Friday, June 23, 2017

Seeing Red

I've just been recycled in a supermarket TV commercial. Three years ago, I had a big red hand. This time it’s a little red car.

Around March I get shortlisted for a role as a Mum in an Easter campaign by the supermarket. Don’t get the gig. Then a month or so later I am one of just a few select actors asked to audition for what seems to be the same ad. I say, ‘No, I don’t have any food allergies’ and promise to eat anything they give me—except mushrooms. Don’t get the gig (the mushrooms?). Then I get a call saying I’ve been shortlisted for another ad (same company) and don’t have to audition. Nice. Then I get a call saying they don’t want to cast me in that ad, they want to cast me in a different ad (same company). No eating, a bit more money. Nice. Then they ask me to audition. That day. So at 3.30 pm I shoo my Year 8s out the door, jump in the car and drive for 75 minutes to a five minute audition where I am told they have asked for me especially. Nice. But still no guarantee.

However, the job is confirmed and it’s good to get one of those rare-to-the-point-of-extinction ‘You’ve been cast!’ calls from my agent.

A few days later I spend eleven hours on a rooftop car park. At 6.15 am I’m in wardrobe and make-up and after about thirty minutes of meticulous hair-doing I end up with… a pony-tail! And some eye drops. Apparently they don’t want my five-hour-sleep eyes to match the cars in the ad.

The day consists of standing next to little red cars, sitting in little red cars and singing about ‘little red quotes’. (Two of the guys get to drive little red cars, but not me.) My four fellow cast members (an assortment of friendly blokes) can’t quite manage to sing and gesture in time. What we need is a conductor. And someone to say ‘cut’, as we never know when to stop miming our riotous conversations about car insurance. The director is quite a character but most of his attention is on the lead. She has a heap of lines, lots of smiling to do, two wardrobe people keeping her warm between takes, waterbottles on her feet and a much nicer ponytail than mine. Meanwhile, I’m in flimsy little shoes which barely cover my feet and no socks. In the middle of winter. I jog between takes to stay warm. We mime with joy and deliver our ‘testimonies’ with joy and have literally hundreds of stills done. More joy. They are really getting their money’s worth out of us.

Then as the light fades and the stunt drivers steer their little red cars in joyful synchronisation into the sunset, I steer my medium sized white car out of the car park and off home.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Dial M for Marlene

December 2016

Well it’s been another year of auditions, of low paid hits and high paid misses. One memorable flop was my audition for a painkiller ad.

The brief I receive is for a mother-in-law who is ‘colourful’ in both personality and appearance, down to her purple lipstick. I dress accordingly and on the drive there psyche myself into a loud and energetic character. However, the woman running the audition wants me to tone it down and tells me my improvised dialogue is too fast. Her direction actually has me wondering whether she’s got the same brief as me, but of course I go with what she says.

Sometime later I see the ad. It’s as per the brief I was given, purple lipstick and all. However, the woman in 'my' role has the added advantage of a big pair of groovy, red glasses, so I probably never stood a chance. Oh well.

I also have a callback for an air show TVC. In the initial audition I know I’ve nailed it but in the callback I know I’ve sort of... screwed it up. (Not an entirely consistent metaphor but you get the idea.)

It’s the end of a work day, at the end of the school year, at the end of a long drive. I’m pretty stuffed but I go in feeling positive. From my eavesdropping on the opposition I know what I have to do but for some reason I’m in my head instead of ‘in the moment’. I do okay with the line but the tape would have shown me listening to the other ‘character’, with a dumb look on my face. It’s not just that I don’t do my best that gets me, it’s that I already know my four hours of driving is a waste of time. I can’t even hope for a congratulatory phone call from my agent. Ah, those phone calls.

These two jobs are reasonably well paid but the two jobs that I do get are at the lower end of the scale. Of course, I’m in it for the love of the art but…

Actually I do wonder why I'm in it sometimes. Still trying to fulfil that childhood dream probably.

Anyway, I do have the thrill of playing the wife of a murder victim in one of those true crime stories for TV. No scripted lines, just improvised dialogue that will probably, at most, provide a background to the voice over. It’s a low budget affair and there’s a few hundred dollars at the end, rather than a few thousand. However, it’s dramatically challenging and I love it. The director is both handsome and lovely, which is an added bonus.

