone else’s career and then look at your barren CV on your barely functioning laptop and wonder where the hell you went wrong, then you’re a liar.

The point is that, when you see someone else doing fabulously, you don’t beat yourself up over it. Yeah they’re on TV playing a part that you’d kill for but have they ever got to pretend to be an electric toothbrush in a church hall in Derby? Sure they’ve been listed in that ‘Ones To Watch’ article but have they discovered that Papa John’s Special Garlic sauce makes the filthiest, most glorious topping for macaroni cheese? See? You’re doing just fine. You might want to get your cholesterol checked out but, seriously, YOU’RE FINE.




So there we go. 9 years and 3 lessons later and here I am. Sat indoors on a sunny Saturday afternoon wondering where the next acting job is coming from. But I have biscuits in the kitchen, tea on the go, Netflix on the telly and a pair of pyjamas that will last longer than any of the acting careers of my peers so, y’know, my path ain’t looking too bad right now…

Sunday, 26 April 2015

I Got 5 On It

When it comes to auditions, I’m the Queen of Screwing Up. I’ve fluffed more lines than a hungover actor on opening night. I’ve managed to nearly take out a casting director by over-zealously sitting on an office chair. I’ve managed to misinterpret instructions to the point that I’ve ended up putting everything in the room into a massive pile. I’ve turned up to a 3 hour movement workshop in the tightest jeans known to man. I’ve had an eye infection for a casting for an advert where only my eyes would be visible.  But this week’s faux pas might just be the worst…

It was a recall for an advert. I’ll be honest, I’d bloody love it. I remember when we were at drama school, it was the done thing to say that you’d never do a commercial. Everyone considered themselves above such things. Yep, we’re all above earning a few thousand quid for a day’s work. How I long to go back to a time when we all thought we were superior to bill payers.

So, yes. I kinda wanted this. I’ve booked a holiday and it’d be really nice to be able to afford to sleep in something other than a tent made out of my silly idea that I can actually afford to leave the country.

I’m currently on a pencil. For those of you who have jobs that don’t involve moping around hoping someone will cast you to play a tree, a pencil is the pain in every actor’s life. Sometimes, if you’re really lucky, you’ll be a heavy pencil. A heavy pencil is really only something interesting to actors, stationery shop owners and staff at The Pencil Museum. I was told to pencil a total of 6 different dates, one of which was in the past. I really hope that’s the first test for when they’re casting the new Doctor Who… But anyway, I jumped through a number of hoops until I found myself in the ridiculous position of being pencilled for a recall that might not be happening. It’s this kind of precarious shit they should be teaching in drama schools, not how to be a bloody llama.

Finally, my recall was confirmed. Hooray.

It was going to be in arse-end of London. Boo.

I turned up to the venue and it was at one of the numerous audition venues in London which is a myriad of identical rooms that are attached to identical corridors. I was vaguely pointed in the right direction and was then left to my own devices. I’d been given the name of the room and had been directed to a corridor with three rooms, none of which were labelled. Which one to go with…

Room one contained 8 dancing men.

Room two contained about 20 ballerinas.

Room three contained 2 men breakdancing while wearing roller skates.

Oh, right. I’m not at a recall at all. I’m at my own worst nightmare where I must face up to my total inadequacies as a performer. Good-o.

I fannyed around, wondering where on earth I was meant to be. A head then poked from out of the Starlight Express meets Flashdance room.

“Are you here for the recall?”

Oh god. Why has a room where there is roller skating happening got anything to do with me?

“Don’t worry we’re sharing the room.”

With relief, I start waffling on. I make some bad jokes. I keep talking. I then find out that I’ve managed to bleat on over the skaters’ recording.

I’M A PROFESSIONAL! HIRE ME!

Once they’ve done whizzing around and making me feel like heffalump, it’s my turn, thankfully sans skates. I do my bit to camera. All good. Feeling optimistic.

I have a chat to the casting director, who’s lovely, she puts her hand up and, in my relief at not having to skate, on finding out that the casting director is nice, in getting through an audition without nearly killing someone, I high-five her.

I then hand over the script and go on my merry way.

I feel confident. Heck, I might just get this job.

I’m stood on the train platform feeling pretty bloody good about myse-

OH NO.

She didn’t want a high-five. She put out her hand to take the script back off me.

OH GOD.

I’m now that person. So bloody cocky that I high-five casting directors after an audition. I might as well have waited for the other actors to arrive, cocked my leg and marked my territory around the whole production.


So that’s another casting down the drain. Surely that’s worth a high-five?

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…