Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Husbands and Heifers

Location: Pub in Prahran / Kmart, Eastland
Date: July 2011

One week after I sign up with my new agent she tells me I've got an audition for a TV commercial! They want a real 'mum'. Full of anticipation, I arrive at an office in South Melbourne only to find a herd of yummy mummies crowded into a small room. Is a female cattle call a 'heifer call'? Not that these women are what you'd call 'heifers'. They're all slim and attractive, most are blond and some look like former models. What am I doing here? After a short wait I head off to do a 'chat to camera'. (I've been practising in the car!) I don't get a call back (the audition is for featured roles) but three weeks later I get asked to be 'background' in what turns out to be a Kmart ad involving 1000 real mums!

In between, I do an audition for a CUB commercial. Three of us 'over fifty types' improvise a scene that ends in a toast. This time I don't feel like livestock, which is nice. Anyway, I do okay. In fact, I get the part!

The shoot day starts at 6.30 am and involves several rehearsals and takes of a single shot following a young man walking through a pub. I am partnered with yet another on-screen husband (how many does that make?) to form a group of two couples discussing travel plans over a drink. But that one shot takes hours and hours. And hours. The four of us manage to maintain a level of jocularity both on and off the camera (which, combined with fatigue, occasionally turns to lunacy) but when we are 'wrapped' at 5 pm I am relieved that the trip is fictional! The good thing is, being 'featured extras' our faces will actually be in shot, albeit for only a second or two, and we get paid more than a regular extra. The bad thing is, the commercial is for corporate and internet use, rather than TV. Or is that a good thing?

Two days later I join a heap of 'mums' for the Kmart ad. It's an evening, and the last of a three day shoot. This is the shortest of the three days by far, but we all get paid the same amount ($100 cash, a $100 Kmart voucher and a Kmart goody bag.), which may be why they end up with fifty more mums than anticipated! I befriend another aspiring actor. We are both amused by the women who are excited at the prospect of seeing themselves on TV. Ah, the optimism of the inexperienced. Do they really believe that they will be recognisable within a herd of one hundred and fifty women hoofing it to a Kmart store through a darkly lit shopping centre?

I have no such illusions. Anymore. At the end of the shoot I push my way into the queue like a mad cow, grab my money and my goody bag and head for home, smug in the knowledge that my face will be seen for a whole two seconds on an internet ad.

Amendment 6/8/11: See the ad on
(Not sure for how long!)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Short Bread and Long Queues

Date: May 2011
Job: Shortbread (short film)
Location: Frankston

OMGollygosh. After waiting for six months to get some extra work, I eagerly attended a cattle call, I mean casting call, the other day for a new series set in the 1920s, called Phryne Fisher. Oh dear ABC! Not only did they ask casting agents to send along 'talent' but they also advertised for extras on their website and on facebook. They won't be doing that again in a hurry. We stood in a queue for an hour and a half just to fill out a form, get measured and have a photo taken. But we were the lucky ones. Others gave up after being told they had a two and a half hour wait! One wonders how many of those who turned up will actually get a 'gig'. Hopefully my self produced 'bob' haircut will guarantee me a spot!

In the meantime it's shooting shorts for me. 'Shortbread' in fact. I'm playing a mum (again) but the central character is my mentally disabled son who is trying to get his driver's licence. Highlights so far include pulling out the front of my son's trackie pants to check his jocks (about 95 takes of that), standing in the street in my dressing gown for about an hour (a big 'hello' to the residents of Fleetwood Crescent) and shooting a big family argument scene with yelling and head banging and stuff.

Fortunately I've had lots of experience (with arguments, not checking people's jocks) so that scene was a piece of shortcake.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Eat My Short

Date: February 2011
Job: Short Film
Location: Oakleigh

So here I am, sitting in a parked car with my dress hitched up, while a man I barely know fiddles with my undergarment and a motley crew of strangers with a video camera loiters nearby. Lesser beings would be fazed, but not I, for I am a short film pro and it's all part of the job.

Now, before you think my acting career has taken a rather seedy turn, let me explain. By 'pro' I mean professional (not prostitute) and what's actually happening is that the director of a one week film course is changing the batteries in the thingy which is connected to the tiny mic in my bra and reattaching the thingy to my back with gaffa tape, underneath my leggings. (Got a bonus back wax when I took it off later that day.) I'm in downtown Oakleigh filming 'Grapefruit' in which I play a crazed old lady who happens to be a drug dealer and cop killer. I'm wearing a floral dress from the op shop, teale leggings, red shoes with clashing red socks and a daggy cardigan which belongs to the one of the crew! There are some tense and mad moments on set because, unlike a student film where the student director is in control and has spent weeks or months developing a script, this crew has created the film in a couple of days and the production roles, including director, rotate throughout the two day shoot. But it's also lots of fun working under pressure with a new bunch of people from all walks of life and making a film about cops and surveillance and guns and drugs! I get to wield a double barrel shotgun, get splattered with fake blood and throw a little hissy fit about grapefruits in a real suburban fruit and vegie shop busy with real customers on a Saturday afternoon. Right up my alley.

And so, once again, with no extra work looming on any horizon in any galaxy in my vicinity, I have found myself in another short film. Actually, another two, potentially. The day after Grapefruit, I'm off to another audition on the other side of town. I run through the scene twice, struggling to get a sense of character and authenticity, and then I'm back in the car for an eighty minute journey home in afternoon traffic, wondering why I'm doing this. It's certainly not for the money (there is none-I use the term 'professional' loosely!). But I thought the same thing when I auditioned for Grapefruit, and it turned out to be a pretty good acting experience, so, it doesn't hurt to give it a try.

Unless, of course, there's gaffa tape involved.