I get the next job via my showreel, unlike the previous one that required two Skype auditions in a dodgy studio in St Kilda and lots of improvisation with different ‘husbands’—I even threw in some tears. (Take that, red glasses lady)

For this one I play an Uberdriver. No lines, just interaction, in a scene that will only last a few seconds. It’s for a video and it must be even more low budget than the last gig ‘cause I don’t even get a cup of tea! But the young actors are fun to work with and the AD, who is the director because the director is the cameraman (I think) is so sweet and cool and lovely, and her direction is so clear, she is a joy to work with. After hours of waiting around the night scene takes about 45 minutes to shoot and then I’m off home again, pleased that at least I’ve got two things to put in my bio for the year. So thank-you. And good-bye 2016.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Desperate Housewife

Yeah, I got dumped by Neighbours. (See 31/10/15) Needless to say, I didn't see it coming.

There I was, thinking my dreams had come true, that I'd found The One and out of the blue I get a phone call.

‘It’s not you, it’s the character,’ they said. At least it wasn’t a text message.

But. Fame is a fickle thing and there’s no point wallowing in self-pity. I’ve got another suburban gig ready to embrace me with open arms: an online video for The Good Guys.

So, precariously balancing my teaching job with a campaign for stardom, I'm off to a house in downtown Wantirna where I am playing a housewife and mum of a talentless young woman who wants to be a performer. The whole thing is improvised, which is challenging, but it’s one of the most relaxed shoots I’ve ever done.

Highlights? Cracking up. Talking mothers, writing and the meaning of life with the makeup guy. The stuffed toddler huddled in the corner of the dining room. (A Peek a Boo Doll) Cracking up again.

Embarrassing moments? Hm.

Ooh, I have one.

When I meet my second onscreen daughter we shake hands and she tentatively goes in for a… hug? Kiss? Nose rub? I’m not sure what it was. But we end up doing a sort of air cheek smack. It’s one of the most awkward greetings I’ve ever been part of and I’ve been part of quite a few.

Anyway, both my daughters are funny and gorgeous (must take after their mother) and everyone is lovely and the shoot goes well but I still drive home doing a gloomy self post mortem. Why am I feeling so morbid?

Must be still getting over the break up.

These things take time.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Of droughts and flooding rains

Since that last audition I've had another four, including one I had the privilege of paying for.

It's called a self-test and it's for a small role as a board member in an ABC drama starring Guy Pearce. My agent wants it done professionally so I dutifully book myself in for a $60 session to film a three line audition, then it all gets moved forward and it's a mad scramble to find someone else who can do it at short notice. I don my suit and rush from a holiday rehearsal with my students all the way across town to a little joint in Footscray. I've only got $45 cash on me but luckily it doesn't take long so the guy's happy with that. Later, a message from my agent comes up on my phone. 'We got your audition upload and it's terri--' Terrible?! Oh crap. Then I read the whole message. 'it's terrific' Relief. But after all that I don't get the role. I try out for another TVC a week later but the dry spell continues.

Then I have two auditions in one week. First I am invited, via the Starnow casting website, to audition for a rare paid role: a mum in an online video for a retail store in the style of The Office.

So on Tuesday after work I jump in the car and head into Richmond. I have to do a short scene that I've learnt and also improvise some dialogue. It goes down well. In fact the guy is laughing so much the camera--read iPhone-- is shaking. A good sign. He says he'll let me know by Friday. There's no guarantee but I’m feeling so good I settle into peak hour traffic believing I’m gonna get both roles and I haven’t even done the second audition yet.

The next day I rush off to South Melbourne for another Neighbours audition. It's mid-morning but it's raining and it's like peak hour again. I am consequently a bit late and the lovely but no-nonsense casting agent rushes me into her little studio. There's a beanied, bearded man with a Scottish accent (I know I've seen him in something before) who turns out to be reading for me. He's doing three roles. Thankfully I'm only doing one. I have to look at him and then across to two other imaginary characters while he says their lines. I'm not exactly composed but I put my best professional foot forward and get a blank on a line in my first take. Second take goes well but the casting woman wants another. I unintentionally do a look in the wrong direction but she's happy (or maybe she just wants me out of there) so off I go. I accidentally drive over a traffic island up the street (put it down to poor visibility) but manage to arrive back at work on time and in one piece. Then it's back to my day job--rehearsing my Drama students for their performance the next evening.

Friday comes and I’m checking my phone all day. Nothing. I spend the weekend down in the dumps, wondering whether I should chuck it all in. By the end of Monday the last little remnants of hope have gone. Then on Tuesday after work I get an email to say I have the mum role after all. The client liked me the best. Me! My first credit for 2015. Now I don’t look like a total BLA (Big Loser Actor)!

But wait. There's more!

On Thursday there’s a missed call from my agent. I have given up on the Neighbours role by now. It's probably an audition for some lineless, lime-lightless, payless role. But the young woman on the phone tells me I’ve got the part! She waits for me to stop screaming like I’ve just won tattslotto then gives me some details that I hardly hear I am so delirious. I hang up and look around the staffroom eager to justify my joyous outburst to my colleagues but their bemused heads are down.

I don’t care.

The drought is over.

FOOTNOTE:

Yesterday I got a call from Neighbours to discuss wardrobe. An hour later I get a call from my agent to say they've cut my role.

I know life has its up and downs but lately I've had more downs than a Coles ad.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Uneducation

You’d think by now I would have something new to tell you about my acting exploits. But no. The drought continues. Not the auditions. I’ve had quite a few. But the ‘You got the part!’ calls. They’ve been very scarce. Non-existent to be exact.

So for want of an embarrassing slash hilarious anecdote of my on-set shenanigans, I’ll tell you about my latest auditions.

I keep getting called up for mum roles. Most of them I’m too old for. Do I look like a primary school mum? No. Do I look like a mum of teenagers? Not when they usually cast twenty somethings. But I go along and give it my best. So far this year I’ve also auditioned for a supermarket shopping mum (again) and the mum of a hipster. Playing against type, I've tried out for a corporate manager and today I auditioned for a bit part as a radio show caller.

I memorise my line and practise it numerous times and ways, both at home and on the drive in. But the result of a quick initial read-through (how hard can one line be?) is that I've accidentally learnt a word wrong and can't get it out of my head.

When I arrive the waiting room is filled with men and I joke that I must be in the wrong place. I am such a card. Anyway, it breaks the ice which I always think is a good thing, except in this case it triggers one chap’s highly engaging monologue about trains, train-lines and the cost of parking.

Gradually the males are replaced by an interesting assortment of ladies.

‘It makes a nice change from competing with women who look like models,’ I remark.

To which one replies, ‘What are you trying to say?’

Oops.

A moment later I am summoned and realise I’m not very focussed. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so chatty. In the first take I say not one but three words wrong. In one sentence. It takes a few goes before I actually get the whole line right. Brilliant. It’s all over in a few minutes and I walk down the hall past the stunned faces of the other auditionees who have obviously heard my dismal execution (pun intended). Then I drive the 60 Ks home trying to figure out how I could have stuffed up so badly.

I said ‘guy’ instead of ‘bloke’ and ‘total narkisist’ instead of ‘textbook narkisist’, the last word being an intentional mispronunciation of ‘narcissist’.

‘It’s narkisist-sic,’ the casting guy corrected. ‘She’s supposed to be uneducated.’ So I did it like he said, wondering how I could have got that wrong too.

Funny thing is, I recheck the script later. It says: ‘narkisist. (sic)

Ha.

Who’s the uneducated one now?

So I feel exactly one third less stupid than I did earlier. Not such a bad day after all.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Reject Shop

I fling open the door and throw myself onto my bed, weeping inconsolably into my medium density latex pillow. “Why me?’ I cry. ‘Why me?’ Actually I should be crying, ‘Why not me?’ for I am once again an audition reject.

If only it were that decisive. The thing is, no-one ever calls to say, ‘Thanks for trying, but we chose someone else.’ You leave the casting office doing a mental post mortem on your audition, then you try to put it out of your mind. But you’ve cleared a spot in your diary and you find yourself holding onto that fragile little bit of hope even when you know it’s gone past the practical deadline for your agent to contact you in time for the shoot. It’s like there’s no ending, the film just goes out of focus.

I can’t even get a lowly paid online one liner. It’s a video audition, which I film at home on my laptop. The role is a newsreader. I do my hair and make up, put on a professional looking shirt and do my best Tracy Grimshaw / Curo voice but it’s all to no avail. Might as well have done it in my pjs with morning hair.

After my spectacular three line debut on Neighbours last year, I am rejected at my next two auditions (yes they do recycle their actors!). Mind you, one was for the mother of a regular character who happens to be tall, blond, thin, tanned and Nordic looking, so it was no surprise. But like I said, the optimist in me fools the realist into retaining some desperate hope.

Am I not pretty enough? Is it my over active Jim Carrey eyebrows? Do my anglo looks not appeal to the multicultural target audience? Did I not convince them that the pav really was delicious? Why did they tell me to come single to the audition for an over 50s insurance ad if they were always going to cast a real life couple? And what hope is there for me when I, a teacher with thirty years' experience, can't even win the role of a wordless university lecturer?

Alas, I will never know. And so I return to my tear sodden pillow, vowing never to believe the casting person who says. ‘That was great.’

Merry Christmas.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Ups and Downs


A cast of thousands and an even bigger film crew has invaded a suburban supermarket and a singing, dancing, giant hand waving extravaganza is in progress. Yes, it’s a big supermarket TVC, and for better or worse, I’m in it!

Since my Neighbours gig last year there has been nothing except for a handful of TVC auditions, including one for a Target underwear ad, which I declined. For this supermarket audition (my third or fourth for this company) I have to learn some ’choreography’ (think Chuck Berry and Angus Young). I take a while to warm up in the audition but the fourth take of my singing and dancing is obviously a winner as I get the role of the Uncle Toby’s Mum. I’m pleased to be cast in another ad but not sure that I want to be known for acting like an idiot on TV. But, then, I wouldn’t be the first.

I arrive at the unit base at 6 am on the shoot day and am sent to wardrobe. Usually I needlessly lug a suitcase of wardrobe choices and they tell me to wear what I’ve got on, but the one time I don’t, my outfit isn’t right. They give me a top and a necklace, find some shoes and make them fit with insoles, and after make-up I’m ready to go. To breakfast. Then sit around until I am called. Luckily they have real coffee and I wait patiently to order a latte but the guy gives priority to an attractive female cast member, kissing her hand and chatting her up. Just a coffee for me, thanks.

I am paired with a lovely teenage red-head who plays my daughter. It’s her first TVC so I, being the old pro, (that’s what I tell her anyway) show her the ropes. Once the cast is called to take their places at the checkouts, it’s all go. There are two cameras and the crew swarm around us. It’s the first shot of the day and the first day of a four day shoot and people are already stressed. What will probably last about three seconds onscreen, takes about an hour and a half to shoot. I get about fifty different directions from about twenty different directors, or at least that’s how it seems. ‘Start there, look at docket, turn docket around, point at docket, smile crazily at camera, look at docket again and back to camera.’ At the same time I must push a full trolley with one hand. ‘Start here, move to there, now start from there and move to here, no, not so far, now don’t move at all, now move again, now yell ‘ta-da’ after you’ve moved, now forget the movement, just yell ‘ta-da’. Meanwhile the others thrust those giant red hands with the giant pointing fingers ‘down, down’. Their arms are aching and they are trying to keep in time with the music, which is non-existent once ‘action’ is called, and hit a precise spot on a tiny docket. After several takes they decide to remove all the kids (the shot is too crowded) and I am now a childless mum. Wardrobe and make-up make adjustments in between takes. One of the directors says, ‘Haven’t you been shopping before’ as I attempt to hang my handbag on the trolley according to his directions. Yes I have and I carry my bag on my shoulder, if you must know. Which is what I end up doing. (What is it with men telling me how to carry a handbag?) In a later shot when it’s my turn to thrust that big hand up and down, he tells me off for waving it all around the place. Like I can help it. They give me another ‘hand’ with a smaller handle which works better but my knuckles are so sore and swollen at the next day’s shoot my giant hand thrusting days are over. (What a shame) The same director also tells me off when my up-downs are out of time with the others. I’m trying, but I can’t see the rest of the cast and the absence of music makes it tricky. I try harder. I do cheesy grins for the stills (happy, happy faces... now laugh, ha, ha, ha), call out crazy lines and bop up and down the supermarket aisle with my trolley.

I have a half day shoot the next day. This time the location is a nice house in Sandringham (memories of that boat show ad) and after a wait of four hours in the heat (a prop problem apparently), my ‘daughter’ and I are eating porridge, singing, smiling and smiling some more. The man directing us is more relaxed today, which is good. A crew member thrusts the big hand towards my bowl, while I, thankfully, only have to thrust my spoon.

It’s all rather silly, but everyone takes it very seriously. This is advertising and it’s big business. I am a miniature cog in a giant wheel. With a giant red hand.

PS: A week later I do a medical training video, where I counsel people on dementia. There are an awful lot of lines (mostly on auto cue) and the pay's not as good but, thankfully, there's not a giant hand in sight.